After an “uncatching” afternoon my first full day on the water, I joined the rest of the Sports for dinner– a humbling experience. The biggest news was that one of the guys caught a bright salmon – a big and sparkling specimen who swam upriver from the Atlantic Ocean to spawn. It was a happy report for all of us. There were several smaller kelts caught among the group, but the news of the bright ocean salmon was the highlight of the evening supper. That night, I went to sleep dreaming of a knock from a salmon on the drift of my cast.
There is a bit of backstory to my fishing the Restigouche River. In 2017, I was invited by my friends Lori and Ted to a beautiful private fishing lodge in New Brunswick, Canada. The seaplane fly-up included a stop at their camp on East Grand Lake, next door to a property that was my camp to be. That trip was the impetus to buy my camp on the lake. The side story is that at Restigouche, Ted and Lori caught their limit of salmon and I caught nothing. I was looking forward to a hook-up or two this time.
The morning of my second day it was rainy and overcast with temps in the low 50s. Jere awaited me at riverside, eager to get going. Dressed in waders and rain gear I slid into the canoe. Jere, bundled for the weather, carefully sat himself down in the middle seat. The object when fishing these waters is to have a guide who knows, based on experience, where to locate the fish, then cast away and hope for the best. Our guide motored out into the middle of the river directly in front of the lodge. Setting the anchor, we were positioned away from the others who were off to their guides’ secret sites. I asked Jere to cast first so I could watch his technique. Jere cast like a maestro while remaining in his seat. With both hands on his 19-foot rod he drew the rod back from the right side of the canoe and with the thrust of his right hand directed his cast to the left side careening some 20 plus feet. Smooth and effortless, it was a quick and quiet motion but for the swoosh of the line. I watched the line drift to the right on the water surface, waiting for the slightest knock from a salmon. The line was nearly straightened as Jere and I talked fisherman small talk about nothing much when a sudden grab on the line startled all of us including the guide. The first cast of the day and a take! OMG! Jere responded with “Oh s—t.” His face broke into a smile that could have brightened the entire river. The guide gave Jere directions to set the hook and hold on as he pulled the engine to start for the shore to land the fish. We traveled carefully with the salmon on the line, careful not to lose it with a slack line. On shore the guide netted the large, beautiful kelp specimen. Jere was thrilled. We high-fived each other and of course the pressure was now on me to catch one. We still had some three hours before lunch and I cast until my shoulder ached. I was mindful of the need to relax my grip in the unlikely event a fish knocked into my fly. These fish I am told, set the hook by attacking the fly and by turning set the hook. Not the customary cast, drift, strip and set upon the take. Standing in the canoe and extending my cast almost as far as Jere had from a seated position, I had a few knocks but no takes. It was not meant to be. I did not look forward to facing all the Sports at lunch with a no-hit record on the boards.