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My visit to paradise

7 March 2012

My visit to paradise

Patrick Campeau – Hunting and fishing columnist for the Journal de Montréal – Three-time Quebec fishing champion

Discover the Far North . . . The farther you go up north, past urban settings, the more you delve into natural beauty and better fishing and hunting grounds.

At about 800 km from Montréal, you’ll find the vast James Bay region covering 350,000 km² or about one-fifth of Québec—roughly the size of Germany. This lovely area is home to our country’s largest fresh water bodies, as the forests slowly give way to the taiga. Past the 55th parallel, you reach an enormous, charming, untamed 507,000-km2 site, brimming with anything and everything that this column’s regular fans could possibly dream of. This rich arctic area gradually gives way to the tundra and its vegetation, which consists mainly of moss, lichen and shrubs. The amazing part of these two gigantic playgrounds is that they are home to countless areas that abound with game and a few hundred thousand fish-laden water bodies.

 An incredible journey

On August 8, we headed for Air Mont-Laurier in Sainte-Véronique. We climbed aboard a shiny Beaver and set off for adventure. The pilot was none other than the QOF and Air Mont-Laurier president, Norman Ouellette. Alain Parenteau, the marketing director of our forest hosts, served as our trip’s coordinator. Another journalist also came along for the six-day adventure.

We were airborne for more than 21.8 hours and travelled more than 3,051 km during the course of the week. We went on a total of 17 flights and visited many places. The next few paragraphs summarize the journey, giving you insight into this beautiful area and the daily realities that outfitters face in this magical but sometimes austere environment.

Despite the many productive walleye fishing spots, we spent our first night fishing for pike in the LG-3 Reservoir. In under 90 minutes, we had our hands on three fish of about 4.5 kg plus a smaller one.

The next morning, we tried our luck at the foot of the Roz Lake rapids and attracted about a dozen gorgeous brook trout. A little while later, we were in seventh heaven on the Petite Baleine River because we struck it big with brook trout. We caught and released about 60 of them. To give you a better idea of what it was like, I caught eight beautiful fish in eight casts, with a big red and brown Etic-brand muddler. We flew back to take in a breathtaking site at Lac à l’Eau Claire.

Our next flight took us to Camp 23, near Lac d’Iberville. You can catch some nice big lake trout in the lake facing the cabins or even from shore. It’s at Rivière à la Loutre, about 50 km away, that I honestly had the best brook trout fishing experience of my life. In just a few hours of fly fishing, I caught around 50 lively ones, including about 15 that were more than 3½ pounds. My travel companion caught just as many, using metal fishing spoons. We released all of our catches and were careful to crush our barbs and to handle the fish as little as possible.

The next day, the adventure continued at Pau Lake. They offered to take us to the edge of a beautiful rapid where brook trout is the feature. On top of some nice catches, we got to try a delicious shore lunch that the experienced guide prepared for us. At the end of the day, the coordinator told us that we would have to leave very early the next morning. So I told him that I would be up bright and early because I did not want to miss the opportunity to cross the dike to one of the top lake trout fishing spots I know: the Caniapiscau Reservoir. The mild temperature and low water levels had pushed the lake trout into deeper water, so they weren’t in the area. However, I do remember having caught a dozen large ones here in the past.

On our way back, we had to stop north of the Gouin Reservoir to fill up our tanks and spend the night. This renowned area is considered a real gold mine for walleye and pike, and the shores of this massive water body boast an incredible number of sandy and rocky structures.

After six days of discovery and meeting the nicest people, we returned home strung out on memories. In Québec’s Far North . . . I saw paradise!