Monday, August 1
We left the Society’s office and went to our camping in Premiere Est on the Bonaventure River. During our first meeting all together, we introduced ourselves. We are 11 participants from Cascapedia-St-Jules and Gesgapegiag. They are 6 guides from the Maison des Jeunes Point de Mire in Verdun (http://mdjpointdemire.com/). The program is unique; it is meant to be “for the kids by the kids”. The guides are 16 or 17 years old and the participants 12 to 14. Some participants had fly fishing experience. Autumn, Alex and Ryan have been fishing with their dad and Kurt even caught salmon before. Some participants never held a fly fishing rod in their hands before. Then, we talked about provincial laws, fly fishing etiquette and the rules of the camp.
In the afternoon, we split the group in two. The first group stays at the camp for a fly tying workshop and the second group went to the casting clinic a couple kilometres away by the river. Fly tying is fun, pretty colours, all kinds of hairs and feathers, we let our creativity speak while learning the basics.
When the first group returned, we switched. At this point in the afternoon, we can hear thunder far away… the second group never made it to the site of casting, the van got a flat tire… The rumble we could hear earlier has caught up with us and it is now raining hard. A brave guide changed the flat tire while it was pouring rain. The campsite and the kitchen are protected by a huge tarp therefore, nobody seems to really care that it is raining this hard.
The rain calms down just in time for supper. We tell the kids they will be getting up at 5:00am the next morning. Everybody rushes to bed. It is 9:30 and in 5 minutes will begin a “thunder and lighting show”. Thunder is so close and so strong that the ground is shaking at times. It is pouring rain and I wonder if anyone’s tent leaks. All the kids are in their tents, talking, laughing and having a great time. This will go on for the next 2 hours…
Tuesday, August 2
5:00am. Some of the kids are up earlier than others. Some of the kids are more motivated than others. The hardcore sportmans show up at the kitchen to eat breakfast wearing their waders. They are ready and excited! We can’t fit everyone in the van so we decide to split the group. On our way to the pool, the camp leader of Maison des Jeune Point-de-Mire gives everyone a nicely decorated fly box with a Picasse and a Stone Ghost in it. It is a gift from Marc Gauthier, the initiator of this trip and general manager of the Cascapedia Society. What a nice gift!
The first group arrives to Run-a-pit pool on the Bonaventure river. No one is in sight. YEAH!!!! We have the pool to ourselves! Run-a-pit is a great spot with plenty of space to fit everyone. The river is foggy. It is 6:45 and it feels like the sun itself is dragging his feet and didn’t want to get up this morning. Our guides helps their fisherman getting their rod set up and flies tied. Kurt makes the first cast, Alex and Ryan are right behind. On the second pass, we start to see some action. One rose a salmon.
Simon and Nicolas are fishing for the first time in their life. They are already hooked to the sport. Billy did not want to fish at first and got bored. After long minutes watching the others, he figured he might as well give it a try after all… maybe time would pass faster. He tried and liked it and fished the remaining of the morning.
The “ladies” (our 3 girls participant aka the three musqueteers) had not had a chance to learn and practice casting the night before (remember flat tire…) so they did on that morning. Their guide has moderate success in getting them to practice their cast. Maybe they will try again a little later.
A light rain starts to fall. We all put our rain jacket and head back into the water. All we can hear is the trickling sound of the rain and an occasional “OH!” or “Did you see that?” from a kid who just had a salmon jump 10 feet away from him.
Happiness is salmon fishing with your buddies.
The game warden came for a visit and among them is Ryan’s dad. He shows us a alternate way to tie the fly. Even game wardens have a couple tricks up their sleeves to impress our guides…
It is 12:00 and we all head back to the campground for lunch and a “chill out” afternoon or a nap. 3:00 pm, we head down to Green and Malin pools. No need to worry about hitting a deer on the road, I am convinced that the music from our van can be heard miles and miles ahead. Techno-electro-pop and other cool “poum-ti-poum-poum” music is playing so loud that I can feel the vibration of the speaker on the van door. Some shake their shoulders and dance, some clap their hands, the coolest kids bob their head anticipating the next pool we’ll be fishing.
Nobody is fishing Green pool and there are already a couple fisherman at the Malin so we will all stick to Green. Some of the kids are not used to walking in the river with their waders and all. Within 5 minutes, Billy, Desmond and Simon will all take a wrong step and fall into the water. For Simon, it is his third time falling into the water today… this is turning into a running gag. Fortunately, we are all wearing a life jacket and a belt. Life jacket are mandatory in camp and after witnessing this series of falls, I am absolutely convinced that it is a good thing. After a couple hours at Green pool, some participants are tired (or wet!) and want to go back to the campground. The hardcore sportmans want to do the evening fishing. We split to group in two and head up river to Run-a-pit pool again. It is wasn’t for the law and their belly starting to be hungry, I think these sportmans would’ve fished all night.
We can clearly see by now that we have two kinds of participants: the “Sports” and the “Chills”. We decide that the Sports will be fishing the Petite Rivière Cascapedia tomorrow and the Chills will take it easy and fish the Bonaventure River. The Petite Cascapedia about 1 hour driving. The Sports have to get up at 4:00am. Tonight, everybody is tired from their day outdoor and the chats and giggles will go on for about a half an hour. Rain starts again.
Wednesday, August 3.
4:30am… somebody slept through the alarm! Kurt, Alex, Ryan, Nic, Simon and Austin are ready, lunches are packed, gear is in the van and we leave for the Petite. When we get to our pools, our friend Gilbert is waiting for us. Gilbert is a game warden for the Petite but he is also a guide at times. He shows us our pools, gives us advices on how to fish the run and which flies to use. We will fish the Forks and Arthur pools. We thank him, split the group in two and decide that we’ll meet for lunch and do a rotation on the pools at 13:00.
Kurt and Alex make a fire to keep the mosquitoes away. Kurt wants to catch a trout and cook it on the fire. He ask me to find a large flat rock to cook his trout. I tell him that if he catch a trout, I will have a flat rock ready for him. He goes back to his fishing determined.
Simon, Nic and Austin are fishing the other pool. Nic went for an unforeseen swim (he slipped on the rocks…). This will not stop these Sports and they kept on fishing all day. Austin took a private lesson on Spey casting with his guide and LOVES IT! By the end of the day, these three are fishing buddies.
In the afternoon, Alex, Kurt and Ryan took a break to look at each other’s flies they brought to camp. “This one I tied myself… This one my dad gave to me… This one is cool…”. After their little fly social and snack, they go back to fish. Alex caught the first fish of the camp: a cute trout!
Meanwhile, the Ladies, Desmond and Billy fished the Bonaventure river in the morning. Seeing that everyone of the Chills group is likely bored and tired of fishing by 12:00, the group headed back to the campground with their guides. There, they spent the afternoon taking is easy at the campground painting rocks and making friendship bracelets. This camp being a introduction camp, we could’nt expect every participant to enjoy fly fishing nor to fish for hours on end. As adults and guides of the group, we could only do our best to get them to give fly fishing an earnest try. They did and were rewarded for their effort with a fun activity. The Ladies told me that night that they truely enjoyed their morning fishing and were looking forward to fish again friday morning. This is mission accomplished for me.
Thursday, august 4
Fishing is fun but today we are doing something different: we are canoeing the Grand Cascapedia! We still got up early: we had to pack our camp and tents because we will be camping out by the sea tonight. We meet with Marc at the Society’s office and head up to Limestone where our trip will start.
The Grand has some calmer water where we can all get the canoes together and chat and once in a while there are little rapids which are also super fun to canoe through. We stop for lunch, the sun is out and some decides to go for a swim. We all know that ahead lies the mighty Princess rapids. Once we get there, everyone decides if they want to canoe the rapids or take the back run. Some make it without flipping, some flip their canoe, some will jump into the rapids and swim down. We are having a BLAST! This is so much fun! It is almost as much fun to watch the others come down the rapids as it is to go down it. Some canoe down the rapids a second time. We finish our trip at the bridges and head down to the beach on the Gesgapegiag reserve.
After setting up our tent and rebuilding our camp, everybody gets ready for a special activity: a native traditional sweat lodge. Peewee will guide everyone throught the process and explain the signification and the tradition of the sweat lodge. It is a time to purify both the body and the soul. It is a time to reflect and pray in our heart and relax and warm up our muscles. Everyone enjoyed it and feels the benefits of this activity. Upon return to the camp, we can all feel that the energy has changed, it is peace and harmony, beauty and… hunger! Thanks to Marc-the-chef, we had an amazing supper of salmon and rice. We lit a giant bombfire by the beach and chilled out until time for bed. We did not heard anyone talking or giggling that night.
Friday, August 5
This is our last day of camp. Getting up is painful but we all push ourselves knowing that we are fishing Zhe Grand Cascapedia, the greatest of all river. This is the chance to catch a salmon, this is the last chance this week. This is IT. The sky is clear, the sun is out, we head up to the Society’s office to catch our daily passes and drive to the Salmon branch. Once there, we split into teams and dispatch everyone. We will fish untill 12:00 and go down back to the Society’s office for lunch, the final meeting and goodbyes.
Simon rose a salmon, Ryan caught a big trout, the Ladies and Desmond fished for most of the morning.
The drive down is quieter. No loud music, not much talking. We are exhausted and happy. What a great experience, what a great week! We did not caught salmon!? So what?! This week, we learned fly fishing, we made friends, we lived the outdoor life, we visited beautiful rivers, we defeated the rain, we saw some action, we proved to ourselves that we were real sportsmans. We have the rest of our lives to catch salmon. We are young.