By: Keith Weinstein
It was a carefully planned trip – the first big adventure since the start and fall of Covid. Canadian exile was now a thing of the past. ArriveCAN was allowing passage into sacred waters for the opportunity to pursue the king of Canadian water, the Atlantic Salmon.
Our destination was basically NNE of Caribou, Maine. The 9 hour journey was split into two parts as we traveled one evening, from Boston to Bangor and sailed the next day. Picking up our no-kill licenses and water rights at the KZZ in Matapedia, we headed upriver.
Our Gaspe’ Lodge, a private residence, between Causapscal and St.Alexis on Hwy 132 gave us easy access to public waters in Sector 3 in Matapedia. This river is known as a world famous salmon river which flows into Restigouche.
From that first afternoon, the overcast sky gave way to light rain and tested us mentally. A stench pushed us minute by minute, making every cast a tactical decision.
Fortunately, we were prepared for extremes…me, with a trusty ancient raincoat and a new set of Redington waders along with a 9.5 foot 8 weight tested salmon and matching Hardy reel. My friend, Stewart, was equipped with a custom Spey combo and was equally dressed for success. However, we were armed and ready.
Our arrival, in the middle of September, occurred within a fortnight of the close of the season. This was intentional, knowing where to find our quarry. They were in the process of settling into their egg beds and we were familiar with the high pools.
I have fished this period before and had a high level of success. Landing and releasing the two at Haley’s. Two in the Salmon pool, and a 20 pounder in a dry at Heppell. It is without a doubt, fall fishing can be quite productive.
We spent the next 4 days fishing the public and private waters of Matapedia. Braving strong winds and heavy rain, we watched the salmon grow as we chased our prey. Walking and wandering, we wet our lines at Heppell, Lower Adams, Routhierville, Campground, Brown, Omer, LePage and the famous Haley’s.
Making available every possible choice for the requested salmon, we showed them alley grasshoppers, rats of all origins, black bears, gravediggers and a variety of unnamed patterns. We were introduced to the rising brutes In Heppell with the Bombers. However, as anyone who fishes for this species knows, these are the fish of a thousand casts.
Despite our constant 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. Really, disappointed.
Fishing for Atlantic salmon is a test of endurance in many ways. Moving, casting and spending time in the water expends a significant amount of energy. At all times, one must be fully engaged in order not to “decide” at the first moment of reception. Keeping this in mind is a discipline. The consolation prize was the beauty of the river, its flowing waters flowing through richly forested valleys and mountainous terrain.
Nevertheless, we had a wonderful time.
We feasted on moose tenderloin among other local fare. Libations abounded including Knob Creek, Dalmore 14 year old and a signature cocktail devised by our host whose name escapes me but the effect truly memorable.
We will indeed be back. In fact, we are already planning for 2023. This time in June, when the run is moving early and the fish are aggressive. As I said, these are the fish of a thousand casts and I am absolutely certain that my friend Stewart is at 999.
Keith Weinstein, fly fisherman since 1986. Lifetime member of Trout Unlimited. Places successfully fished: Grand Cascapedia … Padapedia … Salmon River in New York … Current, Little White and Red in Arkansas … Birkenhead in BC … Labrador … Great Lake Current in Maine … various Massachusetts and Cape Cod streams .