Far, Far From Roads and Phones
FLOWERS RIVER is the northernmost scheduled Atlantic salmon river in Labrador. Hopedale is to the south but Nain is to the north. It is in the middle of nowhere.
That is, unless your interest is big, wild Atlantic salmon - in which case it could be the centre of the universe.
Once July rolls around, this river of gin-clear water sees the "great ones" swim in from the sea. They laze in pools, with cold, oxygenated water to energize them for the trip ahead to spawning areas far upstream.
Mauro Mazzo from Italy releases a gorgeous 25 lb. wild salmon on the upper section of the Flowers River. (Photo thanks to Mauro Mazzo)
The Flowers River has no issues of pollution, bad forestry practices, or interbreeding with aquaculture fish. These fish also have a short migration path to rich Greenland feeding grounds. Access for humans is by Twin Otter airplanes.
For anyone wishing to experience this wilderness river "of the first water", it is an arduous journey. Travel into the river is via Twin Otter, one of the greatest airplanes ever built in Canada, and capable of short takeoffs and landings from water, beaches or even ice.
A charter Twin Otter of Air Labrador taking off on the Flowers River. The Twin Otter is used in wilderness roles around the world, from the Caribbean to the Canadian Arctic, and to the Antarctic. Photo Mauro Mazzo
Until the last few years all the fishing on the Flowers was in the lower part of the river. But the Flowers River Lodge pioneered building a trail and building a tent camp above rapids on a stretch of the river upstream, bringing to light exceptional fishing in that stretch. This is a river for those with a penchant for true wilderness. If real comforts are your thing, it isn't for you.
ASF benefactor Yvon Chouinard wading a tricky section of the upper Flowers. Photo Mauro Mazzo
ASF President Bill Taylor was on the Flowers River early Sept. 2016 with ASF Canada Directors Jim Lawley, Eric Thompson and Matt Ramsay, and ASF benefactors Yvon Chouinard and Mauro Mazzo, and has this to say:
The fishing was amazing with numerous hook ups and releases everyday by all anglers. A few fresh salmon were still coming into the lower river and the upriver pools were full of large fish. Great to see and experience! Even the water temps ranged from 46-52 during our stay we still caught many fish on dry flies. The fish we released averaged 10-15 pounds with many in the high teens and several over 20 pounds. About 70 percent large salmon and 30 percent grilse. A spectacular wilderness.
The wind is brisk, and one can see all the way back to the high mountains forming the backbone of Labrador. Photo Mauro Mazzo
A typical Flowers River 10 lb male Atlantic salmon. Very fit, very healthy and ready to be released. Photo Mauro Mazzo
The river's magic captivates with moments of the glorious fleeting light.
Moments vividly remembered on the Flowers River come often, and disappear swiftly, perhaps into a passing rain squal. Photo Mauro Mazzo
The light may be exquisite at time, and the views memorable. Photo Mauro Mazzo
The beauty of these Atlantic salmon is at one with the character of the land - wild, breathtaking, and full of an energy visitors sense.ASF Director Matt Ramsay releases a nice 12 pound salmon. Photo Mauro Mazzo
Turning to the official returns, remember that all four counting fence rivers are far to the south of the Flowers River. Numbers for Sept. 10 are now posted. The angling season in Labrador finishes at the end of this week.
While the angling season may be in the home stretch, and only on the Humber, Gander and Exploits, there is certainly much interest in the continuing returns of wild salmon to all the island's rivers.
The Sept. 10 numbers posted this week by DFO indicate a continued lag in returns for 2017.
The question arises of how DFO should handle the beginning of the 2018 season, given these numbers.
In the Humber River, Don Ivany, ASF's Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador, reports that the fishing has actually been excellent in the past few days.
Alex Breckenridge of "The Tying Scotsman" said on Wednesday,
The water level is dropping back again slowly, spoke with two customers yesterday who'd had fish.
And concerning this past weekend:
The weekend was good for some anglers, most I spoke with had 1 or 2 fish. The majority all said they'd seen fish, some lost and of course a few saying there are no fish! Kay threw me out last evening and told me to go fishing, I had a quick pass through Doyle's before dark. I didn't see anything but realized I have to go out more often! Just delightful to be on the river.
Indeed, the Margaree is a river of both outstanding beauty and great intimacy, with each pool having its own character.
Greg Lovely has this to say about the past week on the Margaree:
The Margaree area got some rain last weekend and for a few days fish were being hooked up and down the river. The water levels have dropped but are still a good level for fishing. Friends joined me the last few days for some fun on the river and we all hooked fish.
Brock Curtis of Blackville, who runs Curtis Miramichi River Outfitters says:
Conditions on the river really improved this past weekend with the rain we received during the week. Friday the river started raising and Friday evening we watched it come up 4-6 inches within a couple of hours. Once it turned dark it seemed to come alive with salmon jumping. On Saturday most anglers coming through the tackle shop were catching salmon. Some reports were of fresh fish.
It seemed to slow down in the past couple of days. Water levels have dropped and once again we could use more rain. With that said though, one of our customers in the Blackville area commented on hooking two large salmon this morning and the canoers we had on the river today reported seeing salmon jumping. Like the old saying goes, "you have to be on the river to catch them".
Brothers Jason and John Hallett fishing the Southwest Miramichi below Blackville on Sept. 8, 2017. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Nathan Wilbur, ASF Director of New Brunswick Programs,
With the decent rains late last week, many rivers in NB saw a raise in water. Although it wasn’t as big a raise most were hoping for, it was a slow, steady one, and the water remained clear and cold throughout – at least on the SW Miramichi and Cains where I was over the weekend. Both of those rivers saw about a 30 cm (1 ft) raise, which was enough to liven up the fish in the river, and it appeared new fish were entering the SW Miramichi. A nice fall-coloured Atlantic salmon from the Cains River on Sept. 8, 2017. Photo John Hallett
Several folks saw moving fish - some bright - in the lower stretches of the river over the weekend, leaving us optimistic that there were indeed fish waiting for good water this fall to make their ascent. With the better water conditions, fishing has improved and we hope to see even more rain through September to keep conditions for salmon – and fishing – favourable.
This was a lacklustre week at the Dungarvon Barrier on the Southwest Miramichi
, with just two new grilse and no large salmon for the week ending on Sept. 10. Thus totals to that date are 93 grilse and 121 large salmon, compared with 2016 numbers to the same date of 139 grilse and 112 large salmon.
The Northwest Miramichi Barrier
had a slightly better week, with 12 new grilse and two new large salmon giving totals to Sept. 10 of 130 grilse and 120 large salmon, compared with 228 grilse and 81 large salmon to the same date in 2016.
Jade Spalding with a nice salmon on the line on the Southwest Miramichi Sept. 9, 2017. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Located half way between the Restigouche and the Miramichi, it apparently outshone everything this week.
In the week leading to Sept. 10 there were 76 grilse counted, plus 27 large salmon. Great week for the river. To Sept. 10, the salmon count for the season is 105 grilse and 38 large salmon, compared to 2016 totals of 102 grilse and 104 large salmon.
As with many other parts of Northeast North America, there has been some rain, but more would be welcome. Angling conditions this week should be quite good in the watersheds that received rain.
More rain needed!
Results until the end of August are now available, and below they are listed for the past three years.