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McKenzie River - Labrador trip report (pix heavy)

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In a word, epic.  This was a trip nearly two years in the making and it didn't disappoint in the  slightest even with the build up in my mind as anticipation grew over the many months we had to prepare.  The trip began for me on Thursday the 5th when I had my wife drop me off in West Milford, NJ at a buddy's house to crash for the night.  He and I loaded a 15 passenger Ford early the next morning and met the other 5 Trout Louts (our group has been the Trout Louts for the last 18+ years) up in Warwick, NY where the other cars were left and the van fully loaded for the 2 day, 22 hour drive to Labrador City in Labrador, Canada to meet our turbo Otter floatplane that would fly us another hour plus to our remote lodge, the McKenzie River Lodge.  This lodge began as a caribou and black bear hunting lodge before the new owner, Paul, took it over some 12 plus years ago and converted it to a fly fish camp.  The caribou herd went from 900,000 animals to only 15,000 the last couple of decades and that season is finally closed in both Quebec and Labrador with Labrador closing it 8 years ago and Quebec only after last fall.  Not good, but a story for another day.

I'll fill in the blanks after this picture heavy post.....

  

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We had driving rain and hail and we had beautiful sunny weather and often on the same day.  Daytime temps averaged low 50s into the 60s with nighttime in the upper 30s to 40s most nights.  The lodge is on the banks of the lake which has 3 distinct rivers we fish; the McKenzie River, the Quartzite River and the Come Back River.  The McKenzie is more of a lake becomes a river becomes a lake for anyone that has ever traveled to Labrador.  The entire area is uninhabitated for the most part, so we never saw another soul beyond the 7 of us anglers and our 4 guides and camp chef.  The staff was better than could ever be expected and they worked their a$$es off for us each and every day.  I think they enjoyed our group as much as we enjoyed their company and I know our paths in life will cross again.  I managed the first Grand Slam of the year in camp, catching a brook trout, northern pike, landlocked Atlantic salmon (Ounaniche), lake trout, and whitefish all on the fly.  A second in our group, Bert, also caught his Grand Slam a few days later.  I lost count of the fish caught and doubles were common.  These are 100% native, wild fish and all are catch and release save for one day of a pike shore lunch where we killed 4 larger fish for lunch for all, including the camp "bear dog".       

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My buddy Rick Axt fighting a big brookie on the Quartzite River.  I thought at first it was a Ounaniche (salmon) and was hoping for a jump, but I got him falling down and keeping up the fight which was classic.  I had fallen in that river moments earlier crossing to "my rock" where I caught more big brookies and salmon that I care to admit.  We found some dry fly action the last couple of days and ironically to blue quills and Hendrickson mayflies which hatch here in NJ in April.   

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WOW what a great trip Brian.  Nice job capturing it with your pictures, it looks like beautiful country up there.  

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Looks like you all had a great trip....Some beautiful fish... Tough leaving that kind of fishing to come back to jersey....

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2 minutes ago, Rusty said:

WOW what a great trip Brian.  Nice job capturing it with your pictures, it looks like beautiful country up there.  

Funny thing is that because it is so thick this time of year, you don't see the abundant wildlife that is there all around you.  We saw a momma bear with 3 cubs walking the shoreline on the far side of camp and plenty of birds of various species, but the caribou are nearly gone from the region due to trophy hunting and other factors including Quebec and Labrador political infighting over management (mismanagement) of the herd.  There were wolves which we didn't encounter as well as lynx and pine martins.  We walked old caribou trails which wind through the forests and won't likely go away even though the herd is decimated right now.     

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TFS Brian - just simply awesome trip.  I can only imagine.  Glad you got to experience it...  So when you going back?

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25 minutes ago, TroutandBucks said:

awesome cant wait to catch up on this trip 

Bring a Band-Aide for your ear afterward.  :rofl:

17 minutes ago, JHbowhunter said:

TFS Brian - just simply awesome trip.  I can only imagine.  Glad you got to experience it...  So when you going back?

I have a standing invitation to guide for that lodge which I took as a great honor!  But their newer Arctic Char lodge way up north might be on my list.  It would be very, very hard to top this trip, and I fear another to the same place could be a let down.  The entire experience, even the minor bickering between some of my buddies who were in small spaces together 24 hours per day for nearly 12 days, was worth doing over.  

Here is info on the lodge we stayed at.  The staff listed there are not current although a couple were: http://mckenzieriverlodge.com/en/

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Posted (edited)

This is Sabrina Barnes, a very young 23 year old guide much more mature and hard working than any others her age I come across.  She can cast like no other as I watched one evening after work when she was sight fishing for pike in the back cove.  The guides do not fish nor are they allowed while with clients.  I just liked taking photos of them with my fish they were releasing as memories of their hard efforts.  

Sabrina is someone to keep an eye on in the fly fishing world.  She is young, but poised.  As she gains better US connections into the fly fishing industry and strengthens her English, she's going to be a star and likely with her own show.  She is also a complete sweetheart and a great person.  I often felt like an uncle offering advice.  :)   

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BTW, those are teeth marks on that very old salmon and likely from a big pike or most likely a big lake trout.  It was war up there!  Osprey talon marks, islands full of whitefish scales, scat from otters, pine martins, beaver, muskrat, bear, and other all over feeding off the river.  I can't ever recall catching so many fish that had narrowly escaped death in the wild.  Fortunately for the fish, we were using single, barbless hooks and all catch and release except for 4 nice pike for a shore lunch one day.     

Edited by Bucksnbows
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Shore lunch photos:

My buddy Doc served up absynth "bone dry" martinis with the olives speared on raccoon baculums (look it up :) ).

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We were just happy not to have to claim any foreign animals being smuggled back to the US.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Epic trip indeed Brian! Outstanding pics and descriptions of everything :up:

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If you go, hit the Quartzite River and fish "my rock".  Slowly fish up to it and all around it.  Then hop up on top of it and cast to the deep run/pool upstream and work it hard.  I could fish that one spot the rest of my life...... 

Quartzite My Rock w circle.jpg

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