For several years since writing my book, Fly Fishing Addiction, I had not taken the time to write another fly fishing essay. Yet, my "meanderings," as I called them in my little book, have continued with new and exotic rivers being added each year.
Many of my domestic trips have been with Bruce Bleecker, my favorite and most faithful fishing companion. We’ve fished the Deschutes, the Crooked and the Rogue rivers in Oregon, the McCloud and Truckee in California, the Green in Utah, the Big Thompson and Dolores in Colorado, the Encampment and the North Platte in Wyoming, and the Bois Brule in Wisconsin, to name a few. We’ve caught brookies, browns, cutthroat, rainbows, and steelhead. Most of these adventures are well documented by photographs, causing Ann to comment that we always appear the same, with the same looking fish, the same fishing uniform, and the same grins. She never quite understands that Bruce and I see quite a difference in all these things. Anyway, none of these more recent adventures has been described on paper.
Sometimes, I venture off to exotic places on my own, because Ann advises me to do so before the decrepitude’s of advancing age catch up to me and put an end to my fishing just as they have done to my paddle tennis and skiing. So I’ve been to Argentina, Labrador and New Zealand in recent years. Once again, all trips are well recorded on film, but not in
Maybe I’ve backed off from writing about these foreign adventures because, as Ann notes about the pictures, they seen so much the same. That’s not a fair perception, though, because each trip involves unique events and people. For example, shooting 4~varmints" at night while at Poronui Lodge in the north island of New Zealand was unusual, and spending a day and night in the hospital in Greymouth on the south island because of an infected elbow was certainly a different experience.
So maybe what I ought to do is take just one unusual adventure, one memorable incident, and describe it. The rainbow in Labrador (the real thing, not a fish) is a perfect case in point.
I went to Labrador in July of 1990 to fish for the area’s renowned bi brook trout. If I catch a 13" brook trout in northern Wisconsin or Michigan’s UP, I’ve got a local lunker. Yet, Labrador brookies, made famous by Lee Wulf, have unusual size and weight, many running well over 20" and weighing up to eight to ten pounds.
At my Harvard 45th reunion, my friend Adam Foster warned me about the mosquitoes in Labrador. So I bought a net for my headgear, which was never necessary because the mosquitoes came out only at night. My rod case was left in the Halifax airport, so I had to borrow a rod in Goose Bay. The first fish I caught in this remote land was a sucker, exactly in size and appearance like the ones I catch in the Root River in Racine, Wisconsin, a lit ‘ tle over an hour from our house. On one lunch break, my guide and I explored an abandoned Indian camp, and during the same day a bear was shot and killed at our camp. When I left camp for Goose Bay at the end of my stay, I was picked up by a helicopter which I shared with the pilot, a guide and a newly-wed couple who had fished at Camp #2 where the brookies are less plentiful but bigger. Finally, I kept a 22-incher for mounting and had a host of challenging adventures from Goose Bay to Chicago on the way to Ron Lax, the taxidermist in Conover, Wisconsin. But it seems to me that I set out to describe just one memorable incident, and it was the rainbow.
I made arrangements with Goose Bay Outfitters, Ltd., to spend six days at their Eagle River Trout Fishing Lodge in Labrador’s wilderness. The journey took me from Chicago to Montreal, where I spent the night, thence to Halifax for a change of plane to Goose Bay, Labrador. Peter Paor, who lent me a rod when mine failed to arrive, met me at Goose Bay. He then put me on a floatplane, which flew me south to the big Eagle River and my lodge, Camp #1, in their five-camp system.
Every day my guide took me out in his large canoe powered by an outboard motor to fish for big brookies. What is amazing about the river, which is more like a lake than a river in most of the areas we visited, is the fact that large brook trout and northern pike live and thrive in proximity in the same river system. In fact, many visitors come with both a spinning rod for pike and a fly rod for trout.
Our routine was to set out after breakfast, heading up river. We began by bottom fishing and switched to casting and trolling as the day warmed up. We always had lunch on the rive bank (one day having our allowed trout lunch), and we returned for the evening meal about five o’clock. After dinner, we’d head out for some more fishing until sunset. It was a lovely time of day with the water turning glassy, color gatheying in the western sky, and rises all over the surface.
One memorable evening. we set out from camp and arrived at a good fishing location.
As we settled in to fish, huge cumulus clouds began to gather in the west. Gradually they shifted from white to threatening black. Lightening began to streak through their mass and thunder rumbled. A gathering thunderstorm is always awesome in its threatening strength, pyrotechnics, and sound. We watched for a while as this phenomenon of nature bore down upon us. Then, we headed for shore, beached our boat, and settled in a woodland area on the shore with a tarpaulin covering us.
The world turned into darkness, and the thunderstorm burst on us with torrential rain, bolts of brilliant lightening, and thunder claps which were almost instantaneous with each lightening flash. This spectacular show lasted maybe five minutes and then began to move eastward. In another five minutes, the sun came out and gradually the sky turned blue in the west and overhead.
We shook out the tarpaulin, bailed our canoe, and moved offshore. The storm remained black and lightening streaked to the east while our environs were clear and sparkling. Then, the rainbow appeared. Never in my life have I seen a more perfect arc with all the colors of the spectrum brightly arrayed. It was a perfect setting with bright blue sky overhead and to the west and a black backdrop to the rainbow in the eastern sky. This was a moment to be remembered, to be recorded for posterity.
During my days on the river, I had kept my camera on a small shelf in the front of the canoe. I reached for it to record the scene and was horribly disappointed to find it missing. When we had beached the canoe in the late afternoon, I’d taken it to my cabin and never brought it back with me for our evening jaunt.
So there is no photograph in my album to record this extraordinary sight. The rainbow remains as vivid today in my mind at it was that late July evening in Labrador. Only by these words can I hope to record what my camera was unable to do. At least this picture is not one of me with a fish and a grin (for that, see the album), but it is a verbal attempt to portray a natural wonder in an exotic locale.
EDTU member Bill Hall loves to write about his life experiences. Fortunately for us, many have his best experiences are about fly fishing, and he allows us to reprint his articles in our newsletter. - Thanks, Bill
The fisherman has a harmless, preoccupied look; he is a kind of vagrant, that nothing fears. He blends himself with the trees and the shadows. All his approaches are gentle and indirect. He times himself to the meandering, soliloquizing stream; he addresses himself to it as a lover to his mistress; he woos it and stays with it till he knows its hidden secrets. Where it deepens his purpose deepens; where it is shallow he is indifferent. He knows how to interpret its every glance and dimple; its beauty haunts him for days.
- John Burroughs, 1886