Our Man In Canada
November 5th, 2006

It's a Small World
and a river runs through most of it
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada

Over the past couple of decades, I've met lots of folks. Meetings with loggers, First Nations, other foresters, public consultations, they all add up. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at remembering names.

I recently changed "day" jobs, so I've been running around a bit doing the public consultations for the management plans I've been handed. This morning I was doing the meet 'n greet outside the conference room as delegates filed in for an information session.

As often happens, about a third of the folks (whom I assumed I didn't know), greeted me by name. I guess being a Chinese, French speaking, commercial forester in Eastern Canada makes me a novelty or a stand out. Anyhow, for better or for worse, folks seem to remember me (and all too often, I can't remember their name). At least I don't fake it (anymore) and I'll just out right say "I know we've met, but that I can't remember when, nor your name." (It shows in your eyes anyway).

While I'm doing the "reception" line of a half a dozen people, I can see a stranger in the back looking at me with that very look. I can tell he knows me, but can't remember when or where we've met. Me neither.

Then as he steps forward, I see a slight limp and a pull in his left leg. Aha!...five or six years ago. A cool summer's morning.

Bardsville slick

It's late June. Prime time on my home waters for salmon. I had "arranged" for some meetings in the Capital to finish up Thursday so I got to hit the river on the Friday before the long weekend. Bright and early and I've gotten a couple rises, but no connections just down from the observatory on the #37 (Bardsville).

I decide to take a stop for breakfast. As I climb back over the berm, I notice another angler walking up from the cabins. In the chilly morning air I detected right off the bat a slight limp in his left leg.

Funny how we can't remember faces sometimes, but we can remember a casting stroke or a profile in motion. Anyhow, I know I've never seen this fellow walking the river before.

As he approaches, he asks if there are any salmon in the slick.

I reply that some anglers got a couple the night before. Go ahead and do a drop, I'm going to make some coffee.

Being new to salmon fishing, he seems shy to try the pool I'm coming out of.

"Hey" I reply,..."My name's not written on any of these salmon. If you get a hit, just holler, I'll bring a net."

I show him my fly so he can decide if he wants to try something similar or something different. He decides to try the same fly,...but I suggest he go one smaller.

Up at the pickup, I haven't even got the stove out and I can hear "Ah, Hello,...HELLO,...HEY...HELP PLEASE!

I jog over the berm and see our newcomer leaning back on the rod, over fifty feet of backing already streaming East! I visually track the backing and line straight downstream just in time to see a beauty of a salmon leap then run even harder.

Precariously perched on the ballast rock, our newly "hooked" Salmo salar enthusiast is seriously wishing he had more backing. Unable to chase down the salmon I have him bang on the butt of his rod. The salmon stops. REEL! I yell, too late, the salmon turns, and drags the line under the ONLY SUNKEN SNAG in the entire slick. Luckily, he stops just on the other side of the twenty-foot log.

The line is truly hung up on a stub of a root this side of the snag. I look up and over to the angler and suggest: "Well, all you can try is bailing line."

"You think it will work?"

"It'll work or I'll have to cut your line. You can't leave the salmon hung up on the snag like that."

He strips out thirty to fourty feet of backing and dumps it into the river. The current unrolls the line downstream from the sunken log in a long "U." As the current tugs at the line, the fly line PULLS OFF THE ROOT STUB. Probably a 1:100 chance...but it works.

The salmon feels the light tug from the current on the LONG line and bolts downstream. (OK, now we're running 1:1000).

Frantically, the angler spools up line, getting tight onto the reel just as the salmon starts to pull. The battle is back on.

Well rested after his five minute reprieve near the snag, the salmon does another three to four runs, several heart stopping leaps, then finally lets himself get muscled to the near side of the slick.

It takes me several minutes to explain how we can net this beast, then three or four attempts to get it right.

A quick handshake, some sincere congratulations, and I head back to the truck to finish getting my breakfast ready.

. . .

My long forgotten stranger has made it to the head of the line. He's still looking at me trying to remember why my face is familiar.

I extend my hand and get a firm handshake back. To his inquiring eyes I say: "June 23rd, 2001 ... a 21 lb male on a #12 Black Bear - Green Butt. I had the honour of netting your first ever salmon. I never did get to know your name though."

We do formal introductions this time.

It's a small world. What kind of lasting impressing will you leave on someone today? ~ 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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