Salmon fishing & fly tying on the Miramichi...

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Larry's Gulch

Larry's Gulch trip August 15th, 16th, 17th/2015

It was just another morning at the office when the phone rang about 2 weeks ago .. I could tell I was on speaker and there were a couple of my good friends on the other end ... "Ya got any money?" the voice said, to which I replied "why, where are we going?". Even now, sitting at home looking through the 400+ pictures Sharleen and I took, I still can't believe the answer Debbie and Paul gave: "Larry's Gulch!". I had an opportunity last year (which I didn't take) to fish some clear water on the Restigouche so there was no possible way I was turning this one down, warm weather, low water or not. This trip would be my first to the mighty and gin clear Restigouche, and I know it will not be the last. In the Miramichi system, we fish salmon most times on faith alone as we're unable to see into the dark bottomed, tannin stained waters -- unlike the Restigouche where you know IF there are fish in the pool, WHERE they are located, and most times how MANY and how BIG they are... On the first day I suffered a bit of eye strain by trying to spot fish from the front of our 26' canoe while going up river at full speed - can you blame me?

We managed to put together a wonderful group of folks including my wife, Sharleen, who took some absolutely beautiful pictures (many of which are below), My Mom & Dad (Cathy & Joe), Paul & Stephanie, Debbie & Dale and last but certainly not least, Kathy and Fred - the man who can single hand, overhead cast an 8wt, twelve and a half foot spey rod all day long - no joke!

We arrived on Saturday afternoon (August 15th) after a pit stop in Quebec because apparently they have cheap beer there - not that I would EVER purchase out-of-province bud light at 48 cans for $54 - how would the poor, destitute province of NB survive if I did such a thing? But I digress... back to the story, but not before a cold bud light =P Muhaha!

I mentioned it was warm, right? I can't remember exactly when I took this picture but it wasn't the warmest part of the day and it only got hotter as the trip went on, all the while the river was dropping. In fact, the motors on the guide's canoes were occasionally touching the bar above Soldier's pool as we "puckered" over it on our way to Flying Eddy and Fence pools.

Once we got settled I had to go dip my toes in the river which seemed surprisingly cool considering the temps.

The view down river from the dock:

The view up river:

After meeting the wonderful staff and camp manager, Arnold,  we were treated to a delicious meal, which meant we'd soon be meeting our guides and hit the river for our first outing. Oh baby, was I EVER in my happy place :)

The walk down to the dock where this silly grin of mine is 100% mandatory!

Our guide was Jean-Paul Larouche who is a quiet man, full of local knowledge which he was always willing to share when asked. He knows the river like the back of his hand and both Sharleen and I enjoyed his company very much to the point it was tough saying good-bye to him on our last day. He put me on fish and recommended a couple flies (Crevette & the Yellow bug - both dry flies) which proved effective in hooking 2 of the 3 fish I tangled with. Only 2 made it into the log book as I broke the third off at the net. Fight 'em fast like you're not scared to lose 'em, is my motto!

Jean-Paul Larouche or "JP" for short:

Working on my eye strain:

My lovely wife Sharleen: (XOXO)

Howdy strangers! (Maw & Paw)

Paul & Steph @ Flying Eddy:

Debbie & Dale:

Wet flies proved not to be on the menu during this trip as not a single fish, if I recall correctly, was hooked on one... this was an "all dry" trip - 'cept for the booze, that is ;-)

Tying on a "Blue Angel"

(Sorry for the 'man spread' - thank goodness the rod was blocking my er, nevermind)

The view down river from our anchor point:

The view of my first tight line -- a Carter's bug did the job on this little grilse, although when he took the fly he did so with such great enthusiasm he missed it with his mouth and caught it with his tail! I've fought ten pounders with greater ease than this rascally little devil!

We landed and released him without a picture - figured the poor guy had already been through enough for one day.

The sequence of events might be a little off on my re-telling of our Larry's Gulch adventure - it was an awesome trip but a very busy one, so that's my excuse for any errors.

Mom & Dad's guide was a gentleman named Paul, who like JP, was an expert on every rock, riffle and lie and he put Dad over fish the entire trip.

Through Paul's expertise, experience and encouragement, Dad got his fish which really put a cherry on top of an excellent trip. It was quite a challenge to raise a fish, let alone hook one as the conditions were very hot in low water. Whoever said salmon were fish of a thousand casts has only ever fished in perfect conditions, it's more like ten thousand casts and I know because I counted! Way to stick with it, Dad.

A bomber in mid flight:
(If memory serves, Dad actually hooked up on a rat-faced Macdougall)

Dad's grilse in the net!

Grilse in hand :)

Like I said, chances are the order is a bit messed up but the next day was our full day on the river. I'm not sure where everyone ended up fishing in the morning but Sharleen and I ended up at Upper Fence and Paul & Steph were at Fence. A few pictures from the journey up river:

Dad with Camp Manager, Arnold on the dock. Arnold is a heck of a great guy!

Paul, Steph, Fred & Kathy getting ready to head up river:

A few pictures of the morning fog taken by Mom:

A few of Sharleen's morning pics - did I mention how awesome this place is?

Sharleen on the trip up river (XOX):

Upper Fence:

Paul & Steph down at Fence:

We put in most of the morning without seeing much action, in fact we saw maybe 4 fish show the entire time. It was almost time to head out when JP said, "here, try my rod with the killer crevette". Exactly four casts later WHAMMO! Grilse on!

Sharleen did an awesome job catching the action on film and here's the entire sequence:

What a great way to end our morning outing!

Back to the lodge for lunch, a little light soda drinking and, of course, a little light fly tying -  I just HAD to tie a few at Larry's. If anyone going to the Gulch happens to read this, look up in this room for a little 'easter egg' I left - I hope it brings someone a tight line or 2 :)

After fly tying, some folks went for a nap but I slid down to the river with my 9wt. spey to stretch the line out for a while. I figure there are at least 17 trillion parr in front of the lodge as my fly felt like someone was trying to communicate with me through morse code on every single swing - it was nuts! Once we got the afternoon in and another wonderful supper it was time for the evening fish. I was very excited as we were finally getting to fish Soldier's pool! What someone failed to tell me was that on weekends, Soldier's becomes a very popular gathering spot for locals for swimming and boating. I think we had about a half hour of undisturbed fishing, the rest of the time it was like grand central station and there was no way we were going to have any luck. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

You can almost see JP & Sharleen's level of annoyance with our boater/swimmer "friends"..

We finished up a scenic and uneventful evening with thoughts of finishing up our trip the next morning with a fish at the lower part of Flying Eddy.

Our last morning at Larry's:

We settled in and got down to business. We could clearly see several different groups of fish so it was just a matter of annoying the hell out of them long enough to see if we could move one or 2 with dry flies. We did several drops and the further down the pool, the more active the fish seemed to be - things were looking up.

Trout attack:
He just had to have that Carter's bug - a.k.a. "trout buster 5000"

Some time later I heard a splash but could see no surface disturbance from a fish... Then a minute or 2 later Sharleen & JP pointed to a moose crossing the river below us - pretty cool :)

It was getting on and I had moved a small salmon and rolled a grilse on a white wulff and then a Carter's bug. JP had another fly suggestion:

The Yellow bug (a dry fly):

Given the fact his previous suggestion netted me a grilse I was only too eager to oblige JP. The group of fish I was harassing were more or less lined up with the outboard motor directly across from me.

The drift:

It wasn't long before I saw some movement and finally FISH ON!

And that's when the line went KER-SNAP! Somewhere in the Restigouche river swims a nice grilse with a yellow bug in the corner of his mouth. With any luck he'll be able to rub it off on a rock or it'll just fall out as that is definitely one of the BIG bonuses of barbless hooks.


And yet another great job on the camera by my lovely wife, Sharleen, who said she had a wonderful time and would definitely "do this again". She got to see what all the fuss was about and why people are so fanatical and obsessed with this incredible species. I love you babe and I'm so happy you came to Larry's with me!

If any of you reading this ever have a chance to go to Larry's do NOT pass it up. No matter the water, weather or fishing conditions this is an amazing place which MUST remain property of the Province of New Brunswick. This was my opinion of Larry's before I went on this trip and now that I've been there my opinion has only been reinforced. If Larry's Gulch ever became property of private interests, average New Brunswickers like myself will NEVER have a chance to experience one of the great wonders of our beautiful province. Larry's Gulch is staffed by an amazing group of people who sincerely care about their guests and bend over backwards to accommodate. Linda and the kitchen staff hit you with one amazing meal after another while Arnold works behind the scenes (and out in front) to ensure all goes smoothly for his guests. The guides are all very professional, personable, knowledgeable and always do their best for their sports AND their quarry.

This will not be my last trip to Larry's!