By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada
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
Many (if not most) visitors mention the Wardens.
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,
As a part of their diurnal rounds, the Wardens will visit
most, if not all of the pools, chatting with anglers and
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
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 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
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 in October 2002."
To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River,
Our Man In Canada Archives