It started out cold and drizzly for our twenty minute boat ride half way up Andre Lake this morning to where we anchored our canoe at the mouth of the Quartzite River. The ride speaks of how deep in the wilderness in Northern Labrador we are. There are no houses or any signs of man for that matter from McKenzie River Lodge onward.
From the mouth of the Quartzite River we hiked exactly twenty minutes over the lichens, through the black spruce forest and willow bogs till we hit the river again. By now the sun was partially out and I could see the Quartzite is small and fast – my favorite type of trout fishing water.
After watching a couple big hook jawed brookies suck down my Stimulator last night I’m determined to fish mostly dry from here on out. I’m sure I’ll see a fish here and there that won’t eat my dry and I’ll streamer or nymph them but for the most part, its dries only now. I stepped up on a rock and dapped a colorful Jackson Hole special Chernobyl ant over a turbulent run.
You’d never suspect this little river would hold big brook trout but the first fish that rose to my fly was a monster. Unfortunately I didn’t see him as I stupidly was looking at my footing rather than my fly and heard Andrew shriek. By the time I caught on and set the hook it was too late but Andrew says a 6lb brookie with blue spots the size of dimes came up and ate my foam creation!
I picked up a good one on my next cast anyhow. He was by no means a 6lber but a fine brookie for sure then Granny and I took turns hoisting in several from that run. Most were smaller than those of the McKenzie River but larger than brook trout anywhere else on earth!
I was on the prowl for more, wading straight upstream and hitting every piece of fishy water I could when the sun disappeared and the thunder started. Then came a serious flash of lightening, enough that I returned to my pack and ditched the rod for my rain jacket. It was just in time – the rain came down hard.
When the lightening relaxed we made a beeline back to the boat and headed for the lodge before Lake Andre got too rough. It appeared a line of storms were coming. The ride ended up not being too bad and the rain was light so we went straight to Pool One on the McKenzie where we fished the day we arrived. Little did I know but a very saltwater-like experience was about to occur.
Granny and Andrew stood in Pool One and I walked down to Pool Two. I was fishing two dry flies, a Stimulator on the point and a small Chernobyl as a dropper. A very respectable brookie sipped my Stimulator. It was a gorgeous take where only the tip of his snout came out. I hooked him well and began to play him when a small ouananiche grabbed my Chernobyl dropper. Both salmonids were on and the larger brook trout dragged the insignificant salmon along. That’s when another even larger brook trout showed up. He was there to eat the salmon.
The arrival of the large carnivorous brookie excited the brook trout I had on sending him at rapid pace for the middle of the river. The larger brook trout threw a rooster tail as he chased along completely focused on catching the salmon (which was about 12”). I kept tight and in doing so my salmon lifted out of the water and was hanging off my Chernobyl dropper kicking and screaming for his life. Like a tiger shark nipping on a seabird the predator brook trout stuck his head out of the water, as if standing on his tail, and nipped at the salmon. He wanted to eat him so bad but could barely reach the tail!
The salmon danced based on the pull of the brook trout I had on and went in the water then lifted out several times, each time with the larger brook trout chasing and nipping. Finally the fish-eater brookie couldn’t take it any more and leapt completely out of the water and grabbed the salmon taking him down with him. Remarkably the salmon stayed hooked and now I had two big Labrador brook trout and a salmon on my Winston 5-weight LS at the same time!
I must have let out a yell because now I could hear Andrew hollering above in in disbelief. He saw my entire adventure unfolding. But seconds after I had three fish on the salmon came loose from my Chernobyl. He actually escaped from the jaws of the brook trout as well, but only for a second. The small ouananiche jumped like a mullet four times heading for the shallows. The problem however, so was the brook trout and he caught the salmon at my feet. He held him sideways in his vice grip mouth then right before my eyes turned him and swallowed him whole. Andrew yelled down, “that brook trout is the Terminator!”
I landed the one brook trout. During the crazy carnage event the rain started to fall. Granny asked to return to the lodge so we all waded to the boat and went. Andrew and I kept the waders on and sucked a coffee and waited for the rain to lighten. A half our later we returned to Pool One and Two.
Naturally I went directly down to Pool Two in search of the Terminator. I found him exactly where I left him. And he wasn’t full. He moved side to side like a fighter jet appearing to be eating nymphs. Sticking to my druthers, first I tried a dry. He paid no attention. Then I tried a streamer. The fish imitation seemed logical and he took a look but not with much interest. Last, I put on a Frank Smethurst stonefly nymph and went into sight nymphing mode. On the first presentation I watched his big white mouth open and set the hook. Terminator on!
I won’t elaborate about a fish battle but I’ll tell you the Terminator put on the best fight of the week so far. He was a wise old char and unlike most of these fish, he left his pool and ran straight down through the fast water and rapids. He is the one and only brook trout that has taken me to my backing!
With the help of Andrew I landed the alligator jawed brook trout 200yds below where I hooked him. He was a massive brookie, perhaps slightly larger than the one the first night. And his colors, shape and attitude go without speaking. The Terminator is one of the coolest and most badass trout of my life!
After dinner tonight Andrew and Simon went out to try some dry fly fishing on the lake. I went with but rather than dragging my rod I dressed warm in fleece and brought three Molson Canadian Lagers and watched the northern skies change color and remembered yet another amazing day in Labrador.