Spring Salmon Fishing 2017

A wee grilse that made it through in fine condition.

I came back Friday from three days on the Miramichi and Cains Rivers fishing for spring salmon.  I always love this experience, even though….and this year the even-thoughs constitute a fair list.  Even though the highest temperature for the period was 43F during rain on the last day of fishing, even though it snowed two out of three days – it rained the other, even though it was well below freezing every night and Tuesday night it was only 23F, and even though fishing started off slower than expected.

Campbell’s Pool camp and sheds, snow still in hedgerow

So what made up for it all?  I found the camp at Campbell’s Pool in great condition, and the old fields and woods were a sight for sore eyes.  We were constantly entertained by the local herd of deer that were out feeding 24-7 on the new grass shoots, the pair of black ducks foraging in the guzzle leading out of the pond in the back yard, and many returning birds including eagles, osprey, kingfishers, robins, black birds, and Canada geese.

For the last 25 years or so, with the exception of two or three seasons circa 2007, I have made at least one annual spring salmon trip – either to the Matapedia/Restigouche or the Miramichi.  As with all salmon fishing, predictions about next season’s success are useless, and even tomorrow’s forecast is of relatively little value.  None-the-less, in recent years the earlier you can get fishing after the season opens the better your chances generally are.  In some of the warmer springs the only decent action has taken place in the first couple of weeks of the season.

This year, though, has been a really old-fashioned year in that despite the ice-out being more or less on time the recent daily average temperatures have been well below average.  We did not take the water temperature, but I would put it at very little above freezing.  On Monday before we arrived it rained and snowed all day and this gave us a high, dirty river on Tuesday.  On Wednesday morning the outside temps dropped to 23F, and it snowed off and on from midnight throughout the day, there was ice wherever the water moved slowly, and we had ice in the rod guides all day long.    The unusual cold each night, though, reduced the runoff, and the river dropped and cleared up some each day of the trip.

A good kelt

Despite the consistently cold conditions we managed some reasonable catches.  Spring salmon fishing is more about sniffing the breeze than it is hauling in fish after fish, but fishing without that occasional tug is just casting, and it is important to have some success.  We didn’t start until around 9:30 to 10:00, taking pity on the guides as well as ourselves.  We took a liberal two hours for lunch, and after starting again at 2:00 we stopped casting in time to be back at camp by 5:00 PM – anticipating an extended cocktail hour.  Still, on this light schedule we managed a half dozen fish apiece each day, and I had 7 on the last day.    I know that people have caught many more than that in a day’s fishing for kelts – and so have I – but we got to see enough salmon to keep us quite content.

Almost all the fish we caught were at the end of the swing with a 450 grain head, and after waiting a long pause before that first strip.  I have no doubt that with some warming conditions the fish will be more active and accommodative.  We did notice an almost even mix of salmon and grilse, and that is reflective of last year’s run of bright fish.

Here are a few photos from the trip, hope you enjoy.

Jason Curtis at the helm

Darrell Warren guiding in mean conditions








Whitetail deer eating first new grass shoots in a long time.


A decent snowfall for late April




There’s a Willie Gunn Waddington under that snow







Shoveling out the boat before fishing

Fish Porn

Captain Bellefleur with grilse

A Cains River salmon during a rare moment of sunshine









A handsome spring fish from our last day honey hole


Early spring fishing is done deep and slow along the shorelines

See the new comment button below right.  Feel free to make comments or ask questions for the benefit of all readers.



10 Comments on “Spring Salmon Fishing 2017

  1. Did you get any bright fish or were they all Kelts.
    That weather is worse than Gerston a few Years ago ( Rubbish )
    22 off the Thurso last week.
    Sommy is on the Helmsdale tomorrow. My friend Geoff had 3 days on it last week. Blank.

  2. Brad – As early in the season as it is, most of your photos show relatively bright salmon, belying the “black salmon” moniker. Is this typical? And I wonder if it’s consistent over time – i.e., relative to, say, 20 years ago or more – and relative to other rivers in the Maritimes? Doubtless proximity to the salt has something to do with it, but then a number of your bright fish were evidently caught on the Cains.

    • Pete – In the years that I’ve been doing it I don’t see a lot of difference if any. As the spring season wears on they become very silvery. Just as with the smolts this has to be ocean camouflage in preparation for going to sea. In Scotland you can catch a kelt that looks very silvery, but when you get a real fresh run fish the difference in the luster is very apparent.

  3. Hats off to you all for your perseverance! The conditions looked testing and reminded me of Strath Naver in February.
    However, as you suggest in your Blog, it is just great to be back out on the banks of a river you hold so close to your heart!

  4. Brad,
    Thanks for the early season info. Will be at Red Bank 5/1.


    • The names of the brooks have been changed to protect the innocent LOL. The hot fishing in the Cains this trip, though, was not in Mystery Brook!

  5. Thanks for that Brad. Did/ have you noticed the huge pectoral fins on Cains fish. That first Grilse picture is certainly a Cains fish. No other salmon I know of has pectorals fins that big. The drone video taken on the 15th going up the cains was great.

    • Kevin – I didn’t notice that, but I went back to the picture, and yes that certainly does appear to be a unusually large pectoral fin. I’d never thought about the fin size on Cains fish versus others. If that is accurate I wonder why. There is no especially hard to navigate water in the Cains that would have caused its salmon to evolve with larger fins… The picture was taken on the Miramichi, but it was about 2 miles downriver of the Cains and could certainly have been a Cains fish.

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