I’m back in Maine after a couple of weeks of June salmon fishing on the Miramichi. I’m going to ride out the heat wave here and then head back up, hopefully at the end of the week. The short of the report is that this June was encouraging. With two or three of us fishing most days we put 8 beautiful chrome fish in the net and contacted quite a few others. That is certainly no record, but June is seldom a high production time, and these fish are by far the finest of the season. We had some kind of action during almost all the morning and afternoon sessions, and we heard some good reports from the other camps too. The DFO officials haven’t yet posted the trap numbers from June 15, so there is no official yardstick to go by. Anecdotally, though, the start is promising. (click on the pictures for a larger view)
In addition to catching more salmon I would report that the normal places are holding plenty of parr. The other night at around 7:00 we ran back up from Doctor’s Island to Campbell’s Pool. There were parr flipping along the bar edges and brook outflows all along the way upriver, and they were feeding heavily in every little seam of current throughout the rocks in Campbell’s Pool. It was really great to see.
As a negative there are also plenty of striped bass, though I would comment that they are concentrated in certain bassy locations. The deeper water at the downstream end of Doctor’s Island has a whole school in residence. I understand that there are plenty near Black Brook too. In the course of salmon fishing in the productive salmon water at Campbell’s and Doctor’s Island, though, we never caught one for which I was very grateful. I have nothing against striped bass – in fact I love stripers – but we don’t need schools of them 20 miles up into the Miramichi salmon habitat eating parr, or wildly inflated populations of over-protected predators lying in wait for every smolt coming down the river in May.
We really had wonderful fishing conditions up until this heat wave. In fact June was quite cool for the most part. I spent a night at Keith Wilson’s Wildcat Camp high up on the Cains, doing research for my new book “On the Cains”, and in the morning it was 27F. There were fairly regular frosts right to the end of June. Several moderate and well-spaced rains lifted the river, but not to more than 1.1 or so meters, and it never dropped to less than about .75 meters on the Blackville gauge. This kept the pools well defined and with a good flow. The fish were either running or taking a short rest, as it is too early in the Miramichi season for salmon to take up longer term residence. But the water was low enough to encourage them to stop regularly in some of the good spots. People sometimes think a June salmon will strike hard at any fly that gets near it. That is certainly not the case by my experience. We had a fair number of fish on this trip that rolled several times at different flies before either they could no longer be interested or had simply moved on.
My big fish story – The first fish of the season for us was landed on 6/15, and it was an estimated 28-pound beauty that we got nice pictures of. This fish also taught us a little about salmon behavior. We were dropping down through the lower part of Campbell’s Pool on the Keenan side at a place called “Papa’s Rock”. At a drop just up from some big rocks that were boiling away in the water just off our stern, I stripped out about 15 feet of fly line and made a short cast with a #2 Silver Rat – one of my early season favorites under the theory that it resembles the shiny saltwater bait fish that these ultra-fresh salmon had recently been eating at sea. I really do enjoy fishing with these large flies and 12 pound test tippet.
Jason Curtis was peering over the back of the boat and said Brad, your fly just passed about 6 feet behind a big salmon. At that point I also saw the fish holding in about 3 ½ feet of water over some gravel between two small boulders. I stripped in what I guessed was about the right amount of line and cast again. The big salmon swam up off the bottom and followed the fly for about 10 feet then turned and swam back to the bottom, taking up a position about 6 feet away from where we had originally seen it. You were about two feet short, said Jason. As I pulled off the needed fly line and took a couple of deep breaths, the salmon slowly swam over to return to the exact position that it had originally occupied when we first saw it.
On my next cast the fly passed close to the fish’s nose. Again the salmon rose for the fly and I saw it open its mouth. The water had enough surface disturbance that I did not see the fly actually disappear into its mouth, nor did I feel anything on the line, but I judged that she had taken it. Not sure what else to do I gave a quick twitch of the rod and was solidly on to the fish.
Current conditions – Right now the Miramichi is heating up and 30C days are forecast until Thursday. Mitigating those temperatures is a pretty good raise of water that took place yesterday. Nights are not forecast to be cool, but they are also not supposed to be nearly as warm as in some past heat waves. Hopefully the combination of a decent height of water, fat brooks, maybe some thundershowers, and reasonable night temps will keep things from being as bad as they could be. When things do return to normal we will hopefully see a nice influx of grilse and summer salmon.
While I’m up in camp I’m trying to make daily updates to my Salmon Report which is at this LINK that you can find on my bradburnsfishing website under Salmon Report.
These seasons pass quickly, and as trite as it sounds, they truly don’t come again. There is still time to call one of the Miramichi outfitters and book your trip for 2018.
Great to see early fish in the system with favourable water cobditions. Awesome June salmon and wicked GoPro footage with your release…Congrats on your tightlines!
Thanks Ashley. It was really uplifting to see a decent number of these early run fish. Brad
Great time of the year, beautiful big fish. It seems not to be as big as your fish on the wall.
Kal – this fish wasn’t as long as our all time best summer fish which came from back in 2004, but it was just as thick. Brad
What a perfect specimen of a bright hen salmon!!
Harvey – thanks. It came from very, very near the spot that you lost that man-sized cockfish a few years back…. Brad
Terrific stuff, Brad. Thanks for posting. Thanks for your hospitality and another exceptionally memorable experience with some exceptional people at Campbells. Keep the posts coming. I’ll do my best with the stripers hear in the waters of Southern New England, Luther
Thanks Luther. Those stripers belong down there in LI Sound. LOL Brad
Heading up Sunday, hope we still have some water……
Beautiful fish in your video! Your place is still on my bucket list. I’ll chat with you about a potential trip for next year. Thanks for keeping the dream alive.
Pat – have been seeing our mutual friend Jim Corrigan. He is happily retired in Blackville. It will be great to have you come out. Brad
Brad, Thanks for the report. It sure is encouraging to hear about salmon being caught in June. The one in the video was a beauty – chrome bright and a thick girth. Must have been a great fighter.
Casey – the big fish took a long time to land, but mostly because the fight was very dogged and unspectacular. It made one good jump, but most of the time it just styed broadside to me out in the middle of the river. The 18 pounder was a super fighter with a couple of spectacular leaps and up-current, high-speed runs. One guest who has caught many hundreds of Atlantic salmon got one about 15 pounds that he said was the wildest fighter he had ever seen. He landed it more than 500 feet downriver from where he hooked it. Brad
I received “Closing the Season” in the mail a month ago and planned to write sooner. It was brilliant, truly. After the first few magical pages I vowed to read it only on the deck at home, or the porch of our camp, with branches gently soughing in the wind overhead, and that is what I did.
The book, your journal, radiated a tremendous sense of place. I saw the alders along the river and the Woodcock hiding within, the hiss in the grass as it flowed through it, the burble of water around historic rocks in sacred pools. Your depiction of old homes, now derelict, where generations of the rivers families once lived harks back to a simpler life. You catch the essence of a bygone time.
The small things you notice, the skunk under the camp and shorebirds along rivers edge, resonate deeply. The tuning colors, the cooler air and frost in early mornings put me right there on the river, swinging my fly for a late season fish. I can smell the river, the decay along its banks and the cold descending on my shoulders. It a truly remarkable book.
I look forward to your publication of “On the Cains”.
Thanks Rob, where do I send my payment for the ad…LOL! I love all that stuff, and especially the historical aspects. There is many times as much of that in On the Cains as their was in Closings. One thing that I’ve tried to do wherever I could get the material is to show pictures of camps or pools from the past and compare them to the same shot taken today. Some of it is really fascinating. Brad
You’re my kind of writer. With you, its much more than the fish. Its everything that surrounds it, past and present. Each fish on your line is in the present but each fish on the line is also everything in the past that has made it possible. Your ability to capture the essence of everything in between the times fishing the river, paint a full picture of the total experience. If that was your goal, you nailed it! The fish is king, but it is much more than that for us to be complete.
Really well done!
Great report Brad and what a superb specimen. Well done.
The Thurso is the lowest I ever remember for this time of year, only 27 for the Month of June.
Plenty fish in the estuary so when we eventually get water it will be a Bonanza.
Pat – it seems Scotland has had a tough first half of the season. Hopefully things will be much better later. Your August is usually incredible. Brad
Brad. Loved the video! We are so happy to hear that the fishing is better. The Wades and the Hoveys were at the Kenmore camp on the weekend but nothing was caught. Thanks for your update.
Astrid – thanks for the comment. Now that you have made a post any future ones are automatically approved. Hopefully it will be a good summer once we get by this heat. Say hello to David and Richard. Brad
Thanks for the report, hope the water stays up and the temperature stays down. Just back from a trip to So. Colorado where the waters were already very low and the creeks luke warm & they’re looking at shutting down the fishing in that area.
Yes, we’ve been very lucky so far. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning never became nearly as hot as forecast. Now at noon on Monday the water is only 70F. This is still within a reasonable fishing range. I heard that one of the camps had a decent morning today and saw a ton of fish. I think that later today our luck will run out, but hopefully we will be back in business by Friday. Brad
I almost pity you landing the likely best fish of the season on practically the first day. What can the rest of the year offer? ;-).
Maybe it will allow for a longer cocktail hour. LOL!
Brad, I really enjoyed your pictures and story of catching the big salmon. The heat wave is changing the lies of land locked salmon and trout in the Fish river system in northern Aroostook county.