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9-14-05 - On the way to the Garden River.

These narrow, rutted, rocky and otherwise rough roads are best traveled in a 4X4 with excellent ground clearance!

As we left it a year ago, our mess-hall and fire ring!

9-14-05 - Fat Fest, Day 1

Waters Fished: Garden River
Fish Caught: 9
Outing Date: 9-14-05
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: lows around 40, highs around 70
Water Temp: 67F
Water Level: low
Water Color: clear
Fish Species: Pink Salmon, King Salmon
Pattern Fished: Glo Bugs
Pattern Color: Hot orange
Fishing Quality: Fair

It's that time of year again - our annual trip to Sault St. Marie, Ontario, to fish the Garden River. Some of our buddies couldn't make it this year, while other new individuals joined our group for the trek north!

Riding with Gerry and John this year, we got up there around 2:30 AM. They had reserved a hotel to get some sleep & a shower - it was great to get a couple hours of sleep even if on the floor, not to mention a SHOWER. Around 5:30 AM we were on our way to cross the border and meet up with everyone at the Tradin' Post. To my surprise, entering Canada was quick and painless - next year I believe we'll need to have our passports!

After waiting what seemed like an hour, we were finally squared away with our licenses and land use permits. The 2 hour drive to the Garden followed. Speculation flew around in the car...would there be fish...would we be lucky enough to camp where we did last time...are we early...are we late?

We pulled up to find only ONE other campsite set up; last year's "FAT" site laid empty and inviting. There, on the hill above the river, sat the fire ring that the Heathens had constructed in 2004. EXCELLENT.

As always, everyone ran for the river to see what we were in for. It's a magical moment - you walk up and either see nothing or everything you were hoping for. This year? NOTHING! Granted, that never stopped us before, and it didn't stop us this year. We all quickly got to the work of setting up tents, carports, the kitchen, cots etc. Before you knew it, what was formerly empty ground was now FATMAN's Tent City.

The moment our accommodations were set up, I ran downstream to check another spot...that's when I saw it...3 pinks at the head of a riffle. So there ARE fish this year! EXCELLENT!

A new addition is made this year, the green Kitchen Tent!

Fatman's Tent City!

Skinnymitch and Fatmat gear up!

Most other folks had begun the race to get suited up and on the water - I hurried myself but of course, my run downstream cost me precious time. Hoping to be the first one on the stream, I arrived back at my sighted pinks to find FATMAT wailing away on 'em! "THOSE ARE MY FISH MATT!!!!" I shouted downstream ;)

Mitch already has a bend in his rod!

Don't lose the first fish of the trip!

There it is, Mitch has broken the group skunk with a HEFTY buck Pink Salmon! It's ON!

Meanwhile Matt's brother Mitch was downstream and within moments, his rod arched over and throbbed, a surefire sign that he's tied into a fish! I raced downstream in the ankle deep water, my camera firing away. By the time I got to Skinnymitch, he landed the first Pink Salmon of the 2005 Fat Fest!

Things looked pretty skinny down where Matt & Mitch were fishin, so I turned to head upstream. Along the way one of our fellow campsite visitors suggested I try upstream - exactly where I was headed.

YEE HA, there ARE fish around...at least half a dozen pinks sat at the tailout of a bathtub sized depression. I started casting and drifting. Every few drifts a male would tear off and follow my flies on their diagonal swing downstream. It's only a matter of time.

Splash...what was that? My rod has suddenly gotten a bit tip heavy. I look down and there on the pebbled bottom of the river is my reel's spool. Huh. I put it back and start casting again.

FISH ON! SPLASH! What the hell?! My spool is again in the water. I clamp down on the line, pick up the spool, put it on again and start taking up slack. The spool starts sliding out again! CRAP! Somehow, despite this equipment malfunction I actually manage to land my first pink of the trip, a fat hen. After some examination of my gear, it turns out that the spring which keeps the "spool lock" in place has either worn out or simply disappeared. Great.

Well, I figure that if I keep the rod tilted while drifting, the spool will stay on. I tie into my 2nd fish in short order and again lose the spool while fighting it. Thankfully, #2 comes to shore without any further incidents. As a good sized pink salmon swims back to the far side, I again examine my gear.

A big hen breaks my skunk!

There's the buck! Gotta love the pinks!

Fat hooks up!

Dutton battles a pink salmon.

It's so easy even Dutton can do it!

I'm not about to give up my spot, so I do the only thing I can do - cast while holding the spool on the reel with my right hand. Thankfully I get some breaks when Rich and Dutton hook up, but my next two pinks simply wear me out. This ISN'T going to work long term - my arm and hand is simply exhausted.

Yeah, another male pink!

Whoo hoo - ANOTHER Buck! Look at the size compared to last year!
(Copyright 2005 ??? - maybe John or Gerry?)

Jim Coursey works the deep pool outside our kitchen window!

Frustrated, I head up for lunch and a gear change - I've brought backup! Rich thinks he might have a reel that will work, but upon further examination a 4wt. reel won't cut it. Time to break out Ron Caimi's 8wt. Bamboo Salmon Rod!

I get back on the water to find Jim Coursey still working the pool outside our mess hall. After having him give the cane some casts, I'm them summoned back upstream as Gerry's rod doubles over.

Jim gives the Trout Camp Bamboo a go.

Yeah Gerry, right on!

It's a sunny afternoon on the Garden.

Time to bring in another feisty fish!

Sweet! Gerry with a male Pink Salmon.

After Gerry lands a nice buck, I figure it's time to give the cane a workout. Upstream I notice a few kings holding in a deep eddy...somehow they evade me and make their way upstream.

Back in the riffles, I pull it off. First one eager hen, then a second, which entices Gerry to ask for my camera to get some shots of me in action.

Yeah, another pink salmon, and the first pink salmon for this cane rod.

This is what it's all about!
(Copyright © 2005 Gerry Greene)

Another hen falls victim to the cane!
(Copyright © 2005 Gerry Greene)

The afternoon has turned out to be sunny, practically a scorcher. Heath, Ari and Sean have gone to Sault St. Marie on a beer run; a large portion of our remaining group has come up into the gravel run that seems to be holding the majority of the Pinks.

Mitch plies a deep eddy while Matt walks around aimlessly ;)

FATMAT gives the Trout Camp rod a go and says to Mitch, "YOU HAVE TO CAST THIS BEFORE WE LEAVE!"

Bruce hooks up in an explosion of water!

Mitch, Matt, Gerry and Jim are now all up here but it's BRUCE who hooks up next. Another feisty pink falls for a fly! As the afternoon turns into evening, the action is slow but every once in a while someone gets something. I KNOW I landed a total of NINE for the day but can't find all the pictures - I suspect there are some pics floating around in other cameras.

Bruce and his first Pink for the day!

One more look at Bruce's buck.

Ari signals from downstream that they have returned....with BEER!

A puff of smoke downstream signals the start of dinner! Ari beacons us with PBR from streamside. Yeah, this has been a challenging day - food sounds GREAT right about now!

Bruce prepares a fantastic all-meat dinner - PORK STEAKS!

David, the self appointed grillmiester, lays out dinner!

I share David's sentiments ;)


As the day winds down, the Garden is lit just perfectly!

David puts the finishing touches on the Pork Steaks.

Gerry & John eagerly await dinner.

FAT gives a log-splitting demo after the sun goes down!

Bruce has brought up 3 pork butts to make pork steak! It's a pork lover's paradise back at camp. Sean is making dinner for Heath and Ari - turns out they'll be having grass and dirt as a garnish in their pasta this evening! Pork is served up - I hear there was veggies too but who the heck cares, I've got a huge hunk of porkmeat and fat on my plate, completely slathered in BBQ sauce! I'm in "HOG HEAVEN"! Fat's logsplitting demonstration rounds out the evening; the air takes on a decidedly chilly feel and we all soak up the fire. It doesn't get any better than this.

  MP 

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