albany river adventures gets off to a great start
To say that the inagural run of NativeBrookTrout.com's Albany River Adventures was a huge success would be an understatement. Our goal was to put a Tom Doolittle of Charlotte, NC onto a trophy brook trout on the fly. I was confident that with the help of local brook trout whisperer Isaac Nate we would be able to make that happen. What caught me off guard was the size of the fish; out of 25 fish the smallest brook trout caught was 19" in length and went up to 23". The real trophy of the trip wasn't the longest fish. It was this 21" football. We could hardly believe how fat it was. I knew it was a special when even the Ojibway guides at the camp were impressed with the photos. Tom started fly fishing only last year on the Albany during Wilderness North's Adventure Skills School so this was especially cool to see him return and really put his new skills to the test. He had obviously done his homework and practiced quite a bit since we last saw each other. His line handling was excellent, his fly selection was perfect and he really looked comfortable on the water. I had an easy week (other than trying to keep up with him!)
Our trip got off to a slow start due to frigid conditions and a rapidly rising barometer. It turned the fishing down to almost nothing. We made the most of the situation by exploring the area around Miminiska Falls. This turned into a much bigger ordeal than we had imagined. Bushwacking the boreal forest is much harder than it looks. The cover isn't as thick as it is down south but the terrain is brutally uneven and there are very few trails. We quickly learned that if there wasn't a trail leading to an area, there was probably no reason to visit that area.
We took it easy on Tuesday and fished moving water for walleye and pike from a boat to save our strength for our big water trout adventure the next day. It was a nice day with a few big pike for Tom. I had a rough day but managed to redeem myself with some big walleye in the evening. The barometer was still not kind at this point but the reports for the days ahead were looking very positive.
Wednesday was the day the trip really took a turn for the better. The weather was great! The barometer steady and we had a fly out to the Keezhik planned. This river is brook trout heaven. We had Ojibway guide, Isaac Nate, to get us through the rough stuff. Isaac was the guide that put me on my first brook trout up here and his knowledge of this area is unmatched. I pride myself in my understanding of brook trout habitat and behavior but I am dwarfed by this guy. His boat handling was also unequalled. He navigated the roaring rapids with a cedar pole by inching his way into every slot. Tom and I took a try at it the next day on some smaller water and nearly flipped the boat a few times. This is obviously something that takes a lifetime to master.
Within a couple of minutes of hitting the first pool on the Keezhik we hooked up with a 19" fish. Little did we know that this would be the smallest fish of the trip. I guess it had something to do with the time of year; just after ice out. Every fish was a trophy. All of the fish caught that day were landed using a sink tip of some sort and a sculpin pattern. It didn't seem to matter what pattern but we did see that Tom's weird looking green sculpin with wobbly eyes was getting more hits than my olive/chartreuse conehead rabbit strip thingy. The numbers were so good that we didn't even bother to change our flies despite this revelation. One of the most exciting parts of the trip occurred when Isaac directed us to cast into an extremely fast and large rapid. I started to question his sanity but then remembered who he was and obediently tossed my fly into a raging torrent. Unbelievably the trout somehow found the fly and Tom and I landed several huge trout out of water that I would have never have fished on my own. There is no substitute for local knowledge.
After the excitement we had a long paddle home with a constant headwind. Outboards are available for this but with three of us in the canoe we wanted to avoid the extra weight in the rapids. It was a tough but with a dinner waiting for us back at the lodge we put the hammer down and cruised home with a great day and a 23" brook trout under our belt.
The next day was an exploratory trip down the Troutfly. Tom and I had run this river before in August as part of the Adventure Skills School were he was introduced to fly fishing. It only yielded two trout that day but we were convinced that it was due to the low water and hot August conditions. We were wrong. We didn't catch a thing but had a blast slamming the canoe through the rapids. The Troutfly is a smaller water so we gave Isaac the day off and ran it ourselves. As I tried to pole my way through the rapids I really got an appreciation for what Isaac had done the previous day in much bigger water. When we got off the stream we had a bite to eat and headed out to the walley hole and landed a few to get our pride back.
Our final day of fishing was spent with another trip down the Keezhik. Appropriately this trip also produced the real trophy of the entire trip. It wasn't the longest fish but is was freakishly fat and kept Tom busy for about twenty minutes as he played it out in the rapids of a huge pool. It was really great seeing him leaning back and thinking about how far he had come in such a short time. We both agreed that this had been the best trout fishing trip of our lives. What could top it? Maybe next year we will find out.
Check out the gallery at: http://www.nativebrooktrout.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=350
- Thanks to Wilderness North for their great hospitality and accommodations during our trip. And of course a special thank you to Isaac Nate. Without your knowledge and skill we would have never been able to pull this off. I look forward to running the Keezhik with you again soon.
- Tight lines!