Smoker Brook Lodge
Smoker Brook Lodge
Atlantic salmon and historic accommodations on New Brunswick's Miramichi River
- By: Jim Repine
Fall in New Brunswick Province is absolutely irresistible to me. We were fishing from Smoker Brook Lodge on the Northwest Miramichi, new water for me, and a truly different style lodge for the area. "This can't be happening!"Smoker Brook owner James McKervill repeated again and again in the deepening darkness of our first evening's fishing. The salmon was high in the air above the river, though only Harry and the fish knew it. James and I figured it out moments later when it kerplunked loudly back into the water.We knew from the thud, and Harry's "Oh my gosh" that he had a hot one on. It was sea-bright and strong, an honest 14 pounds. It was also Harry Briscoe's fourth hook-up in less than half an hour-our first half an hour of a week's fishing. Two casts after releasing his fish, Harry hooked another, and then another until the sky became too black to see anything. Sound like typical Miramichi fall salmon angling to anyone? Well not to me. No, this was more like a Bristol Bay Coho run: ots of large sea-fresh fish with attitudes and the energy to back them up. And what did I catch on this blessed night? Not a thing. I had dutifully left my angling gear at back at the lodge. I came instead with cameras, and took many poor shots in the failed light Back at Smoker Brook, after a quiet, luscious candle-lit dinner with tasteful chamber music and a fitting wine, I began to understand how the Irish Lord Sligo must have felt fishing from his angling manor, Aasleigh by the Eriff. In fact, it seemed we had somehow stepped back into a gentler, more graceful time. Dessert was one of those away-from-home temptations so delicious it's better left unmentioned, especially to your wife. My fitful night's sleep was filled with leaping salmon and Harry's varsity-level snoring; it's like rooming with a practicing trombonist. Yet because good fishing buddies are rarer than honest politicians, it's a combination I've long since come to peace with. The next day, after working through about six pounds of the best pancakes, maple syrup and bacon in eastern Canada, we made it to the water by mid-morning. Smoker Brook is located amid the widest variety of stream pool situations I've yet found, and we only fished in sight of other anglers but once. This was our first full day, the pool was large, gorgeous and we had it to ourselves. A large salmon rolled as we forded the river. Wading was tricky, but by placing myself between my young companions I was able to support them both across the worst part. It's amazing; after 60 years of fishing-and doing little else doing for the last 30-the thrill still remains. Adrenaline ran high as James selected a size 10, double-hook version of an Alley Shrimp from my collection of lovely Bill Woodworth hand-tied flies. Bill's flies are almost too nice to put in the water, and the fish often wish I hadn't. Three casts later in fact, another one joined the club. It wasn't one of Harry's 14-pounders, though at about eight it had my Adam's Light Salmon reel singing a very sweet song. It leaped, did a twisting, explosive snap roll and reentered the water at a dead run. Atlantics, steelhead and Patagonia's searun browns all do this same style of jump. It's my biggest thrill in fishing. Then old Harry's Hexagraph rod (he owns the Hexagraph company) bent over. I should have been shooting film instead of trying to convince a salmon to cozy up to a landing net. My buddy's fish did the classic jump, backlit in morning sunlight, the ultimate cover photo. I missed it. I also jerked a bit too hard on my own fish and felt the hook come free. I quickly positioned myself for Harry's fish to leap one more time-but it never happened. All salmon don't jump four or five times; in fact many don't jump at all. The day wasn't as red hot as the previous evening. We ended with fewer fish by dark than our very first hour (Harry's first hour that is), but it wasn't too shabby. I can recall taking a half-dozen bright salmon or more to the net, others lost and all with sunlight pouring through gorgeous red and yellow fall foliage Smoker Brook is situated on a Heritage Farm Site settled in the 1860's. The original house, restored in 1999, offers comfortable homey accommodations for four guests. The rooms are large doubles with twin beds. The main floor has a formal dining room, cozy living room with gas fireplace, entertainment center and screened veranda overlooking the meadow and river. You can send and receive faxes, e-mails, and call all over the world. Yet after all of that, James and family, doing all their own restoration work, managed to retain an 1860's ambience. I couldn't help recalling some British inns where the same alchemy of old and new creates a similar feeling. The Mirimichi fishing stayed good for the entire week we were there-and we also gained a few pounds at Smoker Brook Lodge. For information on fishing from Smoker Brook Lodge during any season, contact James Mckervill at 866-772-5666, or visit the lodge's Web site at www.smokerbrook.com.