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by Sylvie Malo-Clark

Chasing the sea trout and Atlantic salmon is a six month affair on the Miramichi river. However some would say it is a twelve month ordeal as preparation is as important as the act of fishing itself. It is no doubt a way of life! Many of the traditions stay the same year after year. The day before the opening which is on April 15th, anglers  double-check their gear, take their aluminium “Jon boats” up and down the river many times to make sure the motors and boats are working properly. The Miramichi comes back to life!

For us, my husband and myself, we open the camp two weeks before the big day. We clean it top to bottom, take the canoe out which was stored inside, pull out the rocking chair and willow chairs back on the veranda ready for river watch. The first day can’t arrive soon enough! Last year, huge ice chunks draped our side of the river on our bank making it almost impossible to cast a line. I prayed for the unlikely event which was an overnight thaw thinking why now!

Morning couldn’t come quick enough. I woke up to the sound of the Jon boats making their way up river in hopes of landing the first kelt (also called black salmon as they get dark having spent the winter in the river instead of going back to sea). No luck! My side of the river was still jammed with ice chunks.

At the crack of dawn, I was the witness to seeing many anglers on the other side of the river wading and catching salmon. Well I may add I was using binoculars to give me a clear view . By ten o’clock I had enough watching anglers hooking up. I decided to get ready to fish and made my way with great difficulty to shore and climbed the flattest ice chunk that I could find. Voila! Here I was fishing for kelt!  After several casts I realized that this was a very dangerous situation. I was very pleased that I had at least wetted a line on opening day.

Finally Mother Nature was on our side with heavy rainfalls which meant the icebergs probably were floating down river.  When returning to the camp a few days later I couldn’t get out the SUV fast enough  to see if our side of the Miramichi was fishable. I couldn’t get in the camp fast enough to change to my fishing outfit and get my fishing gear together and down to the shore I went fishing for the kelt. By noon I had landed three salmon until a thought came to me saying maybe I should take a break. I still had three weeks of this mighty fishing!

Soon after the kelt has returned to sea, the anglers await the sea trout run. They act pretty much like the Atlantic salmon coming up river near the end of May. An interesting fact I have noticed while fishing in United States is that the anglers measure their catch in inches while here most people translate their prize catch in pounds. You never know when the sea trout will appear in the river. You pretty much have to make your way to the river every day until one rises for your fly or depend on the “hear say’ of your fellow anglers. When they do, be prepared!

Armed with your trout fishing gear you make your way through the back woods where you will likely find the big ones in their wild habitat. I have to admit that my husband and I fish for them quite often. Some places where we go we have to reserve in advance and other places are deeper in the woods where we have a good two mile walk one way to get to the pristine pool. This is a fantastic way to get in shape and well worth the walk. I remember one time I made my way to this secret honey spot deep in the woods with my new Orvis Superfine Trout Bum fly rod. On the first cast I got a nice five pound sea trout. More of the same size followed. Was I ever in love with this rod! The sea trout stay in the river all summer. After spawning they return to tidal waters. They are more responsive to your fly in June but through the peak of the Atlantic salmon season your odds to get one are pretty good.
You may expect the main run of Atlantic salmon to be on the first week of July. Too bad they couldn’t  text the anglers and let them know when they are arriving. We can’t wait to treat our river guest nothing but the best on the Miramichi… new boxes of various flies, our fly lines are cleaned or replaced and await to be put to test. Some anglers go as far as taking casting lessons during the off season to enable them to reach the opposite bank. I like to set goals for myself and one of mine had been for a long time to master the double-haul. With Cathi Beck’s instruction and patience at the Pennsylvania festival I can now do the double-haul. My new goal … is to master Spey casting.

Fishing seasons are never the same. Weather conditions pretty much dictate the outcome. Last season the water level was fantastic with lots of rain which the salmon love. Last July my best salmon catch was in high water. The day that I caught my 22 pounder, my husband and I crossed the river very very carefully as the river was up to the bushes. I will remember the take of this large Atlantic salmon as long as I live. It was an electrifying moment!

The last stage of the season is Fall fishing. You will find an endless landscape of blazing Fall foliage along the river. It’s difficult to keep your eyes on the fly when surrounded by such beauty. When the end of the season draws near, anglers try to fit in as many hours of fishing as they can. You are always trying to catch just one more Atlantic salmon. So we fished until dark on October 15th. As we had caught our “just one more” the day before we were content in just being there and appreciating the last moment.

For generations the famous Miramichi has attracted anglers from around the world for its ability to produce the wild Atlantic salmon. You never know who you may meet. This past September I met a member of IWFF Mia Sheppard,  on the banks of one of my favourite salmon pools. Camaraderie was at its best and I should say it was my first time meeting a IWFF member on my own ground. To add to my excitement I found out that Mia currently holds the World Champion Women of Spey casting with a distance of 144 feet. Thanks Mia for the inspiration! I am very blessed to be so close where the Atlantic salmon and sea trout choose to return every year but most importantly to meet a lot of people on the river who share the same passion.. the love of fishing.

Our fishing gear has been put away and anxiously awaits the next opening . This is now the time to tie flies and to dream about the next season!!!

 

Rebecca Spey-1

The author’s first steelhead on a spey rod!

by Rebecca Blair

Once again Mia Sheppard used her spey casting skills to raise money for Casting for Recovery (CFR). On the weekend of April 12-13, 2014 Mia competed in the Jimmy Green International Spey-O-Rama (SOR) in San Francisco. It was a wonderful time with fantastic weather and a “reunion-like” atmosphere since many participants are from far away and only see each other annually. It’s always a fun event involving serious doses of both learning and camaraderie, and in typical San Francisco fashion, you never know what you’ll see. There were numerous displays of hand crafted spey rods and artful demonstrations of two handed casting. And among the spectators there were also men in kilts and young girls in waders gleefully carrying “Girl Power” signs. In the casting arena, it was particularly impressive to see records being broken—Travis Johnson made a record 198 ft. cast during the qualifying events and won the men’s event the next day.

For the fourth year, Mia who won the 2013 women’s division, linked the competition with raising money for CFR. Her CFR Pledge drive effort allowed donors to pledge a flat amount or a dollar amount per foot based on Mia’s longest cast in the competition. This year Mia sweetened the pot and suggested that donors guess her longest cast with the winner receiving a free guided trip on the Sandy River with her company, Little Creek Outfitters. Gary Anderson of Anderson Custom Rods provided further incentive by donating a beautiful 4 piece, 12’6” Explorer rod which all donors had the potential of winning.

Teresa LeBlanc and Rebecca Blair from NCAL CFR were on hand to support Mia and collect donations. Long time Golden West Women Fly Fishers member and past women’s winner, Donna O’Sullivan was also there and continues to motivate women in competition casting with her enthusiasm and participation. Event participants were generous, with even Mia’s competitors contributing. Whitney Gould won the women’s competition with Mia following closely behind.

Mia ended up with the longest women’s cast of 142 ft. With pledges of up to $2.00 per foot, Mia was able to help raise more than $2,000 for CFR. Per Mia’s wishes, the money will be equally divided between Northern CA CFR and her home state CFR of Northern Oregon.

CFR is a national non-profit support and educational program for women of all ages and in all stages of breast cancer. It’ provides retreats at no cost to participants which allow women whose lives have been profoundly affected by breast cancer to gather in a beautiful, natural setting and learn to fly fish. See   http://castingforrecovery.org/ for more information.

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