Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rolling Hills & Kamikazi Brookies

Arriving back in Prince Edward Island, we had a few days to kill as the only ferry to Newfoundland was booked up to vehicle traffic for three days solid. Since we remembered seeing a fly shop shortly before arriving in Souris (well, a sign outside a guy’s house that said something like “Bob’s fly shop”), we decided there must be fly fishing on PEI, and that we could spend a couple of day trying to find it.
PEI was, for the most part, as the Lonely Planet guide described it – Canada’s ‘inviting and well-tended back yard garden’. Green hills, tilled fields of red soil, and little wooden churches dotting every other rise. All of the houses and barns seemed freshly painted and repaired, and people smiled when we passed. We were so distracted we blew by the house/shop the first time, and had to find a driveway large enough to turn around in and head back. It was a little bit un-nerving driving into the shop, as it looked like a guy’s house (which it was) more than a shop, but we continued on into his driveway nonetheless. Parking by the garage, we were relieved at least to see an “open” sign on the side door. It took about fifteen minutes to get trout fishing licenses for both of us, buy a few odds and ends in the shop (attached to the kitchen of the house), and get a few recommendations for good local spots to try from the man and his son.
After grabbing lunch at an AMAZING little diner a few towns down the road (they even had a veggie burger!), we headed down to the south-east end of the island to try out one of the rivers the guys at the fly shop mentioned and then park the camper by in a little river campground for the night. Using a combination of our Canadian Backroads Atlas, GPS, and local directions, we were able to find the bridge with “good fishin’” within about twenty minutes. Leaving the camper beside the road - which seems to be common practice with vehicles here - we walked down along the banks planning our attack. Drew decided to nymph above the bridge and Chip elected to try a spoon in an area directly below where the water came out into the wider bay. Within half an hour he was kneeling by the river, cleaning a trout for dinner.
Driving to the little town of Montague, we spotted some cattails growing beside the road that would go excellently with dinner. Drew grabbed a zip-lock bag while Chip hopped out of the truck and walked down to the marshy area to harvest the ripe vegetables. Within an hour we were in the truck eating oriental ramen noodle soup with fresh cattails, and Chip was enjoying his hard-won trout from the rivers of PEI.
We were greeted by a rainy morning and cool winds that didn’t bode especially well for a day of fly-fishing. After filling up on gas, we made it our goal to find an internet shop were we could beg the use of a computer to download our Mac unfriendly topographical software and then transfer waypoints and maps to our handheld GPS units. After discovering that all internet cafes were still closed (as apparently the tourist season doesn’t start until mid-June), the lady working at the gas station directed us to a “computer office” in a business park where we might be able to complete our task.
Ten minutes later, we pulled into a building with a for rent sign and a decidedly corporate look. Figuring that: a) we really needed this software on our GPS units, and b) it wasn’t getting any better than this, we walked in and wandered in and out of offices until we found one inhabited by a startled man and woman. After discovering that the office was definitely a company that was involved with computers but did not interface with the public, we figured we were there and had nothing to lose, and we explained that the lady at the gas station had sent us and that we needed a computer to install software onto our GPS units. Five minutes later the friendly guy had set us up at a computer and we were downloading Topo Canada onto the computer and choosing maps to put onto our Rhino radios. After we finished up, we passed back by the office to find that the guy had left, but the woman who was still there refused to accept any payment for the use of their computer, simply wanting to know about our trip instead. After telling her all about our plans, she wished us luck, and we headed back out.
Radios in hand, we decided to try our luck with fishing, and after grabbing lunch at a small café by the river we began to drive around looking for reasonable fishing. Our first attempt landed us at the end of a small road, a road that literally ended in a barricade and crumbling asphalt that disappeared into a stream. Chip decided that since it was there he would throw a few casts over the barricade, while Drew elected to research a few better places in the area using the maps in the car that had streams and lakes reachable by car on them. A little brookie thrown back in, and we were backing Inconnu the 200 yards back down the road to get out. Finding a larger river that opened into a marsh near Cardigan, construction by the bridge forced us to move down about half a kilometer and walk into the stream part that meandered through and then plan to wade up towards the bridge. After stumbling down the bank and walking across the plain to a symphony of sucking sounds our boots made, we reached the stream and split up. A stiff wind wrecked havoc on our casting but Drew managed to get a few bites, though after some unsuccessful attempts at actually hooking the fish she realized they were much more interested in her red wool indicator than her flies. After wandering up and down the river a bit, we decided to head back to head back to the little dead end road stream and try our luck up and down it, hoping that there would be some nice hidden spots higher up or down river.
Climbing out of the truck to explore, Drew found some really pretty water gurgling around a bend up river, and after wandering through some brush, Chip discovered an open plain and a space where the river widened up. We decided to start downstream and work our way up with dry flies. Drew, figuring that the interest in the red indicator in the previous stream might be catching, tied on a Royal Wulff, while Chip tried a Parachute Caddis. Almost as soon as her fly hit the water, little brookies started hurling themselves at her fly, fighting over who would get to take it. One after another, they vied for space on the hook, at times flying out of the water on her back cast. Chip had a little less luck until he switched to a fly with some red in it, and then we were in business. Walking up stream, we cast to any burble or shadow that should contain a fish, and at each step found two or three. Ten fish, fifteen fish…within twenty minutes, we were sitting on the banks helpless as laughter shook our shoulders. These brookies were mad for it. About four to six inches, they took anything we through at them. Approaching a bend in the river, Drew tossed a fly to the opposite bank, sliding it under a low branch and letting the water whip it into the current, and suddenly felt a take a bit stronger than the others. Two minutes later she held her prize aloft.

“I shall call him Brutus!” she exclaimed, posing for pictures with a gorgeous brook trout, at least eight or nine inches.
Chip followed suit at the next long pool, throwing a fly into a deep trench alongside a pile of logs, and pulling out a nice rainbow. We spent the afternoon fishing up the rest of the water, and then tossing a wet fly in as we made our way back down, catching eager little trout with short memories along the way.  All in all, we must have hooked around seventy or eighty little fish by the end of the day, all too small to do anything other than release, but it was a wonderful time in a beautiful place. Heading back to our little campground beside the Montague River, we cooked dinner and planned our trek to Newfoundland the next day. A drive to Wood Islands, the ferry to Caribou, Nova Scotia, and then a five hour drive to New Sydney in the far north of the island where we would stop at the WalMart to stock up on any final supplies we would need for Newfoundland and Labrador, and then hop on the night ferry to Port aux Basque. Luckily, it was a dismal and rainy day, so we didn’t feel too bad about leaving PEI and heading north. Creeping down the ramp and taking our place in Lane 7 of the truck line for the ferry around ten pm that night, we readied our watches to jump forward the half hour difference to Newfoundland time, and began plotting our assault on the trout of northern Canada…