Sept. 19, 2017.  The following excerpt is borrowed from the excellent article 'Moments of Beauty' written by Charles Thompson and published in the Autumn 2017 edition of the Atlantic Salmon Journal.  It provides an interesting look into the psyche of the Atlantic salmon angler.

Cards were being shuffled and one senior member of my bridge club remarked “We missed you last week, were you away?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I was in New Brunswick fishing.”

“You went all the way to New Brunswick to fish, aren’t there any fish in Cape Breton?”

“Sure,” I continued, “but I was after salmon.”

“Salmon,” he mused as he examined his hand. “I had a lovely piece from the fish man today. It was a bit pricey but you must have spent a lot more for your fish when you count in the cost of gas and license and food and everything else! Seems like a bit of a waste of money.”

“Well, as it turns out, I didn’t catch any and, even if I did, I would have put them back. I practice catch and release.”

 

There was a pregnant pause: only the sound of the cards being shuffled could be heard. “You travelled all the way to not only not catch anything but, if you had, you would have put it back? Seriously? That is unbelievable! You need to see someone!”

 

On an intellectual level, perhaps it truly is hard to explain. Sometimes even harder to rationalize to myself. Live release is the purview of what I like to call the “lunatic fringe,” an exclusive, but expanding, club of which I have been a charter member for over 50 years. The privileges of membership are many—days spent in blistering heat or freezing cold trying, usually in vain, to catch a fish that even if I am successful, after countless hours, I will return oh-so-gently to the river, without even removing it from the water.

Even in my infrequent lucid moments, I don’t completely understand it myself. Everyone who salmon fishes does it for different reasons. Perhaps it’s just a desire to be outdoors, or as an escape from everyday pressures like family crises, money worries, or declining health. Another author, Roderick Haig-Brown wrote, “You never see a worried man fish.” For some, it could simply be something they are good at, effortlessly throwing a line in perfect synchronicity.

 

Whatever your poison, it’s impossible to explain to the unknowing or uninitiated. The joys derive from an internal, very personal place, there is nothing like it. For me, and for many women and men, it is a passion with no equal and as long as it makes sense to you, that is all that matters. To paraphrase the founder of Esquire magazine and angling author, Arnold Gingrich, “A salmon is a moment of beauty known only to those who seek it.” While I ponder all this as I cast, suddenly (it is always suddenly), there is a sharp strain on my shoulder and a taut line pulls away. As my heart rate accelerates like a dragster at “The Big Go” in Indianapolis, I think “What was the question?”

 

Salmon fishing is not a sport that requires anyone else to understand it to make it special. How many you have caught, where you have fished, be it Norway or Nova Scotia, none of it matters, other than a deep, inexplicable satisfaction. Some years, (yes years!) you stand up to your waist in a cold, rushing river, swatting away flies or wiping snow and rain from the brim of your hat. And right about when you start thinking that maybe, just maybe, you will purchase that new six iron and move on, there is an intense tug on your line and all hell breaks loose.

I have been fortunate enough to fish steelhead in B.C, Chinooks in the Pacific Ocean, striped bass in New Brunswick, groupers in Florida, but there is nothing like that first pull of an Atlantic salmon, regardless of season or size. Probably because it is so hard to succeed, regardless of skill or level of knowledge, that when one finally grabs your fly, it is always unexpected, always thrilling.

A lot of time is spent discussing what fly to use, how much leader, to strip or not, or whether to use the hitch. Salmon fishing, with its poor success rate, creates its own army of insecure, neurotic fishermen always looking for an edge. Countless books have been written on the subject, many proposing to know what you have to do to be a good angler, whatever that means.

 

The harsh truth? Most of it does not matter. In the end, it is the most personal of activities, and yet, each one of us can be part of that unique club who fish only to let every salmon go—The Lunatic Fringe. After all these many years, I still feel fortunate and proud to renew my membership.

Sept. 12 - Recently the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association (NLOA) requested our 'position' on possible mandatory catch & release angling for Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador.  (FYI - New Brunswick and Nova Scotia implemented mandatory catch & release angling for Atlantic salmon a few years ago - a wise move considering the declining number of returning spawners!)  FYI, here are my answers to their questions:

NLOA Outfitter Angling Survey 2017

1) Do you support Catch and Release as a measurement of conservation as a result of DFO Science showing minimal salmon returns for 2016 and 2017? Yes

2) What will be the impacts to your business, positive or negative, if the industry went full Catch and Release? I don’t know but I suspect (and hope) most of my regular customers will understand the need for these regulations and will return to fish with us.

3) Does your business practice Catch and Release only or do you offer retention angling when permitted? Each week (for 4 to 6 weeks each year), we host a maximum of 6 anglers. The vast majority of our customers release everything they catch (Atlantic salmon).  On a special occasion, and since it is legally allowed, a group of anglers may keep 1 or 2 grilse so this group may have one meal of fresh Atlantic salmon.  This would happen no more than once per week and does not happen every week. 

4) If retention is permitted, on average, how many salmon would a customer normally retain?  As mentioned above, normally our customers do not retain any Atlantic salmon – even if retention is permitted.  This has been the case for at least the past 10 years.

5) Considering many of you angle on non-monitored rivers, which river(s) do you angle on and in your opinion, for each river you angle, were salmon returns in 2017 low, average, or above average? My camp, Salmon Hole Lodge, is located on the LaPoile River in SFA 12. This is the only river that we angle.  2017 was a below-average year for us - due to a decreased number of returning spawners.

6) With Salmon returns for the past two years being very low, and most rivers performing well below spawning requirements, what do you think should happen in 2018: limited tags for 2018, full tags for 2018, or Catch & Release only?  I strongly believe that all outfitters and anglers (including aboriginals) in Newfoundland AND Labrador MUST start, in the 2018 season, releasing all Atlantic salmon and grilse that are hooked.  All remaining commercial and/or ceremonial salmon fisheries in eastern Canada must stop.  This stoppage of killing Atlantic salmon should extend throughout all provinces whose rivers contain wild Atlantic salmon.  Maintain this policy for the 2018 and 2019 seasons then re-evaluate.  Anyone caught possessing a wild Atlantic salmon (dead) – angler, outfitter, commercial fisherman, poacher, aboriginal – should receive a very heavy fine and be unable to fish for at least 2 years.

August 21, 2017 - (an excerpt from North Bay Narrative by Walter Staples)

“Bears had always been a problem at the Salmon Hole cabin (in the 1970’s). Carl Ross (a regular member of the fishing party led by Salmon Hole Lodge founder Duncan Smith) vividly remembers waking one night at the old log cabin (the original ‘camp’) as the door appeared to explode. Thinking it must have been a gust of wind, he got up, pulled the door closed, and hooked it.  Telling the experience at the kitchen table the next morning, he was reminded there had been no wind during the night.  A daylight look at the outside of the door revealed new deep claw marks left by the would-be visitor.  The fishermen agreed that the bear may have found the inside smell offensive, causing his retreat.”

Note from Salmon Hole Lodge owner Scott Smith – While close encounters with resident black bears may have been common in the 1970’s and prior years, thankfully nowadays, sightings of black bears in the LaPoile River valley are rare and usually occur at our compost pile (1 km from the Lodge).

 

 

August 15, 2017 - This is a very interesting book that provides an accurate chronological timeline of the development of a recreational Atlantic salmon fishery on Newfoundland's LaPoile River.  Many thanks to Mr. Walter Staples for researching and documenting this interesting period in time. - Scott Smith

The North Bay Narrative is the remarkable story of a remote Newfoundland fishing village and its evolution from a community of a few families where men built boats by hand to today’s collection of cottages, including the Salmon Hole Lodge, where local residents guide visiting Atlantic salmon anglers.

Author and ardent fisherman Walter Staples made his first trip to this wild area of southwest Newfoundland in 1980. He had heard about the beautiful LaPoile River valley and its prolific runs of wild Atlantic salmon. What he discovered, however, was a much more complex story about rugged pioneer families who moved far from the nearest village in hopes of carving out a livelihood from the dense forest.

North Bay’s first settlers began building ocean-going fishing boats, cutting trees by hand, pulling them from the woods to the banks of the LaPoile River, and floating the logs downstream to the village. The logs were pulled ashore in North Bay and cut into boards by men using pit saws. The completed vessels, some sixty feet long, were launched by hand to the river, and sold to fishermen along the coast. From 1890 until 1968, three generations built over 150 vessels.

The people of North Bay, never more than 80 at any one time, began moving away from the village after World War II. Although the last year-round resident left in 1968, the village was already in transition. Many former residents returned during the summer and old houses were replaced with cottages. The LaPoile River still runs by the revived village of North Bay and local residents, working at the Salmon Hole Lodge, guide fishermen who cast their flies for Atlantic salmon.

Until this book, the old North Bay existed only in the memories of the few remaining people who were born and lived there. In the North Bay Narrative, their story lives on - a reminder of other small Newfoundland communities now abandoned and soon to be forgotten.
Go to Amazon.com to purchase the book:

August 7, 2017 - following is an excerpt from The North Bay Narrative - a book written by former Salmon Hole Lodge guest Walter Staples and published in 1998: 

'I shall never forget the pool, the details, or the experience of the next afternoon, June 29, 1980.  From their position on the ledge, (the guides) could look into the water and see several salmon and were trying to help me position my casts for the proper approach: "A little longer cast."  "Too far beyond."  "You're getting close".  A salmon they had not seen suddenly rose and took my fly. He streaked the length of the pool, the reel screaming, the line into the backing. He went to the deepest part of the pool and sulked for several minutes while I, shaking like a leaf, attempted to regain composure. There was help from the guides, verbal: "Keep your rod tip up."  "Don't let that line get loose."  "Drop the rod tip when he jumps."

That salmon was an acrobat.  He was in the water, out of it, and back in again. He came straight for me and made abrupt turns as if to climb the rocks on either side.  My line was loose, my rod tip down. Reeled almost to the net, he skipped across the surface of the pool in leaps and bounds again and again.  When Lewis finally netted that six-pound fish, I had no idea how long it had been since he took the fly.  I stood in a cold sweat, trembling and unsteady on the rock.  Lewis grabbed my arm, afraid I was about to fall into the river.  I think I was.  Resting, I sat beside Dunc (Duncan Smith - founder of Salmon Hole Lodge) and in all sincerity confided that I, as well as the salmon had just been hooked, hooked on Atlantic salmon fishing and on the LaPoile River in Newfoundland.'

Shown below, a photo of Duncan Smith, circa 1968, with a beautiful LaPoile River salmon!  - Scott Smith

August 3, 2017 - We will soon be entering our 50th year of operation.  Definitely a time to reflect on the past.  One way of doing this is by going through photos.  Our photo library contains hundreds of nice, old photos showing a proud angler holding his (or her) prize catch!  You won't see many of those photos on websites or FB pages these days because it is considered by some Atlantic salmon organizations "to be in poor taste" to show pictures of "dead salmon" when we are trying to promote catch and release.  Well, guess what?  That was then, this is now.  These days we strongly promote catch and release angling for Atlantic salmon.  But over the next little while, I'll be sharing here a few old photos anyway.  Here's one taken in 1968 of Salmon Hole Lodge founder, Dr. Duncan Smith (far right) and two awesome fishing guides - holding Atlantic salmon (and Brook trout) that were caught during the previous few days.  These fish would be cut into pieces, the fish pieces placed in cans of water, the cans sealed, then the sealed cans cooked in a pressure cooker over an open fire for several hours!  Before the era of refrigeration and ice making on the LaPoile River, all salmon was brought home, pre-cooked, in cans - imagine that!     Scott Smith

July 27, 2017 - A reminder to all of our 2017 guests -

Now that you’ve returned home from your Salmon Hole Lodge fishing trip and you’ve had a chance to go through the photos you took, please remember that I would be very happy to make a contribution to your salmon fly collection.

A picture is worth a thousand words – especially to a fishing camp outfitter! Past, present and (possibly) future guests really enjoy seeing pictures and videos of salmon – your salmon!

So, here’s the deal ……..

If you email me your digital images of either:(1) an angler playing a LaPoile River salmon or (2) an angler holding a live LaPoile River salmon prior to release, I’ll send you this nice collection of custom-tied flies – proven to be effective on the LaPoile River!! If I display your pic, I will check with you first to see if you want me to with-hold names.

Your pics or videos can be emailed to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thanks!  Scott Smith

 

July 18, 2017 - It's true, the numbers of Atlantic salmon returning to Canada's east coast rivers this year are down compared to this time last year.  The LaPoile River is no exception.  Thankfully, for a true Atlantic salmon angler, the success of the fishing trip is not measured solely by the number of fish hooked.  Sure - it IS important to catch a few fish - but angling for Atlantic salmon is not a numbers game.  To date, all of our 2017 guests have caught (and happily released) Atlantic salmon and, equally important to me, they have thoroughly enjoyed 'their' week at Salmon Hole Lodge.  Fishing in a remote river with clean, clear water; not having to wait in line to fish; enjoying the unspoiled scenery; watching Woodland Caribou and Moose while you are casting for salmon - these are just a few of perks that combine to create the Salmon Hole Lodge 'experience' !!  Pictured here is our guest, John from Vermont, releasing a fine example of a bright, fresh-from-the-sea LaPoile River salmon! - Scott Smith

July 10, 2017 - If you check the River Notes section of the Atlantic Salmon Federation's website (www.asf.ca), the 2017 river reports are not very encouraging. Throughout New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, the number of returning spawners appears to be down sharply from this time last year.  Unfortunately, this is the continuation of a downward trend over the past decade or two. The reasons are many: 

- acid rain has made many Nova Scotia rivers too acidic to support Atlantic salmon populations

- the exploding seal population in the North Atlantic combined with their voracious appetite for Atlantic salmon

- the commercial Atlantic salmon fishery in Greenland

- Canada's aboriginal salmon fishery

- the detrimental effects of Atlantic salmon aquaculture sites (ocean-based feedlots) on wild Atlantic salmon populations

- and the list goes on.

All this to say it is more important than ever to release all Atlantic salmon that are caught in our recreational fishery (with flyrod and fly). For many years, guests at Salmon Hole Lodge have voluntarily been practising catch and release.  Many hundreds, if not thousands, of Atlantic salmon have been safely released - to continue on their spawning journey.  To these fine sportsmen and women, and to ALL salmon anglers who practise catch and release, I offer my heartfelt appreciation.  Let's keep up the good work, so our grandchildren can experience the thrill of playing a feisty Atlantic salmon at the end of their flyline!  - Scott Smith  -

July 3, 2017 - A few weeks ago, I was making my way down river (from the Upper Camp) to fish one of the LaPoile River's better-known pools. It was around 7 pm and the skies were blue.  Just as I approached the first river crossing (at Old Camp Pool), the skies 'opened up' and, man, did it rain!  And the skies were still blue.  I guess its called a sun shower - a new experience for this old dog.  Anyway, the strange weather produced a very nice rainbow (see photo).  I thought maybe this is a good omen.  So, I continued on my journey - another 20-minute walk to said pool, stopping only to photo a small group of curious Woodland Caribou.  It was still pouring rain when I arrived and made my first few casts.  As the showers let up, I was about half way through the pool and, bingo, this nice grilse (see photo) grabbed my Green Machine and we're off to the races!  A very exciting few minutes as he or she raced from one end of the pool to the other and back again; in and out of the water trying to toss that fly.  Following the rules of catch and release, I brought the fish in fairly quickly (while trying to take some pictures - not easy!) and removed the fly without touching the fish. Not even a split second of hesitation - Mr. Salmo wasted zero time in returning to the depths of that pool!  Probably wondering "What the hell just happened?".  So, I didn't find a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow - but I did find a beautiful Silver Leaper!   Scott Smith

June 26, 2017 - Observations from a valued guest during his first June visit to the LaPoile River...

Dear Scott and Luke - We weren’t in a Provincial Park or a National Park but given the beautiful surroundings and abundance of wildlife, we could be forgiven for thinking we were. For me, it was truly an incredible week, this June trip being a new experience for me. Starting with our inbound journey on Capt. Perry’s boat, from Rose Blanche to the tiny out-port we lovingly know as LaPoile, the numerous porpoises, at arm’s length distance, playfully traveling along with our boat. Then, the sightings of twenty-six Woodland Caribou on our travels up the LaPoile River from North Bay to Salmon Hole Lodge plus eight moose and an almost newly born moose calf, Eagles, Osprey, the Camp “Kingfisher” and, of course our “old” dear Friend ... ‘Hector’ the Seagull, patiently waiting for a free meal. This season’s salmon run, a “fresh from the Sea” grilse jumping between our guide and myself, us on opposite shores of a pool, and challenging our casting skills. And finally as we were leaving, a farewell gift from Nature, the appearance of a whale in North Bay, joining us momentarily for our departure.   Thank you for the privilege of sharing this week with you.

 

 

 

June 23, 2017 - It was a great week for wildlife sightings - starting with our trip along the southwest coast in Capt. Perry's boat. We saw a few whales and were entertained by several pods of black dolphins or porpoises following (or racing with?) our boat.  We were moving along at a decent rate (about 10 knots) and those dolphins had no problem keeping pace!  As soon as we started our trip up the LaPoile River (on a tractor and Polaris Ranger 4x4), we saw Woodland Caribou every 5 or 10 minutes.  Being careful not to count the same caribou more than once, we counted 30 individuals.  And 1 moose!  The caribou are curious but cautious (as seen in this photo) whereas the moose are downright shy and elusive.  There were still several large patches of snow on the mountain sides - which normally means large amounts of snow remaining on the elevated plateau (back country).  This bodes well as the melting snow helps to keep the river water nice and cool - just what Salmo salar likes!

June 20, 2017 - Just returned from the LaPoile River, after spending the week removing fallen trees, cleaning buildings, windows, toilets and repairing all the things that didn't survive the winter in one piece.  Many thanks to Luke Smith, Matt Romkey and Steph Mitro for all their help.  Both camps are now open and our first group of guests is busy casting for those sneaky LaPoile salmon!  Judging by the number and size of trees across our trails and paths, this past winter was a harsh one.  Water levels and temperatures are perfect right now - and the salmon have started to arrive.  We didn't have much time to fish but we were rewarded with a couple of grilse (released) and a larger fish (likely 15-18 pounds) that 'released itself' after becoming airborne 3 times and racing from one end of the pool to the other.  It looks to me like the spawning run on the LaPoile is starting about a week later than usual. Scott  (to be continued)

June 2, 2017 - We are looking forward to starting our 2017 season very soon.  I will be heading to the Lapoile River with son, Luke, and long-time fishing buddy, Dr. Jim, on June 11.  During this 'open camp' week, we will be getting both camps ready for business - making sure things are working properly and spic 'n' span clean.  Of course, fishing will be a priority too - especially for Luke and Jim.  Helping us with camp preparations will be our long-time guide (and mechanic, tractor driver, carpenter, you name it, he does it) Mr. Alex Chant, as well as professional fishing & hunting guide, Mr. Matt Romkey. I feel very fortunate that Matt joined our staff a few years ago - he has made a world of difference!   

It's hard to believe that it was 50 years ago (in 1967) that my father, Dr. Duncan Smith, purchased the old house and land in North Bay (where our Lower Camp is now located) as well as the old log cabin next to the Camp Pool (where our main lodge is now located).  We will definitely be hoisting a drink to honour Dunc on this special year!   I'll let you know about the fishing when I return!  Scott

It’s here at last – the Salmon Hole Lodge’s news and blog section. Navigate to the Fishing Journal page for the latest images, updates, and stories from the lodge, the La Poile, and the Newfoundland landscape.

We’ll be updating the page regularly, and look forward to building something memorable, informative, and fly fishing-centric.