Friday, August 20, 2010

MENTORS AND GUIDES,THE BITE AND VINTAGE STUFF

Summer is slowly winding down here at home on Salmon River and what a summer it has been! Aside from a two week hot spell in July,the weather was very nice,with lots of sunshine and seasonable temperatures. Many people liked those scorching temperatures we had last month,but if you were a fisherman rather than a beach-bum,it really wasn't much fun for either the fishermen or the fish. We had a great run of salmon this year and it's probably a good thing since many fish died during the hot spell in July. Anyone guiding salmon fishermen right now has his hands full as the fish are stacking up anywhere they can find some water and they aren't being very co-operative in taking the fly.On the subject of guides,I was thinking about how much things have changed over the years when it comes to guiding. There was a day when a guide was a "woodsman" and by that I mean a guide literally spent most of his time in the woods. Most of the old time guides I knew of were almost universally trappers who worked a bit in the woods and guided during the seasons.These old timers knew the woods and rivers like the back of their hands because of the sheer amount of time they spent on their trap lines and felling timber and yarding it out to the brows to be sent downstream to the mills.These old guides would start out guiding fishermen during the spring and summer and then would switch over to moose and deer in the fall and wouldn't miss a beat.Today, most guides seem to specialize in one area such as guiding for salmon or maybe guiding grouse and woodcock hunters. I know many guides today who are good salmon guides but couldn't find a deer to save their soul.Or they may be great dog men and do well chasing birds around the coverts that course along New Brunswick's many brooks and streams,but couldn't call a moose in on a bet. This new breed of guide knows his game,whatever it may be,but can't really be called good "woodsmen" because they are specialists and haven't got the experience in other areas of outdoor pursuits. I feel very privileged to have been mentored by some real "woodsmen" when I was growing up and starting to tramp the woods and waters here in southern New Brunswick.Now that I'm at an age where I look back as much as I look ahead, I find myself wishing I would have taken photos and tried to document the countless trips made with these great guides and mentors of my youth.I will never forget my first trip to the Big Woods with my Uncle Rowan when I was about twelve years old. Uncle Rowan and a couple of his war buddies had a log cabin on the headwaters of Newcastle Stream near Clearwater Brook and they spent a lot of time at the camp fishing trout and hunting.I think there was a fair amount of drinking went on during their forays into the bush because there were several pit stops along the trail where I recall seeing many empties and small piles of tins.This was long before the days of concern for the environment and very little garbage was hauled back out of the bush. The hike into my uncles camp was five miles in along the old portage and I recall the very real sense of adventure I felt when hiking along with Uncle Rowan and my cousin that fall day. I recall seeing many moose tracks along the portage and I felt we would see one around every bend in the trail. In truth,we really were in good moose country,but my uncle was looking for deer that fall day,not moose. As we neared the top of the ridge that led down to the camp beside the stream,my uncle paused to have a nip of some sort of spirits and announced to my cousin and I that our trek was nearly over and the camp was just down the ridge a step. As we stood there for a moment,I seen a flash of brown half way down the hill and at the same time my uncle was trying to shoulder his rifle while getting himself untangled from his gear. It was a large ten point buck streaking from his bed and heading for cover and my uncle just couldn't get a bead on him as he took large leaps away  while looking back at us over his shoulder.My Uncle Rowan had let his guard down just briefly because we were so close to the camp and it cost him a nice buck.He took it all in stride,but I never forgot that lesson I learned that day. My uncle loved to fish brook trout and each year he would make a trip into the "V" on the Gaspereau River with a couple of buddies.This was a ten mile hike in and they would spend one or two nights and then hike back out.I still recall Uncle Rowan landing home,sometimes a little tipsy but always with a large mess of trout. Nothing huge,just nice pan trout of ten or twelve inches and lots of them. I only made that trip once and I recall I never thought I would make it across Dorsey Bog to get to the "V" and all that good fishing.I did make it and the fishing was fantastic but my young legs ached for a week after!I made many such trips as I was growing up,sometimes with older mentors and sometimes with like-minded young friends,but I will never forget those first trips with my Uncle Rowan Bauer into the camp at Clearwater Brook.Another great friend and mentor during this time was Norm Hiltz.Norm was a good friend of my Uncle Hartley Boyd and it was through him that I became acquainted with Norm.He loved the woods and waters here in the Grand Lake area and spent as much time as he could fishing and hunting during those seasons and trapping foxes and cats during the late fall and winter. Norm was a very charismatic character and all who met him were enthralled with his tales of past adventures and I was no exception.Being a youngster,I couldn't help but look up to him and he was the type of man who didn't just" talk the talk",but he "walked the walk" and you just knew he was the real deal. What impressed me most about Norm now that I look back was the fact he wanted to include me in the trips to the bush he and my Uncle Hartley made on a regular basis. Remember now,I was just a kid of fourteen or so,but I think old Norm recognized in me a love of the outdoors and he did everything he could to encourage me to pursue the sporting life.We went on many hunting and fishing trips and it was Norm who taught me how to hunt deer.Now Norm was a great trout fisherman,trapper and moose hunter but what he was really good at and loved the most was hunting big white-tails. When I say big white-tails,I mean BIG bucks and he certainly had the racks to prove he was very good at outsmarting those sneaky old grey- faced bucks.How good was he at taking big bucks? Well,the Red Fisher show held a big buck contest for a few years and if I recall correctly old Norm won that contest twice and placed a third time.This was no small feat,as the contest covered both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and there were many entries. Norm had a bad heart and I remember him still going out to the bush even after the doctor told him to take it easy.That's how much he loved to hunt deer. Another time I recall was when he got his moose licence and headed to the Cains River country to hunt.Norm really liked this area because he regularly fished the Sabbies River and he knew it was good moose country,so it was only natural he would head up that way. When my uncle and I went to visit him at his camp,to our surprise,he was camped on the side of the126 highway, just on the other side of the Cains River. After greeting us,my uncle Hartley asked him why he was parked on the road instead of going off into the bush to look for his moose.Norms reply was that he could call his moose out to the road and there was no need to chase around the woods looking for a bull. My uncle and I exchanged inquisitive glances as Norm picked up his horn and told us to be quiet and listen for an answer as he called. Old Norm could really talk moose talk and I couldn't believe it when he got an answer immediately.We could hear that bull coming like a freight train through the woods and when he finally stepped out onto the side of the road,Norm was waiting for him with his gun at the ready. He dropped that moose right there and it was the largest moose taken in the area that year. If I remember right,it had twenty-eight points and had very large boards and weighed over one thousand pounds. What a great experience for a young lad just starting out. Norm died relatively young. I believe he was in his late fifties and I recall thinking it just wasn't fair for such a great woodsman to be taken so young.These are just a couple of the men who mentored me when I was a young lad and I will talk about some others in future posts.
This photo is of the Trestle Pool on the Newcastle Stream.This was my favorite pool as a youngster and I caught many nice brook trout here as I was learning to fly fish. We're now into the time of year when the trout and salmon are holing up in cold water brooks and springs trying to stay comfortable until a raise in the water. the trout fishing can actually be pretty good,IF you can find them.Salmon,on the other hand, really have a hard time in hot weather and they become very hard to hook. Since the water is low and warm,we usually switch over to fishing pickerel and perch,with the odd trip for stripers. Right now,with the conditions being as they are,the pickerel bite is smoking hot! Ken and I were out last week-end for a few hours and hooked dozens of nice pickerel up to twenty-four inches long. I lost two that I thought were larger than the two footer I landed. What I love about fishing pickerel is the lightning fast strike.It almost startles you because you aren't prepared for the viciousness of the attack they make on your lure. Many times,the fish will miss the lure,just because of how wildly he goes after it. Many times even if the fish misses the lure,if you throw it right back at him,he will attack it again and you will eventually hook up. Pickerel are also notorious for throwing or spitting the lure back at you. This is why I fish the lure that I have put together most of the time because I get good hook-ups and less thrown lures. When I do occasionally use a top water lure,its a top-prop,for sure.I make sure to rig it the same way as my Hildebrand's and I get good results with this lure in the evening when the water is still.This photo shows two lures rigged the way I like them.I fish these lures almost exclusively and have been doing so for about ten years now.I remember my Uncle Hartley making his own pickerel lures by tying a gob of red feathers onto a red beaded,double bladed spinner with a treble hook.Many times he would add another set of treble hooks to this rig if he thought he needed more hooking power.This photo shows Kenny with a nice pickerel he got trolling in deep water while we were on our way to the weed beds.Pickerel are like any other fish in that they like structure and cover and Ken caught this one that was laying beside a stone abutment with some weeds.Ken was using a small bronze Mepps and he caught a lot of fish on it.When the conditions are like they are right now,you can throw just about anything at them and they will smash it with abandon.This photo shows me getting ready to land a nice pickerel. You can see the orange double-tailed leech hanging from his mouth. Ken and I always practice hook and release when fishing for pickerel in the late summer because if the fish is handled gently,he will take again the next day and the fun just goes on and on.Pickerel have very nice white meat and we will occasionally take one for old Wes,Kens dad, in the winter or early spring when their flesh is still nice and firm. The only down side to eating pickerel is they have Y bones,so there is a little tedious work taking the meat off of the bones.Here is  another photo of Kenny with an average sized pickerel taken from our area of Salmon River. I don't know how many fish we caught but it was a lot. That seems to happen to Ken and I quite often, for some reason! Another reason I like fishing for pickerel is the fact they are very co-operative in striking a well presented bait or lure and a successful outing is almost assured,under most conditions. This is a photo of a young family fishing a cold water pool on the Cains River.As I said earlier in this post,the conditions are less than ideal for fishing salmon right now but there are fish to be had,with the right flies and a generous dose of patience. With the conditions being like they are,salmon fishermen would be well advised to be using long leaders and small black flies,size eight and ten and bombers with white tails. The young lady in the pink vest managed to land a nice grilse,but that was the only fish taken that evening.There were fish rolling and jumping in the pool but very few takers.The salmon fishing needs a nice raise of water to get the fish moving and bring in some new fish to the pools.When they get in their comfort zone,they will start taking again.
This is a photo of a crib board made from a deer antler.I just love this kind of vintage stuff and I have been collecting it over the years. All the camps we used to go to back in the day  had a crib board and a deck of cards.Many evenings were spent over these crib boards with a few drinks and lots of laughs and memories of camp life with good friends and family. Kenny is very good at making folk art type things and I always try to encourage him to make more of it whenever he gets the chance. This type of thing is getting harder and harder to find every year,so if you get the chance to get something like this,you should grab it.This next photo shows a nice white-tail deer T.V. lamp or table lamp. This item is circa late 50's-early 60's and is made of plaster of paris and is quite heavy. The light is behind the deer and back-lights the area where it is placed.A word of caution to my readers about older electrical items.Many times the wiring can become brittle and connections can get corroded,so make sure you do a thorough inspection of the electrical components of any older device before you use it.If you have any doubts at all,just replace the components. I will continue to show photos of vintage outdoor goods in future posts to my blog,so be sure to keep an eye out for some great old items from the sporting past.Ken and I would also like to  invite you to contact us anytime to arrange a trip to the Big Woods of central New Brunswick. Happy Trails to You!......Until we meet again!

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