Our Man In Canada
September 5th, 2005

Guilty by Association - Breaking Down Perceptions
By Chris Chin

On more than a few occasions, I've been down in a pool on a calm day. A family or a group pulls up and takes a stroll along the gallery. I can hear them talking.

A youngster in the group will ask, "How come he's fishing like that?"

One of the adults will answer with something like "Well, he's fishin' for those salmon, 'cause he's probably rich. We can't even afford to have lunch here."

B. Tremblay "Counting to 3" on Glass Pool (Photo Serge Vincent)

Imagine that! Heck, one of the reasons I started fly fishing in my youth was because flies were less expensive than lures! My yearly budget for fishing is less than a new snowmobile and the September season's daily rod fees are less than a case of beer.

How could our "passion" get such an image?

The history and tradition of fly fishing in Quebec, as well as in much of Eastern Canada for that matter is not without it's "controversial" side. Well, controversial, depending upon which side you're sitting (or wading).

Fly fishing in most of Quebec has always been associated with Atlantic Salmon fishing. Why is that?

Well, mostly because many of the Salmon rivers up and down the St-Lawrence Seaway were owned by private companies. Yes, owned (or, leased in some cases). The American and UK influences in these companies also brought in some of their customs and cultures, including fly fishing.

A case in point would be my home waters.

Starting in 1838, the Hudson's Bay Company, which had set up a trading post near the mouth of the river, had the exclusive rights to hunt and fish in the valley. Over a few decades, the rights to fish the river changed hands as leases were turned in or bought.

Back then, the "Locals" weren't permitted to fish as the pools and runs were reserved for visiting guests. (Over on the North-West branch, we still call it the "Prince's pool" as the Prince of Wales seemed to like it there when he visited in 1860).

In the 1870's no fewer than five "camps" were built up and down the river, the sole surviving one being Bardsville (1872).

The camp at Bardsville on the #38 pool
(Home to the 2006 Fish In!)

This all led to a perception that fly fishing was a leisure activity for the rich and/or elite. And I imagine, in my opinion, a few anglers actually try to perpetuate.

I guess that's one of the reasons I started to get involved with the River Association. After all, if I could learn this, anyone could.

These non-profit management groups were mandated by the Government to manage rivers once the private clubs were bought out in the 70's. (Say what one might about the old "fishing clubs," today, now that the clubs have been disbanded by the government, these waters are some of the best in Canada, thanks in some aspects, to the conservation and restoration efforts that were initiated during the club era.).

So, for the past 10 years or so, that's what I've been doing. Since we don't do much "marketing" to promote the sport here in my region, we do simple stuff, like teaching or leading by example.

And the examples are more subtle than you may think. When any of us are in a pool or run, we "represent" the sport (our passion). As a visiting angler to new waters, you represent your city, your state or your country. Fishing Club members represent their City or Club. I'll (almost) always take the time to answer questions that casual tourists may ask. I have fliers for the four local rivers in my pickup (as well as multiple copies of the regulations).

Courteous respect for nature, other anglers and the "locals" in general all reflect well on the sport.

After all, how would you like to be lumped into a group just because:

  • You fish with a fly rod, so you must be a snob, or maybe because

  • You fish over salt water, so you must be a pirate or

  • You ARE a pirate, so you must know D.Micus or

  • You know DM, so you must be on the FBI's top 10 list, well, you get the idea.

Wouldn't it be much more pleasant if folks saw you standing in a run waving a stick and

  • You're fishing with a fly rod so you are a fly fisher and

  • You're a Fly Fisher, so you like to relax and have fun on the water and

  • You like to have fun and relax on the water so you probably respect nature and

  • You respect nature so you are passionate in your pursuit of outdoor activities and

  • You are passionate in your pursuit of outdoor activities so fly fishing was logical "sport" to do and

So think about it when you're on the water or pulling up to the boat ramp. A friendly comment to a fellow (bait) fisher, could "get him to see the light" or turn him off fly fishing for life.

The same goes for the places we visit. Stopping by the local fly shop and buying a few flies can often get you a free river report. A half a smile to the waitress at the diner instead of a grumpy faced bleary eyed insult on the local stream conditions could get you directions to the pool where her son fishes (and some extra mayo in your sandwich).

After all, meeting new friends is one of the freebies of fly fishing!

I had a funny experience with some "Sports" a few years ago. A gang of four visiting anglers was up on a gallery inspecting a pool. They were fishing the next day and wanted to check out some pools, even though they had booked a guide.

They looked down the run and noticed someone walking up the trail in a three piece suit and sneakers! They had a good laugh, even though the stranger could surely hear them and the "remarks" they were making about the obviously poor technical capacity of the locals to fly fish.

Needless to say, they were a bit sheepish the next day when they found out that I was their Guide and that I had stopped off along the river to scout out some runs. Arriving from a meeting in Quebec City, I didn't have time to change out of my City clothes before darkness set in. ~ Christopher Chin – Jonquiere Quebec

About Chris:

Chris Chin is originally from Kamloops, British Columbia. He has been fly fishing on and off ever since he was 10 years old. Chris became serious about the sport within the last 10 years.

"I'm a forest engineer by day and part time guide on the Ste-Marguerite River here in central Quebec. I've been fishing this river for about 10 years now and started guiding about 5 years ago when the local guide's association sort of stopped functioning."

Chris guides mostly for sea run brook trout and about 30% of the time for Atlantic Salmon. "I often don't even charge service fees, as I'm more interested in promoting the river than making cash. I like to get new comers to realize that salmon fishing is REALLY for anyone who cares to try it. Tradition around here makes some of the old clan see Salmon fishing as a sport for the rich. Today our shore lunches are less on the cucumber sandwich side and more toward chicken pot pie and Jack Daniel's."

Chris is 42 years old as of this writing. He is of Chinese origin although his parents were born and raised in Jamaica. He has a girlfriend, Renée. "She and her 12 year old son Vincent started fly fishing with me last October 2002."

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christopher's website http://pages.videotron.com/fcch/. ~ Christopher Chin

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