Sometimes Salmo Salar gets you, and then there are the rare times when the moon, sun, and the stars all align, the experience becomes cosmic, and you get the salmon — in some cases, you may even get more than your fair share. People who chase this elusive fish, at some point transition to the understanding that it’s not about the salmon – it’s about the journey to catch it. It’s the people you meet on the trip whom you will remember for life. It’s the men and women who share that journey with you that burn memories in the soft matter between your ears.

A few days ago I returned from the Gaspe in Quebec. We had a phenomenal Atlantic Salmon trip on the Grand Cascapedia. We were fishing the C section exclusively. We fished some of the most famous pools and runs on the C section like Little Jonathon, Big Jonathon, Addalin Ledge, Big Camp and Turner pool.

The water was low, and the temperatures fluctuated from day to day. The water temps averaged between fifty-seven and fifty-eight degrees throughout the week. We did, however, manage to persuade the rain gods to show a little mercy and cool things off now and then — all it took was a twelve-year-old bottle of McAllen Select Oak. It amazing what a bottle of single malt Scotch Whiskey will do. When it rained at night, the pools cooled just enough to perk up the salmon and make them a little giddy.

Paul O’Hea with a thirty pound Atlantic Salmon

 

 

Everything you read about Atlantic Salmon tells you to avoid low water like the plague. The question might be why did we do well then? My answer is always – where do you think the salmon go? They don’t grow wings and fly away. It’s been my experience that they drop back into the rather large pools of the C section and hunker down until the water level rises again. C section pools are quite deep and remain cool during the harshest of times. It would have been interesting to take the temperature near the bottom; I can only assume the pools are actually layered into multiple thermoclines.

More often than not, you have an opportunity to fish over more fish in the C section. We found salmon in almost every run we swung a fly through and as many fish again in the deeper pools. Half our fish were caught using bombers in the slow water, and the other half swinging smaller flies (streamers) through the runs just above the pools.

The Grand Cascapedia River is one of the top ten Atlantic Salmon rivers on the planet. Like any other salmon river throughout the world, it has its problems, but it retains its mysteries, and better yet it still has it’s fair share of big fish. The Grand Cascapedia is a gorgeous river. The valley that cradles the river and protects the watershed is thick in lush forest painted in multitudes of shades of greens and home to an abundance of wildlife.

It was Joe Hovious’s first Atlantic salmon trip and every time I turned around Joe was fighting another fish. Unfortunentally, he lost several large salmon that would have pushed thirty pounds. I remember telling Joe on the drive up to the Cascapedia the best bit of advice I could give him was “bear down from the minute you get on the water and pretend it’s your last day on the river – keep the fly in the water.” He seems to have mad the most of my advice, taking home biggest-fish honors several times that trip.

As I started out waxing philosophical: it’s not about the salmon – it’s about the journey to catch it. Even if we had not caught a single fish (and we caught many nice ones), this trip would have stayed in our minds as one of the great ones. I can’t tell you how many times I caught myself standing in the middle of the river watching a Golden Eagle screaming down the river looking for breakfast or gazing at a pair of Bald Eagles nesting in one of the tall trees that line the river. I also had to laugh at the family of beavers rollicking in one of the best looking salmon pools on the river. My guide Codey was a little aggravated by their presence, but hey as long as they didn’t hit my fly, I was content to stand in this beautiful river, surrounded by great people, enjoying a little bit of wilderness and a whole lot of angling.

If anyone is interested in going next year, I have the same week. The numbers below were taken directly from the log book at the Grand Cascapedia Society. Many thanks to Darlene and the staff for all their help and paitience. If you want to go with us next year, please call Jim Stenson at Sweet Waters Adventures @ 251-633-6330





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