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7-12-03 - The International Bridge crossing St. Mary's Rapids connects Ontario & Michigan. You actually need a Michigan License to fish the Michigan side of St. Mary's Rapids, and Ontario for the northern side! A flag on the bridge denotes the division.
Look at that Crystal Clear Water!
Rich and Morgan fish one of the many deeper pools in the Rapids.
St. Mary's Guide John Giuliani with a client (I'm working on getting this guy's name) and one of the two Atlantics they brought to net Saturday morning.
Another shot of that stunning Atlantic Salmon and a very satisfied angler!
The second falls on the Goulais River. FAT on the left, Jack on the right. Those falls are a LOT bigger than they look from this vantage point.
Another shot, looking downstream.
My monster Goulais Rainbow (up here known as a Speckle). Rich got the monster Goulais Brookie (aka. a Speck...what the heck?!) - the rod? It's a 6' 3" 3 wt. setup from Bass Pro. Can you say light?!
Hiking the falls was as much fun as fishing!
You don't see me that often, so here I am, at the base of the 2nd falls.
The first falls on the Goulais River prove a formidable barrier for any adranamous salmonid trying to make it's way upstream.
Believe it or not, the fish were hitting on the surface just a couple feet in front of the falls by the log at the top of the picture!

7-12-03 - A day in God's back yard!

Waters Fished: St. Mary's Rapids, Goulais River
Fish Caught: 1
Outing Date: 7-12-03
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: upper 70's
Water Temp: N/A
Water Level: Locals say it's LOW!
Water Color: Crystal on both rivers!
Fish Species: Atlantic Salmon, Chinook Salmon, Steelhead, Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout
Pattern Fished: As usual, the smorgasbord
Pattern Color: Mostly Natural Shades
Fishing Quality: Um, they tell me it was OK.

Let me tell you as if you didn't already know, Canada is breathtaking. We got up as early as we could, which meant we got to the river about 6:30 am, as the local named Vic would put it, "You're LATE".

Well, OK, maybe we were late, but then again who cares, it was GORGEOUS. What a change from the day before. Right away I figured some things out, like where the pools were. You can easily spot them when it's sunny; the riffles reflect more light making the pools look relatively glassy.

Rich directed me to one of the better pools, and I attempted my first river crossing. It was obvious that it could be done, as we saw anglers all over the river on all sides. One of the first things I noticed was the preponderance of spey rods...I'd say conservatively 75% of the anglers out there were using them. Judge for yourself; the water is relatively "huge" and the spey rod just makes total cover a LOT more water. While the fish concentrate in the pools, they still can be caught in the riffles as well!

Suffice it to say I made it about 1/2 way across..and it's slow going. At this point I must have miscalculated something...or perhaps it's just my "average" stature, but I got in to about my waist and was suddenly afloat! I took a quick hop about 10 feet downstream until I got my wading staff in the rocks, bringing me to a stop and allowing me to regain my footing. Um, that's it for me...I'm staying on the north side of the river. I later found out from a local that you need a Michigan license on the south side anyways...I didn't have that!

So this is going to be my time to ramble about the St. Mary's Rapids; I'll pretty much combine my experiences from Saturday and Sunday here. First, one of the things I noticed right away was the total LACK of attitude amongst anglers on the river. Everyone was polite, everyone was happy to talk.

A couple people I met really stood out in my mind. First was Chad Bett's of Bett's Guide Service; he guides the Muskegon in Michigan. The thing that I can still hear in my head right now was when he said, "You realize you're on the river with some of the best anglers in the world...". I think this was his fourth year on the St. Mary's. Rich also made a similar comment on Saturday; "You know, this is where all the GUIDES come to for vacation". Ok, that tells me something else; the Atlantics are NOT easy fish.

Another angler who we ran into every day was Vic; he retired a few years back and now fishes the St. Mary's every DAY! Talk about dedication. A spawn fisher, most days he catches something. Everything from a Coho back on Wed. to Lakers in the spring, not to mention the Atlantics, Pinks, Browns, Rainbows, and Chinooks. We talked fishing, politics, whatever was on our minds during our brief chat on Sunday. He stands out as truly a generous angler, a St. Mary's treasure in my mind. I hope to run into him again this fall!

And then there's John Giuliani of Northern Fishing Adventures. Rich knew he'd be out; John and I shared a few smokes and I watched him guide his clients. I probably picked up more about the Atlantics from watching him for a half hour than I could have learned on my own in years....and that's just from watching him! I noticed that everyone mentions what a nice guy he is and what a great guide he is; well, from the bit I know from meeting him I'd have to say those are fair accounts!

I didn't ask John for any tips (afterall, he's in the guide business and out with clients...that'd be rude to say the least). John and his clients went 2/10 on Saturday; he asked if I'd mind shooting a couple pictures of them and a fish. Are you kidding?! This was the first real life Atlantic Salmon I'd get to see! Look at the pictures...they *almost* do the fish justice. One thing I really noticed was their relatively LACK of sharp teeth compared to the other salmon I've been around. The other thing I picked up on was that these guys come in feeding on baitfish but then switch to caddis & hexes after a while. A 10-20 lb salmon, feeding on CADDIS!!!

So most of the morning folks were fishing sighted fish when they found them, both Atlantics and Chinooks! I also saw what I am SURE was a Steelhead, taken by a speycaster. I'd say the highlight of my day was watching one of John's clients hook up with an Atlantic; it bolted to the surface and in my conservative estimate it reached EYE level which would roughly be 7-8 feet of air! One jump was all it took for that Atlantic to get free!

After a long morning of fishing and no action on our lines, we decided we'd hunt Canadian Brookies for fun in the afternoon. John G. suggested the Little Garden as being one good try, and several other people we ran into suggested the Goulais Another drive into the middle of nowhere and we found an excellent spot at the second falls!

First things first, I want to tell you that felt-soled wading boots didn't really cut it...those rocks were extremely slippery. Secondly, the water looked deceivingly shallow. Finally, bug repellent was an absolute must; not only were there mosquitos but also huge biting flies.

With that said, the four of us worked our way up from the access to the falls. I took a temperature but for some stupid reason didn't RECORD it, so I couldn't tell you what it was. There was a slight stain to the water, but not as much as the Little Garden and it's tribs.

I was mid-river when Rich hooked up with his first fish, a small brookie. I ran up to him trying to get his attention to hold onto the fish, but he let it go before I got a picture. FAT says it was "more yellow, kinda pale". OK, so it's not a gorgeous Paradise Springs biggie. We saw enough pictures of 7-9lb brookies in the shop to know that the big ones have LOTS of color.

So I must admit I kinda crowded FAT in 'cause we all knew that the fish would be holding just below the falls; I managed my first fish shortly thereafter...a tiny rainbow that jumped TWICE...each time reaching an estimated height of 3 FEET! Wow...if a little Goulais rainbow fights like that, imagine what a 14" would do! FYI I think both of our fish came on caddis nymph patterns. Also, although I'm not sure I believe Rich although he's probably right, up north they call the Rainbows 'Speckles' and the Brook Trout 'Specks'. Personally I think those two names are a bit too close and would probably get confused, but then again who knows!

OK, so after more fishing and some photo-ops we decided to try the first falls...we had been informed that it was even better fishing. Well the only thing better than little trout would be larger trout..what the heck! We got back in there a ways to get to spot #2, and then we started hiking....and hiking...and hiking...Eventually we realized that by the time we'd get below the falls we'd have to turn around and hike back in the dark, so we scratched that.

Instead we fished just above the falls. I did watch one other angler hook up with something big, although Morgan asked him what he had and he swore up and down he didn't have ANYTHING on his line. I saw it with my own two eyes, so I suspect this guy was hiding something with good reason.

Towards evening I saw my first rise, and knew I had to switch up. I didn't see anything hatching, so I took a guess and tied on a dark tan CDC Elk Hair Caddis that kinda looked like what we had seen earlier in the day. Wham, first cast, first hit and a miss. OK OK. Cast #2, another miss.

Rich came down and totally snuck in underneath me..but he was going to prove a point ;) He had seen what was hatching while I was busy fishing and moved in with a smaller, lighter caddis pattern. I think Rich went through a good dozen strikes with at least 2 fish on, but nothing ever made it back to us. "Perhaps those fish are too small to take the fly" Rich muttered!

I wasn't quite ready to give up, so we let the fish rest and I started casting again! 7 casts, 7 strikes, and 7 missed hookups later I was pretty perturbed! I have to admit it was funny to have Rich, Jack and Morgan standing on the rocks behind me going, "Strike One! Strike Two!" I told John G. about this on Sunday, he felt they were probably more brookies, not rainbows. OK, so I'm SOOOOO FRIGGIN CLOSE to a Canadian Brookie but I fail to follow through. I'll just have to do them in Sept. or something!


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