Day 2 of Fishing
Day 2 started out very much like the day before with a great breakfast and getting more familiar with our environment and our fellow guests and hosts.
It was decided that today Tony and I would be in the very capable hands of Simon on his 26th birthday. It was also decided that we would fish First Section of the McKenzie River, mostly the waters immediately below where “Joe Sr.,” “Joe Jr.,” and Walt had fished yesterday. Those three went out on the lake to target pike and lakers.
So again, we took the short boat ride to the river’s outlet, and we started working our way downstream.
Again, it seemed for quite some time that the fishing gods were against us. We saw some hatches, but little in the way of fish activity.
Finally, we got down to Goudie Pool, and again I hooked up on one of my flies, Grampy’s Copper Flash. Again, it was a pike. It was a nice fish, but again I was disappointed.
The pike’s sharp teeth had decimated my fly, and I noticed my leader was growing short I decided that I needed to tie on a new tippet while standing in the middle of this rushing river.
So there I was, trying to tie a good blood knot with the river gushing at my legs and me too stubborn to put on my glasses for fear of losing them in the river. I tied the knot and tested it as best I could, and it seemed fine. I tied on a smelt pattern that we use back home, and started to cast downstream of where the pike had been.
Simon had come over to net the pike and remove the fly, and he was just about back to the bank and Tony. About the time that he reached the tree line, I hooked up again. I gave a little yell, but didn’t want to get too excited for fear that it was another pike.
Simon grabbed the net and ran—and I mean *ran*—back towards me, with the river’s water gushing to the top of his waders. I knew that this fish was not a pike, or if it was, it was considerably bigger than any of the others.
Simon barked out, “It’s a laker!” Then he yelled, “No, it’s a pike.” My heart sank. Then again, he said, “It’s a laker.” I felt a little better. The fish started shaking its head violently, and I told an anxious Simon so. Simon said, “It’s a big brookie,” but followed with “Brookie or a laker—I saw a white fin.” Then Simon yelled “Big brookie, *big* brookie!” As you’ll see in the GoPro video, he was as excited as I was. I got nervous now thinking that this is what this trip was all about for us.
Then I remembered the knot! What if I didn’t snug it up, or what if I cut the tag too short? There was a little panic as I inched the fish closer to Simon. “It’s a big brookie,” he chirped again. He yelled to Tony, who was up river, “Bring the camera, it’s a big brookie!” My heart was in my mouth. Now was not the time to panic. I needed to steer the fish at an angle and to keep his head upstream to get him to the net. It worked! Simon gave out a gleeful yell as he got it into the net.
There was a sense of relief and excitement that I can’t describe. Relief that one of the goals of this trip, and in fact one of the goals of my life, had been realized.
Tony felt it too. Many times I said to him over the years, “I’ll die a happier man if I can catch just one 20-inch brookie in my life,” and here it was.
The fish measured 20.5 inches and 4.5 pounds. It was as beautiful as any fish I had caught in my entire life, maybe the most beautiful of all.
We kept it well rested in the water while we readied the cameras. After a quick photo or two, we made sure that it was well rested and then gleefully watched it swim back to where it came from. High fives all around.
Now it was an all-out effort to get Tony hooked up, but we came up short. Tony caught a couple of average brookies and even a couple of smaller salmon. The water was still cool, and the fish had not yet moved out of the lake and into the rivers in any numbers.
It wasn’t how we wanted to end the day, but for now it was OK. Dad had the biggest brookie of his life, and we knew Tony’s time was coming.
Shortly after the excitement surrounding the brookie, I found myself in the middle of the river as I looked downstream to Tony and Simon. I headed towards the shore when suddenly my wading staff snapped in two. Thankfully, I dropped to my knees in an effort to keep from falling in. I gave out a call to my companions to let them know that I was in the need of some assistance. Simon and Tony rushed up to help. Simon, again with no staff of his own, was there quickly to grab hold of me. He then walked sideways to the current and instructed me to do the same. We made it to shore without incident, thanks to his skill. He told me that there is a bucket at camp full of expensive wading staffs that became victims of the McKenzie River’s current.
As we stopped for a shore-side lunch, Simon use the hatchet in his pack to create another wading staff for me. He even attached the safety strap to this stick. That would get me through today.
For the rest of the week, my wading staff would be an Eddie Bauer special—a hockey stick. The aluminum shaft would serve me well the rest of the week.
The one thing that went Tony’s way while we were fishing was that we heard a floatplane—a rare occurrence in these parts. As we saw it approach the lodge, we knew that it was delivering Tony’s luggage from Montreal. Air Canada footed the $3,500 to fly it there. Losing his bag was an expensive mistake on their part. It was waiting for us inside our cabin when we returned. Tony spent the night returning all of the things that he had borrowed from guides and guests alike since we arrived.
That night at dinner, we celebrated Simon’s birthday with a nice cake that Andrew made from scratch. At this point, we didn’t feel like we were roughing it out in the middle of nowhere.
Burt, a master fly tier, let Simon choose a dozen of his flies as his birthday present. The other guides were quite impressed with this.
As we discussed the day’s fishing, everyone was a little more hopeful that things were beginning to change. Warmer water, more hatches, and it seemed that the pike were moving back into the lake as “Joe Jr.” caught about 20 of them sight casting in the lake with JP.
High hopes for tomorrow.