Sunday, 27 January 2008

President of Quebec’s Wildlife Federation a Poacher?

 Here is the story as I understand it.
In July 2007, Alain Gagnon the President of The Federation Quebecoise de la Faune was trout fishing on Lac Pimitshikamau, which is part of the Rat River system. It is north of Lac St. Jean and northwest of Quebec City.

The fishing limit on Lake Pimitshikamau is 20 fish for that time of year. Mr. Gagnon was observed by a Provincial Wildlife Officer to be in possession of more than the legal limit of Speckled Trout.

When approached by the officer Mr. Gagnon allegedly started throwing fish into the water. The result is that Mr. Gagnon is not only charged with being in possession of more than the legal limit of fish; he is also charged with obstructing a Provincial Wildlife Officer in the performance of his duties.

All of this happened in July 2007 but Mr. Gagnon only resigned his position with the Wildlife Federation when his arraignment last Thursday in Roberval, Quebec became public knowledge.

 The part of this story that really irritates me is that this fellow who has been involved with the organization for twenty years and president for three when re-elected last April, said that one of his priorities was to encourage fishermen to be more responsible.

Because of his position Mr. Gagnon should maintain a higher respect for the rules than an ordinary person.

An old friend and mentor of mine used to say, “It is not enough to be honest, you must be seen to be honest.” I guess that sums up my feelings about this.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, 26 January 2008

The Fishing is Pretty Slow on Mars

"fishing is pretty slow"
There is an interesting mental trick people play on themselves when, if looking at a cloud or the grain in a piece of wood, we will suddenly, almost miraculously, see a pattern we recognize.

Usually we see a human face or figure. We have all experienced it at one time or another.

To psychologists, this effect is known as pareidolia.

The famous ink-blot test (the Rorschach) uses pareidolia as a way to get a feel for a person’s inner thoughts.

Having said all of that; take a look at this picture from NASA. It was taken by one of the Martian Rovers. I first read about it on Yahoo News. It sure looks like someone sitting on a rock fishing.

Here is another famous Mars picture from NASA - The Mars Face.

Since the advent of EBay we’ve heard about some great examples of pareidolia usually involving the faces of Jesus or the Virgin Mary appearing on a piece of toast or a bagel.

 My friend Rick recently shingled his house with cedar and handled hundreds of beautifully grained little slabs of wood. He kept the best examples of shingles with images in the grain and called them “knot art but something else”.

Mentioning bagels reminded me of an old bluegrass player who visited New York to play. After biting into the first bagel he’d ever seen he said, “That’s the worst darned doughnut I ever did taste”

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Congratulations to SRA President, Walter Regan

The Nickerson Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Walter N. Regan, Sackville Rivers Association at the NSEN Annual Roundtable and Eco-Hero Award Ceremony Monday, January 21 at the Nova Scotia Public Archives 6016 University Avenue

The Sackville Rivers Association (SRA) is dedicated to the restoration, preservation and enhancement of the Sackville River Watershed.

Sackville Rivers has a new and improved website at:
The Nova Scotia Environmental Network (NSEN) was founded in 1991

Labels: , , ,

The Carters Bug Salmon Fly

One of the best all round but under-rated flies I’ve ever used is a little beauty called the Carters Bug. I had a couple given to me back in the early nineties by a gentleman from Greenfield while we were chatting on the bank of the Medway River.

I was doing a job in the Mill Village/Charleston area and used to drive to the nearest pool on the Medway River to watch the salmon fishermen while I ate my lunch.

As a matter of fact, the first Atlantic Salmon I ever saw caught was at the pool just down from the satellite station. I can’t remember the name of it right now. It was just where an old ruined dam on the far side slows the current that a grilse rolled.

 Richard Anthony who was watching too saw the fish, poled his river boat into position and hooked the fish within minutes; an impressive display to say the least.

Bryant Freeman's Carters Bug
It was as we were enjoying the spectacle that the fellow from Greenfield gave me two flies and encouraged me to try my hand at salmon fishing at first opportunity. The flies were Carters Bugs.

I gave them a try that weekend on a trouting trip to the Eel Weir in Kejimkujik National Park. The fly was magic. I lost the first one at some point and the second was so chewed up by the end of the day that it was almost unrecognizable.

That night I found out why the fly is so under-rated. It is a fish magnet without question but it is very difficult to tie a good one and almost impossible to find them in a fly shop. I’ve been trying off and on since then to tie a match to those original bugs. I sometimes come close but never quite get there.

The closest thing I’ve seen that compares to the Carters Bug for both trout and salmon is George Hardy’s Brown Bug, a renowned salmon fly for dry fly fishing salmon on the Garia Bay River. I can’t tie those worth a darn either but that doesn’t seem to matter to the fish.

A while ago Pat Donoghue from “ Nova Scotia Fly-fishing, Tying and Tall Tales” mentioned Bryant Freeman’s name to me in an email which led me to Bryant’s website. Imagine my surprise when I saw his comments on the Carter’s Bug. Spend a few minutes browsing his site and you will understand why I feel a bit better about not mastering this fly. I’ve rarely seen such high-end fly tying.

Bryant has a fine pedigree as a salmon fisherman and fly tyer. If you spend any time at all in the Medway Country you’ll hear more than one story about his Dad, Lew Freeman and his exploits fishing the Medway in those not so distant good old days.

My brother Warren wrote recently that there is some work being done on the Medway this year. There is a plan to lime the river as well as plantings of genetic stock to enhance the runs of sea trout and salmon.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, 18 January 2008

Quarryville, New Brunswick

When I was younger, my Uncle Vaughan invited me to go fishing with him in the Miramichi country of New Brunswick. My total salmon fishing experience up to that time was a trip to Grandees Brook near Burgeo, Newfoundland, the summer before and some fumbling on local rivers.

I was pretty impressed with the whole thing. We were travelling in a superb RV complete with shower and kitchen. He loaded his beautiful Hardy fly rod, Hardy St John reel and lots of flies and gizmos. I threw in the Canadian Tire, all in one, learn to fly fish kit I’d bought years before when I lived in British Columbia. It had served me well for everything from Large Mouth Bass and Kamloops Trout to the sea-fresh Grilse in Newfoundland but it sure wasn’t a House of Hardy limited edition.

The salmon fishing is a bit different in New Brunswick. The rivers still have some privately leased waters and a guide must accompany non-residents. Having said that; there is still a vast amount of public water and lots of salmon. Another interesting thing about New Brunswick is that there is a spring or Black Salmon season there as well.
We left from Moncton and headed North towards Vaughan’s favourite spot on the Little Southwest Miramichi.

After spending the night in the RV we hit the river at dawn the next morning. It was a lovely spot to fish. The river was smallish with a pebbled bottom and an easy shore to walk. I can’t remember the names of the pools we fished. I’m not sure they were even named; there was so much fishy water. We didn’t see any salmon but Vaughan did spend some time correcting my cast and giving me some tips on where the fish would be and how to work a fly over them.

Around noon we packed it in and headed for Quarryville. What a pool there is there, I’d never seen or heard of anything like it. The Quarryville pool is huge with a well-defined gravel bar that anglers can wade out to and fish from. The thing that impressed me apart from the size of the water was the number of anglers on the river. I’d never thought of salmon fishing as a team sport but there were at least fifteen guys working their way down that bar. The system was; take a cast or two and then a step, a cast or two and then a step until you reached the end of the beat and walked back to the top to start through again. It was certainly intimidating for a beginner but what the heck; I figured I’d give it a go.

`We pulled into the parking area and got geared up. Waders on and rods assembled we started the short walk to the river. I noticed a Range rover with the tailgate down. A fellow who met every preconception I’d ever had about a salmon fisherman was busily making a cup of tea on a small alpine stove. As I passed him we exchanged pleasantries and doubtless after eyeing my equipment he asked if this was my first time fishing here. I acknowledged as much and he reached into his pocket for a well-worn fly box from which he plucked a green butt Butterfly, the first I’d ever seen. He encouraged me to give it a try. Out of politeness rather than confidence in this odd creation I tied it on while chatting with him and then scurried away as he wished me luck and caught up with Vaughan.

I should mention that that gentleman of brief acquaintance, who’s name I’ve long forgotten, did as much to shape my attitude and model my behaviour when on the water as anyone else I’ve ever met or fished with. It seems to be the hallmark of salmon fishermen to be generous with tackle and advice to newcomers. It is a wonderful tradition of the sport I aspire toward and admire mightily when I observe it in others.

Back to my story, Vaughan was waiting for me at the water’s edge and pointed out the route to wade to begin fishing the pool. He went ahead and I followed to try and see what he was doing. I confess it wasn’t for the fishing technique, rather so that I wouldn’t make too big a fool of myself.

I waded out to the gravel bar and took my place in the line of men, all casting out into the boundless pool in front of us. I couldn’t see any definable target so just whacked out as long a cast as I could manage and watched carefully as the current caught my fly and swung it in the perfect arc of a downstream wet fly presentation. I took another cast and then two steps down the bank. Off to my left about a dozen other fellows were doing the same thing. I took another cast and watched the swing. The fly went a few feet and stopped. I raised the rod tip in an instinctive reaction and to my complete disbelief a heavy weight pulsed through the length of the rod. A silver grilse immediately leaped and started my reel screaming.
I was thrilled and befuddled. I had miraculously hooked a fish but it was running down stream to my left, right into the thick of the line of anglers strung out along the bar. Then the fellow next to me hollered, ”Fish on” and there were two grilse leaping and running within yards of each other. It was a blur of excitement as we chased our fish the whole way down the gravel bar. Our fellow anglers parted then closed in behind us to continue their fishing, one eye on the circus playing out off the end of the bar and one eye on their own flies. The other guy landed his fish first, and then tailed mine for me. There we stood still shaking with the excitement and laughing at our mutual good fortune to have been the ones in the right place at the right time.

I still have that tattered green-butt Butterfly. I keep it in a little container by my fly-tying stuff. Occasionally I spill it out onto my palm and remember that extraordinary trip and the characters that played a role in it. Each worthy of a few moments reminisce, my Uncle Vaughan, the gentleman brewing tea on the tailgate of his truck and my partner in the two grilse flying-circus.

Many years have passed since then and this year I used Uncle Vaughan’s Hardy rod and reel to land and release the biggest salmon I’ve ever tangled with. I don’t know if I ever told Vaughan how much that trip meant to me. I wish I had.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Cape Breton Salmon Fishing

Sometimes a whole trip can come down to one cast. One chance, do or die, for one fish. I remember such a moment on a small, crystalline river in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. It was the second week of September, the last glory of a hot, dry summer. We were prospecting for late run Steelhead but secretly hoped a rainy day would flush some fresh salmon into the rivers. The weather however continued hot and dry. We caught countless small brookies on tiny dry flies but no Steelhead and no Salmon.

We took a break from the punishing heat to visit the Margaree Salmon Museum and even put a few casts across the logey salmon holding deep in that pool behind the town library. Later that night we enjoyed a “sociable” with the fellow we were renting the cabin from and laughed as he commented on our day’s adventures on the Margaree.
“Those fish have seen so many flies by now that you can just picture one of the hook-jawed old brutes turning to his buddy and saying -They call that a Blue Charm? I’ve seen better.”
He went on to tell us of one pool on a smaller river that just might hold a few takers. It involved a ninety minute walk through the woods and no guarantee but that we would work up a sweat. We set out at dawn the next morning.

There is nothing like a long walk through unfamiliar woods on a thready path to make you second guess what seemed like such a good idea over a short Glenfiddich and a Cohiba. Our doubts vanished as we crested a hill and the view of the river opened before us. High rocky banked on the far side with a series of small falls up stream and a boulder strewn flat on this side. The river was deep with a jewel-like green tint in the very deepest parts but clear as glass in the shallows. It ran off to our left heading towards the sea, gradually slowing and widening as it made its way down out of the highlands. The beauty was literally breath taking after the close, sweaty walk through the bush. We barely had time to wonder how we’d figure out the pools in this exuberant tumble when a silver missile shot from the water, smashing back with a nerve-jangling crash just below the first small falls.

As I approached the river I could see fish lying in a deep pocket behind a low, flat rock. I backed away slowly, carefully marking where they lay, amazed again by the clarity of the water. How many times do I have to learn this lesson: stop and look around before rushing up to a new pool? I backed well off and studied what appeared to be the named pool just upstream below the first white water.

I took a step and scanned, took a step and scanned, took a step and stopped. Sure enough, there was the deep, green-tinted flash of another fish a longish cast away and up stream. It took a moment for my brain to sort out the complexity of light and shadow under moving water but there they were. Another pod of salmon deep in the spring fed security of a small, boulder strewn pool.

I crept back from the river and conferred with my fishing partner. Our opening strategy was to assume that I had spooked the fish in the lower pool but they would be settled again by the time I had rigged up a longer leader and sneaked back to the river, as long a cast away from the fish as I could manage. The upper pool was undisturbed and I suggested Brad “give that a flick” as they say in Newfoundland, while I changed my terminal tackle.

The pools were an amazing confusion of currents and boulders making it extremely difficult to present the fly. The scenery was glorious and wild. It was invigorating just to be there. I’m sure a local guide could have cracked the problem of these currents in minutes but I was baffled. As I studied the situation in the pool I was fishing it dawned on me that these fish had not read the same books I had or they would know that they were holding in the wrong place. Every boulder littering the streambed deflected the current in unpredictable ways. It was such chaos that I couldn’t get a wet fly near them and a dry fly was snatched away before drifting a few feet. If the water was not so clear I would have waded out above the rock that created this unexpected eddy they were sheltering in.

With nothing to lose anyway I tried something that would make a purist cringe. I changed from the small Blue Charm I was fishing to a large marabou Cardinal. It wasn’t that this fly would be a better choice but I wanted to be able to see every moment of its action during this experiment. Then, I laid a cast so that the tip of my fly-line landed on the rock the fish were sheltering behind. The current snatched my fly and swung it in a perfect arc, pivoting on the point of contact with the rock that had created this tiny pool. A grilse bolted from the group and I was fast into a fish before I had a chance to process all that had happened.
The fish was just turning dark from being in the river a while but had all the vigour of this cold, highland stream. By the time Brad had worked his way back to where I was fishing I had released two grilse and had another tail-dancing across the pool.
There are lessons in this day about much that is fundamental to good fly-fishing, the need for stealth, accurate casting and the other, almost innumerable, scraps of knowledge essential to the art of fly fishing for Atlantic Salmon.

I think Brad summed it up best though during the long walk back when he said, “all things considered, it doesn’t hurt to be lucky.”

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Bambi and Thumper

This is an interesting set of pictures sent to me by a friend from work. They are by a photographer named, Tanja Askani. Visit her website to see more beautiful wildlife images.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, 6 January 2008

The Solunar Tables

About the time I was beginning to explore fly fishing and those amazing Kamloops Trout, I also became aware of an interesting thing called the Solunar Tables. The Solunar theory is used to predict the best fishing times. For example; you could look at the tables for January 6th and it would tell you when the major and minor feeding activity would start and stop throughout the day. The idea relies on knowing the sun rise and sunset, the moon rise and moon set, as well as which phase the moon is in. You have to do a bit of math to synchronize the tables to your coordinates.

Having done that, you can check the chart for your chosen date. It will say something like: Major feeding time 5:35 AM to 6:35 AM, Minor feeding time 11:30 AM to 12:30 AM and so on. It is certainly food for thought to check the tables for say, Opening Day 2008.

The thinking behind why this idea might work is complex and even a bit inscrutable. It relies on accepting as fact certain suppositions about the effect of the moon on wildlife. A lot of the theory extrapolates from the observational parts of fishing and hunting lore. Things like fish are more active on a coming tide, a full moon is best for fishing schooling fish; salmon are likely to start their run on a full moon and so on. If we think about it there may be more pragmatic reasons for these observations than a mystical effect from the moon. Maybe fish are feeding on the turn of the tide because the mechanical action of moving water uncovers food not available before. Possibly a full moon makes krill more active so schooling fish like mackerel move in to feed on the bait fish that are attracted to the easily available krill. As for salmon, well it makes sense that they would start their move from salt water into fresh on the highest tides of the month. The salt water would penetrate further into the estuary making the transition less violent and ensuring there was as much water as possible on the first leg of the journey.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Solunar Tables are wacky. What I’m saying is that I don’t understand the theories and explanations behind them. There seems to be an easier explanation for the observed behaviors in wildlife than the ones offered in support of the Solunar theory. Lots of people swear by them and can offer their fishing logs as proof of the effectiveness of the tables.

If I published a Solunar Table I would add a line or two that goes something like this: "Even though our predictions say today is not going to be the most productive day to be out fishing it is still worth a shot. Heck, it has be more fun than staying home and painting the fence."

I have one theory about fishing that has never been proven wrong. I may just call it Steve’s Law. It goes like this. “People who are fishing tend to catch more fish than people who are not.”

Labels: , ,

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Man using GPS drives in front of train

On the topic of GPS units I saw this news item recently.

Man using GPS drives in front of train
Thu Jan 3, 8:59 PM ET
A Global Positioning System can tell a driver a lot of things — but apparently not when a train is coming. A computer consultant driving a rental car drove onto train tracks Wednesday using the instructions his GPS unit gave him. A train was barreling toward him, but he escaped in time and no one was injured.
The driver had turned right, as the system advised, and the car somehow got stuck on the tracks at the crossing. He jumped out and tried to warn the engineer by waving. He got out of the way just before the train slammed into the car at 60 mph, Metro-North railroad spokesman Dan Brucker said Thursday.
The car was pushed more than 100 feet during the fiery crash.
Some 500 train passengers were stranded for more than two hours during the Wednesday evening rush hour. The accident also heavily damaged 250 feet of rail, Brucker said.
The railroad said that the driver was issued a minor summons for obstructing a railroad crossing and that he and his rental company would be liable for the damage, estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

(Computer consultant, not exactly as illustrated)

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Hatches and Fly Fishing Strategies

Here in this part of the world: acid rain and a naturally spartan environment mean the huge hatches that the legendary American and English streams are renowned for are not very common.
There are exceptions of course but for the most part fish are feeding sub-surface. When a hatch does occur it is often a mixed blessing. Because it is usually sparse, the fish will rise willingly for the naturals but do have more time to consider your imitation. On the positive side though, during a sparse hatch the trout remain opportunistic and will often not key in on only what is hatching.
Many times I’ve gotten lucky by just matching the size of a hatch even though the colour and pattern of my fly was way off.
The “go to” plan when the fish are starting to become selective for something I don’t have in my box is to tie on an ant pattern,#12 black or a #10 or smaller red. I’m not sure why this works but more often than not it does.
Another thing that is fun when in the midst of a prolific hatch that trout are focused on to the exclusion of your offerings is to put on a large Muddler, well doped up to float. Cast it parallel to the shore and in fairly close, then strip it back in short, splashy jerks. Let it settle then strip it again and so on.
The scenario I’m trying to portray, in my mind as least, is as if something feeding on the hatch, just like the trout, over-extended itself and fell in. Often you can see the “v” as a big old trout leaves his feeding lane and heads for what he must think is a bonus meal.

There is probably no better fly fishing moment than the surge of anticipation upon seeing the first fluttering of Caddis flies wafting across the river or the ethereal dance of Mayflies in the shadows of alders.

Labels: , ,