One item on many an angler’s bucket list is fishing for huge, wild brook trout on the Minipi River in Labrador.
It’s a trip of a lifetime, but can be so addictively fun that once isn’t enough, said Dave Brandt of Oneonta.
“That has gotten a couple buddies of mine in trouble,” he said. “Their wives say, ‘Didn’t you tell me this was the trip of a lifetime? And now you’re doing it for the sixth time?’ ”
Brandt did it for the sixth time more than 25 years ago. He’ll share what he’s learned in 30-plus pilgrimages to the Great White North in search of eight-pound brook trout and arctic charr on Monday, when he’ll be the guest speaker at the Clearwater chapter of Trout Unlimited’s monthly meeting.
Brandt was friends with Lee Wulff, who was famous for flying into remote locales in eastern Canada for salmon and trout. But he learned about the Minipi the way most of us learn about exotic fishing destinations: articles in magazines, in this case “Sports Afield” and “True.”
Back in the late 1970s, he didn’t know where he would come up with the $600 such a trip cost at the time. Today, the cost is more than 10 times that — “once you get there,” he said, “there” being Coopers’ Minipi Lodges in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. But he found a way, and has managed to get back just about every year since.
“Once I finally did, and then went several more times because I fell in love with it, as far as I could tell, no fewer of my bills got paid from going there, so I kept going,” Brandt said. “I don’t know whether to feel guilty or luckier than hell or a little bit of each.”
The time to go is July, when the huge, wild brookies rise to flies the locals call brown and green drakes. They’re not the same bugs as our brown and green drakes here in the states, but it’s the same idea.
Most of us are willing to do anything it takes to tie into trout that big, like drifting nymphs and split shot under bobbers in the dead of winter on Great Lakes tributaries. In Labrador, while much trolling does take place, it’s entirely possible to spend your summer vacation taking these exceptional fish on top.
“The last four or five years, I’ve fished nothing but dries, and done as well as anybody in camp,” Brandt said.
Back in the day, the trek to the Minipi was a choice between flying in (at steep fares) or driving hundreds of miles on gravel logging roads. Today, the roads are steadily being paved. It’s still a very long drive — “It’s like driving to Disney World, in the opposite direction,” Brandt said — but it’s easier than it used to be.
That worries him. The very difficulty of getting to Labrador has protected its trout from the lust of American anglers. Increased pressure brought about by easier access is bound to degrade the fishery, Brandt said.
“If you’re 30 and you find out about these brookies and you would like to do it and driving’s the only way to get up there, do it, because by the time you’re my age, these brookies may not exist,” he said.
Brandt will present a slide show of his experiences and share the accumulated wisdom of more than 30 years worth of trips to Labrador at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Albany Ramada Plaza Hotel, 3 Watervliet Ave. Ext., Albany. The meeting is free, and the public is invited.
You can learn more about Coopers’ Minipi Lodges at www.minipi.com.