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Paul Smith: A June for two hoods

There are lots of early summer topics to write about. I’ll start with the weather. Everybody I meet is talking about it. I think this is the coldest first half of June that I have ever experienced. I just had a look at the long-range forecast and the temperatures are predicted to be at least double digits after tomorrow’s heavy wind and rain. There is hope. Has anybody planted gardens yet? I’m heading to Labrador this weekend and I had planned to set in a few potatoes before leaving. I suppose spuds are hearty and will survive the damp and cold, in case the meteorologists have it wrong and this April like cold weather continues.

For the past few years Goldie and I have been spending the month of May in Florida. If you read this column on a regular basis you likely know that. Two years ago I came home on June 1 and managed to remain sockless and in shorts for the rest of the summer in continuum, a seamless transition from the Sunshine State to late springtime in Newfoundland. Last year I switched to long pants and donned socks for about a week. Yesterday I was outside working and had to put wooly long johns on. Good Lord was it ever damp and freezing, not literally freezing, but damn close to the zero mark with a bone-chilling wind off the North Atlantic. That is not the Gulf of Mexico out there, and we certainly don’t live here for the weather.

 But I still love this place, my home on a rock in the ocean. As I have often said, we must embrace our environment and make the best of it. So what’s the best we can hope for from this very late spring of 2018, the one I think we will remember for a while? You know what? This weather might be good for salmon. There has been so much negative news in the salmon world, a bit of high water might be good for them.  Low warm water is the nemesis of salmon angling, and very bad for the fish themselves. That’s part of the reason we salmon anglers fear global warming. I don’t think low water or high temperatures are going to be much of a problem this season, at least not for quite a while yet.

I heard some river news from Labrador today. It seem the rivers of the Big Land are in quite high and cold condition. That’s no surprise. On the island a late spring is generally great for salmon angling. Rarely is the water too high to actually fish. In general we don’t worry much about high and cold water. But in Labrador, with its colder climate and bigger rivers, the angling song and dance can be polar opposite. Rivers like the Eagle and Pinware can be plain and simple too high and powerful to be fishable by mere mortal two-legged anglers. Nobody casts a fly in class V rapids. The snowpack isn’t near melted even in Southern Labrador and some rivers haven’t even crested yet from spring runoff. Wow, we might have to alter our fishing plans. Rivers are raging like it’s still May.

On the other hand, tamer waters like those of Bay St. George benefit from this sort of a beginning to the season. Don’t read me wrong, high water in Labrador won’t hurt salmon in the long run. The big early fish might just pass right through, and we anglers won’t be blessed by the gods with a chance to dance with them. But that’s life. I can live with that. The rivers will eventually calm down and there will be some fish that didn’t plow through. If Labrador is in flood next week, we’ll head back out to Bay St. George and fish high-but-nice west coast water. All is relative. There is rarely water on the West Coast too high to wade and fish.

I’ve already been out to Bay St. George once this season, but I certainly don’t mind doing another few days of exploring out there while I wait for the Pinware to settle down. I say exploring because I’m relatively a newcomer to the Bay St. George and Codroy area. New is fun. I’ve been fishing in Labrador each and every season for over 20 years. Not that I don’t still love the Big Land rivers, but I’m broadening my horizons. I still have a big salmon waiting for me in Chimney Pool on the Codroy.

Speaking of weather, I generally find the west coast so much more pleasant from a climatological perspective. It was not so last week on Codroy and Crabbes. I generally don’t wear a hooded fishing coat other than my wading jacket or raincoat. Because I don’t like two hoods, and I have so far avoided such a scenario. On a wet and cold river day I generally wear a base layer, and shirt, followed by a synthetic lined jacket, with a rain and wind proof unlined layer on the outside. Of course all layers are breathable. Last week I was bloody happy to have two hoods.

This past winter I bought a new Outdoor Research jacket for snowshoeing and winter camping. It had a hood. My buddy Rod Hale has one like it and has been wearing it fishing. He says the two-hood business doesn’t bother him. I had the jacket anyway so I decided to give it a trial run for fishing on a short excursion to the West Coast.  The jacket passed with flying colours. The hood sat nice and flat on my back when I didn’t need it, not irritating my neck beneath my wading jacket. But more importantly, that hood bloody well kept me fishing when a bone chilling wind howled up the river valley. I might have been tempted back to the cabin and a cozy woodstove if not for that hood. A mesh backed ball hat just didn’t cut it.

Then the rain came, on our last day on Crabbes River. It was nearly cold enough to snow. I muttered to myself and put up two hoods to spite the gods of water, weather and fish. With a layer of PrimaLoft and another of Gore-Tex wrapped around my neck and ears, I fished on.

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

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