We had completed our first and second day of fishing for the wild Atlantic salmon on the majestic Grand Cascapedia River and I was skunked. Peter, my husband and fishing partner for this trip, had landed a 15 pounder on a Bomber and lost a large one on a wet fly on day two. Angling can be more challenging in August especially if the water levels are at rock bottom and warm. The salmon seek deeper and cooler waters. I ended both days thinking the scenery was spectacular and most people would give their eye teeth to be in my shoes.
The fly fisher motto also says “there is more to fishing than catching...” I was still quite content.
The third day was cloudy and cooler than the previous, my favorite fishing weather. We started the day off at Home pool on the Salmon branch which has nice rapids flowing into a deep pool. On the first pass, my wet fly was swinging around perfectly and on the fifth cast I got a rise at the end of the swing. I could feel the adrenaline, the rush of possibly hooking a salmon. Things were looking up.
After a few more attempts to lure this salmon from its lie, I declared the salmon unwilling.
At that point Zack Legree, our guide, suggested trying a fly which had landed a nice salmon the previous day, the Ghost Stone. Since I am always willing to adventure with new flies and techniques, I gladly accepted the suggestion.
On my third pass I noticed at the far side of the pool a rock and a seam that for some reason I hadn’t seen before. I had a kind of premonition that something good might happen. Well it did! My line tightened and my pulse quickened. The sturdy male hook-bill, so nick-named because of the protruding hook shape of their lower jaws, gave me a real battle. He leapt into the air a few times. He rocketed off taking a great amount of line, down into my backing. I had all I could do to hold him in the pool. After half an hour of joy, turmoil, stress and fear of losing the salmon, my guide handily netted the fish with one swish. He evaluated the salmon and both he and Peter said with enthusiasm,
A quick photo was taken while keeping silversides as much as possible in the water. The massive hook-bill was gracefully released. How elated I was!
We took a much needed break from fishing and did a ten minute walk through the woods to Back-up pool, sat in the gazebo and lunched. We saw a few salmon break, and tried our luck with no takers.
“A sure 35 pounder!”
We decided to return to Home pool. I tied on one of my own flies and fished through the pool once and all the while, my mind was flashing back to the Ghost Stone. I knew if I didn’t have any luck with my own fly the Ghost Stone was going back on. So it did. Our time with our guide was coming to an end soon and I assured Zack that it would be my last run through the pool, fish or no fish.
The weather was unsettled and it looked like it was going to pour at any time.
I started again at the top of the pool making my way down covering it a little bit faster than previously. When I reached where I had caught the hook-bill in the morning,I heard thunder and yelled “thunder!” at the same time I realized that I had another silver beauty on.
What a wonderful coincidence!
This was indeed another very large salmon. It torpedoed away and unspooled my line all the way to my backing. It created a tremendous wake spilling waves in all directions. This salmon was a frisky one! I did my best to bring the fish in as quickly as I could, wondering if my arm, weakened by the morning catch, could hold until the end. It was a nice female weighing a solid 25 pounds. She was a powerful “big girl”!
This was an unbelievable day fishing!
When I asked Zack why the Ghost Stone was such a good fly for this time of year, he simply said, “There are a lot of stoneflies around in the woods in this area.” Having seen some around crawling at our feet it made me realize the connection nature plays in many aspects of fly fishing. I plan on adding the Ghost Stone to my repertoire of flies for future trips on the Grand Cascapedia. Reflecting on this day I now think I was blessed to have been able to land 60 pounds of silver chrome in a day. I scored on that August day. These river moments are imprinted forever in my mind.