Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: The Land of Big Dreams
I also do not like the idea of guides. I have been lucky in my trips up there and have learned a good bit that I probably could have learned much faster taking a guide out a few times. The only year I was skunked was the year the run was really dismal 5-6 years ago - can't remember what year that was - with the fish count being half the usual, but I still managed to hook and lose two fish that week. A lot of people (I know a couple) have spent weeks up there and not caught or hooked anything.
As a last bit of advice...exploring is fun, but if it were me I would concentrate my main focus on the named pools should the goal be to catch your first atlantic salmon. The pools are named for a reason as they are known, reliable lies for the fish. In the early season, it isnt only the big tank pools that hold fish but the more pocket-y water where fish are often caught usually has a name, as well. I have seen it everywhere I have fished - be it Canada, Scandinavia, or the UK - the fish year in, year out stop in the same places and just blast through the water they dont like no matter how good it looks to the human eye. There may not always be fish in the lie, but spending time elsewhere decreases your chances that youll be fishing over potentially taking fish. Not to say you cant catch fish covering water, maybe happening upon the odd fish that decided to stop somewhere random, but chances arent so good.
Talk to whomever you can when you are up there. One of the reasons I suggested the Gaspe town rivers is that Alan in the ZEC is SUPER helpful and knowledgeable. He knows the rivers so well and will tell you where fish often lie in whatever pools you might be fishing for the day -- some of his advice just reinforces what I mentioned above with an example being 2 friends drawing Zone 2 in the 48 hour draw, him giving the rundown of the Zone and where the fish usually sit that time of year, then a friend pulling one out at the exact spot he said there would probably be on laying. It was far from the first place Id expect a salmon to sit with better looking water all around. I dont know if he is still there as I havent been in 5 years.
Anyway, good luck and have fun.