A couple of Newfie troutin' trips

Waste neither time nor thought about the bridge you'll never cross.

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From what I can gather, a lake in Newfoundland appears to be any body of fresh water over forty square miles. Anything between that and one square mile is a 'pond.' And anything under a pond is a 'splash' (our guides had big grins on their faces when they told us this). The definition of a river is kind of confusing. Some were called rivers but most were called brooks. What I would consider a brook here in Nova Scotia is something less than ten-feet wide. What Newfoundlanders consider a brook could be anywhere between twenty and a hundred feet wide. Everything seems so big in Newfoundland, including the fish.

So now that we've got that straight you can imagine our concern when we were told on our first troutin' trip that we going to cross three 'small' barrens and a few trees.

We drove on the main highway for about thirty minutes and then on an old logging road for an hour. When we could drive no further we unloaded, threw on our backpacks and after ten minutes came to the first 'small' barren.

We knew right away that we were in for a long walk. From our perspective, a moose on the other side of the barren was about the size of a child's thumbnail. "What do you consider 'big'?" we asked our guides. "Hanyting over five miles b'ye," they replied.

I put my mind in neutral, my feet in plod mode and hit the trail. Of course, there is no trail through a barren and we soon spread out and picked our way through the wet ground. Our guides, Walt and Ron, walked with their hands in their pockets. At each stride water droplets looped high from the soles of their boots. After ten minutes we couldn't keep up with them and slowed our pace. To take our mind off the long haul we began to take an interest in the flora and the animal tracks, carefully avoiding the moose and caribou droppings. The worst parts though were the narrow, meandering trails through the 'small' stands of trees in between the barrens. Roots and rocks crisscrossed these trails. They were also full of sinkholes. Two of us were soon covered in thick black mud up to our knees.

We arrived at our destination, after an hour and a half, with the sobering thought that we were going to have to retrace our steps, mostly uphill, later that same day.

The guides lit a fire and brewed a pot of tea. Mugs were passed around while we sat on the rocks and perused the Western mountains. We were at the outlet of a pond where it narrowed down to a forty-foot wide brook. The brook narrowed even further and emptied into a splash and then proceeded into another brook. We were to fish the fast, unwadable water of the pond before it hit the brook and then let our flies run down into the brook.

Vern got the first shot while we were sipping tea and soon had several nice size brookies chewing on his flies.

"What should I use?" I asked our guides.
"A horange bug," they uttered in unison.
"C'mon," I said, "I want to use something that at least looks like a natural fly."
"A horange bug," they repeated.
I sighed heavily, "Hokay," I said.

I took my turn on a large rock and false cast a few times until I had about thirty-five feet of line out. I threw the line up into the current and allowed the bug to drift rapidly down into the brook. Just before it entered the brook what appeared to be a porpoise humped itself out of the water. It winked at me and took a lazy swipe at my fly. I trembled. "Was that a brookie?" I asked the guides. "Jist a small one," came the reply. That word 'small' again. It conjured up pictures of two and three-pound brookies, where I'm more used to small stream fishing and a half-pound fish would be a fair size. I was kind of worried, I didn't know if I, or my gear, could handle a fish that big.

There was only one way to find out. I cast again, almost dreading the rise but up he came again and this time he was on. He went upstream, which I thought was impossible, and we fought one another until he tired and allowed the water to carry him down into a calm spot. That old saying about fish being two inches longer before they are landed rang true. I thought he had looked to be about eighteen inches but he came in around sixteen inches. A beautifully colored big, fat trout.

We caught another half dozen in the fourteen to sixteen inch range and three-dozen more in the ten to fourteen inch range. Just a great day for us, about average according to our guides. Five fish in the ten-inch range would be a good day for me in the area of Nova Scotia that I call home.

The second trip to this spot (yeah, we fishing fools love a challenge) produced a similar quantity but not the quality. Except for two fish.

Vern and I decided to fish the bottom end of the brook where it emptied into a long, winding stream, much like what I would refer to as a stillwater, or a 'steady' as it's called in Newfoundland. The brook was forty-feet wide at this point but we were able to wade out and find two nice spots where the water dropped off a shelf and streamed into the steady. Vern immediately caught half-a-dozen fish in the ten to twelve inch range. My spot seemed kind of slow. I stepped back fifteen-feet, put on a very crude mouse imitation and started fishing upstream. Each time the mouse swung around a rock it would sink and each time it did a nice brookie would latch on. I caught maybe five this way and then turned back to where I had been fishing.

I dropped the fly in above the shelf and allowed it to be caught in the swirl and watched it disappear. It fetched up hard. Then it started to move, slowly at first and then faster. My eight-foot, five-weight rod bent over and then sprung up and down rapidly. My heart was pounding. The line started to scream off the reel as the fish headed right, left and then right again. The line cut through the water leaving a wake behind. The rod bent even further as the fish hit the fastest part of the brook and headed straight downstream. The line snapped like an overwound spring and I wobbled on the slippery rocks. My whole body sagged. It had obviously been a huge trout, possibly over three-pounds if I compared the action to the previous trip. The line had broken at a wind knot that I knew I should have removed.

Ok, I thought, there's got to be another one there and, not having another mouse, selected a large muddler. I rested that spot for a while and fished upstream again, with much the same success as before. Then I turned around and dropped the fly ahead of the ledge and watched it flip into the swirl. Nothing moved. I could feel how tense I was and decided to sit down on a rock and fish at a more relaxed pace. Four or five casts later another one was on. Not as big as the one I had lost but a great fighter none the less. I fished him well and ended up with an eighteen-inch brookie, the biggest of the trip and the biggest I had ever caught. I thanked him and released him carefully.

I sat back down on the rock, lowered my head, and re-lived everything that had happened.
I waded ashore with a big grin on my face and Walt, my guide (Vern had disappeared upriver) asked "How big was 'e?"
I told him.
"And you put 'e back," he said with a fisherman's respect.
I smiled, right some pleased with myself, "Yeppers," I said, "I put 'e back."

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