It’s back to the office after returning from our hosted week at both Camp Bonaventure and Salmon Lodge in Quebec and what a great week we all had.
We knew before our arrival that the conditions, due to low water levels, were not good. The Bonaventure was only flowing at just over 7 cubic meters per second when normal flow at this time of the year would be around 20, so well under half the normal flow. The Petite was only at 9 cubic meters per second when 15 would be normal and the Grand Cascapedia was flowing at 11 with a norm of 20 cubic meters per second. Though the conditions did not look perfect that did not dampen any of the group’s spirits as it was everyone’s first time visiting these lodges and rivers, plus we had all been practising our rain dances for weeks so we were sure that conditions would improve.
As normal we all met up at Heathrow airport and everyone soon started to get to know each other and I could already see that this was going to be a good group as everyone seemed to gel and get on very quickly.
The first lodge on our agenda was Camp Bonaventure and after the transfer from Bathurst, we soon arrived at the lodge to a very large warm welcome from Johnny and his team. First impressions of the lodge and the operation were first class, the lodges twin rooms with private bathrooms are ideal and were finished with nice attention to detail.
It was all the small touches of the room that made us soon realise that lots of thought and effort had gone into the operation. For example, beside the bed each day was a little card giving us the next days weather forecast. Other little touches included a fresh jar of sweets in our rooms each day (these are perfect to fill wader pockets up and take fishing each day).
Also, the lounge/dining room area downstairs were both welcoming, comfortable and perfect allowing everyone to relax and mix after a great days fishing. Our food for the week, along with unlimited amounts of wine, was nothing short of perfection. The staff took great care in ensuring that everyone was suitably looked after. On our trip, one person had some dietary constraints, which was no problem for the staff in any way at all.
Inside is very welcoming and perfect to relax after a long day fishing.
Outside, set in the landscaped gardens is the main office, was a fly shop and boot room. The fly shop had every conceivable fly that we could possibly require for our stay. When you visit, I would recommend that you ask your guides each day what is fishing given the current conditions of the river and weather, this way you do not purchase lots of flies that are not needed.
The shop also had a range of other essentials if we had forgotten anything or ran out of anything. The boot drying room was large and each person on arrival got an allocated space/locker area for the duration of their stay. The size of the room was big enough to accommodate all of the camps anglers at once, which is the norm for first thing in the morning when everyone is keen to get out on the river. Also, in the boot room was a board that displayed what beat we were fishing for the next day and who our guide was for the next day.
We set out fishing in our zone based on 2 anglers to one guide, the guides were up early and keen to get us out on the river so as soon as we had eaten breakfast they were there ready and waiting. Lunch was taken beside the river each day and normally consisted of both hot and cold options. If we asked the staff the night before, they included a nice bottle of wine in our cooler. There is nothing like relaxing beside the river eating lunch with a nice glass or two of wine.
The first river we fished was the Bonaventure River, which I can say is not like any Salmon river I have ever fished before. Although the water levels were extremely low the river was still full of fish and it was amazing to see just how many fish were laid up in each pool. It soon became evident that finding fish was not going to be any problem at all; the issue was going to be, to persuade these Atlantics to take a fly.
Look how clear the Bonaventure River is, you can see Stuart on one side of the river and the Salmon all lying on the edge of the shelf.
Salmon fishing in such clear water is a real education as you can watch the Salmons reactions to flies and presentation.
Normal fishing methods are either fishing with a dry fly or fishing wet flies. The dry fly fishing was a new experience for all of us. It is not what you normally expect drifting/skating flies across the surface. This was more like stalking a permit on the saltwater flats.
Once we had picked our fish we casted a selection of dry flies just in front of the fish, let it drift over the fish before picking it up (without making too much noise) then repeated the process again and again until the fish showed some interest. If after 10 or so perfect casts the fish showed no interest at all, we moved on to the next fish and continued the process. This was a great new method of fishing and one that suited anglers that had done a fair amount of single-handed rod fly-fishing before.
Accuracy and presentation was everything with dry’s, the cast needed to be high so the fly and long leader just floated down as gently as possible. The takes wer amazing and even though we were watching the fish they were fast, my brain couldn’t react quick enough to see the fish move. The first I saw was the lips followed by a head engulf the fly.
John was very passionate about catching an Atlantic Salmon on the dry fly and even in very difficult conditions came extremely close even on the first days fishing.
Due to the water conditions, the pools fished consisted of fast water at the head of the poll, like lake conditions in the main area of the pools. With the added advantage of being able to see the Salmon, we could soon work out what presentation worked the best depending on what part of the pool we were fishing as we worked our way down. The fishing was challenging and technical, just how I like it, as we worked our way through each fishing area, we had to change our angle of the cast and both depth and speed of the presentation to induce takes.
Stuart fishing the middle of the run just below the rapids and before it emptied into a nice deep pool that was stuffed with fish.
This time Stuart fished a different pool at the head. It was another very fishy spot full of fish.
The amount of fish in Tom Bear pool was amazing.
John fishing a great pool on the Bonaventure trying with the dry flies again.
The Bonaventure had a vast amount of fishable water and pools, some that fished better in high water, and some that preferred low water, plus the majority that were at their best in normal conditions. The fishing was mainly divided up into 9 sections and each section had numerous beats and pools.
In total there are over 100 named pools with great names like “Double Crossing” “Tom Bear” “Double Camp”. Each day we departed for our days fishing with our guide by truck, the travel time depended on what section we were fishing. Travelling ranged from 20 mins to 1.5 hours on the top section called “E” however this was well worth the drive as we took the last 30 mins by ATV and accessed the water/pools before the fish found the sanctuary.
John arriving at one of the pools with his guide for the day.
On the furthest beats on each river you get to travel on a ATV for the last part of the journey which is well worth the visit as the scenery is stunning.
After our first 4 days fishing everyone, apart from one person, had managed to catch and land fish along with numerous fish lost or missed. Some customers even landed their personal best Atlantic Salmon.
Both John and the guide looking extremely pleased with the fish safely in the net.
The Major looking very happy with one of his fish.
On the last days fishing on the Bonaventure, it rained hard all day, which was much-needed rain. Although this had little effect on the Bonaventure River, it had a major effect on the Grand Cascapedia.
Me looking like a drowned rat and thinking why did we do so many rain dances?
The fish still put in an appearance during the rain.
After our last days fishing, we were transferred to Salmon Lodge. On arrival, we were greeted warmly by Julia and her team and shown to our rooms. All I could say was wow, what a stunning lodge and location. First, our twin room on the first floor was huge with a stunning view over the Grand Cascapedia River and surrounding mountains. Just like the Bonaventure, the lodge facilities and staff were nothing short of perfection and everyone was treated like royalty.
This was our first view from the lodge of the river, breathtaking and the view we awoke to each morning.
Kevin and John W working their way down one of the pools, this pool also produced the largest fish this season just over 40lb.
A lovely tea stained river it all looks so fishable water.
Me fishing the road bank. As you can see in the middle section, the river is quite wide. Perfect swinging water.
The grand reminded me of the large Scottish Salmon rivers with a slight bit of colour, wide and just full of areas to swing a fly through. Standing on the balcony on that first night, we all looked over the river in awe as it looked so fishable. Like the Bonaventure, the fishing is divided into zones and consisted of the main river and two branches in the upper section called “Salmon Branch” and “Lake Branch.” There are over 100 named pools that are fished on a rotation system and a draw for top performing pools.
On the first morning fishing on the Grand, we were informed by the guides that with the rain from the previous day had increased from 11 cubic meters per second to just under 100 cubic meters per second. It looked so much bigger, more powerful and angry than the night before. Although Stuart did manage to catch a fish, it was the only one for the lodge on that day. However, the guides told us not to worry as the Grand can fall as quickly as it rises and falling water after such a dry summer (this was the first serious rain they had received since before the season started in June) would give perfect conditions. True to their word, the next morning the flow meters showed that the river had dropped down to a more manageable level of 60 Cubic meters per second, plus the clarity was back to normal a tea stained colour.
It was so nice to have our last 2 days on the Grand in perfect conditions, which resulted in some amazing catches. We even, on these last 2 days, had 3 Salmon over the magic 20lb with the best going to David at 25lb. Also, at times the fishing was electric, on the very last days fishing in just 15 casts I personally had 3 bites and 2 fish landed to just over 20lb all before 10 am. This just goes to show how electric the fishing can be when conditions are just perfect.
A Fantastic Trip
All in all, it was an amazing week with the best group of customers we could ask for. We all had our highs and lows that come with Atlantic Salmon fishing however, each night around the dinner table was just a rapture of laughs and giggles filled with piles of jokes.
Considering the conditions the group ended up with an average of 4.5 fish per rod and an average weight of 14lb with 3 fish over the magic 20lb. Given normal conditions, I am sure the group would have easily doubled the average number of fish, which just goes to show you what an amazing place this is to experience Atlantic Salmon fishing.
All that is left for me to say is a huge thank you to the whole group who made my job more enjoyable and a laugh a minute, also a huge thank you to Glenn and all his team, staff and guides for taking such good care of us all.
It will come as no surprise that I will be returning again next year with a group, if you would like to join us please feel free to call me on 01603 407596 or visit our Hosted Atlantic Salmon Fly Fishing page for full details.
Below you can see some brilliant pictures from our trip.
Amazing what I found on a stone on the Grand Cascapedia.
Out fishing with Stuart when he caught his first Bonaventure Salmon, even though his reel seized on him during the fight.
Stuart looking very happy with his fish.
John M also looking happy with his first fish, this time from the mighty Grand Cascapedia.
Stuart looking happy with one of his other Salmon for the week.
The Major doing the business on the Grand playing carefully a good fish.
Here he is looking very happy and yes the Major does have a smile on his face.
John W and I enjoying a welcome glass of wine, just look at the setting to sit and enjoy lunch, perfect.
Stuart concentrating hard playing another fish on the Grand.
The end result from one happy angler.
John fishing with a single handed rod and playing his first fish of the week.
John W with a small grilse, they did get bigger John
The Major and I enjoying a day fishing together, what a great day and great company.
Fishing in the mist, look at Kevin concentrating hard while watching the fishes reaction.
John M playing his best fish on the Grand and it was in some powerful water
John M with his best Salmon of the week over 20LB well done John what a cracking fish.
The Major looking happy again with one of his Salmon for the week.
Stuart kissing fish, is that legal Stuart?
The Major, this time with a nice male fish from the Grand.
Kevin with his first Salmon from the Bonaventure, which was a cracking male fish.
What can I say that Stuart’s smile does not?
Kevin fishing from one of the canoes trying his luck with the dry flies.
Cracking fish Major well done, my friend.
Stuart this time with a nice hen fish.
A cracking fish this time as the mist descended on the water giving it a mystic feel to the place.
Stuarts reel had seized on his first fish. I said, “you can borrow my rod for the rest of the day but take good care of it”. Stuart what can I say other than but what a mess! We did laugh lots though.
The group enjoying our last evening together at the lodge, it was such a great week with everyone having a real laugh in the evening.
I even got the chance to wet a line and a few flies with customers during the week and below are a few of my pictures for you to enjoy.
We look forward to fishing with some of you in the future.