by Sylvie Malo-Clark
In my part of the world, anglers start preparing for wild Atlantic salmon fishing the day after the season ends. Stories of the one caught or the one that got away are told and retold. Most importantly salmon flies especially the ones successful at catching a wild chrome are reproduced. We choose certain patterns according to the time of the fishing season, the river you will be fishing and the conditions of the water. In preparation for fishing both rivers the Miramichi and Restigouche which flow in the province of New Brunswick, Canada, I will refill each of my boxes to represent a few scenarios. For instance I will tie flies for fishing the kelt in the Spring, the fresh Atlantic salmon run from the sea for the months of June and July , August is mostly for dry flies, and for Fall fishing the time of the year when the Atlantic salmon is preoccupied with spawning. My husband and I also make a trip a year to the Grand Cascapedia which is situated on the Gaspe peninsula of Quebec, Canada, home of some of the largest Atlantic salmon in the world.
My two loyal flies for kelt fishing in the Spring are the Magog Smelt and the Renous Special all tied on Partridge of Redditch hooks size 2/0’s which seems to be a popular choice for most anglers on the Miramichi. The same patterns are also tied for the Restigouche but in the larger version 3/0’s and 4/0’s. Why large flies you may ask? In the Spring after the snow and ice have melted the water levels on most Atlantic rivers are pretty high therefore the salmon are deeper in the pools. When the water is deeper the current will be faster as well so you want your flies to reach the fish. It is better to fish with a sink-tip line with a shorter leader with heavier flies to get deep down where the kelt are.
In the early season for the first run of the wild Atlantic salmon, mid June to mid July, I make sure I have an assortment of various flies for various conditions. I will fish mostly with wet flies in sizes 4’s, 6’s and 8’s which salmon seem to prefer because the water is colder. Orange Blossom is one of my favourites and has done well on the Restigouche River in June. But the list is endless….I could name so many. For instance in July, the Undertaker, the Blue Charm, the Same Thing Murray, the Butterfly, the Silver Rat, the Rusty Rat, the Thunder and Lightning….and not to forget the Bugs in various colors including the Green Machine, Shady Lady and the Smurf. On the Grand Cascapedia last year in early July, I caught an awesome salmon with a Green Highlander. Armed with some Green Highlanders I will be back this July.
You never have enough flies! Well one day I met an older fellow, a typical Miramichier, on the shores of the Mighty Miramichi. I asked him “What are your favourite flies?” He answered : “The Black Bear Red Butt and a spare one.” He also added “Only tourist fishermen have all kind of fancy flies.” Every time I put a Black Bear Red Butt on I think of this angler. Another time, another fellow I asked the same question and his reply was “The Green Machine in size four with a white tail, and I only change it if a salmon runs away with it.” He also promptly replied that he had the same fly on for the last ten years. He also added way back when the Atlantic salmon were plentiful if you didn’t catch fifty plus salmon in your season , you would be walking in the village of Blackville with your head down. Very funny I thought but anglers took fishing, and still do, very seriously in my part of the world.
In August when the water levels are sometimes at the lowest and warmest I found dry fly fishing very effective. Salmon prefer a fly floating on the surface it seems. I will carry a box of Bombers tied in many colour variations. However for some reason the Orange and the Shrimp Bombers have been my most faithful over the years on the Miramichi and the Brown one on the Restigouche. My only explanation, not a scientific one, is that the wild Atlantic salmon seem to have a mind of their own having seen so many wet flies over their head and in front of their nose they become selective and will only take if in the mood. I have seen days myself trying almost all the flies in my boxes striking out but came home more determined than ever to be successful the next day. That’s fishin’ for you !
Fall is for many anglers their favourite fishing time. There is nothing like being surrounded with the beauty of the Fall foliage. It’s the most magnificent time of the year. The days are cooler and the Atlantic salmon seem to be more frisky. Equipped with a GPS, they make their way to the streams where they were born. What an amazing fish the Wild Atlantic salmon! Like the season, time for a change, time to take with you the Fall fly box tied with a range of Fall colours. The Ally’s Shrimp, the General Practitioner, the Clark Combination are some of my favourites.
When the fishing season is over I retire my boxes with a special note to my flies thanking them for a job well done. Angling for the wild Atlantic salmon is truly magical and is one of the most fighting game fish in the world!