Guilty by Association - Breaking Down Perceptions
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
By Chris Chin
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
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
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:
Wouldn't it be much more pleasant if folks saw you
standing in a run waving a stick and
- 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.
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.
- 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
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
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
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
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,
~ Christopher Chin
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