OK – it’s confession time so here goes! Many moons ago, sometime later than when time began, I fished rivers of the Gaspe….but not legally. My dad was a harbour pilot in the days before ship-to-shore communication. I frequently joined him in his piloting duties. He would have a rough idea of when a ship destined for Dalhousie NB was expected, wait out on the Bay Chaleur, sometimes for hours or a day or more, and watch for signs of the ship on the horizon. He would then board the ship and guide it to the wharf for loading. I would take the pilot boat back to its berth. Similarly, on ship departure I would take the pilot boat out to pick him up when the ship was safely on its way.
Being out on the Bay for extended periods of time meant that we could jig for cod….or slip over to rivers on the Gaspe side and do a bit of fly fishing with some of Dad’s buddies who were guides at private camps, or who knew secret spots hidden from wardens and other eyes of authority. So began my addiction to the sport! Yes, we knew that it was illegal, but the passion for casting a fly on those clear waters overruled our conscience.
The river that we most frequently fished was the Grand Cascapedia, the river of long runs, swift curls, and gin-clear water. The river of dreams! It was in the days long before hook and release – our boat usually held a few large salmon on our return home. As an adult reflecting on my illegal fishing days of childhood, it has occurred to me that I may have been there as protection in the event we were accosted by authorities – which sometimes happened. My Dad’s voice saying “I was just teaching the little girl how to fish” echoes in my memory bank!
Another picture that stands out in my memory is often visiting a small cabin, probably a guides’ cabin, with bunks, rickety furniture and men with guitars and fiddles….and rum and cigarettes. And laughter and toe-tapping galore! “Don’t tell your mother” also rings in my memory bank!
I’ve yearned to repeat those days of fishing adventure with the bubbliness that Quebec jigs and reels arouses. This year I will be returning to the Grand Cascapedia – legally - and staying at The Salmon Lodge, a bit more posh than the cabin of my youth. It will be a new and different experience, but one that will build memories as well. I’ll tell you about it in the next Newsletter.
Katharine D. Mott