Atlantic Salmon Fly Fishing
Labrador is one of the true wildernesses left in the world. Imagine a hundred and thirteen thousand square miles of pristine land covered in lakes and rivers and yet with a population of less than 30 thousand people.
There are more bears and moose than there are people in this magical land. For those that love catching wild Atlantic salmon on a fly, Labrador is it for numbers and size of fish. For years Ive heard about the epic runs of salmon on the big river but had never fished it because the only Lodge on the river was private.
A few years ago, we learned that the Lodge had changed hands, and it now had a new owner who opened it to the public. Of course, I wanted my daughter, who has become addicted to catching Atlantic salmon, to accompany me and sample this world-class fishing destination. What happened over the next week in terms of fishing is honestly hard to describe with just words.
Goose Bay, Canada
For Jenna and I, our adventure began in Goose Bay Labrador. Since staying the evening in a local motel, we boarded a floatplane to fly the 120 miles to Big River Lodge, which is on the banks of the river less than five miles from the ocean. Its a comfortable and relatively fast flight that allows you to view the wonders of supernatural Labrador.
Big River, Canada
The Big River is probably one of the least known salmon and trout fisheries in Canada. Winding over 40 miles from headwaters to the ocean, this river is blessed with a prolific and long run of Atlantic salmon, including sea-run brook trout and even arctic char. Big River was undoubtedly one of the best-kept secrets in the world of fly-fishing because the only Lodge in the river was private and not open to the public.
This Lodge has been on the big river for over 50 years, catering to members only. However, approximately five years ago, the Lodge was sold to a new owner. The first thing he did was construct a brand-new five-star state-of-the-art facility that is magnificent. The second thing he did was open it to the public.
Big River Lodge
Constructed of stone and beautiful wood, this building features cathedral ceilings large windows comfortable dining and relaxation areas. Best of all, it has large and comfortable accommodations with full bathrooms. This is a real paradise for an angler who spent the day fishing on the river who wants to relax, have a drink by the fire and later enjoy a fabulous meal prepared by the chef. After we arrive at the Lodge and get settled in, Jen and I quickly got changed into our waiters and boots and set up our fly rods and proceeded out to fish the runs that are conveniently located right in front of the Lodge.
Our guide for the week is Mitch Head, who comes from New Zealand. Mitch is an experienced guide with a quick wit helpful disposition and always ready to tell a good joke or a funny story. Hes perfect for this week of fishing and fun.
Mitch took me to the top of the run. And after explaining where the fish should be, he headed downriver to help Jenna get set up. I had only made less than a dozen cast swinging a fly through the current when the first salmon hit. It seemed Mitch had only left me a few minutes before when suddenly I had another fish on. After releasing my salmon, I looked around. It seemed everyone had a salmon on what a hot spot this is suddenly Jenna hooked into one, which as her father certainly made my day.
The first Riffle and Pools salmon encounter coming upriver from the ocean are right in front of the Lodge. The fish caught here are bright chrome full of vigor and fight. Theyre exceptionally aggressive, especially on topwater flies. From dead drifted bombers to riffle hitched wet flies, skimming along the surface the salmon hammer them all, which makes for incredibly exciting fishing, which is why planes and also wet flies with the rifling hitch works so well.
Guest Bob Linguist from Long Island has fished for salmon in many locations. This is his first visit to Big River, and he was shocked by how many salmon there are and how healthy the fish can be no matter what size they are. Ive been to points south of here three times. If you added up the total cost of those three trips, its more money than the price to come up to Labrador, and that includes the plane fare. Ive already caught in four days more than three times all the number of fish that I caught down there and hookups and lost fish. Ive found more than five times as many .so in my opinion, this is an excellent bang for your buck kind of location. If youre going to invest the money, I would instead come up here every other year to go to those places every year because your memories are going to be infinitely greater. I have hooked the most electric salmon with the most pizzazz that I could never have imagined it would be this good. I have had salmon jump eight ten-twelve times. Ive had salmon jump across the river upwards of eight to ten feet and singe line off my rod. Its been a remarkable experience that I hope to repeat year after year after year. At the Lodge with me are three gentlemen whove come here for a big river camps for 26 years in a row. How can that alone made me say? I feel that Ive made the right option here.
I joined William Perks from the state of New York, whos been coming to Big River Lodge for over 25 years and asked him for some of the reasons why he keeps coming back. Well first of all I think it was the untouched surroundings. The fact that Id always wanted to try salmon fishing and this is the first place that Ive gone salmon fishing. And the excitement of the fish taking out 150 yards of line jumping into the air Salmo Solara the jumping salmon and I love it and. The other thing about Big River was that the people were amiable accommodating, and you waited you didnt ride in the back of a canoe or something. Well, I can tell you that if this werent something special, I dont think youd take the effort to take three airplane rides and a floatplane and land here because it takes a bit of you have to want to come.
Our guide for the week mitch head explained to me where the fish are holding in detailed how I should present my riffle hitch wet fly. The fish are lying here right on edge you see. It didnt take too long to hook into the fish, but of course, the issue was keeping them on the hook.
The wet flies Jen and I are using with great success include black bear green bud blue charm green Highlander and the Undertaker. My personal favorites are the blue charm and the black bear series. They seem to work everywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador. Because of the vast size of the watershed and the large number of lakes that feed into significant river water levels during the summer salmon season are consistent and lend for good fishing from the second week of July right into September. Perfect for anglers looking for a summer fishing excursion.
Tidal zone Atlantic Ocean
Another beautiful day has come to this wilderness paradise known as Big River in Labrador as Jena and I, along with the other Lodge guests enjoy another hearty breakfast and coffee five miles down the river the tide has come in. And with it a fresh run of Atlantic salmon along with some sea-run trout. Its going to be another epic day of fishing. We jumped into one of the Gander boats, and Mitch drove us across the river to another set of runs, which was less than five minutes away. Once we got set up and started casting, then the action was insane. Everyone had a fish on.
I waded to the top of the run, made a few casts, and immediately had a fish hit my fly, but then I kept missing it. After several failed attempts, finally, I was able to connect and what a spectacular fight this salmon gave me.
This was an incredible morning of fishing for everyone at the Lodge. Salmon, like all migratory fish coming up rivers, will choose the most accessible routes and holding water to minimize their use of energy. Seams, which are the transition between fast and slow water, are the natural highways the salmon will use for the journey upriver. You can see the seam where the foam lines are, but Ive also indicated these by red markers. The red lines clearly show where the fish will potentially be and why anglers need to swing their flies to these areas. The riffling hitch is a popular way of getting a wet fly to ride in the surface film, much like a topwater fly, as you swing it through the current. Usually, the flies are small sizes eight to twelve, and having them wake across a riffle drives a salmon crazy. And they will aggressively strike. here is how to tie the riffling hitch on a wet fly
The next day we awoke to rain, something you can expect to happen in Labrador. However, we were warm by the fire, enjoying our coffee before heading out. This morning we went up the river to try a new run. after getting set up, it didnt take long to hook up to my first fish – the first of many that rainy day
Most anglers see a boulder or a set of rocks in a river and assume that the trout or salmon are lying behind the structure out of the current. What many do not realize is that often fish will hold in front of a boulder in a zone referred to as a hydro cushion or pillow. The current will frequently create a small area. The fish can easily hold and continue to hunt for food. Wise angers understand this and will always swing a fly either on top or below the surface in front of this type of structure.
Some considerable fish will take advantage of the hydro cushion to comfortably hold in fast current. Why do anglers love Atlantic salmon so much? It has much to do with how they fight. They jump pull line off your reel and cartwheel through the air. Once an angler has hooked into one of these silver leapers, then theyre usually addicted like I am.
There is more to our adventure at Big River Lodge, but Im going to let my daughter Jenna tell you all about it to learn more about this location or other destinations.