After a frustrating full days delay due to typical Newfoundland south coast summer fog, we were finally airborne. Unfortunately, the weather was still awful, which meant we had to miss out on the most spectacular views offered by the 35-minute helicopter flight. Dense, low-hanging fog banks cover most of the deep and spectacular ice-notched fjords. Only now and then did we catch a glimpse of the rivers just below us. The impressive forms created by the torments of the ice-age were hidden from us by the hopelessly dense mist. Having to miss those views was an absolute disappointment to us. There are only a few areas left in the whole world (such as this part of Newfoundland) that reflect geological evolution so well. "Four miles to go," chopper pilot Mike reports through the intercom. The closer we got to our destination, the better our view became. Despite the last persistent rags of mist, we at last saw the Grey River and Salmon Brook converging towards each other. In a desperate attempt to get a good picture, I rapidly finished my roll of film and hoped that one of the shots at least would record forever this fantastic spectacle of haze, mountains and water.
Straight beneath us we saw how Salmon Brook winds its way among enormous rocks. Innumerable boulders clearly stand out against the background, giving an unmistakable image of how this powerful water has chewed through the rugged landscape. The wildly flowing river gradually settles down when it joins the deeper water of the main Grey.
Then the lodge came within sight and everybody fell silent. A very modern log cabin, Scandinavian style, closed in on us. Mike sat the helicopter gently on the pad only feet from the front door and together we waited with tense expectations as the rotor stopped turning.
The lodge owners Tony Tuck and Dennis Taverne plus Tom the cook and guides Clarence and Alvin, introduced themselves as soon we stepped out of the chopper. Two Americans, Peter and Mark, who travelled together with us, could no longer control themselves and immediately prepared their rods, while my wife Ina and I enjoyed Tom formidable lunch - but when Peter hooked his first fish, salmon fever gripped us as well! We had a marvellous afternoon started with a short walk to the Hospital pool. Beside the riverbank we could clearly see the consequences of strong erosion.
The grating activity of running water, the pressure by ice during the winter and the enormous power of broken ice in the spring has left deep traces behind. According Tony's information, Ina is the first woman to fish this fabulous river. I eagerly played a waiting game and settled down on a bulge rock to get a first class view of the entire pool. Ina did great and caught here first ever salmon and landed 3 more. I enjoy myself as never before and even caught some fish too. This was dry fly paradise, the Garden of Eden for every fisherman.
The next day a steel-blue sky gave a completely new dimension to this wild and breathtaking landscape. The heavy rain showers of the previous days had raised the water two feet overnight. Disappointingly, prospects for dry fly fishing were poor. I float a fly down the Whaleback pool anyway, but (as usual) my guide Tony was right, and the fish seem to have no interest in dries now.
So Tony asks me to show him my wet flies. He peruses the box silently, and a few seconds' later plucks out one of my special Scandinavian patterns tied with an exaggerated long beard of orange rabbit fur. Ive never really bothered to give it a name, but its worked well in the past.
Proudly I show Tony the action in the water and he nods approval. When I hook my first fish only a few casts later, I immediately name the nameless fly "Tonys First Choice". It remained our first choice fly for the entire trip and it succeeds not only in Newfoundland but also in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Theres more to fishing here than fish.
The sun set slowly behind the Long Range Mountains. The last sunbeams just reach the water surface through which the sunlight reflects with a vivid, dazzling beauty. I enjoy myself and gaze along the valley. An osprey makes a wonderful dive, just missing his prey. Its second attempt also fails and with a loud cry it loses courage. In the middle of the river, only about 40 yards distant, a stag caribou ambles straight towards me. The river rocks are no problem for him. His beige colour is a perfect camouflage against the light-coloured boulders. Slowly he comes nearer until just 10 yards in front of me he climbs out of the water easily. With his big black sorrowful eyes he looks directly at me, seemingly unafraid of human beings. A few seconds later he fades away into the dense forest. Ina plays her last fish of the day and another great fishing day sadly comes to an end.
The Bondal series
In the evening, I evaluate our day and give a tying demonstration to the Americans and guides. All are very interested in the superb fly that Ina and I have been using with great success.
Between 1989 and 1991, I did some extensive experimentation with hairwing patterns in central Norway, basing these tests particularly on the length of the wing. My conclusions were striking. In the same period, I started some other experiments with different beard or throat hackle material. The greatest motivation for this was the conclusion my American friend Dick Lemmerman was coming to. He was really crazy about one particular group of patterns that I had called the Bondal series; in particular the Bondal Black was his absolute favourite for the Margaree River in Nova Scotia. (He renamed the fly "The Dutchmans Balls" - I have no idea why!) With the advent of the Bondal Black, a complete series of hairwings evolved. This was a series that I tested intensively during the last six years and which got the final test in Atlantic Canada - probably the most successful ever.
The dressings Hairwings are an easy tie, but I insist on some differences. First, the hook must be down eyed. I firmly recommended the CS42 from Partridge. I believe that a down-eye hook with a turle knot produces a more natural drift during fishing and a superior-hooking angle.
The greatest difference with my new generation of hairwings has to do with the beard (or throat) of the fly. I use dyed rabbit fur exclusively for all the beards on my Bondals and Pulsars now. I prefer to use the soft and long hairs of a zonkerstrip - and use a considerable bunch of it at that with very long fibres, sometimes even almost reaching the hook point. The fly has an unbelievable action with such a long beard and definitely has a superior attraction for fish.
Although traditional jungle cock eyes sometimes can be deadly, I removed them from all my flies. I find them too shiny, especially in clear water, and find no evidence that they do any good whatsoever. In order to give my flies a personal touch, I add fibres of mallard or teal as a sheath over the wing. Here are three very effective patterns from this new series of hairwings:
Klick on the links to go the pages for each fly.
All text by Hans van Klinken