When I visit Newfoundland in the summer of 1999 I definitely got through very bad fishing conditions. I must be fair, I can handle rain, high water and cold weather very well but heat and extreme dry conditions I am not familiar with. Maybe because I traveled up north too much and fished too many hours around the Arctic Circle! I guess it is hard for a fly fisher when he reaches an area that should provide some excellent fishing and he has to discover that the rivers has water levels that are unfishable or are just closed for fishing. It is even harder when you have fished the places before and know how good the fishing normally can be. Even then you build up certain dreams before you start your trip but sometimes the reality can still turn out much differently. Rain had stayed out for a very long time and temperatures were above average. I guess many people underestimate the global warming and human influence at nature and wildlife but I know better. I have seen too many places where the weather got completely out of control during the last 10 years and saw how some species disappearing. People warned me not to come over but for my wife and me it is just returning to paradise, and even when the fishing would turn out very poor we were sure that we could enjoy ourselves with many other things. Beside that no weather conditions has ever pushed me away or let me decide to leave one hour earlier or prevent me for coming. We know that the fishing wouldn’t be easy but we still wanted to give it a try. I also keep close in my mind that I had some of my best European salmon fishing on dry flies during the extremely drought of 1988 in Norway. My best trout fishing also happened in Norway just after the flood of the century in 1995 while water levels were still enormous. When we arrived in Channel Port aux Basque we drove up North and saw that many rivers were indeed so low that river fishing simply was impossible. Only Crabbs River looks not too bad and we had a little hope. At that time we didn’t realize that most rivers were closed. To be honest I was a little desperate and the only thing I could do was hoping that our guides had found a place for wetting my flies.
We stayed again at the Where Ya Wannebee lodge but this time the fishing changed a lot from all our earlier visits. We realized our situation and prospects very well and Barry and Janice did everything to let us feel home again and we had more fun then ever. Our favourite Rivers like Crabbs and Harry’s where closed and that was a real big disappointment for us. We came to fish Harry’s and waited a whole year for it and we really feel sad about it. Especially because according to the plan angling will close only when temps exceed 18 degrees Celsius. This is where managers and decision-makers must exercise some prudence and ensure that temperatures are being recorded in the sections of river where the angling is likely to occur. My disappointment quickly turned into sadness after I saw things with my own eyes closely. There is no sense in recording temps in lower sections of rivers where the water is so slow it is almost stagnant. The recordings must occur in the deeper faster moving sections of the rivers, as this is where the fish will be and also where the angling activity will occur. During a three-week period this past summer three of my friends continually questioned DFO’s reported temperatures for Harry’s River as they were well above what we were recording. Over the course of this three-week period the highest temp we recorded was 16 degrees using high tech temperature equipment which I took with me from Holland while DFO reported temps exceeding 25 degrees!! Such a great difference in temperature is simply impossible. We were recording ours in faster moving deeper sections while they probably took theirs from the bottom end of a long slow-moving steady. Our numerous attempts to question their results continually fell on deaf ears. As a result the river, which seemed to show excellent numbers of fish, was closed and with angler effort removed was easy pickings for the poachers. They seem to work hard and successfully and could operate freely on their quick ATV’s supported by high tech communication equipment to prevent to be discovered or caught. Maybe next year they will operate with night vision tools too who knows! In my personal opinion this is totally unacceptable! “Poaching free, fishermen stay home”. Somebody even told me that it already sounds like a new slogan. The affect was also clearly visible for other lodges in the area and was also detrimental as needlessly which lead through booked clients who understandably cancelled their trips. If I did not measure the temperatures myself I wasn’t so confused because other rivers really reach temperatures of 24 degrees Celsius and where still open.
However we didn’t give up hope and we tried the Humber for a couple of days. At least we can say we have fished Big Falls completely alone. Who can say something like that? It was a tough experience for our guide too because he wanted to land us some fish. But the drought drop the levels lower then ever and we all know that salmon don’t take well in warm and low water levels. They only want to survive for spawning and will stay down deep close with their noise to the bottom. I know well how much influence weather conditions can have on the fishing and of course I like it very much to catch a good size fish but I taught myself never to be fixed too much on the catches. That only will frustrate you anyway. I know we almost had a month left and I know that our successful days surely will come. My wife missed one good take and I rose finally six fish on a dry fly but success stayed out. A pity when you fished the famous Humber. When I look back and read our dairies I can say; “The fishing was great, the weather incredible only the catch was poor”. There even was a nice experience with a silly duck that took my Bomber three times. How funny fly-fishing can be! “No”, I didn’t set the hook for those who think I did. Still we had one good day in which I hooked 3 lazy fish who took my fly so carefully that I lost them during the fight. We ended that day on the Upper Humber but even there it seemed harder then normal.
So we drove up to the northern part of the peninsula to be sure not have to deal with any closures anymore. I guess that was one of the best ideas in our 1999 fishing season. We visit St Antony did some whale watching and really enjoyed the rich wildlife and nature. Paul Alcock and his father Lewis who run Northland Discovery Tours where our hosts and they did well. Lewis is great in spotting wildlife so we saw 61 moose in just one day. One of them will be in our memories forever. A young bull seemingly not afraid of fishermen makes our day. Maybe he just felt in love for my waders, who knows? I am not sure? But he certainly gave us the opportunity to make some photographs of a lifetime. This happened when we fished the Main Brook or Salmon River. We arrived at 5am and it was still dark. The river was covered in dense fog. Salmon leaps everywhere and prospects for the day look just great. We just follow the river upstream and there was a lot of surface activity in the beautiful pools we passed. When it is dark, and you wade deep you sometimes get almost frightened to death when a large fish head parts the surface just a few feet in front of you. It’s a wonderful sight when you see a great sickle tail scything the surface leaving barely a trace of its presence. This is an electrifying sight, certain to quicken the nerves of any fly fisher. Head and tailing fish will not only keep your adrenaline level up to the mark but will be testing your attention all the time. So I just feel great.
I tried several dry flies but no success so I started to open my tricky box. I didn’t have any experience with extremely small flies for salmon in Canada so I just follow my instinct and let the conditions decide for me. I put on a size 12 Klinkhamer and bingo. They played with it but didn’t take it. Almost every cast I present my fly close to a head and tailer he came up and moved the fly. So I started to have some real fun already. Then I did something I never did before in Newfoundland. Instead of putting on a bigger fly I tied on a size 14 and that definitely was the magic touch. Now their takes got more aggressive but still no fish. They just played with it. I wait a while to give the pool a rest and searched in my box for other small flies. The choice was limited because I never expected to fish with small trout flies for salmon. Then I saw one fish taking a real insect. I didn’t know the insect’s name but it certainly was a member of the Baetis family. While 3 moose watched us from the other bank I put on one of my favourite Rodany imitations tied as a parachute on a size 14 extra long shank hook. The fifth cast I got a take that was so aggressive that I just set the hook in a reflection. It was a fresh fish, silvery and powerful and he gave me a very good fight. When I land him I found several sea lice so the fish really came in by this low water and that makes it very interesting. I missed another good fish and then suddenly the pool felt in deep silence after the sun came up higher and burned the fog away.