My grandfather taught me how to fish and taught me how to fish for Atlantic Salmon. It was a special time growing up and flyfishing for Salmo salar, a fish of a thousand casts. What I didn’t realize then was that I was doing something that many people pay very good money to try and do. For me, it was another summer fishing with my grandad in the big canoe and hoping (praying) that one of those mighty fish would tug on the line. When fishing was slow for salmon, we would fish for trout and a fly fishing nut was born.
After moving away and fishing for trout in the south and turning into a real fish bum in the Smokies, then moving to the Northeast, I was drawn back like one of those salmon. My grandfather called and said he would like to catch one more salmon, and he’d like to do it with me. A trip was born and the challenge became for my grandad to hook one more salmon.
With him still living in New Brunswick, we decided to fish the Mirimichi in July, and the challenge of putting us on the fish fell to Dan Bullock, his wonderful mother Renate and a great guide Vince, at Bullocks Lodge. A great spot on the river with nice cabins, it was a perfect spot.
With low water and only a few days, it was a herculean task. With my grandad pushing 90, the guides took extra precautions and he was in the boat, while I waded. The fishing was slow, and even though we were there for my grandfather, I wasn’t going to squander a chance at another salmon. I fished every opportunity I had, and Dan was patient with me as I fished until my hands bled and in a driving storm. The most excitement for me was a salmon boiling over my fly and the occasional flash of silver. I was quickly becoming the expensive fishing trip with no fish statistic.
On the second morning my grandfather was in the boat when Dan suddenly hollered up the river to me. I couldn’t make it out the first time so I held my hand to my ear…”He’s got a fish on!”. I ran like hell.
An undertaker was the fly the salmon had hit on. When I got to the boat the rod was bent and the fish was already in the backing. “Do you want to land him?” my grandfather asked? When I was little my grandfather would hook the fish and boat him back to the front of his camp, where I would land it. He liked the take and the initial run, and I think he liked watching me try to land the fish even more. “Not this time” was my reply. The fish was well into the backing when he jumped. And then he was off. It was all he wanted was the take, and that’s what he got.
My grandfather was happy and so was I. There were three other groups at the camps the same time as us. No one else hooked a fish, including yours truly. I fished my guts out the rest of the trip and did everything I could. Another boil over the fly was all I got, but this trip wasn’t the time for me catching a fish. We had a wonderful time and I heard a lot of stories, and history, and watch people twice my age drink me under the table.
There’s still the matter of me catching another salmon. I told Dan when we left that I would be back someday and I meant it. I may be another statistic of a sport without a fish. But I’ll be back. And that river owes me a god damned fish.
Thanks for reading! And thanks again to the wonderful group at Bullock’s Lodge http://www.bullockslodge.com in New Brunswick. You took great care of my grandad and I and it will be remembered forever.