December 04, 2017

James Bay 2017

I am writing about this trip even though it's been over 5 months since we returned because it was such a great experience and I want to have something to look back on other than the pictures taken. This trip took Carl and I nearly 2 years to plan so I was obviously very excited to head north when the time came. Unfortunately, upon receiving his schedule in June, Carl was unable to get the vacation time and so would not be able to make the trip :o After scrambling to find a replacement for a couple days, someone finally responded that they wanted to come! A huge shout-out and thank you to my friend Jason for rearranging his schedule to be able to make the trip; he even missed his final math exam!

The plan was to head north, far north... to the James Bay region of northern Quebec. We would be travelling over 1200km north to where the "Route de la Baie James" meets the Transtaiga road, then nearly 700km east on gravel. This final destination, the Digue Duvernay, represents the furthest point away from civilization one can attain in North America by car. In fact, the nearest town, Radisson, is 740km away. For this reason, it is critical that you plan ahead and think of everything; a seemingly small malfunction can get very costly very quick in remote regions such as these. We brought a satellite phone, GPS, extra spare tires for both car and trailer, tire repair kit, extra gas, spare bearings, and a whole lot more!

A little backstory on the region: The only reason roads exist this far north is because of Hydro Quebec's many dams and the infrastructure required to maintain them. Besides their workers, we only saw other fishermen over the entirety of the Transtaiga. In fact, it is the Hydro reservoirs in which we would be fishing. I've attached some maps to help situate things a little better:

REALLY Far North!
The Transtaiga










Note: This is not meant to be a guide on how to prepare for such an adventure in any way; do your own research and plan accordingly. That being said, I strongly suggest "signing in" when you reach the start of the Route de la Baie James; where you will be given a map of the area as well as important local information.

"Road Isolated on 375km"

That 375km point is just an area to get gas, food, and rest. Much of this area is occupied by the Cree, so most people you meet will speak English. I highly recommend stopping at every viewpoint suggested on the map, there aren't that many and all are breathtaking. A highlight was definitely the rapids of the Rupert River, the largest I had ever seen!

The Mighty Rupert River

We also stopped to do a short bit of fishing on the Rupert and take a break from driving. I managed to catch the first fish of the trip, a nice Northern Pike!

1st Fish of the Trip!

Fishing the Transtaiga essentially consists of fishing the different Hydro reservoirs that run along the road. They were all created by the damming of the La Grande river in the 70's. In order, they are named: LG2, LG3, LG4, LaForge1, LaForge2, and Caniapiscau. The ones further west mainly hold Walleye and Pike, and these turn to Lake and Speckled Trout as you head east.

Our plan was to drive to the end of the road (literally), and then fish our way back. We fished the many small streams that crossed the road along the way, and were rewarded with some beautiful Speckled Trout, small pike, and a new species! I caught my first Lake Whitefish under Jason's expert fly fishing guidance; this was a very important capture to me as it was the final Quebec sportfish I had yet to capture.

New Species!!


Our first "real" stop was at the Duvernay dyke; getting there was not easy! Thankfully, only one flat tire on the car and one lost bolt on the trailer and we made it to the end. Jason was very excited to fish this area as he had never caught any Lake Trout over a few pounds and this was one of the bodies of water known to hold the largest in QC. His hard work was rewarded and he caught 2 lakers nearing the 10lb mark! I unfortunately caught none and we left quickly due to extreme weather conditions.

Jason's Biggest Lake Trout!
Typical Northern "Boat Ramp"




The next day, we made our way to "Brisay", the hydroelectric dam forming the reservoir where Jason had caught his trout the day before. We decided to fish from shore after reading large signs warning of strong, unpredictable currents. Here I caught my first Lake Trout of the trip, not a trophy, but it still felt very special to be catching fish in such a remote location :)


The next few days kind of went by in a blur as isolation started to set in and our level of  malnourishment increased. The combination of bad weather and fatigue was preventing us from cooking proper meals so we were essentially surviving on protein bars and Gatorade. Note that Jason has never been on this sort of trip before, so one this far away from home was a rude awakening. At one point we even started listing all of his new "records" from the trip: furthest north, biggest Lake Trout, most teepees seen, 1st time meeting Cree Amerindians, etc.

Of course, we were still catching fish the whole time :) After having fished Caniapiscau, Brisay, and LG3; the Sakami River on LG2 was to be our last fishing spot. And what a way to end the trip! My girlfriend's dad had given me some spots on the river and they sure panned out. We were on a hot Walleye bite and were catching fish on just about every drop of the jig.
























After catching a ridiculous amount of Walleye, we were feeling quite satisfied with our fish excursions and got ready to make the trip home. In the end, we made it back and only had one punctured tire on the car. My boat and trailer, on the other hand, did not fare so well. One tire exploded, both mudguards fell off, many bolts were lost so the frame was weakening, and all the benches in the boat had ripped off. Once home, I made the decision to bring the boat/trailer to a welding shop as the extent of the damage was more than I had time to fix on my own. $300 later and my rig was as good as new :)

This trip was one of the best experiences of my life and I am very proud that I was able to overcome the many challenges presented throughout. I also want to thank Jason for putting up with me and trusting me to get us home safely. With that, I'll leave you with some pictures of the scenery we were rewarded with on our adventure:





Tight lines, folks!

December 02, 2017

Fishing Season 2017 (Part III) - Summer & Fall

Summer:

The separation of these "parts" of my season summary really goes to show how unevenly distributed my fishing time is haha! My summers are basically a whole lot of work with relatively little fishing; I have to make enough cash to pay for all the crazy expenses from spring. That being said, I am lucky enough to work on Lake Massawippi so I often steal a couple hours fishing time after work :) My coworker and good friend Brendan and I had some good times fly fishing for Smallmouth Bass in the local river. We developed a really simple, relaxing pattern: simply let the current pull us downriver while we each cast to a different shore. No need for pictures here, we were just enjoying our time on the water relaxing after work. Also did a bit of trout fishing in local streams and brought the kids from work fishing. It was a real treat to see some of them catch their first fish or biggest fish :)

Now over this summer, I did have one concrete fishing goal despite my lack of time. Over the past 5 years living on the lake, I had noticed a very small population of Common Carp slowly growing in localized areas. I wanted to be the first person to ever catch a carp properly on the lake! I knew it would be a difficult goal to achieve considering the lake is about 13km long and the population of carp was very small. But, after about 2 weeks of baiting every day and fishing for a few hours every night, I finally hooked into a large fish on my hair rig that could only be a carp! Unfortunately it pulled me into a snag and broke me off :( Fortunately, I had another chance the following night and managed to land this one! The next few nights were equally successful:


This is by no means a trophy specimen, but it is very special to me as it's the first of its kind that I have ever heard of being caught from the lake :) Caught some other fish this summer as well but let's leave it at that!

Fall:

Fall 2017 is a season I will always remember because it is when I learned that I wasn't the only fisherman interested in catching as many different species as possible. In fact, I quickly learned that there was a whole community of like-minded anglers and this has inspired me to travel around the continent in search of interesting species of fish that often get ignored by most anglers. A huge shout-out to my then new-found friend Ken; who helped ID the many new species I was targeting and  pointed me towards the above-mentioned community. Much of the rest of the season consisted of me travelling to various streams and shorelines in the search of new "micro" species. I have to say I was quite successful and ended the year with an impressive total of 27 fish! Here are a few of my favourites:

Goldfish
Stonecat
Central Mudminnow
Finescale Dace
Tench
I'd also like to give special thanks to another new friend, Francois, who invited me down to Quebec City so he could help me catch some more new fish! The trip was my first ever "species hunting" trip and it was a success. I caught my first Sculpin, Stickleback, Longnose Dace, and Trout-perch!



However, my fall wasn't only spent fishing for minnows. In fact, it kind of ended up being a season of extremes; I caught both my smallest and biggest fish! These "biggest" fish are the end to season 2017 and what a way to end! I caught my biggest fish ever! An estimated 80lb Lake Sturgeon :o


That pretty much sums up season 2017 for me! I wish I could include everything and all of the awesome people I met this year; I know I left out a whole lot :s Alex's first sturgeon, salmon fishing with Kevin, tons of new species, new friends, and lots of just generally fun times :) Right now I just can't wait to get 3-4" of ice, and especially next spring; when I have some very special travelling planned ;)

Fishing Season 2017 (Part II) - Still Spring!

Continuing from where I left off in my last post, I now start to transition to targeting more of the warmwater species. In fact, Alex's family had invited me on their annual fishing trip to a northern reservoir right on opener weekend for those areas. This year, we were going to be fishing Réservoir Dozois. I was expecting a challenge as I did not know anyone with experience on the reservoir and I figured the cold water would slow the bite down. In the end, my research paid off and we managed pike up to 37'' and walleye up to 24'', plus some very cool blue Walleye!
























We returned very satisfied with our trip despite the challenging fishing conditions. I then spent then next week or so fishing closer to home. A friend I had been talking with on Facebook invited me to come catch my first Common Carp using the proper European technique. The friend in question, Marc-André, was successful in catching me my first carp, and this was the start of my addiction to the species! Here's a few carp pictures from our outing and the ensuing week:

My 1st legit Common Carp!



All this having been said, it still leaves out an unsuccessful trip to Lac Taureau with Ali, targeting Bowfin with my sister, fishing the annual American Shad run, catching big Channel Catfish, etc. Anyways, I had a very special trip planned to end off Spring 2017; I was going to be going to James Bay region to fish the hydro reservoirs along the Transtaiga road with my good buddy Carl! Unfortunately, his work couldn't allow him the time off so last minute another friend Jason agreed to make the trip with me. This was truly an amazing experience; everything was so rugged and wild that far north. I won't go into detail as this trip honestly deserves a post of its own, but we caught 5 species: Northern Pike, Speckled Trout, Lake Trout, Lake Whitefish, and Walleye. The whitefish was a special treat for me as it signified the last gamefish of Quebec that I had yet to catch!




In part III I finally switch to the summer season; when I have less fishing time because I do have to work at some point :p

Fishing Season 2017 (Part I) - Salmonids

The 2017 open-water season started fast and furious for me! Finished my last exam the day before opener, then woke up before the sun the next day to fish Lake Memphremagog with my good friend Tim. We managed a few decent lakers jigging; always fun on medium spinning gear :)





















After a full day on Memphre, I got back home exhausted from the combined effort put into my exams and then a full day of fishing. No time to rest though! Up at 3AM again to go spend the weekend at Réservoir Kiamika with my girlfriend for landlocked Atlantic Salmon. My goal for this spring was to fish as many different bodies of water as possible with the goal of exploring more of Quebec; Kiamika was the first of these new bodies of water. As could be expected, I crashed from exhaustion upon arriving at the reservoir so we made the wise decision to catch an hours sleep in order to get my spirits up. Kiamika is known to be a very difficult place to fish, so being confident would be critical to our success. The weekend went quite well overall; Alex finally caught her first Ouananiche and I managed one of my biggest ever on my fly rod!























If I remember correctly, I had one day to recuperate and then I was off exploring backwoods lakes searching for Speckled Trout with Carl. We both spend a ton of time all winter on Google Maps looking for fishy-looking lakes, so come spring it's very exciting to finally be able to explore them! Unfortunately, this year, none of the new lakes we tried worked out because they all had thick trees around their shorelines preventing us from casting effectively. Therefore, we fell to a back-up plan and fished some lakes we already knew to have fish. You can seriously see the bags under my eyes at this point haha.





















In the interest of brevity, we'll skip to the next week of the fishing season. I met up with a new friend, Aaron, with plans of fishing different tributaries in the Townships for salmonids. In my opinion, we were very successful! We found both browns and specks, plus some delicious wild garlic and fiddleheads :) In fact, we were so successful that I drove back to the Townships a few days later to go explore for even more salmonid species with Aaron. This second time we caught Landlocked Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and Speckled Trout! I also got to experience something new; having a jerkbait stuck in my finger while still attached to a very lively salmon :(




Next, I had the chance to fish with Jeffrey, the man who first brought me on fishing trips and helped me catch my first trout along with many other species. However, this time I would be "guiding" him on a small hidden lake I know with some wild specks. We each caught a few fish early in the morning but quickly decided we wanted more. So, we made the (probably stupid) decision to go fish the outfitter where he had taken me fishing all those years ago. We decided to challenge ourselves by not fishing for the usual Speckled and Rainbow Trout, and instead targeting the elusive Quebec Red Trout (Landlocked Arctic Char). We were seriously under-equipped having only been geared up for the lake we fished earlier. But we made do and both caught our very first Arctic Char!!


At this point, I realize that this is going to be very long if I attempt to sum up my entire season in one post. This isn't even all of the fishing I did in this period. I also spent a day on Lake Massawippi with my friend Simon, put my bro Kevin onto his first trout ever, and went for an extreme hike with my friend Charles. Not to mention canoe fishing with Simon for stocked rainbows and brookies, and even more. Therefore, see part 2 for the second part of spring with more of the warmwater species.