“The Margaree - What a River!”
Here it was the 25th of Sept. and just four days to go before I would start “The Margaree – What a River!” adventure. It began by sorting the fishing equipment that I had and what I could only take. Did I have enough warm clothing? Did I need to take my ‘neoprene’s or would my Simms lightweight waders be enough? Since a salmon fisher never knows when a “big” fish will put enough pressure on his rod to make it explode into a million pieces he always asks himself - how many rods should I take? The answer is simple; since I only have three nine weight salmon rods, I would take them all. One 4-piece will go in my luggage as insurance and the other two will be strapped on to my suitcase. Strapped on with “Kevlar” straps so that no one in the airport baggage handling areas will decide that he needed a new fishing rod – was I was being paranoid? Maybe I was – nobody was going to ruin my fishing trip to “The Margaree.” What about fly reels – time to equip them with new lines. Sinking tip or floating – take them all that’s what I would do.
Now you ask, what about the flies? What kind did I need? How many and of what size? Did I have enough? Did I tie up the “right” ones? I wouldn’t know until I got to “The Margaree.” Would the salmon “eat” my creations or only the tried and true versions that the ‘river’ savvy guides used? To make sure I placed an order with “Gord”, my host, for the tried and true versions in all the right sizes and colors – ‘just in case.’ One cannot be too careful when going up against the salmon of “The Margaree.” Four days before I am set to go an e-mail appears from one of the other guys spending the week on “The Margaree.” He started out the e-mail by ribbing “Gord” about the flies everyone bought from him. Something about the fact that only the flies that “Gord” used actually caught any fish – now I was worried that the flies that I tied up may have to be tested. My four full salmon fly boxes may not have the “right” fly in them. Such news was not good news.
For those of you who don’t know “The Margaree” is a river (and what a river) on Cape Breton Island – a part of the province of Nova Scotia. It starts out in the low mountains of Cape Breton and ends in the Northumberland Strait in the small town of Margaree Harbor. While it meanders down from the mountains it is fed by many springs and small brooks to become “The Margaree.” Why do I refer to this river as “The Margaree?” It’s simple, once you have seen this river, fished this river and managed to hook and land an Atlantic salmon you will know why I call it “The Margaree.” It just gets in your blood.
Sept. 29 started great – I was headed for “The Margaree” via Atlanta, Boston, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. My son, Michael dropped me off at the airport but not before telling me that this would be the last time that I would be going without him to such a great river. I hope I could reserve a spot for him next year.
Once I arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia I had to go through customs. Now the Canadian Customs officers in Nova Scotia sometimes ask many questions – especially if you are an American – the one that I had asked me what I was going to do in Canada. I guess he thought I was importing fly fishing rods into Canada – because he asked, “Why I needed three rods.” What a question – I was going to fish “The Margaree.” If he knew anything about fishing he would have known that you come prepared.
After going through Canadian customs it was time to get on the road – I only had four hours of driving time until I got to the small town of Margaree Forks on Cape Breton. Four hours of anticipation and hopefully not getting lost. However, I really couldn’t get on with my road trip until I purchased my Atlantic salmon fishing license. Finding a sporting goods store which sold non-resident fishing licenses was priority # 1. You just didn’t want to be caught fishing without a license.
While driving, I thought about many things; tomorrow would be the day that would test me – for I hadn’t fished “The Margaree” in several years. Would I be able to catch one of those fabled Margaree salmon? Once again did I have the “right” flies, strong enough tippet material, how is a “turle knot” tied, were the water conditions going to be right, could I throw the line far enough without spooking the fish or raising the ire of the other guys fishing the same pool with me. So many questions–with no answers until I was on “The Margaree.”
I finally arrived at the house, which was situated, right on the bank of the river. Most of the other guys had already arrived and some were already in bed to get an early start in the morning. My host, Gord, introduced me to everyone that was still up. After all the introductions I head for my own bed to wait for dawn.
Dawn came mighty early – and breakfast scents filled the air. Fresh coffee, bacon frying, eggs, sausage, and pancakes. “I didn’t know that there was an IHOP on the banks of “The Margaree.” As a transplanted Southerner, I finally had to concede to eating some of the South's favorite foods – grits, biscuits, redeye gravy, and country ham to stay in the good graces my wife’s relatives. Unfortunately, none of these items was going to be served – I was in the midst of “Canadians.” Someone suggested that I buy some “cream of wheat” as it’s the same thing as grits. Sure, it’s the same thing….
Once the wonderful breakfast was finished, it was time to get on “The Margaree.” What was the matter with these waders – they seem to have shrunk since the last time I wore them. I guess my skintight neoprenes would have to do – hey, I wasn’t here for a beauty contest – I was here to do battle with an Atlantic salmon.
The morning was bright and clear – the river a little off colored from recent rains – it was fishable. Being on this fabled river brought back other memories of another river known as the “Pere Marquette” or as it is known to those who have fished its fabled waters as “The PM.” I remember writing something in my diary on that salmon and steelhead fishing trip that “salmon” are a lot like man, shoving, biting, trying to outdo one another – brute force taking over, rushing with the urge to carry on the gene pool. Someone said that “salmon had the brain the size of a pea” and here I was about to “guard a redd” on “The Margaree.” I thought once again, “How big are our brains.”
On a somber note, I placed a copy of the following poem (author unknown) in my diary the other day. A poem that was slightly modified. It goes like this.
“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”
“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
“I am not there, I do not sleep.
“I am a thousand winds that blow;
“I am the diamond glints on the snow.
“I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
“I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
“When you awaken in the morning's hush,
“I am the swift uplifting rush
“Of quiet birds in circled flight.
“I am the soft star that shines at night.
“Do not stand at my grave and cry.
“I am not there; I did not die.”
I am standing in my favorite pool
On “The Margaree”
Fishing for “Atlantic Salmon.”