Bon A(d)venture - Day 1
Published Oct 27th 2008
two days fishing in Bon Aventure
- Should I take your luggage?
An older man in good shape asked someone a question.
- You are Kasper, right?
How the... did he know?
- Yes I am. How did you know?
- I just know such things.
A description of me could be a tall guy wearing a Global FlyFisher cap, some luggage, a camera and a couple of rods but, I was more than half an hour early, so I was not carrying anything but a plastic bag with my new shoes. I have spent the last hour drinking coffee from the coffee shop, watching birds and a seal playing around under the bridge.The driver had spent the same time waiting for me, about 200 meters up the hill at the motel. No wonder he was ready.
- Wayne, he said. Let's head for the Camp.
Gaspé, French Canada
I was in Gaspé, Canada, doing business for a global company. My colleague and I were well-prepared, so the job went smoothly. Everyone was exceptionally helpful and polite, both the people we were working with and the people in Gaspé. A small town located at the very north east of Canada.
A Nikon D90 was on its way to the small camera shop in Gaspé, but for some reason the camera was not send and I could not get it before I had to leave. The shop owners missed the deal, but asked if they could take us to the mall, as my colleague Børge Nielsen, had to buy a cell phone. They were about to close at the mall, so we would not make it by walking. What a gesture!
Børge had to get up early, so we finished the day at a good restaurant (actually, the eating places were quite nice in general) and also finished close to 3 years co operations as Børge had decided this was his last day for our company. 5:30 the next morning he went home. I got up a little (!) later and took a taxi to Grand-Grave to go whale watching. It was more than 20 years ago I had seen a lager whale, so I was quite excited. Blue whales had been around for the last days as well as humpbacks.
On the way to the boat we saw porky pines, a strange and rather large animal and berry leftovers from the bears. At the small harbor another photographer showed up - Mike. We discussed gear, whales and the wind, which was getting colder and stronger. Too strong. The captain concluded that he would not go out, so we all went back to where we came from. What a pity, as Mike's memory cards were full of great photos of whales from the last couple of days.
I had to kill the rest of the day, and so I did, buying a new pair of great hiking shoes, trekking socks, had coffee, watched a seal and now finally I was in a car heading for a camp called Bon Aventure. What did it mean? Good Adventure?
I still don't know, but adventure? Yes!
Wayne took me the 2½ hour drive to the camp talking about the area, the Indians, the politicians, the problems, the industry and everything else but fishing as he was no angler himself. Unexpected and a nice variation to the usual fish-nerds talk. We took the shortcut and drove along bays, where gannets were diving like aero-artisans, swampy areas and forests. Suddenly we took a sharp cut to the right, bumped down an dirt road through the dense pine forest and then... there it was. A white cabin and at the end of the well maintained driveway the lodge itself was settled between trees and at the bank of some unnaturally clear water.
- You must be Kasper?!
John introduced himself.
-We will take care of everything! How was your drive. Let me show you the war room/wardrobe? Do you need anything? Beer, or a glass of wine?
I was overwhelmed by his energy, his mood and all the questions. No doubt about it. He would do anything to make me have a great and pleasant stay.
A beer would not be too bad after the drive and within seconds I had two beers. John followed me to the lodge and introduced me to the people there. The chefs ruled the kitchen and they looked like they knew how to make great food. I was introduced to some of the guest's wives and then we entered the big living room, where we would have all our meals and cozy talks in the soft area later.
In the corner there was a small tying table, so you could fill up your box with a pattern or two. And on the wall a big wide screen was playing a slide show showing the best photos of 2007-2008. I was paralyzed for a second, but John's voice got me back to reality and we got upstairs to my room.
Plenty of space. Two beds, a big window and a nice bathroom. It could not be any better. Why did I have to go back three days from now?
I unpacked some of my gear as John went downstairs letting me know that if I needed anything then I should just let the staff know.
Two women were sitting in the couches talking - French. My French is limited to Grand Prix and Baguette, but they shifted to English and talked about the stay and that they would be fly fishing the day after tomorrow. At the moment they just enjoyed the stay, the surroundings and the company while their husbands were hunting salmon somewhere nearby.
Gin, Tonic Water, whiskeys, beers, wines and all kinds of snacks were served so it was easy to relax and just look at the wall and into the trees and the room - slowly discovering all kinds of wooden ornaments- fish ornaments, stuffed pheasants etc. This was surely an angler's and hunter's place.
We smalltalked as the anglers started joining. No really big catches for the day except for great food, lots of fresh air and the experience itself being out there. Exactly what most anglers say, when they catch little or nothing...
Everyone was in a good mood, had red chins and looked forward to the meal. Turkey it was, and well served. Homemade ice cream for dessert, and after coffee I was ready for bed.
Breakfast was served at 7:00 sharp but coffee was ready from 6:30.
The guides were ready from 7:30 and would be waiting at the wardrobe.
Guides? I am not used to having a guide. I guess one time has to be the first.
I spent the evening setting up my gear. I only brought one rod, a 9' Sage SLT, not the heaviest rod you may find, and I was also skeptical, but Glenn insisted in his mails, that a 7 weight would be sufficient. My reel hold 150 meters backing, a floating and newly stretched shooting line and 3 different shooting heads, a floating, a slow intermediate and a fast intermediate. My spare spool contained 150 meters of backing and a floating WF line with a SIII head.
Especially the SIII and the slow intermediate turned out to be good lines for fishing under these circumstances, extremely clear and low water.
The leader was a normal tapered nylon leader of 9' where I added 1 meter of sight free fluocarbon. Pretty simple and very much like the set-up I use in Denmark and South Sweden when fishing for sea trout in the salt.
It was frosty outside. The grass was slightly covered in frozen damp and the winter was showing its coming.
My stomach was filled with juice, coffee, fruit, bread, eggs, bacon and all my heart's wishes as I crossed the stony driveway heading for the wardrobe. Matthew Flowers and John Law the two guides were already waiting and Matthews's truck ready to go. Last evening, when I went through my gear, I discovered that the only thing I did not bring was my fly box. But who needs flies to go fly fishing? Isn't it all about catching flies? No?! I must have misunderstood something.
Luckily, the cupboard was full of flies. I grabbed a few Green Machines, Black Sunray Shadows and some other flies.
They were a cozy and jolly pair of dudes. Matthew had a quite ironic angle to life in general, very close to the Danish style. John was a guide trainee and almost approved for guiding on his own - but quieter as he was in the observers role to day.
First stop was The ZEC. The ZEC is the local river administration.
The ZEC takes care of the rivers, and administer the rods and fishing licenses. Every day you have to visit the ZEC in the morning to pick up your license.
Camp Bonaventure arranged everything for me, so we just had to show up, sign, get the license and back into the car. It took about 30 seconds. The license should be shown upon request to wildlife officers. When fishing has ended you return the license including all data of your catches.
The ZEC administer the rods in such a way, that many of the beats or zones have very few rods during a day. That leads to a controlled and fair fishing pressure.
You can fish private water, public water and water bought by guiding companies. To give everyone a chance to fish salmon in these scenic river valleys, the ZEC also administrate an annual lottery system.
The first draw is in November. Everyone can buy 10 tickets (10$) per river. Half of the rods are in this lottery pool.
For the rest of the season there is an 72 hour lottery. So if you want to fish the 4th of August, you can buy a lottery ticket (2$) on the 1st of August for the water you want to fish - Bon Aventure.
Meeting the water
The mood was good as we drove the half hour drive to get to our stretch of the day APSB. We wound up at a small area at a holed and bumpy road. I started to assemble my gear and soon I was ready to tie on my fly. I had a small box with some Danish/Swedish saltwater flies. Matthew looked at hem
- Take one of them. They have never seen anything like that!
Hmmm... How brilliant was that idea? Well, he was the guide and I was there for the first time so I tied a Blood Nosed Magnus on my leader and fished the stretch.
Not a thing happened.
I tried on another fly and fished the pool again with the same result.
I do not panic normally but started to have this feeling. Salmon fishing is not easy. My friends Rolandas, Ken and other of the guys have told me that, but I was here to catch a salmon... I must have been easy to read for Matthews experienced guide-eyes.
- Try this one, he said and gave me a Sun Ray Shadow, Icelandic version tied on a ½" tube with a yellow underwing.
The temperature had gone up 10 degrees and the sun started to shine. At 10 the fish started to jump and move around a little bit in the pool, and then things started to happen.
- Rushijk! - A biiiig salmon grabbed the fly as it swiped over the river. It showed itself rolling in the surface. Twice. Then the hook that never really got the salmon lost its grip.
Big was my disappointment, but Matthew's self-confident smile told me, that it would not be the last fish to day... on the fly he selected.
We took a small break. I had the feeling that the two guides were a little bored as my casting and wading did not cause any problems. I gave them the ultimate how to-handle-a-Nikon-D80-super-duper-mini-course but they did not really like the idea of using my gear. John finally caved and grabbed the DSLR and started shooting.
He never stopped. 400 photos later we were ready to change memory cards and we had several nice photos for this article and for my memory.
I did not fish for long before another grilse grabbed the fly and cruised around the pool at high speed. Jumped a few times and got netted by Matthew.
- Okay, enough fishing time for lunch!
What?! It was prime time and now we should eat? I could easily starve for a couple of days under these circumstances. Normally when I go fishing with Henning, Ken and Martin, we usually bring some semidry sandwiches, coffee and if we remember also fresh water and Danish pastry.
This was different. Cool white wine, tempered red wine, different salads, bread, different grilled meat, marinated meat more than you can imagine. All food was healthy and nutrious. No mayo, fat, coke, burgers. This was made to make you feel good at the river bank.
As we sat in the sun at the table filling ourselves thinking about what we had done to deserve this treatment, I felt that I had a small leak in my waders. They would take care of at the camp. With that in mind, I could continue fishing without worrying.
Besides, there was also a drying room, so my socks and fleece trousers would no doubt be dry for tomorrow.
We gave it a quick shot but then Matthew really indicated that we should do something else. We loaded his 4-wheeler and drove upstream. Not far, but what was that? A canoe.
Matthew suggested that we fished from the canoe, even though the water was low and wading was no problem.
Variation is OK, and I had never fished from a canoe before. And what canoe! Hand crafted from the finest wood. Not made of aluminum or glassfiber. No this was a real canoe and with a small motor. Matthew used a stick to get us out on the edge of the main current.
He anchored and I started casting. It was not a problem and after the lunch it was actually possible to make you comfortable and do some sit-casting.
Smack! A grilse pulled line of the reel. I tried to pull it out of the pool so it would not scare the other salmon. We made it and after a few minutes I could land, photograph and release yet another colorful grilse in the 7 lbs range. Great fun on my #7.
We drifted a few meters anchored up. Fished over the fish. Drifted a few meters and fished over some new fish.
In this manner we continued down the pool. Relaxed and quiet. A couple of golden eagles crossed the river where the pool ended and the riffles started.
Nothing more happened and we sailed to the top of the pool. Drifted for a few meters. Bang! Another salmon was irritated by ½" and eely Sunray Shadow.
What a day. 4 fish landed and 7 strikes. Lots of jumping salmon in the pools, eagles and noisy porcupines in the bushes.
As the evening started to arise from the horizon we decided to get back to the camp. I was filled with fresh air, good food, and great experiences.
On our way back we crossed a side stream to Bon Aventure. 10-15 meters wide and crystal clear. 14 salmon were clearly visible in the pool just under the bridge. Fishing here was free and suddenly Matthew showed that he also was a passionate angler and eagerly fished for the ignorant salmon.
We tried Sunrays, Green Machines, nymphs and some rubber legged dry creatures. The salmon did not react on anything and obviously had their attention on something else.
As it darkened we gave up and rolled down the dirt road until we reached the camp. I got my gear in my "private" cell in the wardrobe. Got my wet clothes dried and my waders inside out. Matthew uploaded the photos from the this day to the Apple TV and soon a slide show was ready to be shown in the living room while we were having a snack and a glass of tasty pinot noir.
The other anglers showed up within short. They had been fishing in Grande Cascapedia but had not have the same luck as I had.
One small salmon was all they had got - if you stick to the hard core data. But they did not seem to bother. They were all happy and had a great day of fishing and just being there enjoying the fresh Canadian air and the deep green forests and jade green water. I must agree. Looking back, who would ever be disappointed about not catching a thing when the surroundings were as this?