Quebec Report

John Hicks

Owner and operator of Sea Run Pursuits
Saturday morning the 9th of September I picked James Mello up from the airport in Boston. I had been planning this trip for three months and was very excited to get out on the water. James and I were going to go into the land of tradition and single handers to catch the whiley Salmo Salar (atlantic salmon) with our spey rods. After driving some ten hours north through three states and two provinces we arrived in the small town of Matapedia were we were to pick up our fishing licenses for the tree days we would be fishing the public fishing sectors of the Matapedia river. After picking up our passes we headed some 15 miles north to Routhierville population 6 on a good day and 1 on others. We were staying at my friend Jim Rusher's (from Whitakers fame in New York), place. He has a great little lodge on the Matapedia river. Driving up the Matapedia valley James and I were amazed at the lack of anything other than one road one railroad track and one river. No houses, no gas stations nothing other than the beauty of the river valley and the turning leaves on the deciduous trees. James and I quickly unpacked our rods and headed to the river. Since our permits weren't going to take effect until the next day we just practiced our spey casts for about a half hour. Boy do I need work on my casting. After darkness fell at about 7:30 we made our way back to Jim's and made dinner (two cans of chili and some Scotch). Both of us were very tired from the long drive and excited about fishing the next morning.

First thing in the morning we headed out to the home pool right there in Routhierville. We both worked our way down through the transition from fast water to frog water twice and decided to make our way up the river a bit to a few other pools. The way things work in Quebec are as follows. Most rivers have very little public water, the water is controlled by longstanding agreements with the government and private clubs. The best public water river on the Gaspe peninsula is the Matapedia. Each day that you plan on fishing you must buy a license for that day at the ZEC office in the local town. The prices range from 49.50 canadian to hundreds of dollars. If you are on a public sector of the river you must fish the pools that are marked with a brown marker. Other sections of the river are privately owned and big fines will follow if you do get caught fishing them. Just ask James or I sometime about the River Guardians, they enforce these rules. Well, I see that I got off track about our fishing. After leaving Routhierville we headed up river to Alice pool and fished it and then later Hepel and Adams that day.
In all we fished three days and only moved a couple fish. James hooked a huge Atlantic in Adams on the second day. He fought it hard for 15 minutes until it finally said goodbye and broke his 6lb tippet. The huge hen still has a size 2/0 crystal chartruse egg sucking leach hanging in the corner of its mouth. The owner of the lodge next to Adam's saw the whole fight and was funny as heck. Here is how it all went down.

James swings crystal bugger by pod of some 20 salmon 60 yes count them sixty times. On the sixtyith swing James' line stopped mid swing and he set the hook. I was fishing to another school of fish about a 100 yards down river in the pool when I hear James yell "fish on!" I pull in my line and run up river to him. The pool at Adams has a very high bank so I was standing some 15 feet higher than James and could see just what he was hooked into. I was blown away when I saw his fish. A huge brown slab of meat was tearing through the water having it's way with James. At this point remember he hasn't seen the fish, then I slides it's way up in the water column and rolls on the surface. I thought James was going to throw his rod in the water and shit himself. Suddenly James was supremely aware of what he had on on the other end of his line. James starts screaming and yelling Oh My God! About this time the owner of the lodge shows up on his four wheeler. He yells down in a very broken english accent, "you hook fish?" James yells back "Yeah, and It's Big!" The owner says "yeah about 20lbs 25 lbs." About this time the fish decides to come up from the bottom and show itself again. The owner imediatly recinds his prior comment and yells "merdre (shit) 'dat fish is 30lbs!" All of a sudden all three of us knew this was going to be a tough fight and a fish of a lifetime. After several more runs and about 10 minutes of straight out bulldogging by the fish I was finally able to get close to it with a net. As I lifted the net I hit solidly on shoulder and ass of fish. This net was a big salmon net but was too small for our fish. The fish as I can tell from being six inches away from it and actually touching it's rock hard back was a full 40-50 inches and at leach 25 inches around. After the fish felt the net it decided to make one more run toward the bottom of the pool. It was at this time that James' 6lb tippet decided that it had had enough and broke off. All three of us shouted many explitives in both french and english. This was by far the biggest fish in the pool. James and I flogged the water for another full day and headed back to New Hampshire with one thing on our minds we wanted to go back. This was by far the toughest fishing I have ever encountered and I would do it all over in an instant. The log book at Jim's lodge had an entry in it that rings very true. It was from a gentleman from Gig Harbor that read "This place is a steelheaders paradise, Six days of fishing and no fish." The only difference here is that you can see the fish. The rivers are cold and clear. It was nothing to see 30+lb salmon finning gentely in a pool along side 6, 10, and 20 lb fish. James and I went away with a feeling that neither of us will ever be the same. We went away with having had the opportunity to have been touched by the fish of a lifetime....

James Mello

Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"
So the thing that happened out of all of this was that it took me a *LONG* time to realize that what I hooked into was a pretty rare event :) Granted it was a *ton* of fun hooking into that fish, but until I got back to the lodge and talked to John and read up a little, I never realized how priviledged I was to hook up with a salmon that big. Me, being ignorant and stupid just assumed that the first fish I hooked into must be a normal event :) When John explained it to me in more detail it sunk in and I *really* started to appreciate that fish.

-- Cheers
-- James


Tropical member
Great report! thanks for sharing. It is the fish of lifetime! People say you touch the fish, you land the fish... good job!
Congratulations, James. You're right. Just being favored with the experience of hooking and playing such a magnificent and powerful fish is a great privilege. I'm sure you'll never forget it.
WOW!!! Great Report and congratulations on the great trip. I'll have to get ahold of you John next time I'm out in the lovely State of New Hampshire. Until then...."Live Free or Die."