Day 1 of Fishing
After getting settled in our new home last evening, eating a hearty supper and getting to know our hosts, we settled in for a well-deserved and very early night of rest after the trials and tribulations of our journey.
The next morning came very early, both in terms of daylight (daybreak was around 3:30 AM) and seemingly, not enough sleep. We made our way to the lodge and found Andrew had prepared a huge breakfast. There were eggs, of course, and the mandatory heaping platter of bacon. Bacon and butter are staples of life here. We went through about 10 pounds of each that week.
We discussed the day’s plans during and after breakfast. Burt, the head guide, thought it would be best for the Joes and Walter to fish the head of the outlet so that they could set up “Joe senior” in the pontoon boat (Burt calls it a pool toy).
The other guide would set “Joe Jr.” and Walt up on either bank, and fish from the freighter canoes. The canoes, by the way, were 18-foot- and 20-foot-long spruce and Kevlar, square-stern canoes, powered by 9.9- and 20-horse power four-stroke engines. They were amazing in both their stability and the shallow draft. Both of those attributes would very much come into play later in the week.
It was decided that Tony and I would go with Burt down to what they call “Second Section;” that is, the second part of the McKenzie River downstream from the lodge.
Only the guides had briefly fished Second Section during their setup time the previous two weeks. (Ice went out on Andre Lake on June 12, just as the guides arrived.)
Our day began by walking behind the lodge to one of the 18-foot canoes. Given that it was in the 60s Fahrenheit, we were stunned to see a large snow bank.
As we walked down a narrow caribou trail, Burt cleared his throat loudly and yelled, “I am not a bear!” This was simultaneously amusing and unnerving, but it worked. We didn’t see any bears.
We were full of optimism, but the walk was a little grueling after a short boat ride to the head of the outlet. It was warm, buggy—very buggy, and with the showers from the night before, very muddy as well. We each had two fly rods, our vests, wading staff, a backpack with cameras and other essentials, and we were wearing waders, of course. Not exactly your typical hiking outfit. To top it off, we were over-dressed for a hike. We were wearing turtlenecks and long underwear in anticipation of the 50-degree Fahrenheit river water.
As we approached our first spot to fish, Burt said, “Young fellers,” and he shook his head disapprovingly. One of the younger guides had left a jacket hanging in a tree when they were clearing this old caribou trail in the previous week.
As we fished one pool or riffle after another, we took Burt’s suggestion to fish close first, then fish further out, and change flies often. We started out at the Mouse Pool, where Tony had to try a mouse fly. Where else can you catch a brookie on a mouse fly? Unfortunately, he didn’t have a sniff. What’s worse, he learned what Burt calls “The McKenzie Two-Step,” which is to say that Tony fell in the river. Luckily his rain gear and waders kept him mostly dry, except for the fleece liner for his raincoat.
We had no success for an hour or more when I finally hooked up on a fly tied in N.H., the Jackass.
It was the only time in my life I was disappointed to catch a pike. We quickly released him after a fair fight. Just a few casts later produced a nice 25-inch, 6-pound laker.
Burt got some decent underwater video of the lake trout using Tony’s GoPro mounted on the landing net.
It was nice, but not what we came for. Burt was a little dismayed to see pike and lakers here. He thought if they were here, the brookies would not be. He was right.
We stopped for a nice shore lunch and fire, including some “Canadian bush tea,” according to Burt, which was very good. We hung Tony’s wet fleece liner, still soaking after his “dip” in the river, by the fire to dry it out.
As we sat by the river eating the lunches Andrew had prepared for us, I realized that my wading staff was only half there. I had lost the bottom half of it along the trail; probably in one of the mud holes that we navigated. Burt took a walk back up the trail to try to find it, but he came up empty. Tony lent me his wading staff for the rest of the day.
We worked our way down to the end of Second Section, where we trolled briefly in a large pool where they kept another canoe. I managed another laker that measured 26 inches and weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces.
Two more pike were all that I could manage that day, and Tony was fishless. We stopped by the lunch spot to pick up Tony’s fleece that we hung out to dry. Unfortunately, we had two short downpours and some drizzle in the interim. His fleece liner for his raincoat was even wetter than when he’d “taken a swim” in the river.
As we continued our hike back, Burt found the bottom of my wading staff stuck in a mud hole in the trail.
I must be honest, and say that I was disappointed. We were tired, warm, and sick of fighting off bugs. I’m not sure how far we walked, but at the end of the day Tony’s Fitbit said we had walked 10 miles and took 22,000 steps. We know that that number is inflated because his Fitbit counts reeling as steps, but we didn’t do very much reeling today. That’s still a lot of walking even under the best conditions.
We made our way back to the lodge about 5 PM, with the sun seemingly in the high-noon position.
At supper, we learned that the Joes and Walt did very well at the outlet. That gave us hope for tomorrow. They had caught a couple of big brookies and hooked at least some salmon.
After dinner, two guides, Jean-Philip (“JP” for short) and Simon invited Tony to go trolling on Andre Lake that night. JP caught a nice 26” pike out on the lake with spinning gear and a spoon.
It is legal to do that on the lake, whereas the rivers are restricted to barbless flies, and all trout and salmon are released.
We were optimistic about tomorrow.