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