Our Man In Canada
November 12th, 2006

The Warden
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada

Pronunciation: 'wor-d&n
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English wardein, from Anglo-French wardein, gardein, from warder to guard 1: one having care or charge of something: GUARDIAN, KEEPER
(Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary copyright © 2005 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated)

On the last weekend of the season this year I drove over from Baie Comeau to meet clients for the weekend. In able to get a head start on things for Saturday, I would laager over for the night on the river. With the overnight temperatures getting down below freezing, I borrowed one of the river association's cabins for the night.

With the supper dishes stowed and a healthy glow radiating off of the wood stove, I settled in for a quiet evening.

Several years ago, someone left a note book in the cabin and guests have been leaving their comments in it ever since. I pumped up the lantern a bit and pulled a chair up to the table to see what visitors had been saying over the past few weeks.

The usual comments were there. Sunshine, pools of salmon, magnificent scenery. As I flipped back and forth through the pages, an underlying theme seemed to bubble up to the surface.

Many (if not most) visitors mention the Wardens.

Chris, Vincent and Warden Yvon-Marie Gauthier
Chris Chin, Vincent, and Warden Yvon-Marie Gauthier"

We have several full time, permanent Wardens on my home waters. All local products, they have been here since before anyone can really remember. Specifically the Head Warden, Yvon-Marie Gauthier. If I remember correctly, he has been on the river for the past 36 salmon runs.

Wardens here are Assistant Conservation Officers, but they do much more than that. They take care of the trails, the cabins, prepare the fire wood for the fall, double shift as Guides, shuttle the canoes and drop off clients,...well, generally, everything.

As a part of their diurnal rounds, the Wardens will visit most, if not all of the pools, chatting with anglers and tourists.

The infamous midnight canoe runs are a whole article in itself. (Ever go down a salmon river on a moonless night, no flashlights lit, hunting for poachers?)

The end of the day wrap up is probably what most newcomers remember the most. Back at camp, the sector Warden will drop by and see how things went during the day, check to see if you need anything for the next day and give the river report from other sectors.

A typical exchange would be:

Warden: "Had a good day?"

Angler: "Not too bad. We went to the run you mentioned last night and saw a bit of action."

Warden: "Yes, I saw you on the 27A but didn't want to bother you."

Angler: "Oh,...funny, We didn't see you."

Happens all the time...

A couple of years ago, I wanted to canoe down to the #18, but just as I was drifting into the bend I got a whiff of cigar smoke. Not wanting to drift into the slick, I pulled up short by about 1,000 feet.

I quietly bush whacked my way up to a perch to have a look. Two anglers were just setting into the short slick, totally engrossed in their strategy and presentation. About the same time, movement on the trail from the road caught my eye. One of the Wardens was coming down the trail.

He too stops short of the river bank. Seeing that the anglers didn't seem to be having any difficulty, the Warden leans up against a big birch and observes for a while. I can tell by the way he's canting his head, he's watching the way the line is presenting the fly.

Looking for the telltale "plop" of a weighted fly or the kinked rollout of a bead shot on the leader, he is satisfied that all is on the up and up. Not wanting to bother the anglers on a perfect June morning, he slips back onto the trail and quietly moves away to visit another pool.

This scene will replay itself countless times over the season.

My new job has me driving through the valley at all hours of the night. When I go past Warden Gauthier's camp, the lanterns will usually be burning. I always give a tip of the hat or a quick honk in salute of a job well done.

Warden Yvon-Marie Gauthier and friend
Warden Yvon-Marie Gauthier and tourist, photo by Hugues Laroche 2006

The season is closed now, but the river keepers are all still at their posts. To Magella, Claude, Guy, Martin and Yvon-Marie, keep the fires burning. ~ Christopher Chin - Bay Comeau 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 in October 2002."

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

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