Magic in an Old Growth Newfoundland Forest

Jim Sutton plays a fish at the Chute Pool, at top of the Flats, Main River. Photo Steve Sutton

Jim Sutton plays a fish at the Chute Pool, at top of the Flats, Main River. Photo Steve Sutton

There was a time when many diverse interests came together to preserve the Main River and its Old Growth Forest in Newfoundland. This is a magical watershed that is short on roads and big on walking to reach spectacular pools with high hills and an original forest.

ASF’s Steve Sutton was recently on the Main River, based in Sop’s Arm from the 17th June to 15th July and from 31st July to 2nd Aug.

“The water was very high, and very cold, and barely fishable on the 17th June. There were just a few fish coming in, mostly grilse but with some large salmon. As the water dropped off at the end of June the fishing improved with an early run of grilse. This year they were large and healthy, as opposed to last year when they were much smaller.

At Sunshine Falls, a 45 minute climb up the side of Main River from Kruger Bridge, 20 km from salt water. Photo Steve Sutton

At Sunshine Falls, a 45 minute climb up the side of Main River from Kruger Bridge, 20 km from salt water. Photo Steve Sutton

In early July the main run of fish started, a little later than normal, but one of the better runs of the last 20 years. It was excellent fishing for the first two weeks of July, mostly grilse. The water was cold throughout the period. Fish were moving up the river quite fast, not really stopping.

The Dry Fly Pool, about 5km above the Flats, Main River. Photo Steve Sutton

The Dry Fly Pool, about 5km above the Flats, Main River. Photo Steve Sutton

The run tapered off at the end of July, but still getting the fish coming in. During the peak of the run there were more than the usual number of anglers about, but by the end of July the water level was still good, but with many fewer anglers about.

The Main River is fairly inaccessible and the watershed is fairly well protected. The scenery is special because of that, with its old growth forest. Much of the river is inaccessible except in a few places. You need to walk up this beautiful river valley, with its remote pools. The blackflies and mosquitoes this year were the heaviest we have seen in many years.

View upriver from Kruger Bridge, about 15km upriver from the ocean. Photo Steve Sutton

View upriver from Kruger Bridge, about 15km upriver from the ocean. Photo Steve Sutton

In my case I have been there every year for the last 22 years, even when I was living in Australia, or Texas,” he said …

This year’s was among the strongest runs we have seen,” Steve added.

Steve Sutton

Newfoundland River Notes

Returning number of salmon has risen remarkably, and while still lower than some years in the past, is roughly on a par or better than last year. In addition the grilse appear to be in very good condition.

Exploits – To Aug. 2 there have been 26,319 salmon counted, nearly on par with the 2014 count to same date of 26,366.

Campbellton River has seen a significant increase, with 4,229 salmon to Aug. 2, against 2,503 in 2014, and a 2010-2014 average of 4,123.

Middle Brook has seen 2,830 salmon, against 2,333 in 2014.

Terra Nova has had 3,354 in 2015 vs. 2,286 in 2014.

Ken McLean notes about the Terra Nova:

The last full moon saw more fish enter the Terra Nova R. It will be interesting to see how the numbers jump at the counting fence. I am still seeing fish going up river. Following the two storms in the last week, the river is the highest it has been all summer. The water is still cold. I am fishing above the DFO gauging station above the old pulp mill . It is a long glide above the area known as the cradle.

Like the pocket on the Codroy it does not look fishy water but there are lots of submerged rocks and the fish hold when the river is at normal water levels. You can wade down this area prospecting with a dry fly. I have risen fish to the dry fly each time I have been to this spot. It is rare to see another angler on this run. I have hooked over a dozen. I am going above Terra Nova lake in the next few days. With the river high some of the fish above the lake may still be in good condition.

This is definitely a grilse river and I am using my 11ft 6wt sage switch rod. Seems to tame the fish quicker than my 9ft 8wt.

Conne – This south coast river has had 2,310 in 2015, vs 1,182 in 2014. This remains far below the 1984-1991 average of 6,059 however.

Harry’s River – Now at 4,869, this is well ahead of the 2014 count to same date of 3,705.

Torrent – A total of 3,403 salmon have been counted by Aug. 2 this year, against 3,065 in in 2014, and a 2010-2014 average of 3,417.

Western Arm Brook – This stream lags in 2015, with 1,134 to Aug. 2, against 1,428 in 2014.

The Northern Peninsula has not had much rain and has slowed somewhat.

Humber – Water levels are getting low on the Humber, and starting to get warm, close to 22 C. Fishing has been poor in last while, but there are still lots of fish in the Humber.

Big Falls on the Humber River as it is in early Aug. 2015. Photo Don Ivany/ASF

Big Falls on the Humber River as it is in early Aug. 2015. Photo Don Ivany/ASF

Hughes Brook, near Corner Brook – Hughes Brook – Good fishing lately, but run is late. In last few days water is getting low and warm.

Corner Brook Stream – This stream which was completely devoid of salmon a few years ago, had a 22-pounder assessed this past week, along with two others good sized large salmon. In addition the grilse run has been excellent.
Bay St. George Rivers are slow with the low water.

Gander River – Tolson Parsons Notes:

Water levels are good and fish are still entering the rivers. Fishing has been good for the past week. After a slow start it’s turning out to be a pretty good year. Let’s hope water levels remain good.


On Friday there was word that the federal government was going to go forward with the Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve. Among the rivers within the park is the English River. In the long term it likely will provide a measure of protection to rivers within the jurisdiction.  The Eagle River runs parallel with the new park’s southern boundary, but is outside the park.

Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve boundaries outlined in yellow.

Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve boundaries outlined in yellow.

English River – To Aug. 2 there have been 253 grilse and 132 large salmon totaling 385. To the same date in 2014 there were 389 grilse and 81 large samon, totaling 470.

Sand Hill River – This is a very volatile river. This year there have been to Aug. 2 a total of 2,027 grilse and 894 large salmon, together making 2,921. In 2014 there were 1,k792 grilse and 567 large salmon totaling 2,359.

Muddy Bay Brook – To Aug. 2 there were 192 grilse and 16 large salmon, totaling 208, better than last year’s 107 grilse and 15 large salmon that totaled 122.

Paradise River – A total of 158 grilse and 29 large salmon, making 187, to Aug. 2. In 2014 there were 161 grilse and 33 large salmon, totaling 194.

Flowers River –Mike Crosby of Flowers River Lodge notes:

River conditions remain on the low side on Flowers river and fishing remains great. Our weather forecast is calling for rain the next three days.

Eagle River –

Greg Cavallaro of Rifflin Hitch Lodge notes:

Eagle River water levels remain at expected levels. Recent rain storms have brought river levels up and continue to flow cold and fast.

Upper Eagle water levels remain higher than expected for this time of year as well. Salmon activity continues to be exceptional here at home, North River as well as Paradise River. Excellent Conditions.

Dwight Lethbridge of Pratt Falls Lodge notes:

Eagle River is still in very good condition and fresh rain ensures it will stay that way for a while. The fishing is phenomenal, guests have been hooking 6+ a day on average this week, and still some large fish coming through.

St. Louis River – Jennifer Verbiski just returned from the St. Louis River just north of Mary’s Harbour. Excellent fishing and returns, with a lot of big fish.

New Brunswick

Overall the rising temperatures have taken the edge off the salmon taking flies. And through the past few weeks there have been continued concerns about individuals taking fish, both in the Miramichi and the Restigouche Regions. The ad below has more information on reporting poaching. Remember – the numbers were critically low in 2014, and we need as many salmon as possible to spawn in 2015 to replenish the juvenile populations.

Layout 1Miramichi –

There ARE better returns of Atlantic salmon. Some outfitters are saying this is one of the better recent years. Even some of the videos up on YouTube illustrate this, such as the one below from Sean Dolan

The best news of all is coming from the trapnets, that assess only a portion of the salmon moving upriver in the Miramichi.

Northwest Miramichi – The Cassilis Trapnet is reporting 1,080 grilse and 253 large salmon as of July 31. This is an overwhelming improvement over 2014’s report of 60 grilse and 35 large salmon to the same date, and even above the 2007-2011 five-year-average of 857 grilse and 227 large salmon to the same date.

Graph of water level at Lyttelton on the Little Southwest Miramichi

Graph of water level at Lyttelton on the Little Southwest Miramichi

There have been reports of successful angling on the Little Southwest River as well, but as the river level graph for Littleton shows, the thunderstorm bursts are not enough, and some nice cool “rain for a day” is needed.

North Pole Stream – ASF’s Geoff Giffin was on this tributary of the Little Southwest Miramichi this past weekend. His report:

Water was on the low side. There were fish, with some fresh fish appearing. Both grilse and large salmon seen. Angling slow.

The Pallisades section of North Pole Stream. Photo Geoff Giffin/ASF

The Pallisades section of North Pole Stream, early Aug. 2015. Photo Geoff Giffin/ASF

Southwest Miramichi

The Southwest Millerton Trapnet has not seen quite as massive a migration of salmon, but the news certainly is positive. To July 31 there were 869 grilse and 340 large salmon, compared with 246 grilse and 153 large salmon in 2014.

This remains significantly below the 2007-2011 five-year average of 1,285 grilse and 470 large salmon, showing that the massive Southwest Miramichi has further to go to get back to high production numbers of Atlantic salmon.

Saint John River – The late arrival of grilse is very evident at the Mactaquac Dam. As of July 31 there were 554 grilse and 81 large salmon, significantly better than the extremely low 2014 count to the same date of 118 grilse and 60 large salmon. These numbers remain a fraction of the returns of earlier days. The 1997-2001 five-year-average was 2,621 grilse and 1,005 large salmon.

Nashwaak River – This river also has had a significant run of grilse, with 151 counted to July 31, along with 36 large salmon. In 2014 the number was 29 grilse and 12 large salmon.

Nashwaak River in late July 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nashwaak River in late July 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Magaguadavic River – As of July 31, the ASF staff at St. George had counted 2 grilse and 2 large salmon, compared with 4 grilse and 1 large salmon in 2014.

Upsalquitch – This is the only facility reporting in the Restigouche watershed area. As of Aug. 2, 2015 the 10-mile barrier was reporting 512 grilse and 149 large salmon, for a total of 661.  The barrier was not operating in 2014, but had 255 grilse and 293 large salmon in 2013, and the 1997-2001 five-year-average was 519 grilse and 252 large salmon.

Nepisiguit River in northern NB, taken Aug. 6. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nepisiguit River in northern NB, taken Aug. 6. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF


ASF’s Charles Cusson notes:

The numbers of fish in the rivers on September 30 is the determining factor. Most rivers are witnessing returns resembling 2012 and 2013. (Let’s forget last year and the other extreme in 2011) and oh, yes…We are at the half way marker.

Cascapedia River
To July 31 2015, Darlene Sexton is reporting

“Tallied up the numbers for July, still missing the last day as I will only get it next week but what an amazing July on the Cascapedia River. So far, 1023 salmon released!! Congrats to everyone.”

To July 24 2014 a total of 914 fish had been landed for the season (over 95% released).

Matapedia River
As of July 31 2015, 903 fish had been reported landed including 117 released. River conditions during the first few days of August were not conducive to enable an in-river count.

Therefore, the CGRMP and the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks have decided to institute live release of large salmon as of August 5 for the remainder of the season.

To July 29 2014, 607 fish had been reported landed (including 88 releases). Live release of all large salmon had been mandated as of August 1.

To July 30 2013, 907 fish had been reported landed (including 108 releases).
At the same date in 2012, 612 fish had been reported landed (including 52 releases).

In 2011, to July 30, 1,557 fish were reported landed which included 208 reported releases.

Matane River

As of July 31, 1,634 fish (900 salmon and 734 grilse) had been counted in the assessment facility. As for angling, to the same date, 154 salmon and 16 grilse had been landed and released, and 227 grilse killed.

As of August 1, retention of large salmon will be permitted due to the fact minimum spawning target has been surpassed. The SOGERM has stated it will monitor the situation very closely in order to take corrective measures if need be.

Atlantic salmon at the Matane Fishway. A great place to watch them.

Atlantic salmon at the Matane Fishway. A great place to watch them.

As of July 29 2014, 622 fish (393 salmon and 229 grilse) had migrated through fish-way.

For angling – as of July 28 2014,  78 fish have been landed, 38 salmon killed to July 22, 2 salmon reported released and 38 grilse killed. Live release of all large salmon was implemented on July 23.

Aux Rochers River

At July 31 2015, 452 fish had been counted (312 salmon and 140 grilse). To date, 144 salmon and 17 grilse had been reported released, 109 killed.

To July 29 2014, 298 fish had migrated to the trap (181 salmon and 198 grilse). Also to July 29, 103 fish had been landed, 57 salmon released, 6 salmon killed, 5 grilse released, 35 grilse killed.

To July 30 2013, 494 fish had entered the trap (377 salmon and 77 grilse) for transport around the falls. To date, 186 fish have been landed (122 salmon released, 25 salmon retained, 4 grilse released and 35 grilse retained).

Trinité River
At July 26 2015, 443 fish (114 salmon and 329 grilse) had migrated through the fish-way. To date, 25 salmon and 4 grilse have been released, 84 grilse killed for a total of 113.

As of July 29 2014, 247 fish (69 salmon, 178 grilse) had migrated through the fish-way. To date, 10 salmon have been reported released, 1 grilse released and 10 grilse killed for a total of 21.
The total run for 2013 which migrated through the fish-way was 398 fish (226 salmon and 172 grilse).

Mitis River
As of July 31 2015, 1,120 fish had been counted (403 salmon and 717 grilse). 31 salmon have been released and 156 grilse have been harvested.

To July 29 2014, 129 salmon and 54 grilse had been counted and 5 salmon and 3 grilse retained.

To the same date in 2013, 612 salmon and 282 grilse had migrated to the counting facility and 137 had been killed, 3 released and 91 grilse retained.

Madeleine River
As of July 31, 923 fish have been counted (462 salmon and 461 grilse). As of August 1, a maximum quota of 50 large salmon has been authorized for harvest.

To July 29 2014, 219 salmon and 129 grilse had been counted via the fish-way for a total of 348.
At July 23 2013, 1,011 fish had migrated via the fish-way.

Rimouski River
As of July 31, 431 fish (135 salmon and 296 grilse) had been counted. To date, 61 salmon have been released and 132 grilse killed for a total of 193.

To July 29 2014, 50 salmon and 6 grilse had reached the counting facility. To date 10 salmon had been released and 2 grilse killed.

To July 30 2013, 386 fish had been counted migrating through (269 salmon and 117 grilse). Also to date, 101 fish had been landed (73 salmon released and 28 grilse retained).

To the same date in 2012, 339 fish were counted (166 salmon and 173 grilse). 84 fish had been landed to that date (22 salmon released and 62 grilse retained).

Nova Scotia

Margaree –

Alex Breckenridge of The Tying Scotsman notes:

Busy week on the river. Water level getting low again after last week’s rain. Still plenty of fish showing, one lucky youngster, 13 years old, caught his first salmon (12lbs) way upriver at Wards Rock Pool. This fish still had sea lice too. Lower river always busy and fish being caught from all the pools.

Greg Lovely notes that the Margaree is heating up, and is now very low. Rain is expected in next few days, and this may improve the situation

LaHave – By July 31 Morgan Falls fishway had reported 149 grilse and 17 large salmon, compared with 40 grilse and 20 large salmon in 2014. These numbers remain far below earlier returns. For example, the 1992 to 1996 5-year average was 1,012 grilse and 170 large salmon to July 31.

Sackville River – The counting fence is reporting 29 grilse and 2 large salmon to July 31, compared with 7 grilse and 3 large salmon in 2014.


As of August 5, 721 Atlantic salmon had been counted at the Milford fishlift. The fishlift was closed on August 3, for two weeks of scheduled maintenance. During this time period, the existing denil fishway will remain open to allow for fish passage through the Milford facility. Maine has installed a video camera and recorder at the exit of the denil fishway, to monitor fish passage.

This is now near the end of the run

Penobscot Catch Summary 8_04_2015

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2 Responses to Magic in an Old Growth Newfoundland Forest

  1. Alex Bobak says:

    Further to your report on the North Pole, I fished the Palisades stretch from July 29th to 31st. The Camp Pool as usual had a number of residents in the deep water but, apart from that, 2 grilse were seen in Twin Pool and one grilse rose to a bomber at the top of Palisades. All the other pools were completely empty. The water temperature in this traditionally cold water stream was in the high sixties, no doubt a result of the aggressive clearcutting. The near total absence of birds, insects and larger mammals in the area was undoubtably attributable to the same harvesting practices. Suspecting the summer run might have already gone through the Palisades stretch, we drove up to Sinclair on the morning of the 31st. The journal in the camp indicated no amount of fish there either. The only conclusion to draw is that there has been a heartbreakingly low return of fish to this once spectacular piece of water.

    • David Brennan says:

      Sad to hear about the poor numbers at the Palisades this year. We stopped into see this beautiful stretch of river last July (2014) on our way home from Charlie’s Rock. (where we hooked 5 grilse in 2 days). The clear cutting on the way in to this area is remarkable. Such a difference to the beauty of the forest alongside these stretches of river.

      Also nice to see a shout out above to “The Pocket” on the Grand Codroy River in Newfoundland. I return there every year in late June to fish. This year we saw a nice return of both large salmon and grilse. Very heartening to see a bump in the numbers.

      I guess it ain’t all bad…

      Enjoy the country!

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