Pictures from our Garden River 2008 Trip
What a trip..!!
We had a blast..!! The Garden River never lets us
down. We spent 11 days in the Canadian bush as guests
of Ojibaway fishing guide Ben Belleau. We set up a
remote camp feet from the river and our group never
encountered any other anglers during our trip. Yep
that right we had miles and miles of the best Salmon fishing
in the Great Lakes all to ourselves. In my
opinion the Garden River gets the most prolific run of
salmon in the Great Lakes region. It gets comparable
numbers of Chinooks to the salmon River or Pere Marquette.
PLUS it gets a HUGE run of Pink Salmon. I have reserved the
same time period each year to assure my guests are there
during the peak of the run. I kept a journal of this
years adventure. So scroll below while I take you though
our trip of a lifetime.
The Garden River Hilton
our home in the Canadian bush. Our five tents offer
1,100 sq feet of bone dry cover. Bring a Wal-Mart tent to
the Canadian bush and your sure to have a miserable time.
Sept 18th Thursday.
Myself and fellow Guide Jeff Novak arrive at Ben's Bait and
Tackle at 5:00 am. Our two trucks and trailer are
loaded to the brim with camping gear. We are greeted
by Little Ben and Gilbert who escort us out to our camp
location. On the drive out the sunrise was
awesome. I start to worry when I see green trees
everywhere. Is it a late fall? Will the fish be
there? You see some years the fish don't show up very
long before we arrive. Last year there weren't any
in the River the week before we arrived and the first pinks
were just showing up. Some years
the Pinks start to show up in the first of September. It
has a lot to do with water levels and temperatures. We
schedule our trip for the same time each year. Experience has
taught me the third week of September each year
gives us lots of Pinks and fresh Kings together.
As we pull down to the river Little Ben spots a pack of timber wolves
crossing the river. They quickly disappear into the
bush. What a sight. My attention turns to the
river. My fears are
quickly laid to rest as we look to the river to see hundreds
of fish. They are everywhere on the Gravel in the
Pools and every couple of minutes a pod of running Kings
would blow by. It was tempting to grab our rods BUT we
all knew the work that was in store for us unpacking and
setting up close to 5,000 pounds of tents and gear.
Day 1...... Fish
We just got finished
setting up tents as it got dark. What a back breaking
day for this old man. Everybody turned in early.
I sat up and had a Blue next to the fire by myself.
I'm finally here. After hours and hours of planning and
organizing the "Garden River Dream" is once again a reality.
It's a quiet night by the fire. I'm looking
forward to the stories that will be told here the next 11
Our group of anglers for
the first five day leg of the trip
Sept. 19th Friday
We sleep in a little but waste no time at getting back to
work putting the finishing touches on our camp. We
have two enclosed hot water showers. Two roofed
latrines. Three heated sleep tents with oversized cots
for everybody. There is a Generator station to power
the Chest Freezer and battery chargers but it only runs mid-day
while everybody is out fishing. Camp is now
ready for guests.
There isn't anything like
a hot shower t finish your day of fishing on the Garden
Now that camp has met my
approval we head back to Bens Bait Sop to greet our arriving
guests. After introductions its time for the one hour
bumpy ride back to the bush to the waiting fish. When we arrive at camp lunch is
ready for the guys but I knew no one would eat once they
saw all of the fish. I was right, it was sort of comical
watching everybody hurry into their waders and race to the
river. It didn't take long to see smiling faces and
bent rods. I sat by the fire and counted fish. I got
to 67 before Gilbert comes riding up with a load of fire
The guys fished hard. It was hard getting
them to come in for dinner. But the smell of fresh
Italian Sausages cooking in peppers and onions finally lured
them in. Then of course it was finished off with a Amish
baked strawberry rhubarb pie imported from Ohio of course.
Everybody's voices were full of excitement around the fire.
Tales of huge fish filled the air. Toasts were being
made and a few cigars were burning. The guys wore out
quickly and before long I was by myself in front of the fire
Here I am in my apron,
your camp chef, "The King of Cast Iron"
September 20th Saturday
I awoke just after daylight and rushed to the kitchen to get
a pot of coffee on. I was surprised to find out the
guys had woke up early and were already on their second pot.
My big coffee pot holds 28 cups, so we definatly have some
coffee drinkers in camp. Strange thing is no one was
around. Everybody was already on the water.
I start cooking the daily five lbs of bacon. Knowing
the smell will lure them in. It works as planned and
before long we are feasting on eggs, bacon, home fries,
toast, cinnamon Danishes, coffee, and orange juice. No
one leaves hungry but it doesn't take them long to
disappear once again.
It takes myself and Jeff
about an hour to do dishes and other camp chores. We
have been in a camp surrounded by thousands of fish but we
have yet to wet a line. So we boot up and head for the
water. The Garden River is a gentleman's stream (it's
easy to wade) The banks are open and not brushy.
There are a few places where you have to walk around deep
Below our camp is one such place. Jeff
brings an axe and I'm armed with pruners and bio degradable
flagging tape. We spend a little time blazing a trial
thru the brush that leads us around the deep pool to the
We have gone about 3/4 of
a mile and its a deep pool most of the way. Finally we
come to the spot we were looking for. Shangri Li is
loaded with fish. Within minutes we are both hooked up
to freight train kings that have never seen a fly.
Mine quickly gets into some wood and breaks me off.
Oh well, there is lots more to choose from.
quickly re-rig and I'm hooked up again on my second cast of
the trip. The fish makes an impressive leap and I can
tell by the colors this is no ordinary King. I have a
Pinook on the line. When Pink and Chinook salmon
accidently breed their offspring are known as Pinook's. The
bastard Pinook fish aren't capable of spawning but they run
the river with their buddies. They tend to be more
aggressive han the pure strain salmon since they aren't
spawning. The fish streaks downstream to the
unmistakable sound of a rod breaking. This was my
second cast with my brand new Rod. I pounce
on the line like a bear and carefully hand line the fish in.
It's an impressive 35" Male Pinook.
A fish of a
lifetime and thanks to my New Rod my only fish of the day.
We get a good laugh and I
spend the next hour watching Jeff land fish. He
politely offers me to use his rod but I'm more than content
to just sit n the bank and take in the scenery.
We get back to camp and
still al the guys are out fishing. So we get busy with
dinner. Tonight we Grill 1 lb New York Strips and
Baked Potatoes. The smell and the looming darkness
draw the guys in. Tonight the air s filled with many
fish stories. A nice steelhead as caught, A king that
went 40 inches, A glimpse of a Black Bear along the river.
Everybody had something to share over a Amish baked Cherry
Pie. Tonight I'm the one to turn in early.
September 21st Sunday
When I get up all the guys are already fishing. What a
group of diehards. The guys are all back in at 9:00
After we eat
its field trip time. So we pack a cooler with lunch
and cold beverages. Our Native guides bring down the 4
wd trucks and quad runners and we load up for a adventure.
Today we head upriver about 4 miles to a nice section of
As we ride the bumpy road
there are eagles everywhere. We see at least a dozen
and the guys in the front truck get a glimpse of a bear on
the road. The bears are very skittish and they usually
run at the first sign of a human. When we reach
our destination there are literally thousands of fish.
Within minutes everybody is hooked up. Jeff and Myself
head upstream to a favorite flat from years past. You
could almost walk across the fish in some places.
I choose a nice little
run that is shaded by tree . I spot a huge Pinook in
the pool but it vanishes back into a deep deadfall of trees. Jeff decides to continue
upstream. So I take a seat in the shade and wait to
see if the Pinook will come back into the run. After
what seemed like hours I spot the unmistakable pink hue of a very
large Pinook in the run. My first thought is my tippet
is old. Not taking any chances I tie on a new
section of 8 lb seaguar tippet and black bugger and position
myself above the fish. After a few false casts I let
the fly land and swing in front of the monster. The fish pounds
the fly and it's on. One of the most intense battles
of my fishing career. At one point the Salmon is
about to run me under a log. I put all the tension on
the line I can Knowing the fish will surely break off
if it gets me under the log. Just as the tippet
stretches to its breaking point the fish goes crazy.
It makes a huge leap and clears the log mid air. After
20 more minutes I find myself staring down at the biggest
Pinook I have ever saw.
Instantly I know this
warrior fish will adorn my basement wall . So I head
back to the trucks. Our native guides tell me this is
the biggest Pinook they have ever saw. It ends up
taping out at 40 inches long and weighs a hefty 26 lbs.
My fish of a lifetime was now a reality. Much
celebration was called for..!! Everybody seemed to be
celebrating a great day of fishing around the fire. We
ate like kings with Chicken Breast Monterey, French fries
and pie on the menu.
September 22nd Monday
I awake to the sounds of rain drops. This fills me
with excitement because rain = Fresh Fish. Hard to
imagine any more fish than the huge numbers already present.
The Garden River flows thru very sandy and rocky terrain.
The rain soaks into the ground and river flooding in the
fall is extremely rare. Last year we received one
inch of rain in less than twenty four hours but were still
able to fish the river successfully.
After a big
breakfast of French Toast, Sausage, Home fries,
Danishes, Coffee and Orange Juice. We head to the
stream. Jeff and Myself decide to hike back downstream
to Shangri Li. As we round the big hole below camp I
peer over the edge into the deep water. I amazed to
see hundreds of bright kings that were not there two days
ago. Last nights rain had the fish on the move, and
move they did. All day long wave after wave of fish
shot up the river.
We slayed the Kings and
the Pinks at Shangri Li. You would think I was lying If
I told you how many we landed. We end up catching two
more Pinook's in the 30 inch class and a nice little wild
steelhead. When we get back to camp we find a couple
of guys napping, A couple of guys playing the game Corn hole
and a couple more sitting around the fire drinking beer.
Finally they are starting to get their fill of Salmon.
We get to work on dinner.
It is a feast from the sea tonight. Deep Fried Lake
Erie Perch, Butter flied Gulf Shrimp, and Jeff's
blackened Salmon. Mounds of Fries and chicken
breast strips are on the menu for those who don't like
seafood. We topped it off with homemade dump cake
prepared over the coals in the Dutch oven.
As we sit around the fire
a wolf howls in the distance as if just to remind us where we
are. I notice the numbers caught seem to be growing each
night. Our group of anglers have honed their skills
and now they are fishing machines.
We start off with a Pancake and Sausage breakfast. As
we sit along the stream eating. Pod after Pod of Kings
charge thru the rapids at camp. It has gotten noticeably cooler and everybody ran the heaters in
the tents last night. I also rained very hard for a
hour or so. I can really see a difference in the
leaves this morning. The maples have really started to
turn red making he landscape come alive.
half of the guys take off upstream on a field trip.
After the chores are done I head out of the bush. I
have supplies to buy and guests to meet back at Ben's bait
shop in the morning. I'll spend the night at
Ben's and Jeff is in charge of the GO Hilton tonight.
I spend the afternoon shopping, exploring the Soo and BS ing
with the guys at Joes Trading Post. I end up finding a
great bakery in the Soo and was surprised to find the
groceries were less expensive than back home. I have a
problem though. I brought along 30 gallons of Kerosene
for the heaters. I knew I would need to buy more.
Problem is I was unaware that they don't sell kerosene in
Canada. I go to several gas stations and they look at
me like I'm speaking Chinese when I ask about Kerosene.
I end up finding lamp fuel (kerosene) at the Wal-Mart at $9
a liter. That's only about $24 a gallon.
OUCH..!! Oh well, I get my all of my shopping done and
have enough time to play a little in the St.Marys rapids
before dark. I find lots of fish out in the rapids and
light crowds. Back at Ben's several of the guys are
already there. Ben has several nice campers along the
river he rents out. The guys really pumped up. I
know were in for more good times.
Wednesday Sept 24th
I awake in the dark and prepare for the remaining guests to
Everybody arrives at Ben's on time and after a brief
introduction were on our way to camp. We have a sharp
schedule to keep. Jeff will have French Toast and
Biscuits with sausage gravy waiting. I end up eating
so many butter tarts from the bakery on the ride that I'm not hungry
when we pull into camp. The guys in the front
trucks see a wolf on the road on the way to camp. More
good Karma I hope.. We arrive at camp and find
out they had a lot of excitement last night. Two
quad runners with young couples were out joy riding.
They got on Reservation property (Trespassing). A
culvert in the road had washed out last spring leaving a 20
foot deep ravine. In the darkness they hit the ravine
at a high speed and had a terrible accident. Luckily
Little Ben came to the rescue and transported them back to
the hospital. They were seriously injured with broken
bones and severe internal injuries. I never end up
hearing how they are but there chances of survival were low
if it weren't for Little Ben.
After a quick goodbye to
the departing guests. I help get everybody settled into
the camp. Most of the guys take one look at all of the
fish and hit the river running. Suddenly the bustling
camp was quiet and empty. Jeff tells me I missed quite a day
yesterday. Something about a hot dog fork, swimming in
the hole in front of camp, Salmon, and a $100 bet.
HMMM, now I know what happened to that bottle of Crown
Jeff and I
decide to go fishing and make the
hike downstream to Hallowed waters. We find close to
double the number of Kings as when we arrived last week and they are
running everywhere. Wave after wave of fish. I
know the new guests are having a blast too.!! We are
starting to see a few dead Pink Salmon hens now. Today
is probably the highest density of Pinks for the season but
it will be over soon.
The Pink Salmon hens die within hours of completing the
We both end up double
digits on the fresh Kings. It seems like when their
running they are most willing to bite. NY Salmon River
Guide Larry Rummels Variegated Olive Buggers are just
what they wanted today. We make it back to
camp and fire up the Grills for some two finger thick NY
strips. The smell lures the guys off the water.
No one goes hungry we also have fruit Cocktail and Potatoes
that were baked in the Dutch oven. For desert it was
strawberry rhubarb pie and Ice cream. The Crown Royal
flows freely around the fire as new friendships are made.
25th As I'm cooking breakfast
this morning the beauty of the fall foliage catches my attention. What a change the Maples
have made since we first arrived just a week ago. The
leaves are brilliant this morning and I decide it would be a
great day to take some pictures. After breakfast the
whole group loads up in 4 by 4's for a field trip up stream.
we pull up to the stream we see six eagles soaring above.
What a sight. The we round the bend and there are nine
more eagles sitting in the same tree. Fifteen eagles fishing
the same section of stream. That has to be a once in a
lifetime sight. About half of our group unload and fish this
section with Ben.
rest of us go with Little Ben about two more miles upstream.
Our plan is to fish thru this two mile section of stream.
It's sunny and bright and there are fish everywhere and the
kings are on the move big time. Pods of 6-10 kings are
blowing upriver. You could stand in one place and fish
different fish all day long.
With the sunny clear day
you could target the bigger fish. I was using big
marabou tube flies on my two handed seven weight. We
would sneak up on the upside of the run and swing the flies
back thru the uneducated fish.
the Garden River I would estimate that 99% of the fish
complete their spawning cycle without ever seeing a angler.
It was lunch time and we had packed some goodies and energy
drinks in our packs. We picked out a good log and were
just kicking back relaxing. Suddenly Jeff is taping my
shoulder pointing downstream. A bear had came out into
the river and was fishing. We sat there quietly and
observed for almost 10 minutes. The quartering at us
from downstream and he didn't know we were there. A
nice bear at least 250 lbs. Probably a male. He
slowly worked his way down until he was directly across the
stream from us. It was funny as he winded us. His nose
went straight up in the air. Probably a unfamiliar
smell but one his instincts told him to fear. He turned very
sneakily towards the bush. Then he ran locomotive till
he was out of sight. We got almost 20 great pictures
continue to fish and we catch a couple of nice Pinook's in
the 30 inch class. I loose a King that had to be 30
lbs and the 30 minute fight leaves me wore out. The
leaves are beautiful so I decide to just take pictures for a
taking pictures when something catches my eye. Jeff is
a 1/4 mile downstream from me and there is a moving black
object across the river from him. As I get closer I can tell
its a bear. Jeff doesn't even realize its there.
I start to yell at Jeff to warn him. He can't hear me
over the noise of the rapids
then he hooks up a fish and starts to chase it downstream.
This startles the bear and it jumps up on the bank.
This is when I realize that there are three bears, a momma
and two cubs. Jeff in his joyful bliss of fighting the
fish is still unaware of his audience.
the bears hear my yelling and disappear into the bush.
As I get up to Jeff he is un hooking his fish. He doesn't
believe me when I tell him about the bears that were less
than 50 feet from him.
are sitting there looking at the pictures I just snapped
when suddenly out pop the bears again. I have eight
bear rugs on my walls, from my days as a bear hunting guide
in Quebec. I have seen a lot of bears and this is one
big Momma. Probably pushing 400 lbs with her winter
fat. Bears have poor sight and I don't think they
could see us even though we were sitting on the wide open
snap a few pictures then decide that Mama bears and cubs are
best left alone. Even though there is a deep section
of river between us. Bears are excellent swimmers and
can run at amazing speeds. We retreat and start singing as
we walk backwards. The cubs see us and take off. Big
Momma turns and just watches us walk away. As we round
the bend where the rest of our group are we are still
a great day on the water today. Everyone is telling stories
about the adventure. It's my famous Chicken
Monterey on the grill for dinner. We also do fries in
the big fryer and of course Pie and Ice Cream for desert.
It was a long day for me and I turn in early.
Friday September 26th
Had a hungry crowd at breakfast this morning. Went
thru three dozen eggs and six lbs of bacon plus toast, and
blueberry muffins, and Orange juice. They even
finished off the pies from last night. Its the third
day so a few of the guys sleep in. Hey its vacation..
It's nice to see everybody relaxing and enjoying them
selves. We hurry with our camp chores so we can get out
Another beautiful fall day. It really hasn't rained on
us at all since I arrived . A light sprinkle a few times but
the rains all came at night while we were bone dry in our
tents. We decide to hike downstream to Hallowed
waters again. Ben offers to take us upstream in the
trucks but the guys want to stay around camp.
city today. Someone was literally fighting a
fish all day long. Countless doubles and triples.
Wooly buggers and green caddis patterns were hot. The
Kings were still on the move and every day more and more
were still showing up. The peak of the King Run is
just days away. They tend to run later than the Pinks.
In 2007 there wasn't any Kings at all until the middle of
September. The Pinks will start to show up in late
August or Early September most years.
night at camp. Spaghetti, meatballs, deep fried
chicken breast strips, Garlic Bread, with home made
pineapple cherry dump cake in the Dutch oven. It's
Friday night and a festive night around the campfire. It was
a big crowd along the river some of Ben's family are out to
camp for the weekend and the guys were up late. I felt
sorry for Gilbert because they burned a whole truck load of
wood that he had split so nicely. Tall tales were told
and good times were had by all.
Most of the guys amazingly made it up early to fish this
morning. It was a foggy morning and the fog held tight
to the river as the sun lit up the blazing red foliage.
I wish I had my camera out as the guys came off the water.
Would have been a fly fisherman magazine shot.
smell of Blueberry Pancakes, Sausage, and home fries cooking
filled the air. I warned them not to eat to much.
Ben's son in law Jeremy had promised us a Traditional Native
Dinner streamside at 2:00. I hang out around camp
until lunch. Jeremy shows up right on schedule with
lunch. Native Fry bread is a treat. Ben's wife
had made it before for us. Last time the guys put penult
butter and jelly on it and it disappeared quick. Today
we made a sort of Taco on it with seasoned ground beef and
veggies. It was a hit. It went very well
with an ice cold Labatt's blue. After lunch I head out
with Jeremy and a small group for Causeway flats.
We go on the trailer behind the quad runner because there is
a bad washout on the way.
fish everywhere one of the highest densities of fish I have
ever witnessed. So many it was hard to fish. I
did my best actually looking for runs that weren't choked
full of fish. Jeff gets a nice 33" Pinook. Every
time I glance down the river everybody's rod is bent over.
From the hooting and hollering it was obvious everybody was
having as much fun as I was. Later on Ben and his wife join
us. They were out on a ride and Ben went about seven
more miles upstream. He said there wasn't nearly as
many fish upriver. Apparently one of the small flats
in that section was stopping the migration. Ben also saw a
huge Buck on the road. There are abundant deer and
moose in the area. On last years trip Little Ben
harvested a 1100 lb moose while he was guiding us. The
natives manage their own lands and game. They always
have a rifle in the truck.
2007 Photo of
Little Bens moose
back to camp for Dinner. Tonight it was Beef Stew on
the fire, deep fried chicken strips and French fries,
canned fruit, and home made apple crisp in the Dutch oven.
It was Saturday Night and the Garden River Hilton was
hopping. Guys from all walks of life and regions of
the country coming together to share a common bond in
fishing. I feel privileged to have experienced the
Garden River with the friends I made in the last 11 days.
Sunday September 28th
Our last day in Paradise. After breakfast the guys
head out fishing. Now the real work starts.
Tearing down five tents and loading up the trucks and
trailers takes all day. The Lunch cooler remains out
and one hot shower stays up until we pull out at 3:30.
All the trucks are lined up on the road. Jeff and
myself do a walk thru of the camp. No cigarette butts,
no beer cans, no toilet paper, no trace that anybody had
been there other than the tire tracks in the sand.
Perfect, just the way such a place should be left.
The ride back
to Bens Bait Shop was un eventful. Back at Ben's it
was hectic as everybody transferred the gear to their cars
but we did manage to snap one group photo. I'm sorry I
didn't get a shot of the whole group before some of them
to thank Ben, Glenda, Little Ben, Gilbert, Jeremy, and the
rest of Ben's family for sharing their Garden River Paradise
with us. They went above and beyond what was expected
and everything was perfect. I'm looking forward
to seeing everybody Next fall. Good Fishin..!!
Garden River Ontario
Salmon fishing /
Ont salmon guide /
Garden River Pink
Chinook salmon /
fishing trips /
Ontario Salmon fishing
/ Ontario /
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