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Seasons on the Fly and The Restigouche River

By Bill Hartnett | November 2013

Greg Heister host of Seasons on the Fly visited the Restigouche River Lodge during the week of May 26th to June 2nd 2013 for an exciting week of Atlantic salmon fly fishing. Intent on filming an episode featuring the spring run of large female Atlantic salmon (referred to as hens) that return and enter the Restigouche River each May. Hopes were high for Greg and the other guests that had booked this week for their Atlantic salmon fishing.

The long winter had produced a heavy snow accumulation with a deep thickness of ice in the river and along its shores. The expected ice run as always was being carefully monitoring by the local population. This annual rite of the coming spring causes great concerns for the folks living along the river. With the melting snow and spring rains the river raises lifting the ice and floating the river bergs, dragging along the shore wood down river. As the flowing river of ice begins building up it starts packing and piling at different locations causing huge ice dams to form. This is a big concern with the heavy flow of water and the frozen ice jambs there is a high chance for dangerous flooding. One positive factor with all the ice buildup is that it forces water under high pressure to dig new holes in the river bed. Thus creating perfect lye’s for the Atlantic salmon soon to be arriving. In 2013 this annual spring event never materialized the ice and snow gradually melted as the river slowly opened up. With the receding river and no ice or high water the debris, fallen trees, logs, and stumps remained stranded along the rivers shore.

The guests arrived expecting a colored river only to find gin clear conditions, their anticipation of a river with color was soon to be realized. After a day of fishing the crystal clear water Mother Nature delivered a dose of an all night heavy rain. Upon rising for breakfast the following morning the anglers were greeted by an angry river full danger. Over night the quickly rising river collected all the debris winter had left behind. One day earlier every rock could be picked out, now a chocolate river carried a collection of dead falls, trees of sixty feet, giant stumps and root balls mixed with an infinite amount of debris.

The anglers had to now take a back seat to the raging river, relax in the lodge surroundings and hit the tying bench waiting for the safe conditions to return. After passing on a few sessions of fishing the anxious fisherman were happy to get on the water. Still a high and dirty river the conditions were far from prime, caution and safety of the anglers was a high concern. Most Atlantic salmon anglers know a rising dirty river is not the ideal water for salmon to be taking flies. It has always been known that dropping clearing water produces taking salmon. The truly determined group took to the river to be treated with a week of high dirty water and giant Atlantic salmon willing to come to their flies.

A video needed to be filmed and what looked like a disaster began to unfold into a spectacular week. We shall start off with RRL partner Keith Vanacore hooking and landing a 25 pound Atlantic only to complain “it doesn’t make the 30 pound club”, Keith laughing as Greg touts “what a fantastic fish, stop it”. Later that day the Hollywood bound Vancaore, so he thinks from his performance in the video, was treated to a fish of a life time as a 35 pound hen slammed his fly. Now this fish gave him his entrance into the club and he exclaimed “sixty pounds of salmon, not a bad day”. His fishing partner and Seasons on the Fly host and producer Greg Heister now took his turn. On a Waddington Shank fly he tied the day prior Greg busted his way into the 30 pound club with a beautiful 32 pound honey.

The two compadres just couldn’t top the fellow from Sweden, Wolfgang Spors made his entrance into the club with a dandy of an Atlantic salmon weighing in at 38 pounds. His fly a long tube with a dyed yellow possum strip and topped by a few brown fibers, he calls it the “Banana”. His lovely wife Meta also joined that 30 pound club this week with her own 33 pound Atlantic. Wolfgang who also took fish in the high twenties put another notch in the club during his second week at the lodge with a fat lady tipping the scales at 35 pounds.

What a week it was, all the guests in camp managed nice fish and that great outdoor filming producer Heister gave us one heck of a salmon episode, An Atlantic Salmon Dream.

I just could not bring the story to an end without mention our other partner Patrick Ruane from the UK, Big Fish Pat. A nick name we will have to start calling him arrived the week following SOF filming. Patrick while fishing one evening in Adams Pool had an Atlantic Salmon Dream of his own landing a brace of 30 pound Atlantics. Thankfully he dropped his third, as it then would have become a nightmare for the rest of us.