Looks like this is going to be a great trip: we just got the OK from Jean, Chief Manager at the Hipou Outfitter, a typical outfitter on the Indian reserve. They own a fantastic river located in Eastern Canada. Jean tells us that the salmon is waiting for us, before saying: “Hurry up! We’re expecting y’all before sunset.”
Navigation Plan for this Heli Adventure
Montreal (CYUL) to Natashquan (CYNA)
594 NM – 684 miles – 1,100 km
ETE 7.5 h
We plan the flight and gather our gear and leave the very next day! I’m looking forward to catching my very first salmon and my copilot (who also happens to be my father) is very excited about this last minute adventure. The weather forecast looks OK but hopefully, it’ll improve as we go.
After an hour of flight, with permission from the control tower, we fly over the oldest city in North America: Quebec City. The Old Quebec neighborhood looks stunning from the skies, especially the prestigious Château Frontenac. (Note: If you ever fly in the area, make sure you make a detour to check out the Montmorency waterfalls. It’s worth it!) We make our first stop for fuel, stretching our legs and lunch at the Manoir Richelieu. The St-Lawrence River looks spectacular from here!
After eating, we head over Tadoussac. That’s usually the place where you can go whale watching, but no luck for us! The weather also seems to take a turn for the worse. After continuing for about 2 hours, we play it safe and decide to land in Baie-Comeau until the skies clear up. Tomorrow’s forecast seems more promising. Do we enjoy some well-deserved rest? Not quite. For some reason, my E.L.T. triggers in the middle of the night! It turns out my helicopter was right on the airport tarmac, safe and sound, but I still had to go out and turn off the signal.
The next morning, the sun is back and we resume our adventure. The scenery is breath-taking and the wind is calm. After one last pit stop in Sept-Îles, we head towards our last waypoint: HIPOU OUTFITTER! After a revigorating afternoon siesta, we follow our fishing guide to the salmon pools. He’s an experienced fisherman and says the morning’s catch was great: if we’re any good, we should have salmon jumping directly into the canoe! At the end of the day, we go for our first salmon fishing session. The sunset is amazing. We throw a couple of lines, see a lot of salmons jumping, but none are biting. After a few hours, I head back to camp with absolutely NOTHING! But I stay positive, considering my fellow fishermen caught seven (7) salmons between the two of them, all beauties of 7-18 lbs. My fisherman ego is bruised – and I didn’t even know I had one. I’ll sleep on it and hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.
On our morning trip, we keep getting teased by salmons jumping out of the water: a sign we have a good pool. I get some help from the guide, but the salmons are very large and end up escaping every time they bite. For lunch, we eat freshly caught salmon by the river. We’re heading back to Montreal tomorrow morning, and no way I’m leaving empty-handed! But when the sun starts slowly setting, I feel my morale going down too. Maybe I should just buy a salmon at the grocery store?
Finally, BANG! Fish ON! My rod hits the canoe, and hard! This one must be a monster! The guide yells at me to keep my rod pointing at the sky, to maintain tension. The salmon jumps out of the water! “ROD DOWN!!”
I reel him near the canoe and he tries heading off. The line unwinds, reaches the “last call” section, and I’m holding my breath, hoping it doesn’t snap off. After 15 minutes, the salmon lost the fight and I finally get it onboard. The monster turns out to be only weighting about 9 lbs… but I’m pretty sure he must have lost well over 10 lbs during the fight. I have now proven my fishing skills. And that’s not bad, considering my father – an experienced fisherman for over 25 years – didn’t even catch ONE fish during the trip! The next morning, we eat breakfast, pack our gears and get started on the 7-hour flight back to Montreal. We’ll be there just before sunset.
Turns out you don’t need much to be happy. A helicopter, a few friends… and a salmon!
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