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PAUL SMITH: Hook, line and sinker

Too much sun in the Codroy Valley.
Too much sun in the Codroy Valley. - Paul Smith

Allow me to vent about salmon silliness before I take to the open road

Goodness, there’s so much to write about, some good and other stuff not so great.

I’ll start on the positive side. Summer as finally arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador. In Spaniard’s Bay a few days ago, we had a daytime temperature identical to St. Pete Beach in Florida, the Sunshine State. That doesn’t occur too often. Not only was the ambient shade thermometer reading exactly equal, but also the measure factoring in humidity — “feels like” is the forecasting term.

Both towns are ocean environments and tend to be on the humid side in summer, and precisely the day’s hottest period felt like 37 degrees Celsius. That’s 98.6 Fahrenheit. Wow, we almost hit the 100 mark! I wore my broad brimmed straw-hat cutting grass. There’s nothing better than good old straw for outside in direct sun. I buy mine at angling stores in Florida and often wear them kayaking.

Now for some negativity, on a bit of the nonsense I have to endure while reading the news and Facebook over morning coffee. Some angler person, of course with a million years of salmon fishing experience, wrote a piece about hook and release. And it was such a lovely morning in the backyard with java brew in hand, turned sour by pure bull bologna. Anyway, I got over it and went on with my day. It went like this.

The writer supposed that released salmon do live on to spawn. He said it sarcastically to the tone of, well let’s say for the sake of argument you really believe this. OK, then he takes a quantum leap and discusses the genetic alteration that’s silently taking place under the water unknown to all but the most brilliant scientific minds. I’m sorry I can’t help myself, a degree of sarcasm is at my very core. My father was king of the stabbing literary art. Anyway.

So, the argument goes on. Salmon will be hooked and released over generations and generations. A survival instinct salmon will evolve to avoid biting fly hooks. We, as anglers, will become extinct because salmon will no longer take our flies. This is the most foolish nonsense and stab at hook and release that I’ve yet encountered. And I’ve heard some doozies.

If you know even the tiniest amount of biology, you know that’s not the way evolution works. Killing fish that take flies is the way to go about creating a population of no biters. But we know this isn’t the case either, because fly-fishing has been around for a very long time. Good Lord, what’s next?

And this guy was right about the caplin fishery in the 1970s, leading to the demise of cod, so he has to be right about this, too. Or so he argues. But, of course, these are two totally separate and distinct issues. I don’t see his analogy between overfishing baitfish and releasing salmon. I kind of agree with him on the caplin. I think many who release and care about salmon would.

On a serious salmon note, I’m not hearing any good reports on salmon angling. It looks like it’s shaping up to be a very poor year. I won’t decide for sure until all the data are in, both scientific and anecdotal, but it isn’t looking good. There are salmon being counted on a few extra rivers this year so I’m looking forward to seeing all that tabulated. There’s great stuff going on out in Bay St, George, a counting fence and several snorkel surveys. My congratulations on a great effort to enhance local salmon stocks by the Bay St. George South Development Association. You will hear more on this.

My buddy Chris Fowler playing a fine salmon at The Forks, where the North and South Branches meet.
My buddy Chris Fowler playing a fine salmon at The Forks, where the North and South Branches meet.

I did most of my fishing this summer out Codroy Valley and Bay St. George way. Mostly I fished North Branch, South Branch, and Crabbes River. I was late starting because of my injured arm, and I think that had a quite negative effect on the final outcome. That said, in a different year, with different weather, the result could have been very different. I started fishing on July 6. I think I should have been finishing up on July 6. But hey, at least I got fishing. And I released two around the 10-lb mark on each of my first two days. That was at the confluence of the North and South Branch Rivers into the Grand Codroy. I love fishing there — such a beautiful area to pass the day, like a big European river flowing through a fertile farming valley. It’s unique from the Newfoundland and Labrador perspective.

Back to the matter of timing: it didn’t rain. I know most folks don’t want rain in summer, for sure not on holiday time. But angling holidays and fishers of salmon are very different. Rain is good, at least to a reasonable degree. Too much rain can be bad. That’s what happened last year. I’m confusing you, for sure if you aren’t an angler. Well, suffice to say there are so many ways the gods can ruin your day.

I’ll keep it simple this time. From July 6 to 17 it did not rain in the Codroy Valley, maybe a bit of drizzle or overnight shower, but nothing of consequence. The rivers were at a nice level when we arrived on the scene. The flowing water was cool to the thighs. The fishing was decent. It did not rain and the water dropped as temperatures rose. The salmon did not want to bite our flies. I’m not sure why. Actually, nobody really knows why any salmon eats any fly. The fur and feather we swing across their noses don’t even look like anything sensible for a salmon to eat. See how foolish that evolution argument is? This whole salmon-biting-fly thing is very complex.

There he goes, free and very alive, hopefully not telling other salmon to avoid Blue Charms.
There he goes, free and very alive, hopefully not telling other salmon to avoid Blue Charms.

Another key point is that you can’t draw conclusions about the overall state of salmon numbers based on a week or two of your own angling. Anyone can have poor or excellent fishing based not on fish or no fish, but pertaining more to environmental conditions. There were fish in the river but we couldn’t catch them. Sometimes there are just a few fish but they all bite ferociously. And you could be fishing with perfect full moon precision on the peak run. The gods smile and the gods frown. We always have to wait for the overall data and the big picture.

Enough about salmon for a while, Goldie and I are heading out on a road trip in our new Subaru Outback. Yes, I know — I declared myself a pickup truck guy. But I still have my 2010 F150, in wicked good shape from regular mechanical maintenance and yearly rustproofing. I always liked those Outback Wagons so I broke down and bought one to replace the car. We will see how it goes as an outdoor adventure rig.

There aren’t many places in Newfoundland I haven’t been. But I have never set foot on Fogo Island. So that’s where we are headed, three nights in Fogo, two on Change Islands and then two in Twillingate. I have to check out the Boat Building Museum. I’ll also be doing as many hikes as I can. I have my trouting gear and I’ll see what the area has to offer in brook trout. Stay tuned.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at flyfishtherock@hotmail.com  or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock


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