Our Man In Canada
May 22nd, 2006

Olfactory triggers...
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec

Spring has finally sprung. The song birds are chirping, the black flies have come out of wherever they spend the winter and the Poplars start leafing out. Specifically Balsam Poplars, Populus balsamifera.

A sure sign that summer is just around the corner, the evening air is laced with the sweat perfume that this species of tree gives off. Hmmm, smells, odours. That magical sense that can send memories rushing back into our consciousness.

We all have these flash backs. Some are comforting, like the smell of fresh baked bread drifting down main street. Others just familiar, like hot Jet-B exhaust fumes in the predawn light.

I can remember being on the river, the sights, the sounds. But when I image that I'm there, it is the smells that make it all so much more vivid. Wood smoke from a smouldering camp fire. Not the sickly sour day old smoke from a forest fire. The crisp sweet smoke from quarter rounds of spruce wisping through the camp.

I like to wake up early when I'm on the river. An hour before the family and clients start to stir, I'll set the percolator over a burner and light the wood stoves. While the waders hung next to the stove start to warm, I like to stroll over to the pool to see how the water level looks. I set up a perch on the bench over the #24, looking for salmon.

It has cooled off a lot during the night. Heavy dew covers the grass as well as the rods in the rack. A light mist has settled over the river. The atmosphere around the camp is laden with the scent of the fir trees. This won't last for long.

The morning mist burning off the 5B Ste-Marguerite River

We can look forward to another sweltering day on the river. Early July and the Forest Fire Warning Index has been in the red for 2 weeks already. The cool scent of the sleeping forest will soon be replaced by the hot humid air and the omnipresent perfume of mosquito repellent.

As the cool night air is still flowing down the valley, the wood smoke and aroma of fresh perking coffee mingle and drift through the forest towards me. A reminder to get back to camp before the coffee boils over.

Thirty minutes later and a skillet of hash browns and bacon, a serving bowl of scrambled eggs and a pile of toast is on the table in the client's cabin, same thing as well as in our tent.

Mario - Inspecting Glass Pool on an early July morning with a mug 'o java

Wood smoke has seeped out of the stove. It mixes with the aromas of hot cocoa and steaming piles of breakfast goodies. For the family, these are the aromas of morning. I often wonder if these are the olfactory triggers that will have them remember days on the river. Long to be there again. ~ Christopher - Jonquiere Quebec

Only two synapses separate the olfactory nerve from the amygdala, which is involved in experiencing emotion and also in emotional memory (Herz & Engen, 1996). In addition, only three synapses separate the olfactory nerve from the hippocampus, which is implicated in memory, especially working memory and short-term memory. Olfaction is the sensory modality that is physically closest to the limbic system, of which the hippocampus and amygdala are a part, and which is responsible for emotions and memory. Indeed this may be why odour-evoked memories are unusually emotionally potent (1996). ~ Chris

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/. ~ Christopher Chin

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