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The Roving Sportsman… The Sound of Silence

When Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel recorded the song, “The Sound of Silence,” on June 15, 1965 and released it later that year on September 12, they could not really have known what the sound of silence was truly like. Fast forward to August of 2019, on a remote lake in far northern Quebec, called Lac De La Robe Noire, and one could realize what silence really is.

I met John DeBouter at the Quail Creek Plantation while shooting sporting clays last January and we related stories back and forth about our various hunting and fishing trips we had taken over the years. When John mentioned fishing in northern Quebec for the past 30 years on a remote lake for native brook trout, it peaked my interest — so much so, in fact, that I decided to join him and two other fishermen on this unique trip.

On August 2, 2019, I arrived at John’s Vermont home, spent the night and arose at 4:00 a.m. for the grueling 18-hour ride over rough roads frequented with construction activity to the small town of Havre St. Pierre along the St. Lawrence River for our overnight stay before flying out the next afternoon. It was a 35 minute flight in a 1956 DeHaviland Beaver over a landscape strewn with thousands of various sized lakes. The touchdown on the 9-mile long lake was whisper smooth and we taxied in and lashed the pontoons to the dock at Camp Lac De La Robe Noire. A second DeHaviland Beaver touched down, carrying the fourth fisherman and food and supplies for the week of our stay.

We were scheduled for a half day of fishing on the day of our arrival, 5 full days and another half day on the morning of our departure. All of the fishing would be done with two fishermen per boat — a 14 foot V-bottomed aluminum Prince Craft, powered by a 20-horsepower Honda motor. John was kind enough to provide all of the necessary fishing tackle — rods, reels, depth and fish finders and all the assorted gear for the trip. We would be trolling and fishing just off the shoreline at a depth of 25-50 feet in a lake that sunk to over 300 feet in places.

We were truly in a remote location. The lake was edged in most places with high rock cliffs and the vegetation that grew around the lake was mostly spruce and aspen trees, with some lower shrubs that often grew to the water’s edge. If the weather would provide rough water on the lake, there were very few places where you could comfortably bring your boat to shore. But we were able to fish all but one day. It was not the rain that kept us in the lodge, but the high winds, which whipped the lake into rough water with whitecaps that signaled to us the fishing would be very rough and at times a bit unsafe. Otherwise, we fished from after a 7:30 a.m. breakfast until returning to the dock at 6:30 p.m. for a 7:30 dinner.

Over our stay, the four fishermen brought in and kept 64 beautiful native brook trout, ranging in size from 14-20 inches and weighing up to 2 pounds – 10 ounces. Many more were released at the boat and numerous fish managed to release themselves before reaching the boat!

The only fish in this lake are native brook trout, having been stocked many years ago, along with smelt that would provide feed for the trout. Thus, their diet was almost completely the smelt, but augmented from time to time with moths that dropped onto the lake. The only wild animals we saw during our stay was a pair of muskrats the frequently swam near the dock at the lodge. Birds that were sighted included merganser ducks, a few seagulls and, more often than not, the loons. Ah, the loons!

The loons are a beautiful bird, a fish eater, which we would spot usually several hundred yards away, but sometimes would swim within 100 yards or less. They have a beautiful and unique cry that carried a long distance across the lake. On two occasions, a loon came within 70-80 yards and, as I mimicked their call, we went back and forth until the loon tired of my calling and dove for a fish!

At times the silence was truly deafening! Something one can really only understand by experiencing it. When the wind was calm, there was absolutely nothing to create any noise at all — only when the cry of a loon pierced the quiet. It was an eerie experience, and for some, it might prove to be a bit frightening. There is no way that Simon and Garfunkel could have imagined it!

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