Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods & Waters: A most memorable fishing trip, Part 1

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Readers may recall from last fall's Canadian fishing articles of local fishermen, there were still two more anglers fly fishing up in Canada — Rex Channel and his wife Trish Watson. Rex is a local fly fishing guide who operates under the name of Allure Outfitters. I had promised to write about the trip when they returned. I had no idea at the time that they wouldn't return until mid-October, after a 5 1/2-month trip. So, let's take a break from this fall's hunting articles and think fish for a while.

Rex and Trish packed up their 25-foot 2015 Coachman Freelander and began a fishing journey the likes of which most of us can only dream.

On May 9 they set out for West Falmouth to fly fish the Cape Cod Canal for schoolies (small striped bass). After three days, they headed for New Hampshire and Maine to visit friends, do some hiking and check out the beaches and lighthouses. They stayed at the Desert Dunes of Maine Campground in Freeport (yes, there are desert dunes up there) and they fished the Saco River near Fryeburg. While there was surface activity, they did not land anything.

They fished several stretches of the Crooked River in Bethel, Maine while visiting friends but the river was high and non-productive. They went on to visit and fish with Brenda Sears (former coordinator/leader of Casting for Recovery in Massachusetts and licensed Maine guide) and her son Justin in Rangeley, Maine, angling in such famed rivers as the Magallaway and Rangeley, happily netting many nice brook trout and landlocked salmon in the latter on size 10-12 mayfly and stimulator patterns, as well as larger streamers for the next six days.

Moving on to Greenville, Maine in the Moosehead Lake region, they fished the Roach River (no luck) and the Kennebec River, with Rex catching a nice three-pound brookie on a size 2 cone-head streamer. They spent several days camping and fishing on Perch Pond in the Deboullie Wilderness Area — only accessible by 25 miles of dirt roads deep in the north Maine woods. While the fishing was not spectacular — some small brook trout — the wilderness itself was. The final Maine waters they fished were the Fish River and the Wallagrass Stream near Fort Kent, again landing brookies and landlocked salmon on streamers. They said, in general, the rivers in Maine were difficult to fish this time of year (May) as the waters were high with late spring run-off, but they were still able to land enough fish to make them happy and eager for more.

They drove from Fort Kent and arrived at the Sugarloaf Provincial Parc in Atholville, New Brunswick on June 8. There, they fished the St. Lawrence River at Tide Head — catching small salmon — climbed Sugarloaf Mountain and rode mountain bikes throughout the park. They traveled the Gasp Peninsula in Quebec Province and looked into fishing the Cascapedia River for Atlantic salmon, but while the season was open, the salmon had not started up the rivers yet. They were told that the returning Atlantic salmon count was down by two thirds in recent years in Quebec and New Brunswick. Instead they visited the Cascapedia River Museum and went on a hike in the Chic-Chocs (a mountain range in the central region of the Gasp Peninsula).

While in Quebec Province, they fished the Pesciculture - Peche de la troute - a trout farm in St. Felicite. For the next several days (June 14 through June 19) they camped, visited lighthouses and museums and ferried across the St. Lawrence River on their way to Labrador. On June 21 they arrived in Labrador City, Labrador, which has a population around 10,000 people. The people there were so incredibly friendly and helpful that they decided to stay three three days, where they fished for brookies in Tanya Lake and Dumbell Lake, both within the town boundaries.

There is only one road of 530 kilometers (317 miles) between Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay and one population center — Churchill Falls. It is so remote that they signed out a satellite phone in Labrador City to carry in case of emergency, turning it in (without incident) when arriving in Happy Valley.

When they found a boat ramp/camp on the Ossokmanuan (Ossok) Reservoir along the way to Church Falls, they stopped to camp and fish, resulting in catching the pictured large landlock salmon (called Ouaniniche) using 4x, sized 12 mayfly imitations (parachute gray flies). They hiked to Churchill Falls in Labrador (the falls are 245 feet high, located on the Churchill River) and toured the hydro-power plant of the same name, the third largest in the world and 1,000-plus feet underground. They took another opportunity to camp and fish at a pull-off on the Cache River, where they caught more brook trout on dries before arriving at Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay was one of their primary destination points as they had scheduled a fly-in float plane fishing trip to Igloo Lake Lodge for the first week of July (if that place sounds familiar, that is where local attorney Michael Shepard and fellow anglers fished last summer. Remember that big brook trout that Mike was holding in a picture featured in this column on Oct. 8?) Rex and Trish spent a week there catching huge brook trout and northern pike. Fifteen minutes into the trip, they were into 8 1/2-pound brookies. Rex caught the pictured one just shy of 10 pounds later in the week. In the lake, they were using large sculpin patterns while trolling, while in the rivers they were catching the brookies on stimulators and smallish gray ghost flies.

They drove across Quebec taking a more northerly route along the Saguenay Fjord and avoiding the large eastern Canadian cities. They fished Lac Bujold, Lac du Milieu and the Chigoubiche River in Quebec along the way to Ontario. Only Lac Bujold offered up any fish — brook trout.

On July 16, they arrived at the Lost Lake Wilderness Campground in Gowganda, Ontario, which provides fishing for large northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass and brookies on eight lakes, including Lost Lake, Hill's Lake and Aurora Lake. They stayed there three days and caught plenty of fish on both dry and wet flies. One of the larger pike was caught using home-made cork popper on a 3-wt rod. Although they rarely take the fish, they had a wonderful shore lunch of walleye and pike that they caught the day before.

While in Gowganda, they visited Hill's Lake Fish Hatchery. Budd Lake near Wawa, Ontario was the last opportunity they took to fish heading into the vast plains. They camped at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, taking in the impressive waterfalls and before entering Winnipeg, they stayed at the Falcon Lake Provincial Park.

Westward they traveled and on July 22, they reached Morris, Manitoba where they attended the Manitoba Stampede and Rodeo. In Saskatchewan they camped at the Moose Jaw River Park on July 23, where they rode bikes instead of fishing as the water was low, slow and murky.

While they had planned on going to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, the wildfire threat in that region made them change their route. On July 24 they arrived in Crowsnest, Alberta and stayed at the Lundbreck Falls Provincial Park, camping right on the river. There they fished the Crowsnest River for rainbows, having great luck — especially in the evenings where mayfly hatches were happening. (If that name sounds familiar, that is where Paul Knauth, Allen Gray and I had tremendous rainbow trout fishing this past August, and was highlighted in this column on Oct. 1).

On July 27, they arrived in Fernie, British Columbia and stayed at Snowy Peaks RV Park for five days. Again, fishing mostly in the evening, they caught a lot of healthy (2-plus pound) west-slope cutthroat trout on the Elk River. This was all dry fly fishing, with the go-to fly being a size 14 yellow sally. Fishing in this area of British Columbia was more expensive, since there is a fee of $20 per rod, per day added to the cost of a fishing license for most of the big rivers, including the Elk, but the results were well worth it.

Their last stop in Canada was the Goat River outside of Kitchner, British Columbia. They wilderness camped on the river three miles up a multi-use dirt road (logging and recreation) and fished the Goat River, catching 12-inch cutthroat and rainbow trout on yellow sallies and small stimulators.

On Aug. 2, they crossed the US/Canadian border at Porthill, Idaho and stopped in Spokane, Wash. Did they head for home? Heck no, the fishing trip was only half over. We'll pick up the rest of the journey, hopefully in next week's column.

Annual Berkshire Knapsacker New Year's Day Hike and Gathering

The event will take place at the First Congregational Church Hall, 25 Park Place in Lee. Two hikes are scheduled (or snowshoe as conditions warrant). The longer hike will be on the Appalachian Trail, starting at the Route 20 parking area, led by Harold Moon. They will hike to the Goose Pond cabin and back, about four miles. They will leave the Church at 10 a.m. and return around 12:30 p.m.

The shorter hike will be around Basin Pond in Lee, starting at the Becket Road parking lot, hiking through hemlock groves and over a stream to the site of the 1960 dam ruins and back, about 3 miles. They will leave the Church Hall at 10:15 and return around 12:30.

A potluck lunch begins around 1 (bring your own place setting, serving utensils, and an appetizer, dessert, salad, or entree to share) followed by a short business meeting.

At 2, Dr. Richard Greene, an experienced and accomplished wildlife tracker, will present a program entitled "An Up-Close Look at Wildlife." He will discuss the value of wildlife cameras in conservation and science and will share his photos and videos capturing our local wildlife in their natural habitats. Dr. Greene's presentation is free and open to the public.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Gene Chague can be reached at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or 413-637-1818.

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