Salmon fishing & fly tying on the Miramichi...

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Smallmouth Bass Fishing on the Main Southwest Miramichi River, N.B.

This blog title has quite a ring to it, eh?

You can almost picture Bill Dance and his goofy UoT trucker hat rolling up in a fancy bass boat - maybe throwing a pumpkinseed tube as he works a bogan or some other smallmouth bass fishing nonsense..

(yeah, this might be a largemouth bass, but you get the idea)

Anyhow, with the ill-fated and ill-advised Miramichi lake "containment strategy" that DFO has been such a fan of  for the last number of years, fishing for smallies in the sacred Miramichi watershed could become a reality in the not too distant future. Say it isn't so! By the way, here's a link to back up my 'ill-fated and ill-advised" comment:

So what's the point of this post? Well, on Sept 11th 2016, the CBC ran a story about 4 smallies that were supposedly caught in the Southwest Miramichi river at or near the mouth of the Taxis river in Boiestown. Naturally, everyone was concerned but the validity of the pictures could not be verified and the supposed "lucky" angler wished to remain anonymous for unknown reasons. Perhaps it was his use of a conehead, weighted fly in scheduled waters and the potential charges that could result, but what do I know?

A link to the article:

As you can imagine, the discussion raged on social media as to whether this was a real incident or not, but the unwillingness of the angler to come forward and present original pictures with intact metadata cast some serious doubt on the authenticity of the pictures and story.

After a series of emails back and forth between Paul, Fred and I, it was proposed that a group of anglers should visit the area for a day and put effort towards spotting and catching any smallmouth bass. We put a request into DFO and we heard back from them amazingly quickly. They granted us a scientific permit to allow six anglers to fish a defined area with barbed, weighted flies for one day. I have to say, DFO's willingness to work with a group of recreational anglers is a very positive step and I hope it's the start of an ongoing relationship where the value of anglers is acknowledged and our efforts can be combined for the benefit of Atlantic salmon. Let's face it, anglers put a hell of a lot more time on the river than DFO does and our presence out there is a major deterrence to poaching.

We received our "License to Fish for Experimental Purposes" which was good for Saturday, September 17th 2016 and we had a great group of volunteer anglers lined up. These are guys who know what smallmouth bass are, how to catch them and aren't too bad at salmon angling either ;)
(Paul Elson, Matt Mersereau, Jason Willcox, Chris Sinclair, Taylor Main and of course, yours truly)

A couple of pictures:

Here is our written Effort Summary to DFO:

Good morning Frederic,

Our group of 5 anglers (one couldn’t make it) met at the Irving in Boiestown at 10 AM on Saturday and proceeded to the Taxis river. We divided into 2 groups and walked up opposite shores to the bridge. The water was low, clarity was excellent and the sun was positioned in such a way we could see bottom for 90% of the time. Our group was comprised of experienced smallmouth bass fly-anglers who routinely “sight fish” in other watersheds (Hammond, Nashwaak, etc.). While walking up river to the bridge over the Taxis we proceeded slowly looking for signs of bass. The only wildlife noted were some small minnows of various species (no Y.O.Y. or any other age class of SMB) and a small shellfish. We focused much of our effort on this stretch (bridge to mouth), spending approximately 3 hours x 5 anglers. We used various flies and presentations, including weighted flies such as “wooly buggers”. No bass were seen nor hooked. 3 of us also walked down the middle of the river (Taxis) after fishing to see if we could catch a visual of any movement of bass and we did not see anything. After ruling out the presence of bass in this area we also tried to match the background in the supposed images with no success. We could find areas that looked similar but when matching to specific trees and rocks we were unsuccessful.

We stayed divided in 2 groups and proceeded to fish the MSW, upstream and downstream of the mouth of the Taxis. Again water was low and clarity was excellent  - although the depth in places did not allow us to see the bottom. We covered this water in a similar fashion as the Taxis but we were unable to wade down the middle due to the depth. Weighted bass flies were also used during this effort - approximately 3 hours x 5 anglers.

We came to a group consensus that if there were bass in the area they have moved. Also our opinion of the alleged incident is that it was likely a joke that went viral on social media before the original poster realized what was happening. Their subsequent desire to remain anonymous and not go on record strengthens this theory. Perhaps they are scared of being charged with mischief and it’s most likely we will never know.  We finished the day below the permit area with barbless, un-weighted salmon flies at the Cache pool. We covered this water as thoroughly as possible and the only thing to report is two grilse to hand by Chris and Taylor – not a bad day “bass” fishing! 1 hour x 5 anglers.

Effort summary:
3 hours x 5 anglers (TAXIS) = 15 hours
3 hours x 5 anglers (MSW) = 15 hours
1 hour x 5 anglers (Cache) = 5 hours
Total: 35 hours

I want you to know we are thankful for your coming through on getting us a permit. I believe recreational anglers can work with DFO on various conservation efforts and hopefully we will see more of this in the future. If there is anything further you would like to know please don’t hesitate to call or email.

All the best!


As you can read above, the only thing we had to show for our effort were 2 grilse landed by Chris & Taylor - not bad for a "smallmouth bass" fishing expedition.

(Chris & Taylor with one of the 2 grilse landed)

Thoughts & Conclusions:

So what does 35 hours of angling effort towards catching smallmouth bass in the Miramichi watershed prove? Well sadly, it proves nothing other than if there were SMB in this area, they have either moved on or may never have existed in the first place.

If smallies did really exist in this area, how did they make it down river past miles and miles of pools and lodges all the way from Miramichi lake without showing up after countless thousands of hours of angling effort?

If SMB didn't exist then this had to be some sort of prank that got out of hand and went viral on social media before the original poster realized what was happening. If this is true, people should realize that stunts like this could jeopardize the efforts of groups like the ASF, MSA and NBSC are undertaking to see the Miramichi lake issue properly resolved via multiple applications of Rotenone.
If bass have escaped containment, what's the point in nuking the lake?

One thing is very clear about this incident based on the coverage and discussion this story has received - everyone is deeply concerned about the potential for smallmouth bass taking over the Miramichi watershed. Additionally, DFO's "containment" strategy is not the way to prevent this. However, all is not foul with DFO in spite of where we're at with Atlantic salmon management and the question of invasive species. To borrow a couple direct quotes from a friend and dedicated multi-generational salmon conservationist:

"I/we often talk to DFO about the need for changing the approach when dealing with management, and one aspect of that would be for them to acknowledge the high value of experienced and knowledgeable and dedicated anglers ( = conservationists, in this case) can bring to the table with a properly structured partnership. I’m thinking DFO sees it at this point, and that is a great thing."  

"Beyond the SMB, I think the BIG story here is the value (and trust) that DFO placed on a group of anglers, contributing to citizen science in a positive and constructive way.  Anglers CAN be part of the framework.  :-)"

My friend, I couldn't agree more.

P.S. A quick shout out to the lads who gave up their time and gas money to help with this effort - Paul Elson, Matt Mersereau, Jason Willcox, Chris Sinclair & Taylor Main.

Final thought - thanks, Steve Delaney!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Some pictures from opening weekend 2016.

I was going to do a report but figured I'd let the pictures do the talking on this one.. suffice to say, everything you've heard is true - the fishing is excellent and this has been our best season opener ever! And if it wasn't for the wind on Friday & Saturday (April 15th & 16th) the weather would have been absolutely perfect with enough snow left in the yard to keep the beer cold.

These pictures are just a fraction of the fish we landed - If you're sitting at home reading this please back away from your computer and GO FISHING! IT'S ON!

(Pictures in no particular order)



Tuesday, 19 April 2016

"Double J Smelt" - a black salmon fly.. that was supposed to be a trout fly..

Way back in the spring of 2015, just when the river was warming up and the trout were starting to bite I felt an urgent need to tie up an original or as close to original "trouty" streamer as I could. I seldom fish well-known patterns as I get great enjoyment out of hooking fish with something I dreamed up while at the vise. This streamer would have to be something suitable for casting from shore or hauling behind a boat in spring. It would also have to be a somewhat natural/smelt-ish looking creature with a light coloured bottom and a dark coloured top - like every other smelt fly out there. Ever since I can remember, I was told that red was an essential trout colour and any fly worth it's weight as a trout catcher incorporated red somewhere in it's design. So, earthy with a bit of red with a bit of flash was the mindset and these are the ingredients that sprang forth from my portable fly tying kit while at camp:

hook: your favorite black salmon hook - this one is a 3/0 mustad 3191 tweaked in the vise
thread: red uni 6/0
tag: silver uni oval tinsel
tail: mallard
butt: red chenille
body: silver braid
rib: silver uni oval tinsel
throat: white bucktail or polar bear (if you have any) under several strands pearl flashabou
wing: olive bucktail under black synthetic (to save bulk) under several strands rainbow krystal flash under several strands peacock herl
cheeks: wood duck

I'm not even sure how original this pattern is and it's most likely inspired by many other patterns I've seen. But, this combination of materials was literally pulled from an ingredient limited travel-sized tying kit based on how they'd hide a bit of red behind natural-ish colours. Oh and of course it needed a bit of flash - that's a given as I have absolutely no roots in the purism of traditional fly tying - flashabou or krystal flash are just materials to me whose utility and effectiveness are without question.

The interesting part in all of this is Dad decided to tie one on in the spring of 2015 and apparently it hasn't come off his spring rod yet.. During this past weekend, our NB season opener, this fly absolutely slayed.... trolled literally feet from various other patterns, kelt hammered this fly over and over. I even had a chance to try it out in the same setting (trolling) and for an hour the fish constantly ignored every other fly that swam along side this one. I got back to camp and discussed with Dad how effective this fly had been for me and it was then I realized the pattern had yet to be named. Obviously, the name would be "Joe's Smelt" (after Dad), but after a quick google search I realized the name had already been taken. It required a bit more, but not a lot more thought as Dad, or Joe, fishes with another Joe, of the Holmes variety.. There's an ongoing, inside joke about Joe and Joe or "Double J" as they are referred to while out trolling so the "Double J Smelt" was born.

Here's one that's been chewed on by 20 landed kelts this season, an unknown number from 2015 and who knows how many hooked and lost... Oh yeah, and a bunch of brookies as well:

Here are a few fresh from the vise, just itching to be chewed!

If you have a chance, tie a few for your box - or I can tie some for you for a small fee - muahaha!

Tight lines and treat those kelts with the respect they deserve - 30% of them are consecutive, repeat spawners!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

A response from the Feds...

I recently received a reply from the Federal Government to our letter supporting salmon management and conservation. If they do what they say they're going to do (base their decision on science) then it's a no-brainer and there'll be no tags for the 2016 season. Of course this remains to be seen as the regulations remain a secret as of this posting, less than a week from opening day of the 2016 season. The longer this goes on the less hope I have that science is running the show at DFO.... (please prove me wrong!)

28 Reasons to support salmon management and conservation:

Ministerial Correspondence Control Unit
 Fisheries and Oceans Canada / Government of Canada
 200 Kent Street / Ottawa ON  K1A 0E6 / Tel: 613-992-3474 / Fax: 613-990-7292

 Unité de contrôle de la correspondance ministérielle
 Pêches et Océans Canada / Gouvernement du Canada
 200, rue Kent / Ottawa ON  K1A 0E6 / Tél : 613-992-3474 / Téléc : 613-990-7292

 Mr. Howie Gould and Co-Signatories
 < >

 Dear Mr. Gould and Co-Signatories:

 Thank you for your correspondence of February 25, 2016, addressed to the Honourable Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, regarding grilse harvest plans for the salmon recreational fishery for 2016.  I have been asked to respond on the Minister's behalf.

 As you are aware, public consultations for the 2016 season were recently held using tools such as online surveys, as well as through discussions with Indigenous groups, recreational fish harvesters, and other impacted stakeholders.  This process, together with science advice, will guide all of Fisheries and Oceans Canada's (DFO's) decisions regarding the recreational fishery management plans for 2016.

 The feedback of stakeholders, like yourself and your colleagues, is very important.  I want to assure you that all decisions regarding management approaches, including decisions on hook and release policies, will be based on the best available science.

 This is a very important fishery, and DFO will continue to work to protect and conserve it for the benefit of current and future generations of Canadians.

 Thank you for writing.

 Yours sincerely,

 Original Signed By

 Kevin Stringer
 Senior Assistant Deputy Minister
 Ecosystems and Fisheries Management

Thursday, 7 April 2016

2016 HRAA Fundraising Dinner & Auction, Saturday MAY 7th

I got off to a bit of a late start on this one - HRAA is holding their annual fundraising dinner & auction on Saturday May 7th and I'm looking for fly donations. The Hammond River Angling Association is a group of progressive and dedicated conservationists who specialize in salmon conservation, river restoration and youth engagement. All money raised by this group is well used in these efforts so please join me in supporting them with a few flies for their auction/raffle/dinner!

Due to my late start I'm asking that any flies you can muster are sent directly to Paul at the following address:

Hammond River Angling Association
10 Porter Road
Nauwigewauk, NB
E5N 6X1
Attn: Paul Daigle
Ph:  (506) 832-1230

Paul also does a regular a regular loop and could most likely pick your contributions up (please coordinate with him directly as I'll be away fishing!)

"I make periodic trips to Fredericton and Moncton so I could easily pick up any contributions in the Fredericton - Moncton - Saint John circuit"

Friday, 26 February 2016

Salmon Anglers support the document “28 Reasons to Support Salmon Management and Conservation” (A rebuttal to “28 reasons to oppose the live release of grilse")

(picture by Paul W Elson or Stephanie Groom-Elson)

Subject: Salmon Anglers support the document “28 Reasons to Support Salmon Management and Conservation” (A rebuttal to “28 reasons to oppose the live release of grilse")

Document link:

To whom it may concern,

We, the undersigned, are a group of Atlantic salmon anglers from NB, NS, PEI, NL and the United States who are in support of DFO's positive action of ceasing grilse harvest in 2015. We hope this repeats for the 2016 season and carries forward until returns achieve conservation levels and river by river management is implemented to ensure angling harvest is responsible, measurable and sustainable. Although we're not the authors of the attached rebuttal, it DOES represent our views and we believe it should be a strong factor when considering the management strategy for the upcoming salmon fishing season(s). A single season of mandatory catch and release does NOT take into consideration the life cycle of Atlantic salmon. (Video of life cycle:

We acknowledge the following since the implementation of mandatory grilse release in 2015:

- The change has caused much discussion among many user groups.
- Arguments have been championed by a well-known member of the salmon fishing community I.E.  “28 reasons to oppose the live release of grilse”
- Those arguments have received a lot of attention and fanfare.
- It could therefore be imagined that these arguments are representative of all salmon fishermen.
- These arguments ARE NOT representative of all salmon fishermen.
- Catch and Release is a valuable conservation measure that is required to save the future of Atlantic Salmon.
- Catch and Release is not the only conservation measure that is required to save the future of Atlantic Salmon.
- It is our privilege to angle for Atlantic salmon, not our birthright nor that of anyone else (First Nations excluded). Conservation trumps all.
- When returns are not meeting conservation minimums, every fish counts - including grilse.

We wish to note the following exception to point number 15's rebuttal, where the authors recognize and accept that C&R is the "last step before a total closure". Total closures have not been proven to "limit harm" to salmon populations in any way. Total closures, as a means of population recovery, are ineffective and in the era of conscientious C&R anglers, total closures will actually INCREASE harm by taking away the interest in volunteering, involvement with NGO's, fundraising and poaching deterrence. We reject this "old way" of management and take offence to the very idea of total closures.  The only type of closure we agree with is the temporary warm water protocol, triggered during hot summer weather where river levels are low and water temperatures are high. C&R salmon anglers should be officially recognized in management policy, as a positive force for conservation through their involvement with NGO and volunteer groups as well as being a deterrent to poaching, etc. If C&R angling goes, interest will cease and there will quickly be no salmon left to manage.

In closing, it is our sincere hope that the document “28 Reasons to Support Salmon Management and Conservation” receives the same distribution, fanfare and consideration as the previous, and arguably misguided “28 reasons to oppose the live release of grilse”. In writing their rebuttal, the authors have focused on fact and logic to back their arguments instead of the repetitive and emotional rhetoric used in the document opposing grilse release. We wish to offer our thanks to the authors who took much time and effort in crafting this excellent response. It was necessary for someone to produce and broadly distribute a rebuttal so that the other side of the argument, but more importantly Atlantic salmon, could be represented in this discussion. We also wish to thank the men and women who work for salmon conservation, many of whom do so as volunteers and ALL of whom are working towards more salmon in our rivers for everyone. A short time ago, Canada elected a new Federal Government who were given a clear mandate in the Atlantic provinces. We heard much about how things were going to change and also of the commitment to evidence-based decisions while assuring scientists would be un-muzzled and listened to. It is unimaginable how DFO, under the former government, would cease harvest while simultaneously allowing C&R angling (proving the value of anglers) only to turn around and allow retention one year later. How could this be considered without evidence of any river reaching healthy salmon populations? How could one year of catch and release achieve this outcome, considering the lifecycle of the Atlantic salmon?

We are engaged and we expect real movement and implementation of the 2015 Ministerial Advisory Committee recommendations.

Sincerely, the undersigned: 

Wayne Ackley
Marshfield Maine, U.S.A

Rob Agar
Fredericton, N.B.

John Alward
Moncton, N.B.

Mike Bardsley
Bedford, N.S.

Rene Battah
Caraquet, N.B.

Bob Bissett
Fall River, N.S.

Kevin Branch
Burton, N.B. 

Andrew Chandler
Rothesay, N.B. 

Steven Clapperton
Antigonish, N.S. 

Jean-Claude Cormier
Quispamsis, N.B. 

Aurele Daigle
Smithtown, N.B. 

Paul Daigle
Nauwigewauk, N.B.

Steve Delaney
Nauwigewauk, N.B. 

Will Doyle
Quispamsis, N.B.

Stephen Drage
Halifax, N.S. 

Paul P Elson
Saint John, N.B.

Paul W Elson
Saint John, N.B. 

Stephanie Groom-Elson
Saint John, N.B. 

Bill Ensor
Saint John, N.B. 

Dave Flanagan
Red Bank, N.B. 

Gary Fraser
Middle River, N.S.

Julian Furlaga
Moncton, N.B. 

Karol Furlaga
Moncton, N.B. 

Andrew Giffin
Sussex, N.B.

Joe Gillis
Summerside, P.E.I.

Steve Gillis
Quispamsis, N.B. 

Howie Gould
Saint John, N.B.

Joe Gould
Saint John, N.B. 

AJ Greenhow
Springhill, N.S. 

Brad Hill
Fredericton, N.B. 

Kris Leblanc
Memramcook, N.B. 

Paul Leblanc
Dieppe, N.B.

Brad Leger
Fredericton, N.B. 

Bill Lendorf
Saint John, N.B.

Kim Colello Macgarvie
Cape Breton, N.S.

Rod MacQueen
Fredericton, N.B.

Taylor Main
Cornwall, P.E.I. 

Derek Martin
Moncton, N.B. 

Syd Matchett
Trout Brook, N.B.

Michael McKinnon
Middleton, N.S.

Blake Milbury
Bear River, N.S.

Andy Miller
Smithtown, N.B. 

Darrin Moran
Moncton, N.B. 

Don Moroz
Moncton, N.B.

Erik Neilson
Waterville Maine, U.S.A. 

Andrew O'Hanley
Quispamsis, N.B.

Gord Osmond
Cape Breton, N.S.

Brandon Paterson
Steeves Settlement, N.B.

Roland Pentz
Wabush, NL

Gordie Richard
Moncton, N.B.

Brett Silliker
Lyttleton, N.B. 

Larry Shortt
Lower Sackville, N.S.

Chris Sinclair
Charlottetown. P.E.I. 

Paul Smith
Pictou County, N.S.

Vincent Swazey
Boisetown, N.B. 

Gary Tanner
Bennington Vermont, U.S.A. 

Leigh Voutier
Sydney Mines, N.S. 

Paul Westbury
Blackville, N.B. 

Mark Willigar
Springhill, N.S. 

(59 people so far)

(picture by Paul P. Elson, Jeff Allen or Gary Tanner)