42℉ at 4:00 AM, high of 65
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
I was excited and a bit nervous to go to the other side of the park to fish the Malbaie River. It was 5:30 and fairly light as I set out. I stopped in the parking lot to read the map to see where I was going. I drove north on 381 to the next entrance to the park on Rt. 60 west. There was no one at the entrance and I was happy to see the gate open. It’s a brand new paved road for a while, going through a huge area that was burned in a fire in 1999. At the top of a hill is a viewing area where you get a sense of how vast the park is. Normally you drive through the park on tree-lined roads where visibility is limited. Where this area was burned you can see forever. I expected to see moose of a bear, but didn’t see anything. However, I say a big bear scat on the paved road, and when the road turned to dirt, there were moose tracks going right down the road. Hearing a loon call, I stopped at a lake and took a picture. It could have been a photography shoot. I love this time of morning with the chance to see wildlife. Lakes and streams have mist coming off, as the sun begins to light the trees. But I had fishing to do, so I pressed on.
It took an hour to get to the stream. On the first bridge crossing, I took a couple of pictures. In trout stream terms, at least in the east, this is a big river. At the bridge it was running fast. I scouted the length of the river along the course of the fishable stretch of 7km, but who knows what is best when you are new to an area. You just take your best shot and go. I turned down a small road, figuring this might be more secluded, but at the end there was a very large parking area with a picnic table. It was also a trail head. There was a huge pool below a rapid, a place where Kelly would probably catch 30 fish……if they were there. Surely this spot was fished out, but I decided to give it a go.
I was quite happy there wasn’t a film crew there as I tore the truck apart to find the right gear. This was the first time fly fishing on this trip. The vest was in the back seat. The waders were in the tool box, so I had to remove the tarp covering the bikes. The shoes were in the truck bed under the bikes. Having kicked up some grasshoppers at the visitor’s center, I looked everywhere for a box with grasshoppers and other flies in it, but couldn’t find it. Where is the net? Do I really need it for Brook Trout? Found it behind the back seat. My leader was a bit short as usual, but I need to get fishing. Finally I got into the gear and put on a Tom Thumb, the most versatile and popular fly in Canada. I only have one. Putting on little cheap glasses, I had a hard time.
Finally getting down to the pool, I cautiously waded to the other side of the river. How deep is it? Is it slippery? Are there holes? How cold is it? Although the water is pretty clear, it is typically tannin-stained, so it isn’t always easy to see where you are stepping. I lost the Tom Thumb on a snag on the fourth cast. Lost another fly on a fish. Tried a Wolly Bugger. #@*#! I can hear Kelly giving me grief now! I tied on something that looked like a Tom Thumb, but wasn’t. Little fish liked it, but there were no takers by any keepers. Maybe it was the fly. Maybe the pool was fished out of keepers. I don’t know, but now it was 10:00 and Martha wanted fish for dinner. I made my way back to the truck and ate Martha’s sandwich from the restaurant yesterday and drank some water. I had brought my work glasses with loupes, so I put them on and tied on a Royal Coachman. Damn, I can see! If Brook Trout in Virginia like a Coachman, will Canadian Brookies like it?
I walked down a trail leading downstream. There was a marker for a short, little access trail to the river. I soon learned this trail goes the entire length of the river with access trails every 30 yards or so. Geez, that’s nice! I went in at 47, but only a few little 4” fish. I tried #46, same thing. I went back to the truck and got the spinning rod and some lures. I was going to catch fish!! Now carrying the fly rod and spinning rod, I went down to #45. Wading half way across the river, I threw the spinning lure at a log on the other side. Reeling slowly, it hung. I couldn’t get across to get it, so I broke it off. Now I have been fishing for two or three hours and have lost a spinning lure and three flies! There were words. I fished the spinning rod for 20 minutes with no luck, so I went back to the fly rod. Little 4” trout loved the Coachman, sometimes hitting it just as it landed, but not so often as it drifted. I have not mastered the art of mending my line to get the perfect drift, so if this is what needs to be done, I am toast. I dropped down to #41. It was pretty flat water all along here, but I was running out of time. I would have to try this area. I waded across, fishing the far shore where the water was deepest. I caught 15 4” trout. Well, they are reproducing well in this river. There HAS to be a momma or papa somewhere! Then he hit. They don’t come out of the water like they do in Virginia, but this one was smart. He headed for a log. I didn’t trust my knot. I thought the line was strong enough, but I had bent the barb back so I could release all those little fish easier. How well was he hooked? I have watched the Master, Kelly, bring in big fish, and he is very patient. His rod is a 6-weight and has much more flex than mine, so I have broken off some big fish. I loosened the drag and kept my hand off the line. He headed for a big rock, so I pulled him away. He was strong, stripping off some line. I let him go. It seemed like 10 or 15 minutes. Several times I tied to get him to the net, but he would have nothing of it. Finally I was able to drag him to a sandbar and net him. He filled the net, matching some of the bigger fish we caught in British Columbia. I probably would have let him go, being such a beautiful fish, but Martha wanted dinner. I went back and fished another half hour, only catching little fish. Looking downstream for another spot, I decided it would be best to get back. It was 1:00 and Martha had no means of going anywhere from camp, so I decided to start back at 1:00.
Martine told me there was a fish cleaning station at the junction of 60 and 381, so I stopped there. It was a little room on the back of that visitor’s center, which was closed although there were a lot of park cars and trucks outside. I couldn’t read the instructions and I wasn’t sure how to fill out the card, but there was a scale to weigh the fish, so I did. There is also a big roll of wax paper so you can wrap your fish. How nice! I got back to camp about 2:30 and found Martha reading the travel book on Quebec. Uh Oh, we must be leaving!