Ricky’s Big Plan

In mid-winter, 2013, I answered an “802” call on my cell.

“Hi, my name’s Ricky and I worship brook trout. Seriously, the biggest brook trout freak you’ll ever meet. I own a pub in Vermont and I even named it after this crazy fish. Sick, huh? I hear you have trophy brookies up your way. I’m hoping to get up to Labrador, you know, treat myself for my fortieth birthday. Not this summer, but next. Can’t afford it just yet, but I’m working on it. Bringing a buddy, too. Talk to me.”

Don’t exactly recall, but I’m sure I smiled.

“So, tell me true,” he blurted before I could say hello, “Do you REALLY have big brookies? I mean in numbers, like more than a couple dozen? Are they everywhere in the rivers or just in a few secret hog holes? You’d take me to the secret spots, wouldn’t you? I mean I’m even bringing another guy, that counts for something, doesn’t it? And does it take Lefty or John ‘friggin’ Gierach to catch the big bastards, or does a regular Joe like me stand a chance? No bullshit now, I want the truth!”

(Thoughts of Jack Nicholson in dress Marine uniform. I passed.)

Ricky talked fast and asked hard questions. His passion was at the wheel and Ricky was in tow. He rambled about his need for a week’s escape from the long work days at the pub and the endless drama of single-parenting his young son. Ricky’s story left no doubt that on the odd occasion when he does find time to fish, he ravishes the rivers with an uncommon fever.

Ricky also voiced a few insecurities about his decision to fish Labrador. Did he have the right gear? Enough experience? Stamina? One by one, we worked through the questions. I enjoyed the calls. Our chats brightened dreary winter days. As time passes, enthusiasm can wane and adventure become just another work day. This was a special event in Ricky’s life and I welcomed his need to be certain.

The 2013 season passed smoothly and in the fall, I published our annual season wrap-up newsletter to our followers. Less than a minute after I had hit the ‘send’ button, Ricky called.

“Any ten pounders?” First question.

“No tens. A couple of nines and few eights.”

“Eight friggin’ pounds!” he whispered. “Did you let ’em all go? You don’t kill fish, do you?”

“They’re all still in the river.”

“Good. They’ll be bigger next summer, right? I don’t even want an eight pounder. I’d crap a log if I landed a five pounder.”

“You’ll get your five,” I assured him.

Tension easing

Over the next eight months, we received regular checks from Ricky – $200 here, $300 and if he had a good month, $500.  Ricky was not only paying for his trip, he was treating his fishing buddy and partner, Justin, to a fantasy trip as well.  And with the payments came more expected phone calls. Ricky never lacked for questions – rod size, lines and leaders. Dinner menus? As a pub owner, Ricky knew his way around parings and insisted on bringing appropriate wines and beer for meals. And of course, the bugs? They always ask about the bugs.

On July 18th without the occasional delay, the big Otter float plane pulled up to the camp’s dock with seven weary travelers and Ricky, wound tight and eyes afire. He jumped down the plane’s steps and shook a few of the staffs’ hands, but his eyes surveyed a 360-degree arc of his new surroundings. Camp mother Frances led new guests to their quarters, guides trailing with luggage and gear, then we all gathered in the dining lodge for breakfast and orientation. Ricky couldn’t eat much and rocked back and forth in his chair during Kev’s safety briefing.

“We are fishing today, right?” he interrupted.

“Oh yes,” Kev smiled. “Just as soon as we get the details here.”

Friday is changeover day and after guests settle in their quarters, Kev gives a detailed overview of the camp’s systems, policies, schedules and safety rules. Then, as tradition has it, it’s my turn to pass on the fishing advice – current river conditions, angling tips and strategies – and hopefully instill in the new bunch our optimism and a reverence for this wilderness. Those of us who live here all summer know well this Friday routine and are familiar with Kev’s safety spiel and calm manner of delivery. I organized my thoughts knowing Kev would be finishing up any moment, surmising that briefer was better, at least for Ricky.

With each bit of “river wisdom” I shared, Ricky rocked further back in his chair, eyes raised to the rafters. He fidgeted as though he had a very full bladder.

“Can we go over these details at dinner tonight?” he blurted. “We’re losing daylight.”

Glossing over some of my usual points, I hurried to conclude with a little story I once heard.

After their first round at the old course in St. Andrews, four American golfers walked in the pro shop. “How was your day?” the old Scottish pro inquired. One fellow answered, “Well, we’d have enjoyed it more had we played better.”

“No lad,” the pro smiled, “You’d have played better had you enjoyed it more.”

Ricky’s First Brookie


Justin’s, Too

Ricky and Justin were soon on the water and through the week as fish were fooled and released, Ricky mellowed, expectations mostly fulfilled. Conversations toward the end of the week turned to discussions regarding the appropriate age for his son to return with his dad.

“Twelve, no, maybe thirteen?”

“Depends on his passion for fly fishing.”

“Oh, he’ll have plenty of that,” he said. “DNA, ya know.”

Another day in paradise

Outfitters and guides dream of folks like Ricky, intense anglers with high energy and higher expectations. They keep us “on our toes”, slap us, almost, with our obligation to our clients, too often blurred by immediate and pressing logistical matters. Much more that, they re-kindle our fly fishing passions and remind us of that time in our lives when all we could think about was the river, the quiet and the fish.

It was that obsession, after all, that lured us into this fickle business in the first place.








Posted in About Labrador, Trophy Brook Trout, Updates | 1 Comment


KeriAn returned to camp this past summer with a dual purpose – to spread her husband’s ashes in the last current he fished, and to catch a brook trout on his favorite fly – a deerhair mouse pattern that he had personally tied. Her heart was heavy, but equally determined to complete this circle in a manner she knew would sit right with her Dean.

KeriAn and her fishing bud, Molly

As the final week of our previous season began, KeriAn and her husband Dean arrived in camp with their fishing friend, Bruce. Dean was an avid fly angler who was in a raging battle with cancer. Yet somehow he had finagled an “OK” from his doctors to spend a week in Labrador, a wilderness he yearned to explore. The late August days had cooled and rain stood steady on the horizon. Dean was so weakened from recent treatments that he needed assistance just exiting the float plane. But his spirits were high and once in camp, his energy seemed to grow through the week with every new river he fished.

With the entire camp’s positive energy supporting him, Dean made it through a week of fishing, sharing the rivers with KeriAn and Bruce. His days on the river were short, but he caught  handsome, coveted brook trout. Soon after the couple returned to Pennsylvania and the waiting chemo sessions, Dean lost his battle with cancer.

The whole TRL family was thrilled when KeriAn called with her intention to visit us again this summer. We greeted her on the dock with smiles and tears. With her friend, Molly at her side, KeriAn got right to part one of her mission and spread Dean’s ashes on his favorite Labrador brook. Back in camp, she was very clear about her next objective – “Get me to some hungry brook trout”.

So, we did.

Well, we found a likely river. . .

and to her great surprise, KeriAn hooked up. . .

The first thirty or so minutes in the river was a challenge. KeriAn was as new to wading as she was to casting a flyrod. It was the first pool where it all came together for her – a shaky cast, a few twitches of the rod tip, then the attack.

and the old ghillie netted the beast. . .

That first brook trout took her well downstream, not quite into her backing, but pretty close. KeriAn got a might flustered and begged for instruction. “Am I doing it right?”, she asked repeatedly. She was, except for maybe holding the reel handle a little too tightly when the trout ran.

fish in hand, smile in head…

If you have forgotten the significance of that smile, just imagine that this brook trout was the first fish you ever caught.

oh, it was longer that that!

Fish fooled by Dean’s mouse – wouldn’t you know.

KeriAn went on to catch a lot of brookies that week, learned a lot about handling the long rod, studied and practiced her knots, and fell hard for this passion we all share. Like so many that have come to camp before her, the lives and stories are unique and passionate. And deeply felt, long remembered.

Circle closed.




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Small Streams, Big Brook Trout, & Good Friends

In late July 2016, three good friends – all accomplished artists and fine fly anglers – arrived on the TRL dock for the expressed purpose of exploring as many small streams as a Labrador summer’s week would allow. Bob’s goal was to scour the landscapes for future compositions in watercolor and oil. Mike would shoot the action in black and white film, and John would glean the stories that always seem to emerge when seasoned veterans hang together for an undistracted week. My job was simply to facilitate.

Oh, and we planned to bring our fly rods.

photo by M. Dvorak

“John Found a Good’un”                 photo by M. Dvorak

Some of our most stunning brook trout find their summer haunts in the smaller creeks and streams in the headwaters of the Woods River. One of the neat things about staking a claim in a true wilderness is that we get to affix names to the waters we discover, names like “Eagle’s Beak”, “Rick’s Surprise”, “Anthony’s Ax”, “Twin Cub Run”, “Bourbon Brook”, “Mac’s Run”, “Upper Rick’s”, “Indian Rapids”, and so on. We don’t visit these places often. They are just to amazing to disturb with any frequency.

Mike and a Dry Fly Work Magic on the “Ax”                photo by B. White

It takes a good deal of effort to get to most of these creeks – usually a short hop in the float plane, then a canoe ride and/or a good hike.

“A Good Walk Unspoiled to ‘Twin Cub’s’ Honey Hole”           photo by B. White

“Wallowing in the Honey Hole”                 photo by B. White

These alder-choked creeks, though narrow enough to hop across in places, have deep runs and even deeper holes. So when we first began to discover these sweet waters, it was our belief that the big brookies moved into these creeks for their cooler waters in early August when the main rivers began to warm. However, we’ve come to find trout of 2 – 7 pounds feeding in the smaller waters all summer long.

“Sneaking Down the Alder Line”             photo by B. White

“Returning the Favor”                   photo by B.White

One of my nagging duties as managing partner of TRL is to search the blue lines on maps and to pay close attention to moving waters when flying over our neck of the woods. Once a likely creek is spotted, I have the dreary task of wadering up, stringing up a fly rod, begging Frances to build me a quick shore lunch, then interrupting our pilot, Gilles, from his day-trading focus to fly me to the new possibility. Of course, one of the mandatory requirements of any new location is that there be ample quiet water in which to safely land the float plane.

“Cliff Stays Dry While Landing John’s Fish”                 photo by B. White

Now mind you, these new places have never been visited by two-legged mammels, so once Gilles has confirmed that we can safely put down and when the plane has been tethered ashore to a spruce tree, the stomach flurries do begin. Though excited, I have always made it a practice to search these new waters with a hook-less fly. Yes, that’s right, I break the hook off my fly – typically an orange bomber or an unweighted muddler – before fishing. (We just find them, the guests have to catch them.)

“Can’t Beat that Selection; Royal Wulffs Reign”               photo by B. White

I won’t soon forget one such expedition a few years back when manager Kevin Barry and I dropped into a new spot and stepped off the pontoon, Kev with his net and I with my hookless orange bomber. The mouth of the creek yielded no promise, but once we moved up to the first big pool, mahem! With the first “slap” of the bomber, a 5# brookie grabbed it and streaked up and down the pool. He wasn’t trying to dislodge the fly, but rather doing his best to keep it away from the 5 or 6 brookies that were in hot pursuit of his “meal”. Kev slipped down into the dark water under the alders and pushed the big net below the surface, ready to scoop. I put heavy pressure on the trout to wear him down for the net, forgetting in the moment that there was no hook on my fly. Just as Kev pushed the rim of the net under the trout’s head, he spit the fly. And once he let go, the waters boiled as the other trout – all in the 5 – 7 pound range – fought viciously for it. Before we left, I had come within a half a fish-length of landing a dozen trout. . . all on a hookless bomber.

“Little Brookie Fooled”                    photo by B. White

Some of the best times during the week were the quiet times, leaning back on soft mosses with a hearty lunch, a twig fire and a good cup of coffee. . .

“Yarns Fireside”                               photo by B. White

and streamside conversations. . .

“Bob and John, Abrading Waders”                            photo by M. Dvorak

and bright fish. Exhausting days, but such adventures are so worth the energy spent . .

“Labrador Colors”                             photo by B. White

Back at camp each evening, tired legs were soothed with another fine dinner, a soft chair on the front porch and another cup of coffee.

“White Beards”                            photo by M. Dvorak



Posted in About Labrador, Fishing Reports, Trophy Brook Trout | 4 Comments

Earth, Wind and Firewood

If you’ve been following this blog a while, or have been to Labrador, or even have read much about the northlands, you know by now that the weather up there is legendary. That’s why we urge insist that all guests bring the best raingear and extra layers both top and bottom. That’s also why the camps have tight roofs overhead, wood stoves in every cabin, and a stack of firewood out back that is many rows deep and eight feet high.

Good thing, ’cause we needed all of the above during our blustery 20th summer in the bush.

Despite being the most weather-challenging summer of our existence and regardless of the record high water through the July and August weeks, we enjoyed another successful season. There were a few days that high winds kept us all at the woodstoves and cribbage boards. But with the guidance of the “boys” and Gilles’ brilliant piloting skills, many memorable days were spent on the water where we belong.

Gilles took us to some great fishing holes. . .


Where we caught some memorable brookies. . . .

28 incher!

We even ventured up to Arctic charr territory, where we camped . . .

Keep the zipper closed!!!

. . .and caught some doozies.

Double digit!!

And after each day’s adventure, Gilles brought us home, safely out of the gathering storms to the fireside.

Through a dim glass darkly

2017 makes three consecutive years where the Woods River system has graced us with beautiful, especially large Labrador Reds. This run has been a real treat for our fly angling guests.

And despite the cold and wind, regardless of the disappearing firewood stash, not withstanding the dripping rain jackets, we ended this summer as we have the previous nineteen – in a little piece of angling heaven, safely tucked in hinterlands.

Somewhere, under the rainbow

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Updated: A New Season – A New Video

Well, I’ve heard from every one of the TRL gang and we’re all psyched for the start of our 20th summer in Labrador. I was on the phone with Frances yesterday planning for the coming season and we mostly rehashed stories from summers past and the many great people who lived them with us. These stories are who we are and why we can’t wait to get back for another season.

Carter Davidson of Gray Ghost Productions has filmed several video segments for films, two of which were featured on the Fly Fishing Film Tour. Great films! Check them out.

Carter took a few of clips and outtakes from his Labrador filming and put together a “Testimonial” video for us. It’s a great look at the Labrador landscape – streams, rivers and lakes. Better yet, it captures the excitement, camaraderie, and angling success our guests enjoy each summer.

(click here for video link)

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Netting (Assuming You So Desire) Your Trophy Brook Trout


Yes, I am indeed a licensed Newfoundland and Labrador guide. And I have the papers to prove it. I do not guide our angling guests on the water very often, however. At Three Rivers Lodge, we have six highly qualified, experienced guides that handle that effort. But I do go out guiding a dozen or more times each summer, typically on special occasions – to be with long-time guests (friends, by now), to help a beginning fly angler, or to fill in when a “real” guide is under the weather. And I’ll have you know that I can still hop rocks, wield a landing net, and even spot a good fish now and again.

What Rock?

“What Rock?”

And I do fish myself from time to time. One of my more “tedious” duties is scouring our corner of the Canadian Shield for new streams that just might hold worthwhile brookies, a task I take on days when weather is lovely and the float plane has light duty. Point is, through personal angling experiences and my limited guiding over nineteen summers in the bush, I have seen hundreds of trophy brook trout hooked, prematurely celebrated, then lost (“F#&K!”) somewhere short of the landing net.

Hence, here’s my take – my three tips – for improving your odds for safely netting large trout.

#1 – Pause. Don’t rush. Wait for the right time to get your fish ‘on the reel’.

Mike Janesco's 07 pics 110_2

Whether it’s your first time on a trophy river or you’ve fished ’round the world, the first move most fly anglers make once a large fish has struck their fly is to reel in slack line in order to engage the reel’s drag in the fight. When “getting on the reel”, should you hook the fly line with your rod hand index finger and the fish happens to run, snap! and he’s gone. If you don’t hook the line, you’ll leave loops of slack and should the fish come toward you, again, he’s likely to throw the hook.

Recommended tactic: Keep your fly line in your line hand. Gently pay out line through your thumb and forefinger as needed when the fish runs. Should he turn back toward you, swiftly haul in the slack line. At some point, the fish will run far enough to put himself on the reel. If not, he will settle down and give you the few moments needed to reel in the slack line.

#2 – With your guide, find a calm eddy or slick spot to net your fish.



Our freestone streams in Labrador, like many I’m sure you fish, have strong currents. Attempting to land a large brookie in such currents is a frail and faulty plan for several reasons. The rush of the water will triple the effective weight of the trout on your line, often snapping your leader or pulling smaller flies out of their purchase. The stronger currents usually mean deeper water, a place your guide will fear to tread. Remember, fast water is to a big fish what the “briar patch” was for Br’er Rabbit – the place where he holds a sizable advantage and where he feels the safest. Lastly, fighting a 5# brookie in fast water for too long will weaken him to the point where he may well become pike food upon release.

Proper tactic: Let your hog run with the fast current, perhaps to a plunge pool with calmer seas. DON’T LOCK YOUR LINE. Once you have a solid command of your quarry, scout for an area of quieter water. As you fight the fish, carefully guide him there with side rod pressure. Wade towards that landing spot. Make sure you communicate with your guide if you have one with you. The spot you pick may pose difficulties for his duties and require a Plan B. He’ll let you know. As the fish tires, the calm water will significantly increase your odds of sliding him over the rim of the big net.


#3 – Expect, no KNOW, that your fish will panic once he sees the net.

august TRL char trip 330_5

Every, I mean EVERY, big fish I have ever encountered knows that a landing net is not a preferred place to be. Once he sees it, HE WILL FLEE! Maybe two or three times. And too often take your fly with him!

Proper tactic: As you guide your catch towards that safe landing zone, regardless of how spent he may seem, remember, he WILL make an abrupt about-face when he sees that net. DON’T lock up your line. DON’T try to pull him those last two or three feet. ANTICIPATE his sudden run and keep him safely on the drag of the reel. Don’t allow his last-ditch efforts to spoil your day.



So there. That’s my sage advice gathered through my Labrador seasons. Like any advice, it comes with a handy disclaimer, namely, every fish, like every angler, has its own idiosyncrasies. But I’m sticking to it.

(And, by the way, I do occasionally net a trophy fish without falling on my ass.)

I'm Still Standing!

I’m Still Standing!

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In the Beginning,. . . and Now

At some point in their visit, most of our guests are curious about the beginnings of Three Rivers Lodge. Did we “discover” this Woods River? Was there ever another camp here? How did we ever find such a remote fishery?

So here’s a quick history.

Through the several friends I had made during my visits to Labrador as a traveling angler, I heard about this fertile river that was “too far from town to become a viable angling destination”. On this site, a father/son team – the Woolfreys – built a small camp in the early 90’s. The son was a pilot and had his own float plane making the transfer of materials and guests “affordable”. When the son lost his life in a road accident in 1994, the father lost interest in the project and a few years later, offered for sale the lease and the camp that sits upon it. We made an offer in early 1998.

The Woolfrey Camp When We First Arrived

The Woolfrey Camp When We First Arrived

In the springs of 1998 and 1999, we flew in 72 Otter-loads of materials and equipment and built the camps as they remain today.  The two buildings on the right of the pic below are the two original Woolfrey buildings, expanded and renovated.

Our Summer Home

Our Summer Home

Nineteen years have slipped past now since ‘the big push’ and the strengths (longest English word with only one vowel, by the way) that this endeavor was built upon have proven their worth and grounded the founders’ faith:  stewardship of the rivers, safety and comfort of our guests and staff, and a sporting, family atmosphere that consistently smooths any wrinkles that nature may toss our way.

Week after summer week we are treated to smiling guests who yarn on with their stories and find new ones here to spin for the rest of their days. No better stories were ever collected than in the first week of July this season. We had, as per normal, eight fine anglers in camp including a group of four ladies whose passion for fly angling inspired the camps.

Carroll's Speck

Carroll’s Speck

Carroll, Janine, Susan and Mary brought a level of joy that brightened the rainiest of days and lifted spirits for us all. Expert anglers, they devoured the challenges of the brookies’ toughest puzzles.

An Armful for Janine

An Armful for Janine

These old Woods River brookies can be moody at times, especially the big ones. Patience, a willingness to change flies, quiet observation, and relentless pursuit are the skills fine anglers bring with them. And, as payback, the brookies will hone those skills for the attentive angler.

Emile with a "net-long" slab

Emile with a “net-long” slab

It was our good fortune to have spent a week with the girls and with the other equally accomplished sports folks this summer. These stories, old and new, are the “gold” that we TRL’ers mine each summer. The glow that keeps this old dream thriving.

Enough Said

Enough Said



Posted in Around Camp, Fishing Reports | 2 Comments