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
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 sense...you 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
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 brookie..no 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!