|Nanook's Campfire Tales|
This is my first entry, hopefully not my last, about my favourite New Brunswick river, the Magaguadavic. It's a beautiful paddle from the Magaguadavic Lake, just outside of Harvey, to St. George, where after a dam, it runs into the Bay of Fundy. I don't recommend you try it without a little guidance, otherwise you might run into a couple of unexpected hotspots.
When I was twelve years old, I had been invited by my father, who was a schoolteacher, to go with a group of junior-high school-aged boys to paddle a section of the Magaguadavic. My only canoeing experience consisted of two previous journeys, both on smaller streams, with no particular challenge or danger. I was, however, quite the fishing fanatic at that young age, and jumped at the chance to join my father and older brother on this trip.
We borrowed a fibreglass canoe from a family friend and headed for the river, full of excitement. It was, after all, the final weekend in May, the perfect time for spring trout fishing, and that much I knew. My birthday had been just one month before, at which time my parents got me a new tackle and worm box (the kind that goes on your belt). Back then, I used worms, not knowing any better. With extra birthday money from my extended family, I bought my first Mitchell reel, and a Daiwa Silver Series rod. I was ready!
When we landed at Purdy McGee's camp, the launch site, I realized that my Dad was one of six or eight chaperones, along with a dozen canoes and young fellows to fill them. We were off without a hitch on that beautiful spring day. Watching the comedic actions of some of the group, I was enjoying the antics of little experienced guys doing 360's downriver, and leaving paint behind on certain rocks to mark the trail for their followers.
I was also enjoying a day of fishing, catching three or four small ones before we neared the campsite. 1000 yards from the site, we were the second canoe in the chain, trailing only a threesome of hilariously inexperienced paddlers ahead. Our guide for the trip was George Fletcher, he of legendary outdoor abilities and indestructible Grumman canoe. George yelled from behind us that the site was approaching, and that we needed to get those in front stopped. Our immediate reaction was to get our backs into it and try to catch them before it was too late.
A few minutes later, they looked back and saw our hustle, and thought we wanted to race! We were still likely two or three-hundred yards away, far enough to glimpse them from around each passing bend in the river. When our pursuit began to seem hopeless, and the campsite just passed, we began to yell.
"Stop, Stop!", we screamed, but they didn't take us seriously. They didn't think paddling back upstream would be such a big deal, I guess. Of course by the time we caught them six hundred yards and five minutes later, it was to be a twenty-minute paddle back upstream.
We had caught them on a sand bar that fingered into the river, a likely place to stop. We waited as canoe after canoe ended up coming too far downstream as well, ending up in the same predicament. While we waited, I put a bottle of coke in the sand, partially submerged to keep it cold. More on that later.
We madly made our way back up and camped, having a terrific time fireside with food and stories. When bedtime rolled around, we hit the sack a pretty tired bunch, but as I drifted off to sleep to the sounds of thrown marshmallows patting off the side of the tent, I secretly dreamed of nailing a monster trout in the little pool by where we had landed.
The next morning, we were the first to rise and shine. We had a great breakfast thanks to my Dad and I headed quietly down to my spot. I expected that ten minutes later, I would be back in camp, waking up my jealous travel companions who envied my monster trophy. Forty-five minutes and three-quarters of a worm box later, I had been successful in only catching every chub and perch within miles of river, it seemed. I headed back to camp dejected, but slipped back into the group quietly.
Three-quarters of an hour later, we were all preparing to embark on the journey again. I had told my father of my desire to get into the river first, as I was still dreaming of the lunker that lived in that hole. True to form, my father complied, and as we pushed off, I cast into the pool just feet away from the frenzy of teenagers on shore. Almost immediately my line went taut and that new Mitchell needed more drag, I had caught the monster of the Magaguadavic.
Moments later it was in the canoe, a fourteen-inch beauty for all to see. I was bursting with pride at my success. The frenzy on shore got predictably worse. 600 yards downstream I grabbed my now completely submerged Coke as we ruddered by. The dam above had released water overnight. That day, we paddled and fished and had a terrific lunch in the middle of a rather rapid spot downriver. Lines were cast and fish were caught but mine stood as the largest at the end of the day.
Alas I was brought to earth with a thud as we hit shore. Some of the adults went upstream to get vehicles and we were left there without any food left. Except for two things......that bottle of Coke and a monster trout. My prize was eaten on the spot without my mother not having benefit of seeing it. What a blow to my ego. To make matters worse, there were no pictures taken, either. All that remains is this story and many more great memories from... the Magaguadavic Mayhem.
Click here for more info on the Magaguadavic River.
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