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PPS Destinations Report 

Gaspe, Quebec, Canada

Date:        Summer 2010

Reported by Dr. Chris Travis, Laguna Hills, CA, USA

Atlantic Salmon on the Gaspe Peninsula  

Eastern Canada, along the St Lawrence River , has some of the best rivers for migrating Atlantic Salmon that one can imagine. The rivers on the Gaspe Peninsula are shallow, allowing floating lines and either wet or dry flies to fool the fish into striking.  This seems to be a habit developed dating from a the time when the salmon were young in the rivers or in the ocean.  I can say this, because I have fished extensively for all the other migrating anadromous species of fish in rivers.  

The Atlantic Salmon has the most spectacular take and fight of any migrating anadromous fish. They are bigger, meaner, and take the fly viciously on top. Giant 'holes' in the river are made when they strike the fly.  Now I know why those who fish for Atlantics get a disease that can only be quenched by fishing for them every year. Here is the catch. The numbers of Atlantic Salmon on earth has declined to the endangered levels. The rivers have deteriorated through human expansion and the industrial revolution, as well as over harvesting in excess to the point where the Atlantic Salmon industry has all but vanished.

Fish farms have created a goo of filth and sea lice that anadromous fish have to navigate through and most of the smolt die from the fish-lice infestation they get from exposure to the fish farm exudate. Don’t buy farmed salmon and let the markets know it.  Basically, where these farms were placed without any biological data from scientists in Canada and Europe .  

So, what we have is the greatest fresh water game fish on earth struggling to survive as a species. Go figure.  Just as sad, only the fortunate rich get to fish for the greatest game fish in fresh water, because only a handful of waters still have representative runs of Atlantic Salmon. These waters are owned by very exclusive fishing clubs and the ones that are open to the public, have a lottery to get on the pools.  Two such rivers were afforded us because we were shooting a TV series for networks in North America and the exclusive lodges wanted to get the word out that things are improving, albeit slowly, for the Atlantic Salmon.  

We fished the fabled Grand Cascapedia and the Restigouche Rivers and its tributaries , the Matapedia and Causapscal Rivers . There are many 50 lb salmon and some 60 lbers in these rivers and they take a fly readily. I was able to land  30 lb, 28 lb, and 26 lb brutes as my biggest fish and numerous others in the teens.  The rivers are incredibly beautiful-gin clear and considered in the top five of allAtlantic Salmon rivers in the world with only the Alta River , in Norway , a touch better. Russia has the numbers, but not the size except maybe the Kola and they are trashing that one.  

The people are wonderful on the Gaspe . The language spoken is French. The wives would go crazy here, because of the unique shops in all the small towns. Facilities are first class in all towns. Clean!!!   The Gaspe towns survive on Salmon fishing by the fly fishermen who migrate from all over the world. The people know it is their livelihood and do not take the fisherman for granted. Thus, the service is wonderful and very European. The food is the best and the people speak English, sort of. Ahhhh, the French wines are inexpensive and wonderful.  

The weather is completely unpredictable, so you must layer and be ready for anything with a packable raincoat. This year the river levels were low, and sight fishing was doable. We had a great time moving from one lodge to another during the two week stay. I highly recommend doing that to get a different river every few days to fish.  

The time to go is the full moon at about the end of June. One goes a week before the full moon and stays a week after the full moon. The numbers are nowhere near the numbers of steelhead in the Northwest, so you have to go then. The bigger fish come during this time of summer. (Makes you think hard where the steelhead species is going…probably downhill like the Atlantics).  

The rivers are divided into sections and some are better than others. You must do your homework prior to booking. I cannot stress that any more than I have. You cannot think you will get an Atlantic Salmon by just going there. They are so endangered, you have to do the science to be there at the correct time. And, they are crazy fickle fish. But you can entice them like you would a cat with yarn.  

The Lottery system is provided by the Cascapedia Society and it is a good system.  If you are lucky enough to stay at a lodge, they will have their own water to fish.  All fishing is, by law, with a guide. Do your HOMEWORK and you will do well.  I highly recommend going to the Gaspe , and I recommend staying at the MicMac First Nation Outfitters Lodge. The guides are great, and they have access to the best waters of the Cascapedia River . The costs are better than the other 6 lodges on the Cascapedia. Every cast can be to a world record Atlantic Salmon. I also recommend going through the lottery system with the Cascapedia Society, and when you are selected, a guide comes with the winning lottery ticket. (You pay)

The flies you use are traditional with some improvements over the years. I like the idea of fishing Green Highlanders, Blue Charms, Lady Amhersts, Black Bear Green Butts,  and the like. It is romantic and full of history. The salmon love 'em, and there is a bit of science to the flies and which ones to use. Just follow what your guide says and ask him why he chose the fly. Most of it has to do with sun and overcast, fast and slow water, shallow or deep.

The Atlantic Salmon take a faster moving fly than steelhead. They lay in the same areas of the river, maybe even more inclined to hold in the deeper parts of every pool. A two handed rod is imperative for most fishing due to the width of the river and trees and obstacles behind the angler.  The single handed rod is used for dry fly fishing in a drag free manner. Fun!  

The best Salmon fishermen were using short lines and fast swings to get their fish to grab. One can entice a salmon into raising up the column and take a fly by doing it many times over the same area where the salmon is holding.  It is a game that never gets old.

Chris  Travis

Following are some thumbnails of trip photos.  Please click on them and then return to this page by hitting the ' back ' button on your browser.

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