Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Returning home from another fishing trip

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By the time you read this column, I should be arriving home from a fly fishing trip to Labrador, Canada. I thought I was all done with these trips as the body is getting a little older and those big Canadian river currents seem to be pushing a little harder. But fishing buddy Mike Shepard, of Dalton, twisted my arm with an enticement of a greatly reduced cost to stay in a famous lodge on the Minipi River.

I'm getting a little skeptical about these fishing trips. It seems that something drastic always happens on them. Frequently they don't turn out to be ho-hum trips filled with memories of beautiful weather and lots of cooperating fish.

In fact, my first fishing trip to Canada was to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. My wife Jan and I decided to spend our honeymoon camping along the Cheticamp River to fly fish for Atlantic salmon there and on the famous Margaree River. Well, it turned out there was a drought and the waters were too low on the Cheticamp and the river was closed to fishing. Don't you know, no sooner had we set up our small tent than the rains starting coming in off the North Atlantic. It was endless, and after three days everything in our tent was soaked. Jan got very cold and I began to fear that I would become a widower only five days into our marriage. We rented a warm motel room and spent the rest of our trip sightseeing.

Then there was the trip to Quebec to fish a large river. After our float plane landed at our destination camp, we got out of the de Havilland plane by stepping out onto the pontoon and jumping as far as we could toward shore. I made a wonderful jump, but the only problem was that my face collided with the tail of the plane — resulting in a couple of chipped teeth and a swollen nose for several days.

Then there was that time when four of us flew into a camp on the Eagle River in Labrador. After the plane landed and we were floating down the river, we had to step out of the plane onto the pontoon and then leap into a 16-foot boat. That boat had a 14 horsepower outboard motor and the guide navigated up the strong current as far as we could until we met another 16-foot guide boat with a 30 horsepower motor to take us up even stronger currents. We had to get out of our boat and climb into that boat all while drifting down the river. The bigger boat barely made it up through the strong rapids until we got to our camp. There was only one water logged life preserver on the floor of that boat.

I must admit we did catch 14 salmon grilse in the five-pound category the first three days. But then the rains began further inland and within a day or two, the river rose eight feet where we were. An island that had a picnic table chained to a tree was completely under water. For the next three days until we left, we couldn't fish.

Then there was that fishing trip to Alberta in late August one year. A heavy snow storm came in and crippled the area, knocking out power in all the towns. It was nearly impossible to fish. Gas stations, grocery stores, package stores, etc. were all closed due to lack of power. The bed and breakfast where we stayed also lost power. One good thing about it was that the food in their freezer began to thaw and they had to serve up their elk steaks, roasts, etc. Although we couldn't fish, we certainly ate well.

On another trip to Alberta, Mike and I got caught in a cattle drive. There we were driving down the dusty road in our small rental car, completely surrounded by hundreds of steer galloping along beside us accompanied by cowboys and cowgirls.

Another scary time in Alberta was when a big grizzly bear took a liking to Mike and followed him down the river until they came upon me. Some friend, eh?

Then there were the two years fishing the famous rivers near Missoula, Mont. where there were bad forest fires, some of them just across the river from us. Helicopters were filling their big buckets with water from the holes that we were trying to fish in Rock Creek.

Hoping to have a fairly tame fishing trip, Mike and I decided to fish the AuSable River in the Adirondacks near Lake Placid, N.Y. Unfortunately, two teenagers drowned just before we got there. They recovered one and they were still searching for the second with helicopters and kayaks. We felt terrible for the distraught mother who was staying at our motel awaiting recovery of her son's body.

Then there was that last trip to northern Quebec where we had a drunken French Canadian guide who had just been released from prison and who carried a knife on his hip. That's when a black bear tried to break into our cabin at night. That was also the trip when Mike Miller, from Athol, and his son Darren were stranded on waters in the middle of nowhere. The plane that brought them there took out some of the fishermen but the weather was so bad it couldn't return to get them until the next day, after the storm abated.

I must be a glutton for punishment, for off to Canada I went again. Hopefully we caught lots of big brook trout and the weather was gorgeous. I'll let you know how we did...if I survive the trip.

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: 413-637-1818.


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