My first ever salmon

The fish are eating the rocks ( fish are plentiful close to shore) ... Newfoundland saying

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1997. I'd never seriously fished for salmon before going to Newfoundland.

I did try once, on the Margaree, at the Hatchery Pool, but I didn't know what I was doing. I was on vacation with my family. The rain was pouring down when I got to the pool around eleven. The only other feller there was an old timer who was just packing up. He told me he'd never seen a fish in three hours. After he left (I didn't want anyone to see my pathetic casting) I went and got my rod from the truck and tied on a large White Wulff. I worked the pool for half an hour with not a sign, for which I was really thankful, and decided to head downriver to look for some good trout spots. I cast out one last time and put the rod over my shoulder, dragging the fly across the water as I waded downriver. I hadn't taken five steps when there was this almighty crash behind me. I turned to see my fly bobbing in the center of an ever-widening ring of waves. I debated fleeing the spot but just had to see what caused that tidal wave. I cast upstream again and skittered the fly in short bursts across the surface. A, what seemed to me, three foot silver missile erupted from the river not one inch from my fly. I was shaking. I knew I was outclassed and ripped the line ashore before that critter took another shot at my fly. With trembling hands I cut the fly off and took the rod apart. I later told my wife that I'd seen enough and would never fish for such monsters unless someone who knew mouth-to-mouth was with me.

Well I got my chance.

Roy, Harvey, Vern and myself booked a trip to Portland Creek and the surrounding rivers with Blue Mountain Anglers. We were really looking forward to doing some big trout fishing but had been told that we couldn't miss out on the salmon. I tied some salmon flies in anticipation.

In late June we drove and ferried our way over to Newfoundland.

We had some great trout fishing for the first couple of days and then our guides said it was time for the salmon. Our destination was the Torrent River. After trekking across endless barrens in search of trout the boardwalk running alongside the Torrent was a piece of cake. Just as well, the sun was raising a sweat on all of us and I dug out my sun hat.

Vern and I decided to fish the Wing Pool while Roy and Harvey fished upstream on the Shady Pool.

Walt, our guide, pointed to the exact rock that I was to fish from; wading was not necessary.

"What fly shall I use?" I asked.
"The Blue Charm hor the Silver 'n Grey," Walt replied.
"Hokay," I said, "But should I use a hitch?"
"Yeah, put hon the 'itch."
"Right," I said, not really knowing what the hell I was doing. Up until three months ago I knew as much about the hitch as I did about quantum physics (whatever that is). That's when I started reading all those salmon books. A man could spend his life reading about salmon and never go to a river.
"Keep a short line," Walt yelled at me as he and Vern moved forty feet upstream.
Time to fish or cut bait. I tied on one of my Blue Charms and applied the 'itch.

I false cast twenty feet of line and laid the Blue Charm on the water. The 'itch worked well and kept the eye of the hook up with the body held just below the surface. The fly skimmed across the fast water covering an arc of forty-five degrees before coming to a stop straight downriver, just ahead of a rock. I turned to look and see how Vern was doing and felt my line fetch-up. Dang, I thought, I've hooked that rock. I didn't want to lose my fly so I didn't put too much of a strain on the line just in case it would free itself. The rock moved. I reeled in. The rock slowly made its way upriver until it was level with me and only ten feet out from my waders. A feeling of helplessness ran through my body.

"Walt," I yelled, "Hellllp!" Vern had yet to get his fly in the water.
"Git 'is 'ead hup," Walt yelled back, "Put the pressure to 'im."

I tightened my line as much as I dared and slowly raised the rod until it was bent almost double. The rock didn't appreciate this move and promptly responded by bouncing the rod up and down and then taking off downriver like a freight train. Fifty feet, sixty-five, eighty, with three high, twisting leaps in-between. I wondered who had control of who. It was about then that it felt as if my feet were leaving mother earth. Sort of like I was floating in air.

"Put the pressure to 'im," yelled Walt, "Git that line back."

Walts words brought me back down to ground and my jello bones stiffened. I put the pressure to 'im and started to recover line. My wrist and shoulder hurt. I worked him to within twenty feet when the rod bounced and off he went again. I felt utterly useless but his run wasn't as far this time and I worked him back to within ten feet of my shaking legs.

"Git 'is 'ead hup," yelled Walt.

The rod butt was digging into the bones of my forearm. I whispered an obscenity and a prayer in one sentence. I hauled upwards on the rod and the rock slowly lifted his head until I could swing it towards Walt who had worked his way downstream. Walt grabbed the line and, without lifting the rock out of the water, quickly freed the hook.

My very first ever salmon, on my very first cast and caught using a fly that I had tied. How about them apples!

I hooked six more in two hours, four threw the hook and two more were landed and released, all were grilse in the twenty to twenty-two inch range. With each fish I grew more competent and with the last one, caught on the dreaded 'horange' bug, I was able to continue a light-hearted conversation with Ron, our other guide, on 'the meaning of life.'

Tales Casting contest I Tangier River I Boyhood memories I Newfie salmon I Muddler's memories I Does a bear? I First ever salmon I The Tickmobile
U-Fish I 4 a.m. I Lyin seasun I Anecdotes I Fishgirl salmon I A natural fly I Main Event I Honeymoon I Vernon I Leslie I Coyote? I Newfie trout I Fantasy

Pat Donoghue, Canada, ©1997