Ahh, the three most asked questions by anglers wanting to come to the Gaspe Peninsula for their chance at catching some Atlantic silver!
Let's break it down for all of you here...
1. When, easy, come when you can! Although the official PRIME TIME period is/was always thought to be mid June through mid July, when water levels are at their best and fresh fish are on the move, you might be surprised to know that August and September, and even early June on some rivers can be killer! Come when you can get the time to come is my advice. Atlantic salmon are WATER DEPENDENT FISH. That is what you really need to know. Let's break it down a bit more, just so I can confuse you a bit more ;)
May/ June - The York, Dartmouth and St-Jean Rivers can all fish well early, even as early as their opener May 25th! Yes, I said May 25th which is the start of their season along with the Causapscal River which can also be considered here... You can expect high to really high water conditions so Spey rods are the best tools to use to chuck big uglies at these magnificent swimmers from the sea! Make sure you bring some sink tips along but do not leave your floaters home because you might find perfect conditions to swing on top!
Mid June/Mid July - Ok, so this is indeed the prime time for fresh arriving fish, there is no doubt, however, unless you have reserved waters, you may find that getting onto the prime sectors a bit of a challenge. Don't lose hope, however, as Quebec rivers offer visiting anglers miles and miles of open, or, non-reserved water to access. Sure there may be a few more anglers but I am proud to say that 99% of all anglers here are very ethical and share pools and runs with everyone. The fact that there are more people around during this prime time should not be a deterrent. One thing you may want to think about if you are looking to fish open water is using a guide with a canoe. Guides with canoes can get you into the harder to reach areas on a float which can pay dividends for you. Although Spey rods are still the best way to cover water, this time of the year single hand rods are fine and are best for Dry fly when water temps get up to about 50 degrees. That usually happens late June or early July.
August - One of my favourite times of the year to fish for several reasons... first, there is very little completion for reserved water and the non-reserved water is pretty well void of anglers. Sure, water levels can be low, however, dry fly fishing is still awesome and you can choose to fish early and late in the day to get the best action from fish that might otherwise be resting during the hot period of the day. Another thing to remember is that we usually get a good bump of water around the first or second week of August. When this happens - things get hopping in a serious way! If you can plan around a good dump of the wet stuff, then this is a great time to consider!
September - If we take a look back at the last 5 years, September has offered anglers some of the best action of any month. Last year was especially good due to perfect water temps and height. Sure, water can be low in some years and high in others but one thing is for sure, salmon at this time of the year start to get a second wind of sorts and fishing cab be crazy good if you hit it right. Another time of the year when you want to make sure you have sink tips, intermediates and your floaters with you. And yes, dry fly fishing can still be excellent at this time of the year!
Where you fish is totally up to you but you might want to consider fishing a few different rivers to get a real taste of how diverse our resources are. Anglers have a TON of options from the gin-clear Bonaventure, Petite Cascapedia Nouvelle, St-Jean, Pabos Rivers and Grand Riviere, to the more mysterious waters of the Cascapedia, Madeleine, Matapedia, York, Dartmouth and Matane. All of these rivers are worth trying out and the best thing is, they are all within 2-3 hours of one another at most. I guess if you are going to do multiple rivers, you might want to consider these pairings or groupings. 1. Chaleur Baie area - Southern middle of the Peninsula - Petite Cascapedia, Bonaventure, Cascapedia, Nouvelle and maybe the Matapedia about 1 hour to the West. 2. Tip of the Gaspe where you will find the York, Dartmouth, St-Jean and also be within striking distance of the Grand Riviere and Pabos Rivers. Northern shore, where you will find the lovely Madeleine, Ste-Anne, and Cap-Chat Rivers. You can also hit the Matane easily from the Ste-Anne and Cap Chat area.
Many people think that the very best fishing is available only on the reserved waters but they are wrong! Do not let yourself get discouraged if you do not come out in the draws. We have miles and miles of great non-reserved waters to fish, especially during the slower periods of August and September. Not only are these sectors accessible at all times, they are always less expensive and hold fish most of the year. Will these sectors have gotten more pressure during the prime time? Probably. But who cares? When we get a bump of water, fish move, so you are most likely not going to be fishing on stale fish after a bump. New and fresh fish are constantly coming into our rivers, whether it be on a full or new moon or big tide. You just never know!
Bottom line is this... come when you can, keep and open mind and enjoy all aspects of the sport with friends and/or family. Soak in the beauty of the area, the friendly anglers who are willing to help a visitor coming here. You will most likely leave with a few new friends, plenty of great memories and lungs full of fresh air that you breathed along the way. Just come when you can. Let Mother Nature and Lady Luck decide the rest!
All the best and screaming reels to you all!