Chance Encounters of the Pleasant Kind
A few years ago, I lived in this small town not far from
here. A pretty unassuming place at first glance. There's
a college, the pulp mill, a couple of sawmills, the usual
stuff in hundreds, even thousands of towns throughout
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec
What makes this town special (in my eyes), is the river
that runs right through downtown.
The Ashuapmuchuan River, (local Montagnais Indian name for
"Where the moose come to drink"), drains out of the hills
and ends up in Lac St-Jean. This lake, being about 25-30
miles across is a vestige of the Laurentian Sea, which
existed a few thousand years ago, shortly after the last
Why is this so important and what's this all got to do with
fly fishing? Well, when the Laurentian Sea drained away
and was replaced by fresh water river systems, it left behind
some wonderful beaches and a heritage of fertile lands for
forests to grow on. Better still, it receded quickly enough
that some of the Salmo salar in the area got trapped
"upstream." These became Land Locked Atlantic Salmon!
Just like their ocean going cousins, Land Locks will hang
out in a downstream lake for most of the year, then migrate
up into the rivers over the summer and spawn in the fall.
The five major rivers flowing into Lake St-Jean all have
populations of Land Locks in them.
A fresh water lake isn't nearly as rich as a marine environment,
so these critters aren't as big as a "true" Atlantic salmon.
A nice one will run about five pounds and anything over eight is
special. They do have the same fight and willingness to jump
as their offshore cousins.
Better still, as they don't go through the physiological
stress of moving from saline to fresh water, they seem to
take a fly much more often than salmon which have migrated
from the sea.
Featherwings, bucktails, woollies and all manner of dries
were my selections of choice on many an evening a mere eight
minutes from the house. Actually, I preferred dries over
wets as they were less likely to be taken by a Pike, Perch
or Walleye. All of which could be found in the same pools.
I suppose it was chasing these fine fish that kick started
me back into the sport after a few years of neglect. Anyway,
back then you didn't have to wonder where I'd be during a
I guess one of my absolutely favourite pools is right down
from the fish ladder on the first set of falls. As these
falls are designated as a barrier, one cannot fish within
75 meters downstream of it. What many folks don't know is
that the point sitting out there is exactly 81 meters from
the falls (I measured it with a laser range finder).
One late July evening I was casting off the point. With the
roar of the falls behind me and the boiling and foaming brown
stained water out in front, I was missing take after take as
a school of fresh water salmon seemed to be in a feeding frenzy.
I sat down to re-think my tactics (and put on a fly which didn't
have the point broken off) when I noticed a youngster over on
the rocks waving a rod around. I was quite taken aback, because
I was pretty well the only fly fisher in this community of over
This child was obviously having trouble casting and even from
30 yards away, I could tell from his body language, that he
was more than a little frustrated. I spooled up and waded
over to see if I could help.
As I approached, I met his Mom who was perched on a rock watching.
I asked if I could show him a few basics and she seemed quite
relieved for some help. Seems he'd been watching hours of fly
fishing on TV every Sunday morning and his uncle finally gave
him an old rod as a gift.
I introduced myself and looked over a fine old glass rod with
a Pflueger Medallist reel and an old and cracked level line.
This won't do. I jogged back to the truck and rummaged around
for a spool of backing and a spare 333 DT floating line I had.
Back on the rocks I quickly spooled up the backing, line and
a spare leader. I showed this newest adept at the sport how
to tie on the leader with a nail knot and how to properly
attach the fly. A few pointers and he was soon caressing a
simple cast nicely out to about 30-35 feet.
As he was in sneakers and jeans, I couldn't show him out to
the point, but I put him over some brookies in a back eddy
and he proceeded to miss, then miss, then connect to his very
first trout, (on a #12 Royal Wulff to boot!).
I left our young angler with his mom as it was getting dark
and I wanted to try out a few more flies off the point. We
promised to try to meet up again some time. As life would
have it, the promise was a few years in coming.
Almost 10 years to the day, I was scouting out some runs on
my home waters. I noticed a stranger (young man) casting to
a draw. His friend was bundled up against the drizzle,
lounging on some rocks. As I watched for a while, I found
it disconcerting to see the way he was rolling his shoulder
back on the back cast (just as I do).
I wandered over to give a "Welcome" to these newcomers to
the river. Surprise of all surprises, it was this same angler
that I had met on his first day with a fly rod. We chatted a
bit, exchanged lies for a while then he got back to fishing.
We couldn't get our new found friend to connect to an Atlantic
Salmon that afternoon, but he has since become a very proficient
and productive Salmo salar enthusiast.
I asked him what he finally did with the old glass rod 'n reel.
With a smile, he related that he had given it to his girlfriend's
Looking back on the happenstance nature of life, it always
brings a smile to my mind when I realise that the draining
of a proglacial lake ultimately gave me the opportunity to
meet another fly fisher.
The Ashuapmuchuan River empties into Lake St-Jean near
St-Felicien Quebec. This river, as well as the four other
major rivers in the Lake St-Jean basin offer recreational
fishing for land locked salmon, as well as resident pike,
walleye, perch and brook trout. Within a few minutes drive,
there are opportunities for lake and river fishing.
St-Félicien is located seven hours from Montreal or three hours
from Quebec City. ~ 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
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,
~ Christopher Chin
Our Man In Canada Archives