If I had a nickle for every time someone asked me, "so Dave, what is the best time to come and fish the Gaspe?", I would be sitting pretty today. I guess I am guilty of looking for that "magic bullet" response from other anglers and guides I have fished with in different areas but to tell you the truth, there is NO real correct answer, although I really wish there was one, as it would make my life so much simpler.
Ok, so I assume that many of you have heard that THE prime time is June 20 to July 20th. Well, in many peoples minds that is indeed correct but that would mean that we basically have a one month season and that is pretty short for any species. Although the "traditional" modern day prime time is considered to be from the end of June into July, if you look back at old log books on the Cascapedia, Matapedia, York and Restigouche you will find that prime time actually used to start back in mid May. Yup, that is not a typo, I said MAY!
I cannot say that all of our rivers see fish in May but some do and they are worth fishing if you are looking for easy access and very few anglers. A gamble for sure with water levels but can pay off big! You should be aware that there are only a handful of rivers actually open in May including the Causapscal, parts of the Matapedia, and the York, Dartmouth, St-Jean trio at the tip of the peninsula.
I am sure that most of you will not come and explore in May as it is indeed a gamble so what other times besides the third week of June to the third week of July does that leave? And, why should you consider them?
Before I go any further, all of you need to know that this info is given as an overall guide to help and NOT to sell guide days or help other outfitters fill their camps. I could give a rats ass about that. All I care about is you, the angler, getting the straight answer (to which there is not really any definite or clear one, as I already mentioned). There are a lot of bullshitters out there who are going to tell you what you want to hear or offer you times that THEY have still available. Not saying they cannot be good times, you just need to be able to weigh the pro's and con's for yourselves before you decide when and where to go.
Here are some guidelines and overall facts about each month. From here you can choose what time of year suits your needs the best.
1 ATLANTIC SALMON ARE WATER DEPENDENT! Whether you fish June, July, August or September, when the water is up and cool you will get good results. Water levels can be up or down during any summer month. There are NO rules. Want to verify this for yourselves? Follow this link to water levels for rivers in Qc. Check out when we get rains usually. The charts do not lie! http://www.cehq.gouv.qc.ca/suivihydro/default.asp#nouvelle
2 June is a higher water month with mainly wet fly fishing. Dry fly can also be used but is usually best when water temps hit aroud 55 degrees. Early June can be tricky if water is really high. Nice thing about June is that is when you will get the biggest and brightes fish! The first fresh arrivals. The bad thing is that there is a lot of competition for water access from about mid-June onward.
3 JULY is when the dry fly fishing really starts to get hot! Anglers can expect falling water levels and warming air temps. This usually bumps the water temps up to that perfect dry fly temp. Fishing pressure is pretty much at its peak and competition for water is fierce in the summer draws. As a visiting angler I would avoid coming the last two weeks of July unless you have some reserved water as those are the two weeks of "Construction Holidays" here in Qc (a time when most construction workers and civil servants are off) which translates into the busiest time of the year. Starts the third Saturday in July.
4 AUGUST is considered to be a lower water month with more difficult fishing. Although that can indeed be true in some years, it has been my experience that it is one of the best times for those willing to come at that time. Why? There are two really good reasons 1. From the water charts you will see that we typically get two good bumps of water around the first and third weeks of August. When this happens, things go crazy for a while. 2. Access to the rivers is now easier as there are a lot less anglers fishing, especially Quebecers who have now gone back to work. Excellent dry fly opportunities along with good wet fly-fishing can be found. If the water is lower and warm, try sticking to fishing early and then again late into the pm (until dark). Results usually come then when conditions are tougher.
4 SEPTEMBER is the month of coloured fish and varying water levels. Although for my money the last two weeks of September are usually the best, it is a crapshoot. I have seen excellent fishing early in September and have seen pretty slow fishing as well. Again, it all depends on water levels. The one thing I like about later September is that the fish are starting to get a bit antsy and start to get a bit more territorial. Some of the largest fish of the year are caught in September, probably because the larger fish become a bit more aggressive. Another good reason to consider September is the access to beats is easier (like August) than in June and July although over the last few years more and more anglers are discovering the benefits of fishing at this time of the year. Dry fly fishing is good until around the middle of the month then gives way to mostly big ugly flies in high water levels or smaller wet flies when the water is lower.
Any of you have specific questions? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope this helps!