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

 

 

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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. . .

Outposting

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

Posted in Fishing Reports, Trophy Brook Trout, Updates | 1 Comment

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.

 

IMG_1364

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.

IMG_0684

#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.

Whew!!

Whew!!

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

 

 

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Season #19! (Beginning to feel like a good, long while)

FACEBOOK SCHMACEBOOK! We’re all lost in the ‘hand-held universe’! Yes, I’m lost guilty, too. Didn’t think it would happen. Ever! But as one of our past guests told me, “Social media is 95% of your exposure these days.” Seeing that this fellow’s created and sold three ‘start-up’ marketing firms, he got my attention. I caved. But as shame surely fades, I’m hopeful that some good will come of it.

Hence, fewer blog posts, more thumb-tapping at my I-phone.

Season Nineteen, and a different hat for each memorable year.

Season Nineteen, and a different hat for each memorable year.

Today it’s raining here in Labrador and I am moved to post a new entry. So moved not only by the dreary weather, but by the peaceful hour I spent yesterday reading through the TRL guest book, starting at the beginning. 1998 – no blogging, no social media, a scarce email here and there. Got me to thinking of the thousands of hand-written letters and notes I once scribbled, stamped and slipped through the mail slot. Couldn’t help noticing that our early guests used to write as well, and write beautifully of their observations and Labrador memories in the guest book. And in cursive, for god’s sake! (Now, they snap a pic and post on Facebook.) With each passing season, the entries became fewer and shorter. Last year, only five guests (out of 85) took on the bother.

Times, they are a-changin’, for sure. But I like to think of this fishing camp of ours as stuck in the “old days, olden ways”. Same sweet faces, same warm cabins, the same old generator humming in the back field. Even half our guests are returning friends. ‘Stuck in our old ways’ is a good feeling for me and our returning guests as well, I think – a source of contentment, perhaps even pride. This wilderness scoffs at modern invention and I think we’ve managed to find an suitable arrangement with both.

Scott, Kevin, JoAnne, Don, Rob, Charlie, and Dave, our 1st week’s guests, converged on the dock this past Friday. Our summer has begun with excited faces – hand-shakes with the newbies and dock hugs for our old friends. ‘Put your arms around me and just leave them there.’ (as Bill Morrissey sang) Weather was perfect for the first three days, but today the Labrador odds caught up with us. Supposed to rain the rest of the week, not near enough, however, to dampen TRL spirits.

“. . . geese in flight, and a dog’s bite. Signs that might be omens, say I’m going, going. . .”

I don’t put too much stock in omens, but this morning after the anglers were well on their way to the fishing holes, Frances, Judy and I were having a bite when we heard a rustling in the Tilt, the sitting room just off the dining lodge. We peeked around the doorway to see a goldeneye duck rattling around in the fireplace. The fire screen had her jailed to the front and the firebox to the rear. She frantically wing-whipped soot about the room as I swung open the side of the fire screen. She hopped out and into the wood box, then ran through the door that Judy held open, headed for the light. When the duck took flight for the water’s edge, Sam, my younger golden, leapt off the porch in full chase, hauling up just short of the lake’s edge as the frightened girl fluttered into the gray mist. (action to fast for pics, Facebook fans).

Minutes later, we heard a thunk on the window and swung open the door again. There on the deck sat a medium-sized bird that had sought entry into the Tilt through a closed window.

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused

So Frances picked it up and wrapped it in a towel, and nested it then in an umbrella chair on the front porch. It spent a cozy hour there righting its double-vision, then flew away none the worse.

Nestled Birdie

Nestled Birdie

Not sure of it’s species, but it had a large beak not unlike a grosbeak of some sort. Perhaps some of you can identify the mystery guest.

Back to omens, we saved two of Labrador’s wild creatures in one ten minute span as camp begins. Can’t think of a better way to kick off the new season.

I hope to put a few entries here through the summer to keep those scattered few of you who still check in here a bit interested in our Labrador adventures. Might even file a fishing report or two.

But if we miss you here, check us out on Facebook!  🙂

Posted in Around Camp, Updates | 5 Comments

The Fly Fishing Show Season, 2016

In January, after the “calm” of the holiday season, the Fly Fishing Show circuit begins. The tour began with the Denver, CO show last weekend, and it went beautifully for patrons and exhibitors alike. (This weekend hosts no shows leaving us free to watch the “best” weekend in NFL competition).

Marlboro, MA is the next stop the weekend of January 22, 23 and 24. The next weekend, January 29, 20 and 31 finds the Show in Somerset, NJ.

For me, the best of the shows is meeting friends I have made through the nineteen years of hawking fly fishing trips to Labrador. In each show, we see dozens of former and prospective guests who have become far more than acquaintances over the years. In Denver, we signed up a dozen new prospects for the 2016 season, many of whom I had spoken with over at least a ten year period.

As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, for the fly angler, the shows offer an escape for the imagination into the warmer days when we will all be delighted by the seductive waters that we love. Shows offer new gear, old standards, good books, artists with their treasures, and folks like me who have, for one reason or another, taken fly fishing to the “professional” level. In all cases, you’ll find some interesting people and exciting conversations.

Look for this booth, and the talking face behind those glasses.

Look for this booth, and the talking face behind those glasses.

If you are interested in discovering Labrador, you’ll get no better opportunity to get all your questions discussed in detail, first hand. A jaunt to a wilderness destination can seem formidable and committing to such a trip comes with some trepidation. Let’s talk it through at the show!

Ol' Mr. Brookie says "COME TO THE SHOW"

Ol’ Mr. Brookie says “COME TO THE SHOW”

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