REPORT: Salmon Fishing on the Matapedia
The following is a long report (could have been longer) on my trip to Canada to fish for Atlantic salmon.
I arrived in the town of Matapedia, Quebec just before 11am on Sunday, July 25th. I was scheduled to fish the Matapedia River on Monday and Tuesday. If the fishing was good, my plan was to fish on Wednesday as well, and then travel to New Brunswick to fish the Miramichi. I am happy to report that the fishing was better than good, it bordered on great.
I was not to meet my guide, a fellow named Peter Firth, to discuss fishing on Monday, until after dinner on Sunday evening, so I had plenty of time to kill. I had read about a salmon fly called the “John Olin” (sp?), I think on this board, which was reported to be successful in Quebec, so I spent part of the afternoon tying a couple. When I met with Peter that evening, he told me that the “hot” flies had been the “John Olin” and the Green Machine in size 6 doubles. I was prepared.
Fishing is done from 26-foot plus, square-backed canoes. You anchor in the pool and cast quartering down river until the water is covered at your casting limit. You then “drop down” to start the process again. When you hook a fish, the guide takes the canoe to shore, and you play the fish from there.
Peter suggested that I use a two-handed rod. I opted for my CND 13-foot 8/9 Custom, but used it for overhead, rather than spey, casting. It worked like a charm with a 7/8/9 WC with only the floating sections attached. He also suggested 15 lb. tippet, but reluctantly agreed to 10 lb. flourocarbon tippet, since that was what I wanted to use.
Quebec has very good public water, but, in addition, there is a lottery for the exclusive right to fish certain pools. While I don’t really understand how the lottery works, Peter’s wife had won the lottery for Monday on “Haley” Pool – the pool where I hooked my first Matapedia salmon in 1987. I was able to fish that pool as her guest. Even so, on Monday we started fishing at “Duncan” a public pool, just downriver from Haley.
I asked Peter to tie on my fly – I don’t trust myself – but when he saw the 10 lb. fluorocarbon tippet, he said it was “too thin”. I told him I wanted to use it anyway, so he tied on a John Olin and I was off to the races. Three casts and a good-sized salmon took the fly. Being out-of-practice, I struck too hard and the leader snapped. I didn’t use that tippet material again. Peter went into his bag and tied on some Maxima -- my guess is 15 lb. Maxima.
A few minutes later, another salmon rose to the fly and I stuck too soon. About half an hour after that, a third salmon took my fly and I waited very patiently, but by time I got around to raising my rod that fish had spit out the fly. At this point I thought Peter was going to hit me upside the head with the paddle.
We moved up to Haley and I finally got it right. I hooked a beautiful grilse that made seven jumps before it was landed and released. The fish was shaped like a football and weighed a good 6 pounds. After that, I landed an 8-pound salmon. The grilse took the John Olin and the salmon took a Green machine. We quit for lunch.
We started the evening fishing at about 5pm. I landed one more grilse and the day was over. We had no less than nine fish come to the fly, three of which were landed and three of which I should have at least hooked. It was a fine day.
Without going into the details, because we didn’t have a private pool to fish and the weather was sunny and warm, Peter decided we should start fishing early on Tuesday. I met him at 5am, caught a grilse within the first half hour and then intentionally executed a long-line release on another so that I wouldn’t make my daily limit and have to leave the river too early. (Figuring the C&R limit in Quebec is also something I don't have a handle on.)
We went in for breakfast at about 7:30am, and fished again from 8:30am until 11am. One more grilse released 10 yards from the canoe.
That evening I switched to my 11-foot 7-weight Winston Boron IIx. I used a 7-weight salmon/steelhead taper SA line with it. What a wonderful rod to cast! Effortless.
I landed another small salmon and a grilse. When I caught the grilse, we had been casting to a salmon in Duncan Pool that simply wouldn’t take. The grilse finished me for the day.
It was getting dark anyway, and as we were moving to shore, another canoe entered the pool to the left of where we had been fishing. It was in casting range of the salmon, but from a different angle. Peter told the fellow in the other canoe, whose name was Eugene, where the salmon was lying and suggested he put a fly to it. Three casts and the salmon took. Ten minutes later Eugene had a 13.25 lb. salmon in his canoe.
On Wednesday morning, I landed a grilse and executed a long-line release of another before breakfast. I didn’t hook anything else that morning, but did have a few rises.
On Wednesday evening, fishing was slow. Peter had been out during the afternoon spotting fish, but I just couldn’t get anything to take. Towards nightfall, we fished a pool under a bridge where Peter had seen a number of salmon and grilse, but again nothing. As we were leaving, Eugene appeared and started to fish the pool behind us.
We finished the night at Duncan Pool, did nothing, and were gathering my gear from the canoe when Eugene pulled up to the shore. He had a beautiful 15 lb. hen salmon taken from the pool we had left. He caught it on the same fly he caught the one the night before. He claims it is the best low-light fly going. He had given one to Peter, but I – like a dummy – didn’t look at it or get the pattern.
If my math is correct, the scorecard for the Matapedia was, counting long-line releases, 10 fish in three days. They were all bright, very strong fighters, but I couldn’t hook a salmon of any size. Failing to catch a fish my last evening was disappointing, but far from ruined my trip. I analogize it to taking a bogey on the 18th hole, but still shooting the round at par.
Now for my guide. The first time I fished the Matapedia was in 1987, out of the Tobique Salmon Club. Even though Peter was only in his 20’s then, he was already an excellent guide. Each time I have fished the Matapedia since, I have tried to hook up with him. It is my opinion, shared by every person that I have spoken to on the river, he is one of the best, if not the best, guide on the Matapedia. He not only knows every inch of the water, he works hard. He goes out when the sun is right at midday to spot fish for evening fishing. He is not averse to getting up early to make sure you have a good spot on a good pool. He’s a fine caster and, if there are any, he can spot faults that need to be corrected in your stroke. He’s not shy about telling you whether you are doing something wrong, but is always polite. Best of all, he is patient. There are none better.
I left the Matapedia on Thursday morning and made the 3-hour drive to the Miramichi at Doaktown, New Brunswick. I met with two guides that I have known there since 1984 to see whether I could find a spot on one of two private pools that I thought would have fish. As things turned out, there was “no room at the inn”. That morning, however, six fish had been taken from one pool and two from another. Even though fishing was good, I decided not to stay and fish public water because I didn’t know of any that was fed by coldwater brooks or springs.
So I left and went to Maine. Fished for stripers once in Casco Bay. Nothing. Should have gone to the Kennebec.
Last edited by Smolt; 08-03-2004 at 04:01 PM.