Mainers are often reluctant travelers. Many have not even traversed the entire state in which they live.
My folks had never been to Baxter Park until Linda and I purchased a camp near there. Many Mainers have never visited Acadia National Park, even though every year it is one of the most visited parks in the nation.
Aroostook County is unknown to most Mainers, it’s rolling hills full of potatoes and other crops unseen. And I have talked with folks from northern Maine who have never been south of Bangor.
My grandmother Searles lived almost all of her long life in Lubec, staring across 10 miles of water at Grand Manan Island, and she never set foot on it.
Canada might as well be Afghanistan to many of us. My first visit to Montreal, only four hours away, didn’t come until I was 52 years old. And my first visit to the city of Québec didn’t come until 2002.
I can report that is a good thing to visit these places. Linda and I loved both Montreal and Québec city.
But what really captivated us was the north shore of the St. Lawrence Seaway, featuring hundreds of miles of stunning scenery, expansive beaches, mountainous terrain, amazing waterfalls, rivers teeming with fish, and small well-kept villages nestled alongside every harbor.
To describe it in current lingo, it’s life the way it should be.
We traveled to Québec to fish in 2002, but the trip up to Havre St. Pierre, the jumping off place for our wilderness fishing adventure, added a truly spectacular element to our trip that was unexpected. It’s worth the drive on Route 173.
750 miles later after 13 ½ hours of driving, we entered the small coastal village of Havre St. Pierre, where we would catch a float plane to Lake Watshishou, home base of Lac Holt Outfitters and our hosts, Gilles Marquis and Lisette Bouchard.
We were there to fish, but the wonderful hospitality offered by Gilles and Lisette, the gourmet food, the very comfortable lodge, the view of the lake – well, it was all very special. Inveterate reader that I am, you will know that this must’ve been a very special place when I tell you I took six books with me and managed to read only 20 pages the entire week!
Day one found us in pool 55 at the mouth of the Watshishou River at 6 AM, where a 3 ½ pound salmon struck my fly in the first hour of fishing. Few fish battle as strongly as landlocked salmon, or jump as high. This fish did not disappoint, and it took about 15 minutes to bring it in to hand. After a quick photo it was released unharmed.
Both Linda and Edye Cronk, our traveling companion who was, at that time, President of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, also got several nice fish that morning.
Let me describe my experience this way. I got 36 landlocked salmon and 24 brook trout. I caught salmon of 3 ½ pounds, 4 ¼ pounds, 5 pounds, and a giant of 27 inches that weighed 6 pounds. And that was the first day! It is a day I shall never forget.
The last day is also very fresh in my mind. An aggressive salmon in my favorite pool on the river had, on two previous days, tried to steal smaller salmon off our lines. I was determined to catch this big salmon and tried many flies and approaches without luck.
Linda and I returned to that pool for our last morning of fishing, and she got many nice salmon and trout up to about a pound and a half. As the last hour of fishing arrived, I decided to implement my plan for the big salmon.
Using two split shot weights and a large Black Ghost fly, I snuck up behind the ledge at the bend in the pool, and dropped the line into a deep hole on the other side of the ledge where I thought the salmon might be hiding.
As the fly settled to the bottom of the hole, something strong picked it up. I knew immediately that I hooked the big salmon. Linda says my fist pump up and down but I have no recollection of that.
The salmon slowly took about 100 yards of my line out into the river and when I finally pulled back, he ripped out another hundred yards down the river and leapt magnificently out of the water. We both gasped.
“I did it! I got the big salmon!” I yelled.
It was a tremendous fight, with many heart stopping jumps, and I was shaking when he finally arrived at my hand, where I measured and weighed him – a solid 25 inches and 5 ½ pounds. After photos, he was released to fight another day and thrill another angler.
I took apart my rod, finished for the day and the trip.