The times, they are a’ changin’ … no doubt about that. For any number of years we were isolated from the goings on in the world here in Labrador, things bumped along the way they always had. Labrador was “the way it was”. And we still have elements of that even to this day, but you have to go now to a place like Anne Marie and Minipi to get that feeling. I think up until 2001, you could have that back in time feeling from the time you touched down in Labrador; now you have to get on that float plane and go one step further to feel the peace of the times gone by.
First trip in of the season is wrought with lists and problems, this needs fixing, that had to be done … dealing with snow and wind damage, animal damage. Logistics. Staffing. Fuel. My head is full and nothing of the peace of the place comes into my mind. I walk out around the lodge, kicking rocks and looking at the strands of grass blowing in the wind. Birds are flittering around, and a little robin is flying strands of dirt and plants up under the eaves of the building. I stop and look and find two little robin’s nests under the eaves, and it makes me happy. Then and only then do I notice the dozens of swallows moving about in the grass, the point is full of song birds. And I stopped in my tracks. Just stopped and took in where I was and what was around me. There were two loons calling off Caribou Island. I scanned for maybe evidence of a “rise” but with a bit of chop on the water couldn’t see anything, but the exercise brought me back to hours at the sink in the old Anne Marie cabin, washing dishes, watching dimpled rings and wondering if everyone was getting fish today. And that thought made me happy. The logistics and the lists were still important, but now somewhat less so.
And that is where the peace of our beautiful spot does its job. When you stop and think about where you are and revel in the fact that despite all the stuff going on in the world, this is still a piece of angling paradise. It’s an effort to get here. That’s too bad … or is it? Maybe because it is a bit harder to get here and off the beaten path is the reason it’s still here. In five decades, with constant and unrelenting pressure on the powers that be, we still fight for the right of this resource to be here, cause at the end of the day, it’s not about us. Or even those that come to fish here. It’s about keeping something the same in a world gone mad.
In late June our friend Duncan started his Labrador month with us while we did our logistical runs. On the fly over to Little Minipi he and Chris put the first book fish in at 3 and 6 pounds at the top of the first outlet. We did a touch down at Minonipi few days later and Duncan and guide Andre had two rather large brookies, a 7 pounder at the Outlet to Big Hairy and followed up with a 6 pounder. Being the start of the aggressive dry fly feeding frenzy, the bombers, wulffs and drakes were working well. And in typical fashion, the little lakes around Anne Marie like Petch’s Pond come alive and are always worth the little bit of time it takes to do a couple of portages to get there.
Our youngest angler of the season, Hailey, had a 6 ¼ pounder (Brook Trout) at Bear Island, a stone’s throw from the Anne Marie Lodge.
Getting into early July, Petch’s was still a good spot to go, we were still taking lots of Brookies up to 7 ½ pounds from there, Bill McDougall had 5’s, 6’s and 7 pounders from there, and Duncan had one that weighed in at 7 ½ pounds. In the tradition of rising brookie dimples as dish-washing entertainment in my early years, I did notice that Bear Island still has a number of entries for large brookies in the Anglers Log Book. Always a great way to end the day, let’s catch one more brookie before we call it a night.
When we get into Mid July, the glut of surface insect life is evident, all the brookies are taken on deer haired patterns, and many many around the lodge area at Anne Marie Lake. I notice John had a nice 7 pounder near Caribou Island. Ken, who has been coming every year since we took over, so that makes 38 for us, (missed one year in all that time) and he was coming to Anne Marie before we started in 1979, had a great day 11th July, all on Green Drake, with guide Ray Best, how great a moment is that. Just think about it. To fish the same water, take some wonderful brookies, and with the same guide you would have had all those years ago. You can’t get much more “the way it was” than this day in time.
We had a recapture mid July, # 322, Paul netted this female at 6 ½ pounds at the Narrows. Did a look up on this tag, it was tagged back in 2010 at 4 ¾ pounds at Loon Pond, and the angler taking it back then was John Marlow. So putting on about half a pound a year, typical female, I guess even in the fish kingdom some species watch what they eat. (“Hold the Stoneflies, I’ll just have the Algae Platter today, thanks”).
We did a couple of fly outs to Little Minipi during this time, 4 – 5 and 6 pounders on Muddlers and Wulffs. Looks like Duncan and Steve did the portage to Minonipi, which is typically a hot bed of activity during the dry fly period, and found it to be worth the trek, I see Steve had a 7 ½ pounder and Duncan a 7 on Wulffs, and Duncan had an 8 pound charr .
Around the middle of July the guys start checking out the lower River sections, heading down to the Foam Pool and Woody’s, hit those spots at the right time and it’s wonderful fishing. Duncan had some smaller brookies down there, and I qualify that statement, smaller means 3 – 5 pounds, still not a shabby brookie by anyone’s standards! We were still doing trips over to Minonipi, 6 to 6 ½ pounds still coming from the headwaters, still using all of the standard dry fly patterns heading to the end of July.
Few fly outs end of July to Little Minipi and Minipi itself and we had 3 to 6 ½ pounders at Little Minipi, and 3 ½ to 7 1/2 pounds from the Gorge and Narrows areas at Minipi. Bob and Molly had numerous 6 pounders from their times around Anne Marie Lake, and during a fly out to Minipi. Mousin’ the Minipi was the end of July theme, strip one of those rodents across the water and wait for one of these big brook trout to come clean out of the water and pounce on ‘em, Even when you’re expecting the action, it still leaves your heart pounding. I can remember sitting quietly in the canoe at the Caddis Bed at Anne Marie, peering towards the portage path towards Petch’s, Jack was casting towards “a rise” when a rather large brookie broke the surface behind the canoe and landed with such a splash we almost lost said husband / father out of the back of the canoe.
Heading into August, a very interesting week with David and Bruce that happened to be biologists and teaching professionals, it was a great fishing week but also a great learning week as more than the fishing was of interest to them both. We did find evidence of “rock-snot” which was rather alarming and will mean the necessity of more careful protocol on clean waders. Ralph has a number of interesting takes from that week and we’ll have him share these with you in subsequent blogs, and maybe get them to weigh in on some of these issues as well. Fishing wise, some really nice sized brookies, you can see the summer diet coming into effect, lots of 6, 7 and 8 pounders in the log book, one of the top ones was an 8 ¼ pounder from a fly out to Minipi, First Narrows, we are taking them now on Drake patterns.
Into early August, we are still heavy into the Drakes, Justin and Tony are doing pretty good North Point, Lover Boy, West Bay, all around Anne Marie Lake, up to 7 ¼ pounds. We introduced Justin to the wonderful flavor of pike as a shore lunch, our own Ralph Coles does a superb filet, the pike shore lunch is a must do. In my opinion, when prepared right, is far superior to cod in any dish.
T’is the time of year to start checking out Lover Boy again, the days start to draw in by mid August, it is still lovely but you can feel a little something in the night air, knowing that only a short few weeks and the land will be under blanket for a long harsh winter. Brookies are getting such brilliant coloring, an August brookie makes a July brook trout look wan in comparison. They will start moving into Lover Boy, but the wait can sometimes be maddening. A matter of checking every day, cause when they do, it is the best fishing you will ever experience in your life. I remember Dave Fillmore telling me one time that he sat at that Lover Boy Rock, he said you’d swear there wasn’t a single brook trout in all of Labrador, it was so flat with not even a bug moving. But in his typical fashion, being a man of patience, he waits, just sitting and taking it all in. And it turned on, he said he had the most intense fishing he had ever had in his entire life in the next couple of hours, it was madness, exhilarating madness. Then as quickly as it had switched on, all went quiet, and not a brook trout was left in all of Labrador … Jack, Ray and I had an experience like that, one of the most exciting days of my life, huge, huge brook trout rising all around, oblivious to any presented fly. Jack and Ray dip-netted the brook trout, weighed and released, monsters of 6 – 7 – 8 pounds, without using a rod. I hope to see that again some day before I finish my time on this earth.
Tom Boyd has had a long absence from the Minipi, and we were glad to have him back this year, even with his beat up arm … Tom! Should you be casting with that arm? Agggh, he was in pain, but I suppose a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, and he was here to fish.
Had a big 8 ¼ pounder from Minipi fly out … big water … big fish. Some 6’s up at Lover Boy, you can see the feeding pattern changing, we are using now Bombers galore, and wooly buggers. The evening fishing is short now, we get a short stint after supper until the chill of the night air makes a night cap sound mighty good, one more cast and head bumping over the waves to the comforts of home. Our friend Brian Casey was here towards the end of the season, and such fun on top of the fishing as Brian entertained us with tales of finding a den of wolves, made videos of the calls, it’s haunting and beautiful, yes it is, but even after all these years, there’s nothing like a wolf call to still make the hair on the back of my neck come alive. First year at Minipi, I guess mid 80’s, we went in to find the window sill just chewed to pieces by wolves, I would dream about that for months afterwards, and their rather large den down in the Gorge. Talk about an exercise class, on a little fishing expedition to the Gorge, which took about 15 minutes to walk with Kimberley and Robin, I chanced upon very fresh, steaming scat on the trail. Time to get back to the Lodge was just under 1 minute, both kids in tow.
Mid August was the normal run of 5 – 6 – 7 pound brookies, we did well at the Honey Hole, Lover Boy and Woody’s, with down river doing better and better as the season moved along. Again, heavy on the bombers, Fat Albert’s, Stimulators.
The end of the season did produce at Lover Boy, and down river still doing well. Record shows numerous Brookies up to just under 7 pounds, most of our regular crew there to herald the end of the season, Mike and Lisa, Dave and Sally, and a few new inductees into the Big Red Finale of the season. I missed the Quilting part of the season’s end, but Sally did us proud in only a few days, choosing to come out early and tend to my needs as an invalid, which was so very much appreciated. Fishing wise, I did note in the log book that Dave Ellis did try some Nymph patterns at Lover Boy, I do love it when someone tries something so very different, and he did have a 6 ½, a 5 ¾ and a 5 from Lover Boy, I would not have thought to add that as a potential hot option for late August / early September, but there you have it folks!
So on that note, just want to say I did not get any end of year notes out to everyone this year, had a few health issues to deal with, and while I hate to end on a sad note, it needs to be mentioned, but Todd, who would have guided so many of you over the years, lost his 20 year old daughter before Christmas. We are all family here and it hurt to the core of us all, and will hurt, especially that little family, for the rest of their lives. Still, there is a lot of good in life and a lot to look forward to once we stop and actually set our minds on looking for it, and that is what we all do. The snow will melt, this land will thaw and the song birds will make their nests and the lakes will dimple with rising brook trout. May we all just stop and take that all in, finding comfort and peace in knowing that some things are still the same.
Our best to you all.