Too Much of a Good Thing?

Can you ever have too much of a good thing when it comes to fishing?  I expect, probably one can.

But a few of us haven’t reached that point as far as fishing the Manitoba Parklands for large brown, rainbow and tiger trout.  I am not sure the exact number but I think we have made at least 6 or 7 trips to the area over the past number of years – sometimes once, sometimes twice a year.

Last year I missed out so it was a priority to make at least one trip this year.  And that we did back in early June.  Its been a busy month since I got back and I still haven’t gone through all my photos but I will soon.  But in the meantime, here are a couple photos from this last trip.

Hamill’s Killer Variant

The Hamill’s Killer is a fly pattern of New Zealand origin, named after its originator – Bill Hamill.   Its original purpose was to imitate a dragon fly nymph or a cockabully – a small blunt nosed fish.  The original version had mallard feathers lined on either side of the hook in similar style to the Mrs. Simpson.  Several variations exist including versions tied in the Canadian style with the wing lain overtop and folded to the sides.

Regardless, the Hamill’s Killer can be an effective pattern for trout as well as warm water species.

For some reason, I decided to tie a variation with a gold bead head and a couple of them made it along on our recent trip in search of land locked salmon.

It wasn’t until our last day of fishing that I tied it on to my line and I am not sure whether it was the cause, but my fishing was great after I did.

So here is my Hamill’s Killer Variant.  In addition to the bead, this particular version does include golden pheasant tippets with the squirrel tail and I keep the body quite sparse, using only tying thread wrapped over the extended squirrel tail fur.

Lac Bohier Postscript

Its been over a month since our trip to Lac Bohier – clearly I’m late in posting results from the trip.  This is a longer post.  If its too long – scroll through and enjoy the pictures.

Introduction

It started with an email. Were any fly fishing club members interested in an opportunity to fish a remote part of Quebec for ouananiche (salmo salar ouananiche) or landlocked salmon and speckled trout? The lakes hadn’t been fished for over a decade and the new lodge owners were offering a special price to have people come in and help scout the area.

Ouananiche are the same species as Atlantic salmon but are not anadromous, make their residence entirely in lakes. They are smaller in size but rumor has it that the lakes we were going to fish contain fish up to 8 pounds. And, the record landlock salmon was caught in 1907 in Maine and weighed just over 22 pounds (10.23kg).

Brook trout (Salvalinus fontinalus) are also native to the area. The hope was that we would find some large speckles to with the ouananiche.

So, with high hopes four of us made the journey to the end of the road and a waiting de Havilland Beaver.

North Shore Area

In order to get to our launching off point, we decided to drive along the north shore of the St. Lawrence as far as Natashquan, situated in Quebec’s Cote Nord region. We made mental notes as we crossed numerous salmon rivers including the well-known Moisie. Information filed for a future trip perhaps.

One overnight and fifteen hours driving and we rolled into Natashquan a little stiff but anxious to load the plane for Lac Bohier.

In short order the Air Saguenay DeHavilland Beaver was loaded and we were on our way, enjoying the view on a cloud free day.

About forty five minutes later the pilot indicated we were approaching Lac Bohier and moments later we saw the camp come into view before he brought the float plane down and taxi to shore where we were greeted by Francois who was to be our host for the next five days.

About the Camp and Lakes

Our base was Lac Bohier where the five building camp is situated but our fishing water included two additional lakes – Lac Parent and Lac Grossin and the two rivers connecting them to Lac Bohier.

 

We had access to two boats and two 20 foot canoes equipped with four stroke motors. Lac Parent also had a smaller boat that we could access via a short trail. As it turned out one of the 20 foot canoes was transported by helicopter to Lac Grossin a couple days later, giving us boat access to that lake as well.

So gear stowed and equipment prepped, it appeared we were ready to fish.

The Fishing

After a light lunch we were in the boats and on the lake in search of fish. We fished through the remainder of the afternoon, managing to locate a few brook trout but it wasn’t until close to quitting time that we had our first encounter with ouananiche. By this time our two boats had congregated near the mouth of the river leading to Lac Parent (Riviere Bohier, I believe). Roger yelled out that he had a hit. Out of the corner of my eye I say a fish jump and apparently slip the hook because he was gone. And this was not a brook trout. It was our first ouananiche and a decent sized one. Roger was annoyed and the rest of us were charged up for the next one. But it didn’t come quickly. George and I had turned our canoe towards camp and were trolling the edge of a drop off when I had a solid hit on a black nosed dace. The hook set and after a good fight, I managed to bring a nice sized ouananiche to the boat were George netted it. Estimates were about four pounds. Moments later George hooked into a smaller one – probably about three pounds, and that was it for the evening.

We woke to another great morning – clear and calm and were on the water by eight, taking two canoes to Lac Parent. Francois joined us for the morning. The plan was to leave the two canoes at the trailhead and hike into Lac Parent. Roger and Wade would start the morning exploring Lac Parent using the twelve foot boat at the lake while George and I would fish Riviere Bohier at Theo’s Pool and the mouth to Lac Parent.

The 15-minute hike in to Lac Parent is along a well-marked trail. George and I dropped down to the river at about the halfway point with Theo’s pool visible from the trail. George offered me the head of the pool while he would fish the middle and tail.

My fly of choice was an orange stimulator that seemed to be in agreement with the fish. If it wasn’t my first cast it was pretty close that the first brook trout hit my fly. And they continued fairly regularly after that. Most were not large but a few hit the 10-inch mark and I did manage to land one ouananiche as well. A couple times as a fish struck the fly I noticed the flash of a larger fish, which was a good motivator.

While I was kept busy with fish, George caught nothing so he moved down to where the river enters Lac Parent fairly quickly. After the action slowed for me, I followed to find him casting into a large pool below the riffles. Francois indicated he had hooked into several ouananiche earlier on. While George was busy at the river mouth, I decided to wade along the shore of Lac Parent. The bottom was sandy which made for easy wading until one approached the drop off where silt and decaying vegetation made it very slippery. Although I hooked into (and lost) one fish, I didn’t have much to show for my efforts so worked my way back to George and moved in to fish the far side of the pool while he fished closer to where Francois was preparing a fire for shore lunch.

We caught fish at a fairly steady pace, both brook trout and ouananiche. They weren’t large although some of the ouananiche probably approached a pound in weight.

A rain shower started just before lunch and of course, I had left my wading jacket back at the cabin. Despite getting soaked the air temperature was pretty warm so it wasn’t too unpleasant. Shore lunch of fresh brook trout and smaller ouananiche was excellent.

After lunch we continued to fish the mouth of the river for a bit before heading back to Lac Bohier where we fished our way back to camp. While we caught a steady number of brook trout, large ouananiche continued to elude us. But regardless of the lack of big fish, dinner and the conversation that followed was terrific.

Friday morning George and I headed to the river connecting Lac Grossin and Lac Bohier (Riviere Grossin). The plan was to fish the upper pool in search of brook trout – hopefully large ones. We found the trailhead and started off towards Lac Grossin. Along the way we passed a trail mark that had double tape, which in hindsight was what Francois had mentioned for us to look for as the point to head down to the upper pool. But we continued on towards Lac Grossin for a while before we realized our oversight. Rather than turn around, we hiked up to Pierre’s Pool and worked our way down to water that looked very fishy. But alas, no fish were to be found. George even worked his way downstream to the entrance to Lac Grossin but with no success.

So after some effort, we decided to head back downstream to the unnamed pool. Once we got down to the river, we decided this pool looked much better. It was quite a bit longer and looked like it offered more fish potential than Pierre’s Pool. Sizing it up we decided that the far shore offered a better spot to cast. The water levels were low enough that we could work our way across.

As it turned out even on the far shore it took some work to find a suitable spot to cast with large submerged boulders making it challenging to get into the water and close enough to cast. George went first while I watched. He quickly had a hit near the surface but missed. A few more of these episodes and then he finally hooked into a fish. It was a brook trout but not a four-pounder we were after.

Having seen the action, I moved to a section of the pool further downstream. I tied on a stimulator and began casting to a small crease in the middle of the pool where I immediately had a swirl but no fish. I lengthened my line and cast closer to the far shore, yielding more action. Almost as soon as my dry fly hit the water there would be a swirl. Eventually the attacking fish managed to connect with the fly and the skirmish was on. While the fish were small, they were energetic. Several cooperated before I moved to the middle part of the pool that George had abandoned. I managed to raise a couple more small trout on a dry fly and then switched to a wooly bugger hopeful that I might attract some larger fish. I continued to attract fish but none of a significant size. But it was fun anyway.

We packed it in shortly after noon and headed back down the trail to our boat and back to camp for lunch and a short nap.

The late afternoon saw us trolling Lac Bohier once again with the same result, several small brook trout particularly near the outflow to Lac Parent. But no large fish.

Saturday. The second last full day of fishing. Time was flying by. George and I fished Riviere Bohier, Lac Parent and the river draining Lac Parent today. There was not much doing on Parent for me although George caught quite a few at the mouth of the river. We trolled to the end of the lake and discovered a trail along the right side of the river that lead to eight pools and Lac Sylvester (?) to the south. We bushwhacked for about 15 minutes along the trail eventually coming to a pool where we took a few casts. Because the trail was difficult to follow we decided to head back to Lac Parent. From there we worked our way back up to Riviere Bohier where we fished at the mouth for a bit before heading up to Theo’s pool. Despite it being mid day with bright sun, the fish were active. George was catching a brook trout per cast – almost at the head of the pool. Eventually I moved up to join him fishing a stimulator pattern. The fish were cooperative but I was caught completely off guard when a large ouananiche launched straight in the air with my fly in its mouth. Another jump and it was off. Despite our efforts we were not able to raise him again but since the fishing had been so good we decided to return towards evening to see what would happen.

We returned to camp for a late lunch and nap before heading out again, hopefully for another crack at Mr. Landlocked Salmon. Trolling along the way produced the request number of smaller brook trout. But Theo’s pool was a different story – even the smaller brook trout seemed to have gone to sleep. Go figure, they were biting like crazy in the high sun and now at dusk, nothing. So, after an hour or so we admitted defeat and headed back to camp for a fine beef wellington dinner.

While George and I fiddled around on Lac Parent yesterday, Roger and Wade headed up to Lac Grossin to do some exploring. One of the canoes had been relocated there the previous day and they took a depth finder with them and managed to check out most of the lake. Today if was our turn to check out Lac Grossin. After the short boat ride to the trail and hike in George and I were on the water by 9:30. We launched the canoe at the lower end of Lac Grossin and headed to the top of the lake to the pool Wade and Roger identified from the day before. One really had to be careful to watch for sand bars and rocks but we made it without incident – other than having a seagull drop a poop bomb on my hat.

Fishing in the morning was slow as we criss-crossed the pool. We had numerous hits but many got off before we could set the hook. Most of the fish caught were brook trout. In general, they were larger than the ones in Lac Bohier but still not more than a pound.

Around noon we headed back down the lake, stopping at another fishing camp to eat our back lunch and for a bit of a tour.

A short break for lunch and we were back on the water heading to the lower pool. We arrived about the time the wind decided to pick up. It was blowing from the upper end of the lake down towards us. As a result we trolled with and into the wind as opposed to across the lake. Both of us began getting hits, particularly at the lower end of the pool and closer to the north shore. And here, the hits came from both brook trout and ouananiche. At one point I had a hooked into a large one but quickly lost it. This followed shortly by a second one that stayed hooked even after a dramatic jump. He continued to bulldog deep in the water as I worked him to the canoe. George retrieved his line and we began to think about how to land the fish, as we had no net. At George’s suggestion, I tailed the fish alongside the canoe. Despite my reservations due to my poor tailing technique it worked and we were able to boat a very nice ouananiche. A few quick photos and he was back in the water where he quickly disappeared. By George’s estimation he was around six pounds in weight.

The fly of choice was a cream coloured Hamill’s Killer with a gold bead – probably a size 8 or 10 in length. We were using full sink lines but I think the fish was caught fairly close to the surface near the pool edge drop off.

Steady fishing continued. George lost a good fish (probably a ouananiche) as did I when we managed to get our lines tangled. We did catch several smaller land locked salmon along with the requisite number of enthusiastic brook trout. I realized at the end of the day that I had failed to take an photos of the trout – probably because they were so plentiful. This was too bad as many of them had very striking coloration with bright spots and deeply coloured backs.

We decided to pack it in shortly after 4 and work our way to the landing spot where we managed to land and secure the canoe despite a strong wind pushing us towards the rocks. A 25-minute walk and we were back at Lac Bohier, to find our secured boat. We trolled our way back to camp, landing a few more small brook trout along the way.

As it turned out that was the end of our fishing as our outbound float plane arrived mid Monday morning which turned out to be another perfect day. The flight back to Natashquan provided some more great views before we loaded the Xterra for the drive back home. While we caught lots of fish we were less successful in locating the larger ones. They were there but we figured that with the midsummer weather they had moved to deeper water. All in all it was a great trip. We went into it with lots of uncertainties but we had a lot of fun, good fishing and Francois’ hospitality was superb. It was enough to wet the appetite for an encore performance.

 

Summer Bass Fishin

I’d like for my fishing season to be a continuous flow of activity but so far this season it has been more of the burst or intermittent variety.

I’m not sure why that is. In a recent conversation with a fishing buddy we agreed that we live in an amazing part of the world as far as access to good fishing locations is concerned. But somehow that hasn’t translated into regular outings this year. I must fix that…..

Bass season has been on us for about a month. I have managed to get out a couple times to local spots – once for smallmouth (and assorted panfish) and the second to a lake with good-sized largemouth bass.