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FLY OF THE MONTH

Half Moon to Boiestown
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Uncle Howards Sauerkraut
Half Moon to Boiestown

Chapter 1
By Bryant Freeman 

  The long trip was made pleasant, as the overcast shaded the sun from penetrating the windshield. The old Hound hung her head out the window, occasionally sniffing the air, which breezed past her nostrils and lifted her lips, showing her teeth. I wondered to myself, as I had many times, how a dog can smell, with such a force coming into its nostrils.  We were traveling from our Riverview Home to the upper reaches of the Miramichi River. There we would launch the 18-foot canoe and drift down the river 57 miles to the Cache in Boiestown, where we would take out, or run the rest of the river to Doaktown.

The old dog  is always my companion, at funerals, weddings, and everything I do, she is starting to show her years. A squirrel ran across the road in front of us and she did not see it.  Could she be losing her sight, (I will keep her under tight scrutiny from now on to see if she is losing one of her most useful senses.)

We stop by the side of the road and take a short trip under the canopy of  Black Spruce to refresh ourselves by a spring hole, which we have stopped at many times before, just to the west of Napadogan.  There I remind myself of my good fortune to still  witness this area, unharmed by any other human violations, other than those that know where this spring is. I fill a 5-gallon jug with the sweet water,  this will be our refreshment and cooking water for our journey. At sundown there will be a sacrifice, with some twenty-year-old scotch to help us reduce the awareness of the no see-ums. "A wee dram or two will nay hurt a soul", my old friend Magnus would say.

I load the water to the back of the van, a log truck travels past me and honks his horn, could it be my friend Randy Lutes, who severed himself from the rigors of Moncton's growth, and moved back to his wife Judy's home in Juniper?  I wave anyway, as only those in the know, on a lonely road, knows how reassuring this gesture is!

We drive the last 13 kilometers with great speed, in anticipation that in a few more minutes, we will be drifting silently down the Miramichi, under the Half Moon Bridge and away from civilization, away from noise, and into the silence and serenity of the New Brunswick wilderness.

I turn into the Half Moon Landing site, jump out and sniff the air.  A storm is brewing,  time is precious, I must get on my way before  a great downpour, and get some miles between the main road and us.

The canoe loaded and covered with a canopy, a place set for the hound to sit, and observe the movements that goes on in the river, I turn and climb the hill and kiss, Sugar my wife. She will pick me up when I arrive, wherever it will be, when I get there, and who cares when.

The wind is gentle, the water is perfect for the drift, I shove off and wave to Sugar, the hound does not look back. Under the railway bridge, into the great wilderness, we drift off silently; occasionally I give the setting pole a little splash and a shove to adjust the direction.

The upper stretches of this mighty river are covered with large boulders, most of them are the size of a car or a small house, drifting around these majestic boulders is a pleasure.  I was brought up on a river with the same qualities as this, and it brings back many memories, of my dad, my brothers, and life in general in my younger years.  I think to myself of those who never had the chance to grow up on a river, really missed something in life. A river brings life to those that live by it, I witnessed deaths of the old and the very young, on the river and no matter what, the river still flowed on.

Back to reality, we are approaching Nan's rock, I think it is too early to put the rod together to give the fishing a try, The overcast is dictating that I must go further down the river and in a hurry, we must  get settled before we get wet.  My mind is set to make it to Otter Brook and set up there. It is one of my favorite places to rest and fish, and the ground is level for setting up a campsite. There is also Lake Brook, Little and Big Louie, but I do not like to settle in these areas, because there are many that use these spots, and I would be spending much of my time tidying up the landscape to make it a bit more natural. Beer caps broken glass, cigarette butts, you know the crap that the careless leave when on outings.

Lake brook goes by without a movement of a fish, it is 2 15pm, I push a little harder on the setting pole to make the Kildonan move a bit faster, around the bend and past large boulders, we look up at the big hill and hear a crack of thunder start just over her peak and roll to the east, in a steady roll. We could be getting wet anytime, maybe it will hold for another hour or so. 

I align myself on the two rocks on the north side of Little Louie, drift through and arrive in the pond above Big Louie. I love to fish trout here so I swing the bow of the canoe around and gently swing it to the gravel bar. I bring out the Hardy Smuggler and put her together. A seven-piece graphite rod that I purchased from WW Doak and Son back in the early eighties. This baby has caught salmon, and grilse but not many trout, now is the time to christen her.

I put on a Carters Bug and go to the top of the bar and make a few false casts, the fly lands on the water that I just traveled over with the canoe, a huge boil and a tug, and tight line results. I have a nice trout on and as it struggles to get free, I think, I had better keep this one as we have brought only fuel and some condiments but nothing to sustain ourselves as far as protein goes. The old dog will appreciate the guts and the skin as well as some of the tail flesh that I will save for her.

Satisfied that life prevails in the pool, we put the kill in the bottom of the canoe and set adrift, over to the back of the rock at the head of Big Louie, I give a shove and away we go down our first small set of rapids, Heading for Otter brook.   There are some places between Louie and Otter Brook that I like to fish, but today as the overcast and the rumbling overhead gets more powerful, I opt out of any idea of fishing and think of our evening of rest, our first day away from reality.   Drifting past Purdue, I look up the interval and muse to myself, How many beaver have called this back channel home, how many large trout were wintering in these places before white man arrived?

We tumble around the larger rocks of Otter brook Pond, I drift the canoe to a suitable landing place on the north bank. I unload the canoe, pull her up on shore, in a level spot and pitch the tent where dog and I will spend some time.

The sound in the air over to the north tells me, the storm is almost on us, quickly I remove my duffle and move inside the tent to steady the over flap, so I will not be interrupted by a heavy downpour while cooking the evening meal. With the remainder of my equipment stored safely under the protection of the overturned canoe, I put my attention to the level of the river. A study that I have learned on the Miramichi that dictates to one whether there was a significant rainfall above in the headwaters. The River, since clear cutting began, in the late 60's raises significantly after a rain, due mainly to the water having no barrier or buffer to slow its runoff. And the effect is almost immediate.

Satisfied that I have a good spot to spend the night, I turn my attention to an anxious set of eyes and a pair of ears that are turned slightly back. Old dog does not particularly like to be in the middle of a tempest (Thunder and Lightning storm). I reassure her that everything will be alright, but this means nothing to her and never has.

Putting on my raincoat, I walk down through the path to the lower end of the pool. I study the water between the old hen and her chickens, hop to one of the larger boulders which are accessible and take the fly from the keeper. Studying the connection from where the fly is tied in and the leader connection to the line I feel everything is okay. I cast a short cast to the base of one of the rocks and see a reddish flash under the fly, there is a rather large brookie in this spot, using the rock as a shield from the fast heavy water, and he is a taker. I cast again to the same spot and the fish comes to the surface and takes the Carters Bug like it was regular food. I tighten up and we are into a fish that most fishermen would pay big dollars to fish. This one comes to hand rather nicely, after examination; I release it into its realm and decide it is time to head back to the camp. I look for the old dog and she is not with me. I return to the tent and she has taken up residence in a secure section of the tent, waiting for the onslaught of the tempest.

I start the water boiling in the camp stove; these little bottles of Propane have made camping much easier and a more positive experience. The aroma of Naphtha Gas, which gave me headaches years ago, is no longer in my duffel. The little bottles are much safer to carry and are good for use in lanterns also.

I think back to the years that I used the larger lanterns fuelled with Naphtha, and the way I acquired the lantern, was catching the largest salmon on the Medway river and entering it into the Fish and Game Associations contest in 1954. Although the fish was only 15 pounds it was the largest that was entered then. This lantern lit many nights on the North Pole stream and the Upper Stretch of the Little Southwest Miramichi since 1964, and it still sits in the Garage waiting for service.

Dinner cooked and finished, the old hound perks her ears as the first drop hits the tent. She settles to a spot in the back of the tent just over the top of my sleeping bag. I will not be able to stuff my feet to the end of the bag, but she will feel comfortable being close in the storm.

I turn out the light, sit under the canopy and watch the display of sheet lightning in the distance. The small drops turn to large thumps on the tent, and god's renewal begins. I reach to the canoe box and pour a wee dram in the cap. I salute the storm and climb into the tent to ride out the storm.

Through the night, the roar of the water pouring on the tent is witness to the size of the storm, I am very lucky to be this close to the elements on my first night out. I wonder if I have chosen a time that the water will be too high and dirty to fish.

  The sun begins to break in the East, shining over the water and the ledge rocks that form Otter Brook Pool. I walk to the shore and splash some cool river water on my face, surveying the river for raising water. Tell tale signs appear to be at a minimum, only a few small beaver and muskrat sticks drift by. A sign the water has come up, but the larger sticks are not there, evidence of a moderate rainfall. It will be a good trip after all.

 

Breaking camp, I notice some beaver cuttings on the opposite side of the river, in the mouth of the brook I hear a splashing sound, as the old dog sits and watches the spot. Nothing comes to the shore, it could be a deer or a moose bathing in the clear water ridding himself of flies.

Thinking of flies, I have not noticed any great onslaught of black flies or no-see-ums this morning. The heavy rain last night must have curtailed their hatching for awhile, they will surely be in good form tonight.

 

The Canoe loaded, I shove off with the setting pole and float out into the pond, I give another shove ahead and we are sailing again, Into the old hen and her chickens, we float around the rocks into the head of McKeil Pond. I make a few shoves with the pole and then pick up the rod to give a few casts over by the south bank. A small spring brook  is on my mind, previously hooking some fine trout in the mouth of this spring.  A spruce tree in the river has added some extra cover for whatever lies under the surface.  I make two tugs on the line after the fly lands to the side of the old tree, a heavy dimple erupts under the fly and I set the hook. A nice fourteen inch brookie comes to hand, I release it. I drift past the tree and into the end of the pond where the Narrows Awaits.

 

The Narrows is the toughest stretch in the whole 50 mile run,  I always approach it with caution, this is a stretch where many have lost their provisions on the first day out, ruining the whole trip for them. The run in this water is comprised of four river switches where one must shift from one side of the river to the other  under full speed, if one is not brave enough and tries to go through cautiously the obvious will happen. I attack the runs in quick succession and am at the end of the four pitches in 35 seconds. Next stop McKeil Brook,  private water, if there is any one around, otherwise I will take time to fish some of the Hot Spots.

 

I drift past the old log camps that sit on the south side of the river, to the north is the mouth of McKeil where I look up for signs of activity in the run, the water is quiet so I drift past and down the run to Peter Pond.   I drift to the run and shove the canoe up on a rock. Tying a Silver Grey to my cast, I think of days gone by when I used this great early summer fly.  This is the fly for the light that is predominant this time of year.  I make a good Turle knot and throw the fly in the water. Picking up the rod, I cast to the left side of the canoe, drifting the fly in two foot  extensions until I have fished the Run.  No signs of a fish with this coverage so I try the one foot coverage, and in the third cast I get a boil under the fly.  I rest the spot for two minutes, and checking the line for wind knots to make sure there is a good chance to land the fish if I should hook him.   I cast to the spot and drift the fly at ninety degrees to the current. A splash and a tug  on the line gives me reassurance that I have a good hook-up. I put pressure on the fish to give him notice I am going to fight him, he pulls off line and leaps sideways, landing just short of a huge boulder.  Not wanting to hurt the fish I straighten the rod out and break the fish off, knowing the barb less hook will fall out in several hours.  Drifting to the island in the middle of the pond, I haul up and rest, the dog and I, we will have some sardines,- a piece of bread to keep us till nightfall.   I rest beside the old Pine tree and reflect  on my good fortune to be on this jewel  at this time of year.  

 

The whoosh of feathers, a splash of water brought me from a semi prone position to an upright position at the base of the pine, my eyes turned to the spot where the sound first came,  in mid air shivering its feathers ridding itself of excessive water  was a male osprey,  in its talons, an eel which it shifted to make the head face forward enabling him to fly more easily to return the prize to the young he has to provide for.

I give the old dog a rub, and tell her things are as they should be, nature is still at her best in the upper reaches of this fine river.

I walk to the canoe, the hound does not follow, I look to see she is still interested in something under the pine tree, and upon close examination a huge garter snake has just shed her skin and hundreds of little ones are gathered to feed on the bounty.

The bow of the canoe is straightened and we are off again, drifting toward Moose Call Camp. I  get excited when I see the upper pool in the Moose Call area,  I drift over to the middle of the river and look at the hot spot just to the head of the ledge,  this is a pool I like to fish,  I know not many have fished it before me, due to it's remote location . I drop the anchor and sit on the seat with the old dog, she is still as excited as a child on Christmas morn,  I must take time to let her know I still respect her and her excited attitude.

The fly box shows some good selections, but one in particular grabs my attention, it is a fly I use when I am alone, it is not one of those which are favourites of fishermen everywhere, it is a hand me down pattern my grand father passed to my dad. and my dad to me, I never let it die, I passed it on to my son, and he will pass it on to his own.

I tied the turle knot, give it a pull and throw the fly in the water. Lengthening out line and casting from left side of canoe to the right, I studied the boils and undulations in the river to the rear of the canoe. Suddenly I notice the two little rolls in the shining surface, which gave the suspecting lie away to those who know.  I twitched the canoe to a more suitable angle and dropped the anchor again. Picking up the rod, with my right hand, I cast to the spot just past the two little rolls. The fly swung through it, I waitA slight disturbance within the rolls which made me suspect there was a salmon there.  I sat down and tried to calm my nerves which were now heightened to near explosion. Two minutes is a long time in a situation like this.  I check the line and knots, they are fine, I pick up the rod and make a cast to the opposite side of the canoe to get the right length, I want this presentation to be exact.

I cast five feet to the other side of the rolls,  let the fly swing, as it nears the edge of the spot, the water heaves, the noticeable  break in the surface comes, and I wait patiently for the tug. There is it, I lift the tip with my finger on the line so the point of the  hook will penetrate the jaw.  Fish is on,  the fight begins. The first jump informs me the fish is a ten pound  Salmon. I have fought many of these, which in earlier years would take ten to thirty minutes. Today I fight the fish fast to release him to his journey upstream to the spawning beds.  My day is complete. Old Dog, we are back in natures grasp.

Lifting the anchor I drop another mile to the Rangers where the dog and I will spend the night, a cool brook for fresh water and a roof to keep out of the flies.  Life is Good.

Rangers Camp has become one of my favourite stopping places. Nestled between two large hills, with a rapid coming into the pool on the north bank, the water slowing in front of the camp, to pick up speed on the south side entering into another long rocky run.  Around the corner to the north east,  finishing to the northward, a rocky look at the Camps at Slate Island greets the eyes. The brook provided sweet water for tea, the old hound found it a good change from the warm river water she was using since we left the car, and civilization

We sleep well, only to be wakened by the sound of the eastern thrush, singing that familiar song which resounds among the hills, ricocheting off the river, into the ears. A sound which wraps the soul into these wild surroundings.

A flurry of movement catches my eye in the blooming morning light. A Tree swallow has chosen this area to bring up a new family, I am witness to the beginning of new life for the family of young birds.

Old hound wants out into the fresh air, so I open the door and let her go wander and search out some new wild surroundings on her own. Witness to this  sequence make me part of a kaleidoscope of thoughts.

I bring the kettle to a boil with the fresh water from the spring, drop in a few tea bags and let it steep, while I ready the Cast Iron for some bacon, and an egg. It will not be too long till I see the old dog coming through the bush to check out the bounty from the pan.

Wafting through the still air of the upper reaches of this great river, the smell of the smoked bacon brings the dog back to help me regain sustenance, knowing well she will be rewarded with her share.

Breaking camp is always difficult on this part of the river, it is one of my favourite spots, with the hills protecting it from the violent storms which tend to destroy the old growth forest remaining in the province, this area is protected somehow by the natural landscape around it.

I shove off, with a push, I am soon in the main current, heading east towards Slate island. I round the bend,  across the river is a Cross on the bank, testimony of some sort of native settlement which once was in this area. I take my hat off and salute those who have come before us.

Heading into the Slate Island Run, I see the camps built by one of my friends, who has worked hard to keep the salmon in this river.  Reflecting on the first time I sailed past the camps, it was just a camp on the bank. Today it is one of the Jewell's on the river, where those who take time, enjoy nature, her surroundings and moods. I do not stop, I want to retain my feeling of wilderness surroundings, drifting on we come to the island  by which the pool is named.

Cascading over the slate rocks at the end of the pool, past the island itself, I steer the canoe to a little run over on the south bank where many salmon and grilse rest on their journey upriver.  I look over the spot, and take time to take a picture of the run for my album. A good spot to reflect on, as I read my album in the winter. Oh do I love this place.

I head into the top run of Push and Be Damned, making note of where I will swing the canoe into shore to swim  a red butt Butterfly with white wings through Upper Push Pool.  The water is swift here, any little mistake can take one through the push rapids to the end of the run, where a hard pole upriver or a walk through the path in the woods from the camp, would be the only way to fish it.

Luck is with me, I am able to swing the canoe to the north side of Upper Push. I slide it gently to the slate rock, where the hound jumps clear, and shakes herself. Dropping the anchor on the ledge, I pick up the rod and make a few casts to the base of the ledge.  One good cast and a twenty inch Brook Trout comes out and takes the butterfly.  I play it for seconds before its acrobatic behaviour throws the barbless hook in the air.  Wow, what an exhilarating experience, is this possible, can it be there is a salmon at the head of the run?  I cast to the spot.  A salmon takes the fly and heads to the deeper part of the basin. I drop the tip, the fish is gone.

I climb in the canoe, dog jumps in, anchor pulled, I point the bow to the east  into Push Run. As I round the turn, coming past the old Push and Be Damned Camp, I look to the brook just below,  a Bald eagle sits looking for some chance at a trout or salmon coming into the pool.

Eagles in this part of the country were unheard of back in the late 60's, due mainly to the spray which was laced with DDT to quell the onslaught of the spruce budworm. The Osprey was also decimated, the DDT made their egg shells soft thus breaking before they had time to hatch.  Nature has recovered one of man's great mistakes, returning the birds to this serene setting once again.

The old hound looks at the camp, maybe for one last time, as it will eventually be replaced by some kind of modern building, for the comfort of the new fly fishermen who are up and coming.   Once there was a sign in the window of the cabin, that the camp was open and those who came by could drop in for shelter and rest, only to leave things they way they found them when they left. This is one of the outdoorsmen's best assets when travelling in the wilderness. What a pity all do not adhere to the creed.

We pass into the shallows heading further downriver, toward Upper Buttermilk Pool and Burnt Hill Brook and Rapids. The water is shallow in places, where one who travels this stretch, should know the channel. A pool or two dot the river between here and Upper Buttermilk.

Occasionally the bottom of the old Kildonan touches the gravel, as I get off the channel once and awhile, the mind is not with the travel of the canoe, as I gaze around looking at the great hills of Maple and Beech interspersed with the stands of old growth spruce and pine. The hemlock in this area are scarce, it must have been taken back in the days when the planks taken from these old trees were used for railway and road bridges.  The Eagle passes overhead, heading downriver toward another perch where it will spend its day, waiting for its chance at an injured fish or animal for its lunch.

We pass by the McLean Brook Pool without stopping, I notice the old hound is getting restless, so I tell her we will stop at the Two and One Half Mile Pool. There I will rig up and give the run a little test. This is usually a good pool when the fish are moving, not much when they are holding in the cold water pools.

As I round the turn, my thoughts flash back to the day when one of those English Harrier Jets came so close I could have reached out and touched its wing. Back in those days the early 70's the air force used this area for exercises, and those fly boys would spot someone on the river enjoying peace and solitude, so they would just come close to give one a shot back to reality.   I give the canoe a little push, to the north and ease up on the gravel on shore. Hound jumps out and heads to the water for a little drink.

The ledge rock is large here on this bank, a natural seat in the rocks is a great place to put the rod together and get a fly tied on.

To Be Continued..Soon.......

 

 

 

This Page Last Updated 03-Feb-2009 04:56 PM 
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