Archive for January, 2010

LA RESERVE BEAUCHENE

It started off like any other day fishing for ­­smallmouth bass. The sun was just beginning to rise above the majestic stands of oak and jack pine on the mountain and the morning fog was lifting a few feet above the lakes calm mirrored surface. The only sound to be heard was that of the waves lapping against the bow of the boat and a solitary loon that noisily guarded the entrance of the bay. We were drifting slowly with the wind, casting our poppers against the shoreline, and taking in the beauty of our pristine surroundings when it happened. Ploop, Ploop, Ploop, Kershplooosh!!!! In one brief and violent instant, the water under my partners lure erupted, leaving a bathtub-sized depression where his lure had once been. He reared back on his rod, which was arched down to the corks under the weight of a good fish. The fish rose to the surface once, in a perfunctory attempt to break gravity and heave it’s massive body out of the water to shake the hook, and then fought a deep tug-of-war until brought to the boat. When it was finally landed and we took a good look at it we were both stunned for a few moments. It was a huge smallmouth bass. Twenty-four inches according to the tape measure, two feet long and as fat and round as a rugby ball. By far the biggest smallmouth we had ever seen. Welcome to La Reserve Beauchêne, the land that time forgot, and the land of giants. Jurassic park for smallmouth.

HISTORY

Located in the wild boreal taiga forests of Temiskaming in Northern Quebec, La Reserve Beauchêne is rich in character and history. The very name of Beauchene itself evokes several different meanings. In French, the name translates into “beautiful oak”, a fact not to be denied if one takes a good look at the surrounding mountains. Others maintain that the origin of the name lie in the Algonquin Indian language, where Bau-Ching, as it was pronounced, means “two waters”, suggesting the form of the Beauchêne lake as it is two lakes separated by a narrows section.

The main lodge, known as the White House, was built in 1924, the same year as the mill in Temiskaming. It was built for Mr. Lawrence Jones of Kentucky, owner of Frankfort Distillers, maker of a few well-known brands including Four Roses Bourbon. Jones was a keen outdoorsmen and the White House was intended to be the Jones summer home. It was Roland Zeitz who had built the structure, according to Jones architectural drawings, and the southern roots of the owner are quite apparent in the Southern plantation style of the building, complete with Romanesque columns that face out onto the lake. Zeitz had made Jones’ acquaintance as a guide on Lake Nippissing and the two men became very close. Incredibly, it was built single-handedly by Zeitz in a period of less than three months and at an under budget cost of five thousand dollars. The structure is made entirely out of knot-free British Columbia fir that Jones had bought and shipped down to Beauchêne by boxcar.

It was Zeitz who had originally discovered Beauchêne for Jones. While the fishery in the early days was poor due to poaching and commercial fishing during WWI, because of its virtually unspoiled shorelines, pristine water and proximity to a number of other smaller lakes nearby, Jones decided it was the perfect place for a private fishing camp. He had an uncannily prescient vision that they could develope the fishery into something incredible and in 1923 he leased the territory from the Quebec government and began to develope the area. At that time there were no roads into Temiskaming, except one, and the area was populated only by small farms and logging settlements.

When Roland Zeitz first came to Beauchêne, there were neither bass nor brook trout in any of the lakes. The only indigenous species were whitefish and lake trout, which had suffered heavy casualties as a result of poaching and commercial harvest as a result of wartime rationing. Jones had brought in smallmouth bass by truck in 1925 from Lake Memphremagog in the Eastern Townships, what must have been a remarkable journey in those days of limited road systems. Initial stockings of rainbow trout from Port Allegheny, New York, in both Foley and Taggart lakes proved to be without long-term results.

Today, the territory remains as unspoiled as when Zeitz first laid eyes on it and it covers a massive 205 square kilometers that contain over three dozen lakes that offer some of the very best fishing opportunities for outdoorsmen. While most of the lakes contain bass and speckled trout, there are others with lake trout, pike, and even splake, a hybrid of a lake trout and speckled trout. La Reserve Beauchêne is truly as close to an angler’s Valhalla as possible. Because of the variety of the fish, this is a year round fishery, as there is always something active on the menu.

BROOK TROUT

The Brook Trout of La Reserve Beauchêne are a unique species of char, Assinica strain, native to the North Eastern portion of this continent. While the lakes of the territory are mostly stocked, some of them, such as Taggart and David, trophy lakes that see several fish above five pounds landed every year, are thought to have indigenous populations. These are fast growing fish that by age 2-3 are anywhere from sixteen to twenty inches, fat and healthy, sporting the most beautiful colors, especially in the fall when they are spawning.

After ice-out in late May or early April depending on the season, when water temperatures are still cold, the brook trout can be targeted near the surface, with both flies and artificial baits producing decent fish. If opting to fly fish, a floating line with a minnow or leech pattern will yield good results. Mickey Finns, Memphremagog smelt, and brown-nosed dace patterns are sure to produce. Later in the season, the fish are found deeper, and can be targeted anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five feet down, usually just below the thermocline.

Artificial baits that mimic the prevalent forage base of the lake, such as sinking Shad Raps, Countdowns, and Yo-Zuri minnow type baits are absolutely deadly. Small spoons, spinners, and even jigs have also taken their fair share of trophy fish. The camp record, a seven and a quarter pound fish, was captured in Lake David on a pumkinseed colored crappie jig. Because of the lodges management policy, treble hooks must be barbless, a fact that positively impacts the results of live-release. In order to maintain the trophy quality of the territory, some of these lakes have a no-kill policy.

Other lakes that have speckled trout fishing and are accessible by four by four vehicle include Joanna, Helen, Baps, Jeffrey, Foley, Tank, as well as a host of others. There is really no shortage of lakes to chose from and the fisheries are all extremely well managed and catch & release is the camp policy, ensuring both the quality and longevity of the fishery.

BASS

The bass fishing is probably the biggest drawing card that brings people from every continent back each year. This fishery is nothing short of phenomenal. Legendary. Known and frequented by some of the best bass anglers in the world. If you come here be prepared to catch some of the largest bass of your lifetime. These are some of the longest and fattest smallmouth anywhere on the planet! While the average fish is around two and a half pounds, there are enough four and five pound fish to keep things interesting. The lake record is a whopping seven and one quarter pounds!

On our first day, under the advice of Katia, the camp guide, we had fished traditional baits such as jigs, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits against the shoreline and off the drop-offs but nothing seemed to be producing the larger fish we were targeting. Lake Beauchene, the main lake, is a big lake and there was a lot of water to cover. The biggest bass are also found in the main lake. The smaller lakes, such as McConnell and McDonald, had been producing unheard of quantities but nothing preposterously large. A man we met from Alabama, visiting with his wife and son, had caught seventy-five fish in McConnell the previous day, and was complaining about a sore wrist.

We decided to forsake quantity for quality and had made a decision to only fish the main lake for the monsters, a few of which we had seen so faithfully replicated on the walls of the White House. At night, while toasting the memory of Zeitz and Jones with a delightful Forest Glen Merlot or a sifter of complimentary Cointreau from the bar, these taxidermied fish were the stuff of much discussion, fantasy and hopefulness for the following day.

As the barometer continued to rise on the second day we began fishing topwater baits and were rewarded with several large fish. Rebel Pop-Rs, buzzbaits, Moss Bosses, and Jitterbugs fished aggressively seemed to trigger these bigger fish from the depths. These fish were by no means easy to catch and the truly large ones are spread out all over the lake and in all types of areas. There is so much shoreline structure that is just the perfect fish habitat. Nothing is to be neglected. Deadfalls, submerged rocks and logs, rocky saddles and shoals, back bays, islands – no human being could ever design a better habitat for these fish.

One our last night we stayed out late on the water and were casting jitterbugs under a full moon in the narrows section at midnight. The bass had corralled some baitfish against the shoreline and every so often the water erupted and the moonlight glimmered off a million tiny silvery fish that were trying to escape an almost pre-determined fate.

Off in the distance a lonely timber wolf howled in the darkness. Above us, high in the northern sky, the aurora borealis flickered like a cosmic fire that was burning down to its embers. A few minutes would pass and then the water exploded on our baits, shaking us back to reality. It was a magic evening in a magnificent place still unspoiled by the hand of man. We stayed out until midnight, unwilling for the day to end as we were scheduled to leave in the morning. It was clear to us that we would be taking a little bit of the Beauchene spirit with us, held tight in out hearts and souls, and that it would also be impossible not to come back to this place again and again. www.thefishinglife.com

Winter Trout Fishing

bow river,spinner fishing the bow river

Just What The Doctor Prescribed

After working diligently to get all my work done this week, I packed my fishing tackle and my rod into the back of my car and headed off to finish the work week. Friday morning was looking really great to leave work early and sneak away to fish the Bow River. Just as a doctor would prescribe ointment for a rash, fishing scratches and heals all my itches. I left work early at ten thirty and drove thirty minutes to meet up with some trout.

I parked the car and got out. Burr, it was a little chilly so I got on my snow pants. I added an extra sweater for good measure as well, after all I am not leaving the river until I catch at least one fish. I tied up a Rapala Countdown and made sure the knot was going to hold if I caught a monster Trout. The knot broke the first time I tied it up, so I made extra sure the knot was solid the second time I tied it up. I am a little rusty but the clinch knot was perfect this time. I then put my back pack over my shoulders and make the short walk to the river bank. I fished my way upriver with no bites for the first five or ten minutes. I was looking for a deeper section of river as the countdown can run fairly deep. If you use a lure that runs deeper than the river, all you will catch is rocks, branches, and weeds.

I gingerly walked out onto the ice that has gathered on the bank and made my cast. I was able to almost cast all the way across the river, the ice was quite far out into the river in some spots. The lure was running true and clean when, tap, tap I feel the bite of a trout. I seen the fish swim back into the rock he was hiding behind. Even though I thought there were fish stacked in this area, I kept moving upriver to see what else was alive down there. Just a short distance upriver I finally hooked into a twenty inch Brown Trouton a Brown Trout Rapala. This guy was hungry and engulfed my offering. Then there came another slow period. I decided that instead of leaving the original hook on, I would change it to another Rapala of a different color. I feel some fishermen make the mistake of leaving their hook on too long when they are not catching fish. Today all it took was to change the color pattern and then I started slamming trout. I was using the same hook, it was the same size but I just changed the color.

After I switched hooks I made a long cast into a seam in the middle of the river. I could see there were some large rocks and I wanted to see what was hiding behind them. My cast was made just a metre in front of the spot I wanted to work my lure through. I was careful not to spook the fish from the splash of my lure. I clicked the bail over and reeled the lure making it swim erratically and fast, then BOOM a trout was hooked on and fighting hard. I reeled him in and to my surprise it was a chunky rainbow. I love rainbows! The very next cast was put almost to the exact same place the first cast went into, this time the lure dove down and I let it sit still, BANG another trout was hooked up. Back to back trout’s. This time it was a big brown that was rolling to get the hook out of his mouth. I managed to slowly reel him in to land him and what a beautiful looking fish. I released him back into the frigid water and wiped my hands off. It was getting windy by now and it was time to walk back downriver towards my vehicle. I was fishing all the way back downstream as the wind was howling behind my back.

As the wind was blowing strong my lure was going even farther out into the River than when I first started my day. I hooked the bottom; probably a tree or a large rock in the river and my hook broke off. “Oh well” I said and reached into the back pack for another. A different colour Rapala was selected. It’s a new color out this year. As I came to a deep small pocket of water, I flicked the lure into the drop point of the hole and slowly reeled the Rapala towards the deepest part of the hole. After the third try, what I left early from work for was pulling my lure hard. A twenty five inch Brown trout was getting the best of me. I loosened the drag on my reel as I could see this was no small fry. He then peeled out several yards of line before coming to a stop; quickly I picked up the lost line and brought him close to shore where I tailed him out and removed the Rapala from his tooth jaws. “Now that’s what I’m talking about” I said out loud. I saved the best for last today that’s for sure. Hopefully next week the weather is nice and I can get away again. What are you doing this week? Perhaps some trout fishing!