And so it begins….

And so it begins – after a long winter we head out to the local lakes in search of early season trout. The ice is fresh off and the hope is the trout will be hungry. Its a fine line between ice off and water temperatures that send the trout to cooler water and largely inaccessible to a stillwater fly fisherman.

By many accounts the weather is fantastic – blue sky and warm. Not necessarily optimal for fishing but it sure beats cold and snow.

We arrive at the first lake, hurry to organize an accumulation of stuff and hit the water. With extra layers on the body and float tubes loaded with an almost infinite arsenal of flies tied through the long winter we head out in search of rainbows. The rumour mill has already started – a large one was caught in this very lake just yesterday.

Getting reacquainted with the float tube goes smoothly. I forgot how much effort it can take to move push into it the wind. But I’m not complaining. I remind myself these things are not built for speed.

Thinking early season the first choice is to fish the lake edge, along the drop off but either the fish aren’t there or they are not interested in eating. Circling the lake several times produces no results so we decide to try our luck at the next lake. This one holds brook trout. It has been productive in the past but has seen some lean years of late. Hope springs eternal!

This time, the evidence of trout is more encouraging. Fishing the shoreline structure still seems the best bet. Although I find it pretty quiet, numerous hits and a couple hook ups for the others in our group spur us on.

If patience and persistence are fishing virtues, then I guess I am rewarded – a single brook trout obliges me and after an energetic struggle a nice brook trout comes to my net. Briefly admiring his green sides and multi-coloured spots, I slip him back into the water and he disappears.

My day on the water comes to an end soon after – probably just as the good fishing is about to begin. No doubt that will be the story tomorrow.

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.

Saguenay Ferry

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

Waiting Beaver

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

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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.

Preparing to Land

Unloading Gear

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.

 

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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.

Camp Canoe

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.

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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.

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Shore Lunch Preparations

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.

George at Lac Parent

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.

End of the Day

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.

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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.

Lac Grossin Camp

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.

Ouananiche

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.

 

Kenauk Fly Fishing

The annual spring trip to Kenauk has come and gone.  While the usual crowd of ner do wells headed out for 3-4 days, I was only able to get away for one night which meant a one full day of fishing (Thursday) and a few hours the following morning.

For those who don’t know Kenauk is a fish and game preserve managed by the Fairmont chain of hotels as part of its Montebello Resort.  It is located close to the Ottawa River about and hour and a half from Ottawa itself.  Kenauk maintains several individual chalets on lakes that it manages – most with rainbow and brook trout.

Given the compressed timeframe, I made sure to get an early start Thursday morning, made it through the check in process at the main gate and up to Muskrat Chalet by 8:30.  After unloading food, clothing, etc. and some brief greetings and inquisition as to the past days fishing it was off to Collins Lake hopeful for some cooperative brook trout.  Fishing had been good – which is what I wanted to hear!

The weather forecast had changed considerable through the week and by Thursday the sky was overcast, there was a steady, cool wind and the air temperature was probably in the 5-9C range.  The surface water temperature was around 13C (56F) which bode well for active fish.

I quickly assembled my gear by the road, shouldered my float tube and made the short walk to the launch point.   Launching quickly, I headed to the rocky shore where I have had past success.  Fish being what they are, they weren’t there or weren’t interested in feeding.  It took a while to get going but after about an hour I got my first not so agressive hit and then my first hook up.  The timing of the first fishing activity was consistent with others experience from previous days when the fish seemed to turn to feeding around mid morning.

By the time of my first fish I had kicked my way to the far end of the lake to a shoal area that reportedly had been a good producer earlier.  As it turned most of our success on this day also came on the shoal or along the drop off.

While the weather was cool and the occasional burst of rain made it necessary to pull on the hood of my fishing jacket it didn’t seem to bother the fish and by  around 1pm I had landed around a dozen fish.  My largest was probably in the 14 inch range but others had landed a few approaching 18 inches.

By this time the cool wind and rain was having an effect so we decided to head in to warm up and grab some lunch.

We returned to the lake for some late afternoon fishing.  The activity was not as busy as the morning but I still managed to land a few nice brook trout before heading back to the chalet to prepare our steak dinner (did I mention we rarely suffer in the food department on these trips?).

Most of the fish caught by myself and others were taken on bait imitation patterns.  Various patterns and colours seemed to work.  Despite the overcast conditions which some suggest favours duller coloured patterns, I had most of my success on a yellow Hamill’s Killer although this particular brookie went for a black leach pattern.

Friday morning and the sun was now shining.  Nice for the fisherman but as it turned out, not so pleasing for the fish.  We fished for a few hours after breakfast and managed to coax a few fish to take our food imitations but without the success of the previous day.

Most of the chalets at Kenauk are situated on a fishable lake.  In the case of Muskrat Chalet, while it is situated on a lake, the trout lake linked to the chalet is Collins Lake which is about a 10 minute drive away.

The deal is that when you rent the chalet you also get exclusive access to the associated lake. Check out from the chalet is typically 10am on your last day and you are to be off the water by 11 if another party is coming in – sometimes one can stay longer if the chalet will remain unoccupied.

Friday morning when we arrived at Collins we found a guide preparing for his fishing guests to arrive.  He had commandeered the two row boats which presented a problem for one of our party who did not fish from his own float tube.  Despite some subtle reminders of the rules on our part he wasn’t inclined to wait until we had officially relinquished the lake.  So for a time after his party arrived we fished the lake together.  Interestingly he was quite diligent to point out that when it was 11 and time for us to get off the water.  It was an interesting experience – the first of its kind and one that hopefully doesn’t repeat itself.

Despite that, it was great to get out for even a short time at Kenauk.

Not about the catching ??

With forecast for a cloudy, showery day it seemed like great conditions for fishing. Donna was busy in the evening with her dress rehearsal so it meant there were no limitations if I fished a bit later in the day. Thus was good since I had to wait for the internet service guys to do their thing with the antenna before I headed out to meet Bob.

I managed to get away before 11 and was at the agreed upon lake around noon. The inclement weather was no where to be found – good in one sense but not great from a fishing perspective as this lake can be difficult on sunny days. None the less it was good to get out on the water.

I expected to find Bob there but also found Doug fishing not far from the launch. He had landed one and had a hit from another. All very encouraging.
Unfortunately, the fishing didn’t materialize as I might have imagined. Three hours without a single hit. And that included kicking all the way to the far end of the lake where I have had success in the past. Bob managed one rainbow trout before we decided to pull out and head over to lake number two to see what was happening with the brook trout.

One of the things the warm weather brought out (actually millions of things) was the black flies. They were mildly annoying under the warmth of midday so I was anticipating the worst as evening approached. The access to our second lake is via a mucky, boggy trail from the parking area. The plan was to organize the gear as quickly as possible and get on the water before they know we were there. All was going according to plan until I realized I had forgot to switch to my floating line. Wasted minutes! Still it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I was in the water without serious incident. And then they hit. It was like a massive swarm was sitting at the shore ready to attack the minute I was in the float tube. Of course there was no wind and the lake is small so it took a while to get clear of them.

By comparison to our first lake, this one is tiny. With the wind at bay it was possible to talk to each other with one at either side of the lake. As it turned out, the wind wasn’t the only thing quiet this day.

The only evidence of fish was some smaller ones chasing bugs in the shallows. A small dry fly was enough to attract their attention and soon we were playing around with a bunch of scrappy little brook trout. Sizing any of them at eight inches would have been a stretch but they were still fun. And I count it as community service since half of them couldn’t seem to time their attack quite right, missing the fly with their charge to the surface After a couple hours of this and with little evidence that there would be any activity from larger fish we decided to pack it in.

If fishing is not always about the catching this was one of those days.

Flyfishing Kenauk – Lac L’Orignal

Last week was the traditional (at least its becoming that way) fall fly fishing trip to Kenauk.This was my fourth fall trip and it wasn’t a disappointment.  It would be hard to be disappointed at Kenauk.  The chalets are terrific, the fishing is great, and the company completely enjoyable.

This year was a new lake and chalet for our crew.  Lac Rough in the northeast sector of the “Reserve de la Petite Nation”, a 100 sq. mile, 65,000 acre protected wilderness domain granted to the first bishop of New France by the King of France in 1674.  Reports of excellent fishing from last year’s chalet residents fueled the anticipation.

Arriving Sunday morning Bob and I decided to hold off fishing Rough, instead opting to try nearby Lac L’Orignal or Moose Lake.  It is a day fishing lake with brook trout that neither of us had fished before. So after stowing our gear, we headed back down the road to Moose Lake.

The lake is shallow but provides good habitat for brook trout and it didn’t take long to find the speckles either.  In a couple hours before lunch we landed many.  Most were in the 12 inch range but a couple approached 14.  They varied in colour but a few had the spectacular fall spawn wardrobe.

Our fishing appetite for brook trout satisfied and with lunch approaching it was time to head back to Rough to see what was happening.  More tomorrow on fishing at Rough Lake.