By: Keith Weinstein
It was a carefully planned trip – the first big time adventure since the onset and decline of Covid. Canadian exile was now a thing of the past. ArriveCAN was allowing passage into sacred waters for the opportunity to stalk the king of Canadian water, Atlantic Salmon.
Our destination lay basically NNE of Caribou, Maine. The 9 hour drive was broken into two parts as we drove one evening, Boston to Bangor and cruised in the next day. Picking up our no-kill licenses and water rights at the ZEC in Matapedia, we headed up river.
Our Gaspe’ lodge, a private abode, between Causapscal and St.Alexis on Hwy 132 gave us easy access to public waters in Sector 3 on the Matapedia. This river is known as a world renown river for Salmon which empties into the Restigouche.
From that first afternoon, overcast skies yielded to light rain and tested us mentally. A wicked wind pushed us minute by minute, making every cast a tactical decision.
Fortunately, we were prepared for extremes…me, with an ancient trusted raincoat and a new set of Redington waders along with a salmon tested Hardy 9.5 foot 8 weight and matching Hardy reel. My amigo, Stewart, was outfitted with a custom Spey combo and equally dressed for success. Albeit, we were armed and ready.
Our arrival, mid-September, lay within two weeks of the close of the season. This was intentional, knowing where to find our quarry. They were in the process of settling into their spawning beds, and we were familiar with the top pools.
I have fished this period before and have had a high level of success. Landing and releasing two in Haley’s. Two in Salmon Pool, and one 20 pounder on a dry in Heppell. It is without a doubt, fall fishing can be quite productive.
We spent the next 4 days fishing public and private waters of the Matapedia. Fighting fierce winds and pelting precipitation, we witnessed rising salmon as we stalked our prey. Wading and wandering, we wet our lines in Heppell, Lower Adams, Routhierville, the Campground, Brown, Omer, LePage and the famed Haley’s.
Making every possible choice available to the sought after salmon, we showed them Alley’s Shrimp, Rats of all pedigrees, Black Bears, Undertakers and a variety of nameless patterns. We presented to rising brutes In Heppell with Bombers. Yet, as everyone who fishes for this species knows, these are the fish of a thousand casts.
Despite our persistent pursuit, we did not touch a fish in our time on the water. Well, if you want to count a Brookie my friend landed you could say we avoided the skunk. Indeed, disappointed.
Fishing for Atlantic Salmon is an endurance test in many ways. The wading, the casting and the time on the water expends a significant amount of energy. All the while, one must be fully engaged to not “set” on the first moment of the take. To keep that in mind is a discipline. The consolation prize was the beauty of the river, its flowing waters cascading through valleys of rich forests and mountainous territory.
Nevertheless, we had a magnificent time.
We feasted on moose sirloin among other local fares. The libations were plentiful including Knob Creek, 14 year old Dalmore and a special cocktail devised by our host, of which the name escapes me, but the effect indeed memorable.
We will indeed return. In fact, we’re already planning for 2023. This time in June when the run is early in motion and the fish are aggressive. Like I said, these are the fish of a thousand casts and I’m absolutely certain my friend Stewart is on 999.
Keith Weinstein, fly fisherman since 1986. Life Member of Trout Unlimited. Successfully fished venues: The Grand Cascapedia … the Padapedia … the Salmon River in New York … the Current, the White and the Little Red in Arkansas … the Birkenhead in BC … Labrador … the San Juan … Grand Lake Stream in Maine … various Massachusetts streams and Cape Cod.