Monday, July 28, 2008

A Decision Made By Fish

A day of fishing takes shape mostly by what the fish offer you. Sometimes it isn't much. Sometimes it is plenty. This past Sunday was just such a day. It was a day when 4 of us went to the river, and the river offered up Sea Trout, and more. The decisions start early. Choice of fly? I tried many. The Parma Belle, the Mickey Finn, Dark Montreal, Black Zonker, Purple Drummer, Orange Bomber, Cosseboom and Blue Charm to name a few.

The beauty of that, is i caught or raised fish on all of them. I wasn't the only one. All in all this week, i caught more than 30 trout. Many of those were Sea Trout. One Sea Trout was about 15" and about 1 and 1/2 pounds. Quite a few were in the pound range. Two Salmon were hooked, one was landed. We have had better weeks in the past, but when the Sea Trout are in and taking, it is always good. Depending on this weeks weather, i may even get another shot at them before the early summer run is all done.

My Father-in law hooked and landed about a 6 pound Atlantic Salmon. Caught and released, it is a silver trophy of a once glorious fishery in Nova Scotia that has been diminished over the years. Hooking a Salmon never gets old. Seeing this one caught re-ignited my feelings for fishing them. We still have a very good fall fishery here and maybe this year is when i need to get back to it.

Tonight, i thought about the trips this past week. Good times, with good people. You can't ask for too much more than that. As for the fishing, i think it is entirely up to the fish. For as good as many of us think we are as anglers, the fish decide when to run (aided by the rain of course), they decide which fly they like the best ( Sunday was a Bloody Muddler, Thursday night, it was the Purple Drummer, Dark Montreal combo.) Sure, some of what we as anglers do makes a big difference. An experienced angler lands more fish, hooks more fish, reads the water better, has the patience to ride it out when the conditions are tough. While native Brook Trout are predictable, Sea Trout are their own creature. The holds that always seem to harbour fish, don't always work. The flies that native Trout revel in, Sea Trout can ignore. They are a great example of what makes angling the unique experience it is. For me it is the one rare chance i get to hold nature in my hand.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Rain Cleanses The Waters

Finally

It took a while. We had almost no rain for an entire month. Then, in two days, we got between 50 and 100 mm depending on where you look. With a heavy July rain, comes an annual ritual. The Sea Trout. Tonight my brother in law and i took a drive to Spry Harbour and caught around 30 trout between us. It was Sea Trout we were looking for, and before dark, we were rewarded. The beginning of the run was up to the first pool. We only caught one each, and they were both small, but they were a sign of better things to come. Good water, more showers and cloudy days should make Sunday a great day for fly fishing. The fun begins.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Passing The time Until The Next Big Rain

It is officially the dog days of summer. The days my wife longs for have arrived, and for me, they are the ruin of good angling opportunities on a weekly basis. No rain, higher temperatures, and longer days don't really enhance trout fishing in Nova Scotia. As for Salmon, those chances would still happen, except for the fact that the water is very low.

So i wait. I mean it isn't the torture i may be making it sound like. It gives me the time to spend with family and or friends and do the things summer are about. This weekend, a trip to the beach was in order. We took the day in with a front row seat on beautiful Crystal Crescent Beach just outside Halifax. White sand and blue (although very cold) water make it easy to forget that work is a drag at times, or that the fishing is slow.

As evidenced by the picture, the thought of fishing is never far away. There is no real surf fishing to be had in Nova Scotia, although at times i want to take the fly rod to the beach and try it anyway. If i don't get fish, at least i got to spend the day in the cool blue water of the Atlantic, with my family lounging nearby, with no blackflies. If you remove the fact that i may not get any fish, it sounds like the best of both worlds. Until then, i am off of work for the next two weeks and if it rains, i will be reaady to go. Those Sea Trout are no match for me. There will be photographic evidence, you have my word.

Until then, tight lines, cold beer, good cigars, a nice glass of wine and a day at the beach to all.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Dark Montreal - A Fly For The Ages

I have literally stayed up nights tying this fly at the last minute before a trip. Some flies you never leave home without, for me the Dark Montreal is at the top of that list. The fly itself, looks like nothing, and yet it imitates everything. It works in the earliest days of the season, all the way through the dog days of summer, into the cool waters of the fall. I have hooked probably thousands of Trout on this fly. I even hooked a Salmon on one. If you were in Nova Scotia and had a new fly angler with you, this would be the best fly to give them as a first try to actually get a fish.

The fly was first tied by Peter Cowan, and named after the city of Montreal. (As a Montreal Canadiens fan i like to think their team colours played into it, but i can find no proof of it). It has a claret barbule, or sometimes a red duck quill tail, a claret floss body, wrapped with gold tinsel, and a turkey quill wing over the back. The hackle is claret saddle hackle. I often tie this fly without the wing, and the hackle when wet sways back and moves along the body of the fly with the movement of the water.

At any time right before the start of a hatch, or after the fish are glutted, the Dark Montreal will take fish. For seatrout, it is one of the most reliable flies i use. Here is the recipe:

Hook: Mustad 3399 Or Equivalent, #8 - #14
Tag: Flat Gold Tinsel
Tail: Claret Barbules(hackle) Or Red Duck Quill
Body: Claret Floss
Rib: Flat Gold Tinsel
Hackle: Claret
Wing: Turkey Quill

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mickey Finn - Whats In A Name

For those of us who have used these in the quest for Trout, and Sea Trout in Nova Scotia and elsewhere, the story of the Mickey Finns name is interesting, but comes as no surprise. The fly was first tied by Charles Langevin, and used on the Jaques Cartier river in Quebec. It was originally called the Langevin, and then later as the Red And Yellow Bucktail, the Assassin, and then finally as the Mickey Finn. For those who use the expression "a killer fly", the name Assassin is self explanatory. So where does the Mickey Finn name come from?

The name is actually an extension of the story of Chicago bartender Michael "Mickey" Finn. He became famous for his practice of slipping drugs into a customers drink, and then robbing them. The term of course, "slipping them a Mickey". The Mickey Finn is a streamer that is so good, it is compared to drugging the fish and making them helpless against the angler. The truth is, it is yet another great yellow and red fly which trout seem to love.

The Mickey Finn has a number of different tying methods. Silver tinsel on the body, gold tinsil on the body, and of course a whole range of sizes. My favourite, has a silver foil body, wrapped with silver braid, the standard yellow over red over yellow bucktail wing, and a jungle cock eye on each side of the head.

The real beauty of the Mickey Finn, is the situations you can fish it in. In stillwaters, salt water, brackish water, in riffles and runs or in deep pools. I have caught trout in all situations on this fly, and in all kinds of weather conditions. I never go fishing without some, and when the sea trout run takes place in nova Scotia, it will always see the water. It really is a "deadly fly". The fly is so well liked in Canada, that in 2005, Canada Post immortalized it in a special edition stamp series. (Pictured at the top of this post.)

Mickey Finn Streamer Fly Recipe

Hook: 3xl or 4xl streamer hook size 2 - 12.
Thread: Black 8/0 (70 Denier)
Body: Silver Mylar Tinsel
Rib: Silver Oval Tinsel
Wing: Yellow Over Red Over Yellow Bucktail
Head: Black Thread - Optional painted eyes
Eye: Jungle Cock - Optional

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Parmachene Belle - Nova Scotia Seatrout

This is the first in a series of the introduction of Nova Scotia Trout Flies. These flies didn't necessarily originate here, but they are effective here for a variety of reasons. The first one is an old Nova Scotia Sea Run Brook Trout standby, The Parmachene Belle.

My grandfather used to tell me that in Newfoundland, they would cut a fin off of a caught Brookie, and midge it to a hook to use as bait for more Trout. Sounds like cannibalism i know, but that was what they did, and it worked. That is a long standing story about catching trout. Two flies imitate this failry well, the Parmachene Belle is one, and the Trout Fin is another. The "Parma Bell" as it is known here, has it's roots in Maine, but uses a formula common to many trout flies, proven later by experiment, known only from experience before. The relationship of colour.

Ask any old salt Brook Trout fisherman what wet flies work in the Maritimes, and he will likely tell you something with red or yellow in it, or both. In the 1950 book "The Life Story Of A Fish", by Brian Curtis, he mentions experiments done with Trout and Bass that prove what the old anglers already knew. They like red and yellow in their bait colours over anything else. The Parmachene Belle brings the two colours together with a bit of flash, and a dash of white, and has proven to be a goto fly for the early summer seatrout runs, as well as a sturdy stillwater fly.

The Parma Bell, like many of its married wing wetfly counterparts were popularized by Ray Bergman, was first tied around 1878 by Henry P. Wells, and named after Lake Parmachene. The fly uses married duck quils to create a white over red over white wing, back over a yellow body, with silver rib wound the length of the body. A red and white hackle throat and red tail rund out a classic looking wet fly. The fly may be 130 years old, but it is as effective today in the trout waters of Nova Scotia as it was back then. It is an early to mid summer must have. The pattern is shown below.


Hook: Mustad 3399, #8
Tail: Red and White
Butt: Black
Rib: Flat Silver Tinsel
Body: Yellow Floss
Hackle: Mixed red and white
Wing: White with a Red Stripe

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What Do You Mean They Are Calling For A Hurricane?

At 12:19 on September 29, 2003, Hurricane Juan made landfall near Halifax as a category 2 storm. For most of us still able to feed ourselves, this marked the first time in our lives we had seen a storm of this magnitude. The funny thing was, even though we were all told about, hardly anyone prepared for it, hardly anyone really believed it was coming. It was a frightening storm. houses shook, trees fell and bent to 90 degree angles, pieces blew off cars and roofs got torn off. Sadly a paramedic lost his life. What does this have to do with fishing? A few things.

First of all, the storm brought a ton of rain and gave us a September with swollen rivers, and some of the best September trout fishing i can remember. It also brings to mind story about our camp. In 2003, the camp was done for about 3 years. The fishing there was incredible each year, without fail. The camp is also about an hour from Halifax.

Steven F lives across the street from me. The morning after Juan, i walked out onto our street. There was no power. No kids running on the street, no cars driving around. It was eerily quiet in some ways. I stood in the middle of the road and looked around at uprooted trees, siding strewn on the ground, pieces of leaves and grass plastered against homes and vehicles. Steven walked out of his door. He came over and said hello, and looked around with me, Everything was a mess. The whole city was shut down. For three or four minutes we just looked around, somewhat in awe of it all. Steven then looked at me. "I hope the camp is OK" he said. I laughed at the seemingly stupid comment, and then agreed with him.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

An Interlude In The Wait For Sea Trout

My weekend got off to a great start when my wife got me my fathers day gift early. A Fuji Finepix A820 digital camera, which i have been wanting badly since i started this blog. So today i took advantage of it and brought it with me on a day trip up Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore. The day started at 6:00 AM in Judds pool on the Ecum Secum river. A nice sea trout and salmon hole that holds trout all year. In 90 minutes, i caught and released 4 trout, 14" being the largest.

From there i went was off to the Trout Pond in Spry Harbor. A quiet little stillwater on a long running brook that empties into Spry Bay, the Trout Pond is a go to hole if all else fails. Today it held a ton of fish, including one 15" long with a hunk out of it released quickly. What these fish lack in size, they more than make up for in sheer fun. I caught over twenty in the 8 to 10 inch range in around 2 hours. Lastly, the Grand Lake Stillwaters produced the nicest trout of the day in weight anyway. A video of the end of a fight of a small brookie from there.

video

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Broman Odell Pro Staff

As part of it's entry into the North American Market, i will be setting up a Pro Staff for fly anglers, as well as pike/muskie anglers to help promote and work Broman Odell into the market. Anyone interested can email me at reactionoutdoors@gmail.com. Please include your background and what you may be able to offer as a member of the Broman Odell team.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Container Ship

I found this going through some old pictures the other day. This picture really captures the feeling of what we did to try and finish a camp we wisely decided to build in the middle of nowhere. After a few weeks of building, we had a roof tight shell. We could sit inside, (on the floor), we could sleep in it, (on the floor), we could cook in it..... you get the picture. So it is late spring, and we want to get this thing ready for the next may fly season.

Once again, our trusty 8 foot punt became a commercial shipping liner. Loaded many times over with chairs, rugs, dishes, cabinets, counter tops and countless other household type goods we made trip after trip. When summer began we need only the bunks and the wood stove back there. Those are stories worthy of their own post.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Broman ODell

The time is almost here. I recently became the Distributor for North America for Broman Odell Tackle of Sweden. A wonderful set of fly rods, fly reels, clothing, fly lines, as well as spinning gear. since i have a blog, i am going to get some gear previews up. This stuff will be in the gear reviews of Canadian Fly Fisher and Fly Fisherman Magazine in the coming months. Maybe you will have seen it here first. I will give a little teaser with the Beta Fly Rod and Reel picture with this post. More detail will come tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A View From The Bridge

The picture with this post means nothing in particular. It is a shot of my favourite lake, at 5:45 am on a foggy Nova Scotia morning. I think it is a great picture and really captures my early morning view. I caught 5 trout on this foggy morning before the sun broke through and the wind started. The importance of early morning trout fishing cannot be lost on any good fly angler. It seems the big fish in particular like the low light conditions to feed in, cruising around cleaning up spent fly and getting morning emergers. I am working on a fly fishing journal to post here that plots trends, water temperatures, wind conditions, time of day and so on and it is yielding some interesting results. I will be posting them here shortly, and i would be interested in anyone who reads this emailing me any factual information in the same vein.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

In The Middle Of Nowhere, In The Middle Of Everything

A warm, dry, comfortable place to stay. 20 kms from the nearest small town, and most of that 20 kms is back in the woods. The camp is really in the middle of nowhere. There are no other camps anywhere within walking distance. What is within walking distance is 5 of the best trout lakes i have been fortunate enough to find in Nova Scotia. Every year the trip is met with great anticipation. This year was no different, and despite tough conditions for fishing, the lakes came through yet again.

Steven F., Merle, and myself made a 4 day, 3 night stay that consisted of a lot of food, a bunch of drinks, many hands of crib and auction, and a ton of fishing. Joined by two of my uncles late Wednesday, and completed late Friday, the trip did present some challenges when it came to fishing. The fly started early this season. In fact on a trip i made on April 27, the fly was already on, and relatively thick. The result is in the 10 days before we went up, the fish fed greedily on mayfly, and were approaching the glut when we arrived.


Glutted fish are not impossible to catch, they just have to be persuaded. In fact the glut can be good if you are looking for big fish, as they cruise the lake picking up spent fly all through the hatch, rather than gorge all day like the younger and smaller fish. In the four days, i caught 12 trout, most in the early morning or late in the evening. On Thursday night a heavy rain and high wind cut fishing short, otherwise, nice evening calms and mild temperatures cooperated with us. In all, 25 fish were brought to the boat, and another 10 or so lost as the fish won some battles. All but three were returned to fight another day.


For myself, i caught none smaller than 12 inches, and around 1 pound. The largest was 17.5 inches and weighed in at about 2.5 pounds. A couple of trips to the camp for seatrout runs are already in the works. For now, the 2008 mayfly is in the books, and was a success. The camp was comfort as always. I look forward to the next visit.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Few Days In The Woods

The time has come. The plans are made, the rations have been bought, theres one thing left. Fishing. From Tuesday until Friday i will be parked in the lap of great fishing in Nova Scotia, staying at the Chateau. 3 great but small trout lakes surround us and the dreams of that elusive 4 pound trout have already begun.

My wife has beautifully tolerated all of the discussions, phone calls, meetings and so on of the He Man Woman Haters Club, much to her credit. Now we go trophy hunting. Our early morning and late evening trips to the smallest lake of the bunch which ironically holds the biggest fish. It will be time for a lot of food, a few drinks, a bit of work, and a lot of fishing. Once again, i owe her big time. Someday, i will pay her back properly.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

"A Blue Fly? It'll Never Work"

The Mystery That Is The Blue Upright

The mayfly here in Nova Scotia occurs in the first two weeks of May. Medium sized, black flies, come to life in swarms and the trout gorge on them for a two or three week stretch. As a young fly fisherman who never had an abundance of flies in his possesion, the older brother of one of my best friends gave me a fly since i ran out. The fly he passed me was a peacock quill body, and a blue hackle, with Grey wings. I looked at him strangely, and asked if that would really work. "You'll see" he said. And i did. So, look at the pictures below:









The grey wings make sense. The peacock quill body also is a good representation. What about that blue hackle and blue tail though? Where does that come into play? That day i got my first one i wondered that quickly to myself, and continued fishing. It worked. Much better than the black flies i had been using. In all of my years since, it has been a superior fly. In all of those years, i wondered why, and kept fishing. A biologist i met, gave me what sounds like a reasonable answer.

The key to a Blue Upright working so well over a black quill with black hackle rests in it's profile. Cast the two flies side by side, the same size pattern, and the black quill will look bigger. From below the water, it looks bigger still. The blue hackle on an upright allows light to pass through it, giving it a slimmer profile, and a more realistic look to a rising fish. I rarely use a black quill anymore, although i carry some for darker days. However the Blue Upright is Nova Scotia's premier dry fly, and a fly no one should be out the first of May fishing without.

Day 4 - A Requiem

For the third night in a row, it rained. Tents, sleeping bags, every piece of clothing i had with me was soaking wet. We woke up groggy but took a bit of energy from the fact that all of that wood was now here. We also now had a floor, and one standing wall, studs only of course. Every muscle in my body ached, my shoulders felt like someone had sanded them and my back was more sore than i ever imagined it could be. But, we did it. We stood all four outside walls and braced them and decided it was time to go.

After two trips in and out to haul gear and garbage, we climbed into the 1985 Chevy and drove out to where the van waited. In the van, i left dry boots, clothes, and socks. The smartest thing i did all week. As i changed, on the heel of my foot i found a blood blister the size of a golf ball. It almost seemed alive. It made me queasy to see it. I covered it with a sock, and my work boot, and we drove home, very quietly. We all were equally tired, but i think equally satisfied in what we accomplished.

When i got home, my wife said hello and simply pointed me to the shower. It lasted 45 minutes. Never did a shower feel so good. Now it was 8:00 pm and i am laying on my couch. My wife is rubbing my shoulders as we exchange stories about the days i was away. At that moment i thought i might never go back to the camp again. This was so much better. This was home. It took a few days to shake that off. In two weeks, we were up there again, although this time was all building and very little hauling.

As i read back about what i wrote about these four days, i realize it sounds like i am whining. A lot of people would give their eye teeth to have a place like this, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by some of the best stillwater fly fishing to be found in Nova Scotia. All i had to do was lend my shoulders and back for a week or so. It was a small price to pay. It still will never be forgotten.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

First Trip Is Good As Always

In the past few years i have delayed a season opening trip until the last Sunday in April. The fishing is slow before that so waiting seems a good option. This past Sunday we made our first trip up to the camp. Here are the details:

The Weather: Cloudy in the AM, the sunny in the afternoon, with winds out of the South East around 25km/h, all day long. High temperature was 16.

The Camp: Every year that first walk back is a bit scary. Wrecked or burnt or damaged, we imagine all of the scenarios. Fortunately it was fine. 3 sets of visitors were in through the winter, but all loved it, and cleaned up and took their garbage out. We couldn't ask for better. Outhouse door needs hinges replaced, chimney is leaking through the top cap. No big deal.

The Fly: It is earlier than the past 5 years or so, a good sign for us on our trip. A nice size hatch was on Sunday, and looks like it was the first of the season. This means the fish will be looking and feeding on fly for a whole week before we get there. In the past few years, we have been a bit early and the fish are just turning on to the fly. This year the timing should be perfect. The lakes have a lot of nymph, meaning the hatch should be healthier than ever.

The Fish: On what appears to be the first day of the hatch, the fish are not interested. It takes 4 or 5 days before they become aware of the fly, and a couple more before they are feeding heavily on them. The wind made fishing hard and a bit on the cold side. Rolled one trout and that was it, but these aren't early season lakes, so we weren't surprised. The fish will be more than ready next week when we are there.

Overall it was a great trip, fish or no fish. We had lunch back the camp and enjoyed the quiet and the view. Next week, the real action will begin, and i will have a full report.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Day Three - "What I Wouldn't Give For A Cellphone"

I wake up groggy to a comforting sound. My wife and i like to lay in bed and listen to the rain, and it is raining hard. I turn my head. That ain't my wife. Steven B. is waking at the same time. We get up and light the Coleman stove and start cooking up 2 pounds of bacon. The others join us. It's 6:00 am. Hungover, tired, sore and most of all, wet, there will be no fishing today. All of us agree we have to finish that woodpile today, because we have nothing left inside of us. We are now running on willpower and stubbornness. Breakfast tastes great, although moss would probably taste great in our current state.

So we start. We are wet all the way through from three days of steady rain, and today is the hardest rain yet. We haul wood all day long. We overload our shoulders most of the time because we are finishing today, come hell or high water. Finally, we are making the last trip to the wood. It is close to dusk and Steven, Stephen, Derrick and I are heading for the last of it. There is one piece of pine siding left for each of us. We each grab one and we carry it in a parade of sorts. A real life parade of fools. We walk proudly to the campsite, and dump off our last pieces onto the new woodpile, and then open a celebratory beer. There will be no more walking today, no more tripping in that path, now more sloshing rubber boot noises. We are done.

Steven F. then looks at me. "Did you tell your wife you would call her?" The colour drains from my face. Quietly, i say yes. "I told mine too" he says. Without speaking, we both get up and prepare to walk yet again. Through the path, tripping more than ever because it is dark. We get out to the 1985 Chevy Diesel and start it. In minutes it is warmed up and the heat is on and feels better than anything i have felt in three days. Steven is driving and he is running an Indy race on a logging road. We are getting sucked into ruts, plowing through soupholes. I have a lit smoke hanging out the window and brown muddy puddle water splashes up and drenches it. About half way out, we see lights. Lots of lights. We pull to the side and agree it must be a logging rig, but it is really moving. As it gets closer, we see it is a Ford F-350, almost brand new, with lights all over the cab, and it is hauling a trailer behind it. That trailer is bouncing and rocking back and forth as the truck blows by us without even slowing down. He coats the front window of the Chevy so thick with mud, we had to get out and wipe it off before the wipers could do the rest.

When we get to town and we have to drive to three pay phones before we find on that works. We make our calls. I wanted to be home right then. I would never have admitted it, but i wanted it bad. We drove back quicker than we drove out. We trip through the path but as we do, the rain stops. The winds die down. The heat of the truck has made me realize how cold the air really is. When we got to the camp, the woodpile is done, neat and tidy. The fire is blazing, and on our new camp floor sits a bottle of rum, a Coleman lantern, a bottle of Pepsi, and six glasses. A celebration of sorts. The six of us sit down and pour drinks. The air is now vividly calm. We all start our drinks, and then it begins to snow. That's right, it is snowing on the 5th of May. Our defense mechanism kicks in and we all start to laugh. It is either that or cry. A few drinks and we are all off to bed. Wet beds that offer little comfort, but when you are as exhausted as we were, it doesn't really matter. Beyond any other feelings we may have had, two brought us some comfort. One, we had a finished floor for our camp, and two, we are going home tomorrow. Thank God.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Does A 40 Ouncer Really Ease Pain?

Day 2 Of Four Days I Will Never Forget, Even Though I Want To
Of all of the guys involved in the camp, i have known Steven B. the longest. We were friends since i was 16 or so, and we have fished together ever since then. On the morning of day 2, we did what we have done so often before. Out of bed at 5:00 am, make some tea, and off to the lake. At 6:00 am we are on the water, at 8:30 we are back at camp cooking trout for breakfast. Our walk to the lake was over the hardwood hill, and far from the woodpile that both of us pretended didn't exist, even if it was only for a moment.

After breakfast, Day 2 went like this. Walk, get wet, haul wood, trip, drop wood, pick it back up, keep going. Repeat. From 10:00 am till dark, breaking only for the odd beer, a smoke, or something to eat. By the fire, Steven and i started to feel it. A burning sensation on both of our shoulders, from the weight and friction of pine siding and tongue and groove flooring. Everyone feels it. As the rest of them head for their tents, Steven brings out our pain killer. A 40 ouncer of Captain Morgans Rum. It's an old standby, also dating back to our early days as friends. We crack it open, and drink it. Quickly. The rum makes lots of things disappear. Quiet, intelligence, even common sense. To our regret though, not pain.

We complain as we drink. The more we drink, the more expletive laced tirades we give about how sore our shoulders are. ("more marks on my shoulders than a whores headboard", that sort of thing). As we drink the last of the rum, my arms hurt to even raise the glass. The tent is looking better all the time. We got into the tent, and Steven asked what time it was. My wife bought me a Timex Hooks watch, which was awesome, with an Indigo backlight. I pressed the light button, and influenced by fatigue and rum, the light seemed like a spotlight, burning our eyes, and causing us to erupt in laughter. I press it over and over, and each time we laugh harder. Then the novelty wears off. It's 11:30 pm, and we have been up almost 19 hours.

We are both laying down now, and both very impressed with how quiet it is. I am almost asleep within a minute. Then it happens. From Derricks tent, a loud snore. Steven and i erupt in laughter right away. We quiet down, another snore from Derrick. Again we laugh like fools. After the fourth snorting sound, the novelty wears off of that. Derrick snores again. No laughter. Robert belts out maybe the loudest snore i have ever heard. We are now roaring with laughter, stopping only long enough to hear the next guy let one go. Derrick, then Robert, then Stephen F, the Merle. After five minutes we have laughed ourselves to tears. I figure we fell asleep finally around 12:30, with guts that hurt almost as much as our shoulders.

On day 3, we wake up at 6:00. There will be no fishing today. Sore arms, shoulders, stomachs, and a hangover talk us out of it. Steven tells me we have to get that wood finished today. If we don't, he may never come back. I couldn't agree more.....

The Annual Trip Before The Trip

Every year, Stephen F. and i make a day trip the last weekend of April up to the camp. The idea is to check out the lake, see what the water temperature is, see if the nymphs are active, try for a fish, and of course make sure the camp is cool and take stock of what we need for our annual trip. Oh, and i bring my canoe up. The weather lately has been pretty warm, and water temperatures are up to about 8 degrees.

My wife could give you many examples of how my focus in fishing season gets a little narrowed. Ok, maybe a lot narrowed. I can give you one from last year. Stephen and i were walking back to the camp last year around 7:00 am. After crossing the small lake, we made mention of how bright the sun was this time of the morning over the hardwood hill, without really looking over the hardwood hill. Again, walking the path, another comment about how bright it was. In our mind though, the only thought is get to the camp. We got there, put on some tea, and checked everything out. I walked out back to get an armload of wood, and look toward the hardwood hill.

It was then i noticed it was extremely bright. I walked about 200 feet, and where there used to be woods, now stood a huge clearing, courtesy of you friendly pulp and paper company. Walking out of the path, the new chopping was in plain view. If we had looked on the way in, we would have tripped over it. We only saw the path, straight ahead, to the camp.

This Sunday, i will wet the first line of the year, and likely get my first trout of the year, and get ready for the first two weeks in May. A Nova Scotia fly fisherman's time of perfection. Before black flies, moderate temperatures, a ton of Mayfly, and hopefully, a lot of hungry trout. I will let you know how it goes.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Camp Is Made Of Wood Part 5,

Steven Makes A Giant Steak, Even A Coyote Won't Eat It

The first day of hauling lumber seemed fairly easy. Although it rained almost non stop, a fishing break netted some large trout, and the lumber was traveling nicely on shoulders that were not tired, at least not yet. In fact the first day and night is more remembered for our sleeping in the woods in tents. We went to bed around 10:30 pm in three tents each sleeping two guys. The tents were covered in orange tarps to try and keep the contents dry, and on the first night that seemed to be working fairly well. A few shots of rum served to warm up your insides, and then it was off to sleep.

I tossed and turned for an hour or two, not able to find the rhythm to get to sleep. Between snores from some of the others, i hear something shuffling through the woods. Keep in mind, we are in black bear country. Black bears don't like humans so much, but are known for liking their food and garbage. With the protection of only a tent, the thought of a bear is less than comforting. So i am quiet. I figure there is no reason to let a bear know i am here. I next hear something shuffling through a plastic bag. The bag is tearing and things are being more or less tossed around. Still quiet, Derrick whispers from the tent next to me. "Dave, you awake?". "Yes" i whisper back. "Do you hear that?" "Yes i do" was my reply. As i am whispering back, i am thinking how Derricks eyes are likely popping out of his head from his fear of Bears.

In a few minutes, the sound is gone. Derrick and i both get up and get out of our tents. I shine my flashlight around the campsite, and everything looks fine, except our garbage bag. It is torn apart, and it's contents are strewn. Derrick and i examine the damage. The mess includes wrappers, and pop bottles, and cigarette packages. They are torn apart, and the plastic pop bottles have punctures in them from fangs. About four feet away from the mess is the rest of Steven's steak from supper. The steak was a round steak, maybe the biggest cut of round steak i ever saw. Steven cooked it that night over the fire. He used no marinade and cooked it too long, and like any round steak would be in those conditions, it was as tough as wood. Near the steak, was a pile of shit, full of hair, the true mark of a coyote, not a bear.

So the Coyote took the risk of coming near our camp, tearing through our garbage while we were asleep. He tore through cigarette packages, he punctured through pop bottles, he even ate paper towels that were soaked with fat from cleanup. Then he found what should be the best prize. A big piece of steak, cooked very very well done. He picked it up and started to walk away with it. This should have been the very thing he wanted. Four feet later, with only a small amount eaten, he dropped it, and took a dump. We like to think of this as an editorial comment on Stevens method for cooking steak. "Maybe he will tell his friends about the steak, and they will stay away" i said to Derrick on the way back to the tents.

We crawled back into our tents to get some sleep before Day 2. The woodpile still sits in the path 10 minutes away, and although we hauled a lot today, it looks almost unchanged. We notice that the morning of day 2.....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Camp Is Made Of Wood Part 4

What The Hell Were We Thinking?

It's a Sunday Morning, May 3, 1999, and on a logging road in Nova Scotia, a Green 1985 Chevy Diesel, and a 1989 Dodge Caravan pick their way through soup holes and tire ruts, making a 12 kilometer trek take almost 40 minutes. It's raining lightly with an occasional peak of sunshine. Inside the vehicles, 6 of the most naive and demented men seen in many, many years. Parking in the clearing, they pile out of the vehicle, eager to get to work to make their mark on the backwoods of Nova Scotia. A fishing camp. We walked hurriedly down the path, across the rock bar on the first lake, and into the path. On the right of the path, a sight that would punch them in the gut and knock the wind out of them. A horrible, almost unimaginable sight.......... a pile of lumber.


Not just any pile. Enough to do the studding, floor, roof trusses, siding and roof for an 18 by 24 lodging which would later be known as the Chateau. Normally a pile of lumber is not a scary sight. This one however, was a 10 minute walk from it's final resting place, and would have to carried there, over our shoulders. After a walk to the site, we set up our tents and gear for a 4 day stay. The sun was shining and the air was warm. That would be the last time we would see that for the next 4 days.

Standing in front of the pile, Steven B. simply asked "what the hell were we thinking". The reply, was a quiet "we weren't". And so it started. When you felt good, you take 4 lengths of pine siding, or 3 studs. When you were sore, you could handle two studs, or maybe two lengths of siding. We stumbled over roots, walked through mossy bog, tripped and fell more times than we could count. Stopping only to eat, smoke or drink the occasional shot of rum to warm your innards. For 4 days straight, from mid morning until last light, the four of us hauled wood, while Merle and Robert built a floor. The story of those 4 days doesn't stop there. Over the next few entries there will be mentions of Coyotes eating pop bottles, strange noises in the woods, red raw shoulders, a 40 ouncer of rum that led to a snoring contest, the worst drive in my life to a pay phone, an early May snowfall, and a blood blister the size of a golf ball.

These four days were the defining moments in the journey to a backwoods haven, by four guys who didn't know what they got into, and were too stupid to care.

Locked And Loaded, Almost

It's April 16 and now i am starting to itch, bad. The weather has been pretty good, 15 degrees C today, and all of the lakes are iced out. Now it's preparation time. The other night, i went through the vest, put in a new liscence, a new flashlight, and a bunch of new flies. Tonight, check the reel, load the line on, get my new leaders ready, and unwrap a new, imported from Australia Innovator Velocity fly rod. It's a 9 foot number 6 wt, and perfect out of the canoe.

The first real trip will be up to the camp, likely on the 27, to haul in the canoe and some gear back to the camp for the May trip. As my wife pointed out in a funny post about our "He Man Woman Haters Club", the phone calls and drop in visits have started, a sure sign of spring.

So i have a new rod, a new vest, a very cool Backwinder reel, and a whole load of new Blue Uprights for hunting the big Brookies on a dry fly, a camp to keep me warm and dry, and most of all i have a wife who puts up with me in spite of all of this (Note from the author: Love Ya). What more could a guy ask for.

There may be a day trip or two before then to check things out. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Take A Look Around, Look What I've Found

The backwoods experience is all about exploring. In the picture with this post, is a small lake, a pond really. In our home waters, a trip to a far cove to get some fly led us to a tract of water. I t was small and came out between some rocks, amongst thick bush. Steven and myself, with the fishing slow, decided one day to follow it. It meandered through the woods for about 600 or 700 meters, through a clump of Alders. On the other side of the Alders, it opened up into a small pond, surrounded by a floating bog shoreline.

Despite it's frog pond look, we decided to go back and get our rods and kill some time there. There were no fly on it, and despite it being totally calm, no fish rising. That never stopped us before, and it wouldn't this time. Steven cast in first with a Muddler Minnow, and had a strike on the first strip. My Dark Montreal came next, and after a 5 or 10 second sink, it got hammered on the first strip of line. All in all, we caught 8 trout, with each of us getting one over two pounds.

Since then, it has been a private excursion. No one we know of fishes there, or even cares it is there. We always go in once during our May trip, and spend an afternoon pulling wet flies and streamers through it. One afternoon a year, and thats it, thats enough.

If we were too lazy to take a ten minute walk through some thick bush, we'd never have found it. I think we'll keep it now.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Lure Of Calm Waters

Its 6:00 am and the 10 minute walk to the lake from the camp has helped wear off any after effects from a few drinks of rum the night before, and helped digest a great breakfast that was probably too greasy for any man. The walk down the path to the canoe is shielded by trees, but the last right hand turn reveals the view of the lake. The sun is only just coming up, and a thin mist is rising from the water. The lake is flat calm. My love of stillwater fishing started at the age of 10, and hasn't stopped since.

I have walked that same path hundreds of times, on many many mornings. My first job when i get there is simple. Light a Swisher Sweet, sit on the rock by our homemade boat launch, and watch for emerging fly, and rising fish. There is no need to hurry, only a need to observe.

I have read a ton of magazines. I have read about structure, and littoral zones, and cover. I have read about the life cycle of trout, and the life cycle of Mayfly. All of the minutia that makes you a better fisherman. For anyone starting out who asks me, i always tell them the same thing. Go to the lake early, pull up a rock, and start watching the day develop.

Big Brook Trout are often active early in the morning. Picking up the spent fly from the day before, and any new emergers that may be coming alive. The smaller trout will gorge all day on any type of fly, spent or otherwise. Most people who fish backwoods lakes don't bring fish finders, and can't read the structure of a lake electronically. They learn to read lakes by paddling around them and watching. They watch, over a period of time, where the Trout like to feed. They quickly identify points, shoals, sand or gravel bars, and incoming or outgoing streams. Those areas get marked in you mind. They become your go to areas.

The differnce between a person who always gets fish, and one who struggles to get them isn't always based on technique, or what they have read, or the flies they use. It is the time they have spent watching, and learning the way a stillwater works. There is no substitute for it.

I am by no means a professional angler. I have a passion for it. After 32 years on the water though, i do have information i can share, and advice i can give, and i will be doing that here. You can take it for what it is worth. I hope someone will find it helpful. A lake is always a challenge, even if you have fished it for years and years. Sometime when you don't feel rushed, take a walk in early in the morning and while you fish, pay attention to the way the day develops. Enjoy the surroundings and the solitutde. Do yourself a favour and get a journal and start logging everything from water temperature to weather conditions, to fly conditions and wind. The best anglers have something in their home waters that others don't. Familiarity.

I remember fishing a small stillwater with my grandfather when i was 10 or 11 years old. We walked up the path along the boggy sided brook that ran out of the lake. When we got the first point, he showed me a shoal of rocks that jutted towards the center of the lake. He told me to cast to the right of it and bring the fly back slowly. I had a nice brook trout on the first cast. I was in awe. I thought he must simply be the best fisherman ever. He knew that fish was there, and couldn't see it. It was his go to area, and he lent it to me. Like me, hopefully you will find yours.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

An 8 Foot Punt, An 18 Foot Timber, And A Windstorm - A Camp Is Made Of Wood Part 3

From the clearing we park the vehicles in, we found the easiest way to get wood into our land. Sort of. You see, it is a 500 meter walk to the side of the small lake, and it is all downhill. Until you have to go back up of course. From there, you have to go across the lake, and meet up with the path on the other side. Then it is a kilometer or so to the actual lot. Sounds easy, i know. During the winter, with the infamous 85 Chevy, we got most of the wood across the frozen lake, and left it next to the path, to haul it the rest of the way in the Spring. One of the bigger challenges was roof trusses. We decided we would build them, and through the good fortune of a demolition project, we found 18 foot timbers in excellent shape, perfect for our roof.

Now the challenge. It is spring and we want to start building. You can't have a camp without a roof though. So the solution is simple. Very simple. We will bring them over on the boat. The boat being an 8 foot punt, more than 15 years old. So Derrick got elected to drive, since it was his boat. On his first trip, we load 2 18 foot timbers onto the punt, from front to back, one on each side of Derrick. On the back of the punt, a 1 &1/4 horsepower Johnson, older than me. We push Derrick out from the shore we he can drop the motor and start it. One pull, two pulls, three pulls. Thirty pulls, even more cruse words. There is no motor sound yet. None of us ever saw what would happen if you put two 18 foot timbers across the length of an 8 foot punt, and then started to gust the wind, until that day.

It looked harmless. The wind grew slowly at first, then the gust got strong. By this time Derrick has pulled 100 times or more, and still no start. He is in the middle of the lake, and has no oars because they were in the way. The boat slowly starts to rotate counterclockwise. Then gets a bit faster. Then faster still. Within a minute it looks like a carnival ride. Spinning at a good clip, with Derrick still pulling away on that motor. Then, he gives up. He is a prisoner of the wind, the boat, and the wood, and can only watch. The wind spins him still and now is leading the boat into a cove still on our side of the lake, with a rock shoal jutting out ahead of him. The next 10 seconds is an excruciating mix of scraping noises, bangs, and crunching sounds, followed by the proclamation, "Jesus Christ!".

A perfectly sound old boat now had three leaks. They were slow, and manageable, but still leaks that weren't there 5 minutes ago. The boat sat on the rocks until the wind subsided. We walked down, handed the oars into the boat, and pushed it off into the now calm water. Derrick gave the motor one last pull, just for the hell of it. It purred right away. If Derrick had looked back, he would have seen three guys sitting on the shoal, laughing to piss themselves at the dance of the 18 foot timbers, and a motor with a personality of it's own.

The punt still sits by that small lake, on a homemade boat stand. It is heavily fiberglassed, and the sides feel mushy. It leaks at a pretty steady pace, and more or less looks like hell. Every year though, we take it across to the shoal on the opposite side of the lake, where it once crashed like our own version of the Exxon Valdez, and we get out and fish what we have discovered is one of the lakes best spots for large trout. It was like the boat, the motor and the 18 foot timbers all conspired to lead us there. The punt sits in the woods like a trophy at lakeside. If you walked by it you wouldn't dream of putting it in the water. For us though it is a landmark for the best trout fishing any of us have ever been lucky enough to find.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I Have My Father To Thank

If you ask any angler why they fly fish, you will get as many different answers as anglers. For me, there were two main reasons. The first was simple. On many trips to Governors lake at 9 or 10 years old, i cast my spinning rod without result while the older guys caught fish after fish on their fly rods. That's reason enough. The main thing that changed it was a particular event, on a lake called Baker's Lake, in a 12 foot aluminum boat tight to the shore with my father. I was 11 years old, it was 1976.

He tied a rubber minnow on my line, with two treble hooks, and got me to cast it at the mouth of an incoming stream on the north side of the lake. I had two brookies, and lost a third, within 15 minutes. During the excitement i tried to throw another cast. My rod fetched up behind me. I gave it two sharp tugs. There was no give, but a strange sound followed each tug. I gave one more tug as i turned my head to see what bush i had caught with my new best lure.

There was no bush, no tree, no side of the boat, and no clothing in the way of my lure. There was only my fathers face, with a rubber minnow embedded in his cheek. Two of the three points on the treble hook were completely through his cheek and into his mouth. It was likely the best hookset i had made in the first 11 years of life. My uncle was 20 feet away in another boat, and he was as pale as a ghost. He grabbed my rod and quickly cut the line off at the eye of the rubber minnow, and we rowed back to his camp. In the camp he performed backwoods surgery, cutting the two hooks at the bend, inside my fathers mouth, and then retracting them back through his cheek. Within 30 minutes, it was almost like it never happened. That was until he ate his lunch, with an orange for a snack. His mouth burned for another 30 minutes.

Overall, we had a great trip. Two days, a lot of fish, and my Dads cheek. The drive home was quiet. We pulled in the driveway after dark. Before we got out he asked me if i had a good time. Of course i did, and told him so. "I think we should get you a fly rod", he said. He never said why, but i know he was thinking that a fly rod won't take a treble hook, and so neither would his cheek. It has been 31 years of fly fishing and counting, and i owe my start to my father, a rubber minnow, and an orange.

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Camp Is Made Of Wood - Part 2

Another Use For A Sled

With the land in place and cleared, the process of building was set to begin. We got the materials from all over. Studs from a Christmas tree stand (Thanks to the Tree Man), pine siding we bought, windows from old construction sites. Whatever we could find, from wherever we could find it. Of course now we had to get it there. That took a lot of twists and turns, and about two years. Here is one twist.

Robert's truck was a 1985 Chevy 3/4 ton diesel. It looked as bad as it sounds. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't four wheel drive, and all of us smart guys thought what better way to get the wood there than in this truck, in the winter, sliding the wood across the ice to save carrying time. Actually, it was a good idea for the most part. At least until we left to go home. You see, none of us are known for knowing when to stop. It is January and we haul wood until 8:00 PM, and pitch black. Robert leads the parade out, with Steven and me behind in Stevens truck. The old Chevy catches some ice and the wheels spin. Robert revs, they spin harder. He revs more, and then we hear the snap. That is the sound of a broken rear axle. One problem. We are 10 kms back a logging road. In the winter. On a hill. We have about a kilometer to go to have any prayer of getting a tow. We hook the old Chevy up to Stevens truck and try to tow it that 1 km. Move 10 feet, and the axle starts to come out of the sleeve. In the back of Stevens truck was a wooden sled. In the front, an idea.

Picture this. A 3/4 ton Chevy truck. On the rear passenger wheel, a 6 foot wooden sled lashed to the tire with rope, with the idea being the tire would slide easily up the hill as we towed the truck. It worked, sort of. We made it up the hill. The sled wasn't so lucky. It is now 11:00 pm. 10 kms back a logging road in the middle of nowhere. A drive to a payphone and we find a tow truck driver who is brave (fool) enough to come and get us. I got home at 2:30 am. Remarkably, i am still married.

That old 3/4 ton Chevy was ugly, crude, rough and on that night earned itself a $1500 rear end job after a $350 tow. It also holds a special place in the lore of the camp. The sled was the first of many sacrifices, that also included a chain saw, a snowmobile, an 8 foot punt and more hand tools than i could count. The 1985 Chevy is gone, and sadly, so is Robert. We couldn't have done it without either of them.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Camp Is Made Of Wood,

And Wood Doesn't Grow On Trees - Part 1

Part 1 In The Story Of A Backwoods Haven Built On Equal Parts Of Passion And Stupidity

Like a lot of things, it started innocently enough. Four of us on another one of our day trips. Tired, wet, cold, it's early May and we are still exploring for that elusive place where the big fish are as plentiful as the small. It's 1994 and we all agree we should find a piece of land to build a camp on. A warm, dry resting place. After a lot of walking through the woods, and driving logging roads, we find it. We spend the year fishing the area. The results are more than we even imagined. Before the year is out, the land is ours, and the work is ready to begin.

On the final weekend of the 1995 Mayfly season, the four of us are camped out near one of the lakes. Sleeping in tents, we are still wet and cold. We cleared some wood from our land, for what will be the resting place for our camp. On a Coleman stove we have some canned beans, and an old kettle, hanging from a branch, over our fire. With a full plate of warm food, and a cup of hot tea, we talk about where everything will go, what it will be like to have a warm place to call a backwoods home. We are all very proud of ourselves. We will get this thing done, sooner rather than later, and it will be our own private refuge.

While I am drinking my tea, a thought came rushing to me. I drove 90 minutes to get to a dirt road. I then drove 12 KM on that dirt logging road to get to a place to park. I then walked 15 minutes, behind a lake, over a hardwood hill, loaded down with gear, through the wet path. Twice. Now i am sitting here, in the middle of trees, a rock as my cushion, with a view of a lake. There isn't a stick of lumber here yet. Not a window, a door, a stove, a bed, a mattress, nothing.

Four of us sit there, quietly. We drink our tea. I can't speak for the other three, but we all admitted later to having a similar thought that day. "A camp is made of wood, and wood doesn't grow on trees." Everything that would be needed for this camp would get here the way that kettle did, in our hands. Not one of us would want to ruin the moment, but the events of the next couple of years would be the basis of our backwoods legend. To this day, the lucky few who have been to our getaway, always seem to ask the same first question. "What the hell were you guys thinking?" I first asked that question about 12 years ago. I still don't have an answer.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Quest For The Lurker Continues...........

For those who love to fly fish the backwoods lakes, whether it is here in Nova Scotia or somewhere else in the world, the quest is what we strive to meet. There's amazing scenery, sure. There's quiet, peace, nature, maybe even bonding and friendship. Sure, sure, sure. For most of us though, there is mostly the hope of the ever elusive lurker. The following is from "The Dictionary Of Angling Fools":
Lurker (n) - The biggest Brook Trout you will ever catch, until you catch one bigger
So every year we head east, up the Nova Scotia shoreline, and look for Lurkers. We have a favorite spot (which shall remain nameless), where this quest continues. Every year we slide into our canoes at about 6:00 pm, where the hunt begins. We paddle like fools, collecting flies, for the most part, going nowhere. By 7:30, the flies are afloat off of a shoal, and we wait. Sometimes, we wait for nothing. Other times, the water moves. It's a small sip, followed by a wide wake. Not alarming if you see it. Then for thirty minutes or so, we become stealth bombers. Dropping our flies silently in the middle of the action, not disturbing the trout. Then it's the take, the fight, the landing, and the bragging.

This goes on every year. Two years ago, i caught what i thought was the Lurker. 19.5 inches, 3 and 3/4 pounds. A brook trout in Nova Scotia that should make any angler proud, and i was until i realized that i hadn't actually caught the Lurker. The thing about the Lurker is that there is another one out there. It's longer and heavier and has deeper colors and fights harder than this one.

So every year, usually in early May, we meet at our camp, in a secret location, continuing the search for the ever elusive Lurker. Someday i am convinced i will catch it. I will be a hero to my wife and kids, to my fellow anglers. Until then, the search continues.

Oh yeah, my wife read me a quote tonight. "There is a fine line between fishing, and standing on the shoreline like an idiot." Joke's on her, i fish out of a canoe.

7 days until the search resumes...........