Minipi’s Green Drake

While over the years I have had great fishing at Minipi throughout the season, from ice-out in June until shortly before the snows began to fly in September, the “green drake” hatch, a July phenomenon, has provided some of my most wonderful memories. First, understand that the green drake (Ephemera guttulata) familiar to most anglers in the eastern and Midwestern U.S. is not the same insect. The Labradorean version belongs to a different, though similar genus, called Hexagenia—-not that the brook trout really care! They are closely related to the huge and hugely popular “Michigan mayfly” and are highly prized by the trout. The nymphs burrow in the silt of slow moving sections of rivers, and the adults are actually more yellow than green. “Hex” nymphs are tannish and brown, with grey gills, and quite elongated, so use imitations tied on long shank size eight or ten hooks. Large dry flies like Stimulators, Blond Wulffs, Humpys, and others work best during the hatch.

Unlike fish in a typical stream scenario, which allow the current to bring the insects to their feeding lies, the Minipi brook trout cruise and feed in a roughly circular or elliptical pattern, always on the move. If you see a rise, it’s critical to note the direction the fish was moving. Don’t cast to the rise; the fish will already have moved on. Lead the fish by casting your offering about six or eight feet ahead of the last take, and wait until the fish gets to it. I can’t help with your rapid heartbeat and pounding pulse as you wait for a seven-pounder to grab your fly. I have the same problem.

A brightly colored 7.5 pound trout taken during Green Drake time.

A brightly colored 7.5 pound trout taken during Green Drake time.

Trout Sometimes Want A Big Meal

Trout Sometimes Want a Big Meal

Guide Ray Best first introduced me to “bass bug” fishing for Minipi brook trout. Neither streamer, nymph, nor dry fly generated any action on this particular day, years ago. Ray handed me a huge, green, deer hair bass frog, which I laughingly handed back, but he persisted and urged me to tie it on. So, more to humor him, although I was still not convinced that this was a sound and legitimate strategy for trout, I greased it thoroughly and cast it across the fast waters at the head of Woody’s Hole, which lies at the base of the flowage coming out of Anne Marie Lake. My jaw hung agape and my eyes bugged out when, on the first retrieve, I saw several huge fish chasing it through the rapids and bouncing the monstrous fly into the air with their snouts.

I recalled that experience several years ago on a return trip to the same lodge. “It was déjà vu all over again”, as Yogi Berra was wont to say. Similar conditions, similar slow fishing, same spot. I knotted on a large caribou hair lemming fly. On the second cast, as I stripped and popped it across the swirling water, the five-and-one-half-pound hen fish pictured here poked her dark snout into the air and pulled the bug down. The moral? Never leave home for Minipi without a few spun hair “bass bugs”, mice, lemmings, or frogs. They double as great “brook trout bugs”. Incidentally, since then I have also taken trout on regular hard-body, painted, cork popping bugs too.

You will fish these lures best with an eight-weight rod and line, and a relatively short and stout leader. Make your back cast stroke long and exaggerated, in an elliptical or slightly oval path, keeping constant pressure on the rod tip.

Whiskey Jack

Many years ago, Howard Guptil (now retired) was guiding Harry Robertson, of Richmond, and me on Anne Marie Lake. We beached the boat to eat lunch ashore, near Lover Boy rock. Harry said, “Watch this.” He held out a piece of a brownie in his hand over his head. Half a minute later, an intrepid little bird, resembling a small blue jay, flew out of the forest, alighted on his hand, delicately took the morsel, and carried off the treat into the pines. Howard then placed a bit of bread on his hat, and the bird returned promptly, sat on his head, and collected that offering, too. The “whiskey Jack” (I suppose we should spell it whisky, this being Canada) as I learned, is properly the “gray jay”. Howard informed me that the popular moniker is based on an Indian name, pronounced something like was-kee-jah. Google either name, and you will get all the details about this cute member of the jay family. The whiskey jack is one of the few animals able to stand the severe winters in Labrador. They do so by storing these foodstuffs beneath the bark of trees, to be utilized when snows prevent foraging during the long dark months. Hold out a piece of bread, sandwich, cake, etc. and before long, if any are in the neighborhood, one of them is bound to collect it. Along with other wildlife sights and sounds, feeding the jacks is just one more unique north country experience.