To Fish or Not to Fish

In my view, fishing and paddling are two distinct entities. Yes, one can fish on a canoe trip, and canoe on a fishing trip, but sometimes the two pastimes are just not compatible.

fishing (68K)
Miramichi at Clearwater.

For instance, when Biff, John and I went on the Upsalquitch once upon a spring, we knew it was a closed river. Unless you are the winner of the crown leased waters lottery, or a lodge owner who has paid dearly for exclusive rights to a specified river bend, you're breaking the law when you wet a hook.

Yet John insisted on fishing. We had to wait several times for him to put away his fly rod. We even knew there were no fish, because it was too early for the run and we could see clearly down to the bottom of the deepest pool in the gin-clear water of the Northwest Upsalquitch. It was a little unfair to Biff and me to humor John every time the river opened into a beautiful salmon pool, and that's nearly every turn on the Northwest.

Trophy-Miramichi-Atlantic-Salmon (72K)
This Atlantic Salmon was caught on the Miramichi.
Nowadays all fish must be released back into the river.

At least he knew well enough to go to shore and cast his fly from the bank. I have tried fishing from a moving boat, and found that the boat heads for the nearest rock or alder tangle the moment I reach for the rod. Then I stow the rod haphazardly in the bottom of the boat, where it 's too easy to step on or jam against when I grab my paddle and start flailing to straighten our course.

Yet I confess that some of my fondest paddling memories include frying up a panfull of trout over the evening campfire. I feel that if you're gonna fish on a trip, you need to budget more time for the downriver run, and make sure your buddies are okay with it. In fact, call it a fishing trip before you hit the river.

11 (55K)
Then again, you can get lucky.

Many's the time I've wished I had brought my rod with me. I recall the sunny evening in early June I went for a short solitary paddle up the mouth of the Nashwaak, just behind Neill's Farm pasture, just me, my boat and my paddle.

When I looked down into the water, I saw hordes of sea trout, some as long and thick as my forearm, weaving behind the rocks and darting up the stream under my boat. I could only watch and wonder, as they headed upriver to the small brooks to spawn. They were beautiful beyond description in their multitudes.

lollyangler (298K)Somewhere in the Miramichi country.
Painting by my sister Laurie Winter.

So I swore to come back the next evening and try my luck. Of course, I was tied up the next evening and couldn't go, and so the next, next evening, two days after I saw the trout, I made it back upriver with my fly rod.

The sky was clouded in, and the river was barren. Not a single fish of any stripe was to be seen. So I always bring my fly rod with me on my evening outings since then, but I've never hit the run again. Maybe next time.

Beer on a paddling trip -- a serious discussion


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