Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Restigouche River Life Experience

The Restigouche River between Junction Pool(Kedgwick River)and the mouth of the Upsaquitch is one of the deepest secrets in the world of Salar. All private, very exclusive and for the most part extremely unavailable. Today however, there are a few camps that accept paying sports. Mostly these available times are shoulder dates, but if you try hard you can get some good quality time be it at a fairly substantial price.

Large, and I mean very large bright white salmon start to run the river in middle May. Many of these fish are headed straight to the headwaters. They are a special family of fish that are in every way as perfect as those of the Matapedia’s main tributary called Causapscal. Even some members of ‘The Club’ are now braving the elements at a time that was accustom to seeing only those hearty souls who fish the Kelts. This feast or famine early period is followed by a bit of a pause and then an increasing quantity of fish of all sizes will run from mid June through the weeks of July. So that forty pound white hot beauty is full well possible from mid May through the end of June.

I always believed the secrecy of the Restigouche was that the fishing was so prolific the rich and famous just didn't want to let us know about the rivers bounty. Maybe for fear the public will put extreme pressure on the great province of New Brunswick to open more of the water. Maybe because they just have no need to talk about it. In any case I played in the garden and fell in love.

Starting this past June 19, I had the great privilege to spend six days in "the zone". Our group of three released salmon every day. We were told the numbers of fish were way down and all the usual suspects were to blame. In the face of high water, a late season, nets and cool temperatures, we had some fair to good sport. They came in waves through out the day opening a window of anticipation that could last as little as ten minutes. We found takers in pods that we could get ahead of before they went by. The fish were on the move and were not resting for long periods of time. It reminded me of an October many years ago on the Nashawak River just on the edge of Fredericton, New Brunswick. We fished from the east bank of the Pig Farm Pool. This pool has a sharp bend that flows into a very long glide. Under the right conditions you could sit on the shore looking down river and when you saw them coming you made your casts. When they were past, you took a seat. And it was just that way fishing through the days of the Summer Solstice on the mystical Restigouche. We fished and watched the full moon rise over the waters and the feeling was that our time was passing far too quickly. This the longest lit day of 05’ was the turning point in a thirty six year life with Salar.

It took me until that moment in the week to realize that the true secret of this river of fingers is not only the magnificent fish. For sure pools like The Junction, Patamajaw, Pine Island and Home are some of the best fly water in North America. Put that together with all the splendor of some of the largest fish in North America and the package might seem complete. Yet there is something else that this mighty river offers. Something that relatively few anglers have felt. It is a higher power than mere fishing that the water, hills and sky whispers. Fishing is only one part of The Restigouche Life Experience. Without hesitation, I can tell you that this valley is one of the finest examples of river scenery and abundant wildlife I have ever seen. My experience is based on visits to public and private waters of over fifty rivers worldwide and includes some of the best pools on earth. I am certain the inner peace of this valley is what club membershave been so silent about. It is something more valuable than fish. It is serenity that I paid for.

A growing problem to a very private life.

The Restigouche Life Experience until recently was a very secluded and private adventure. The designation as a Canadian Heritage River seems to have opened the door of availability to many non fishing visitors. Although holding great similarities in the love of sky and water, this has become a substantial issue from the salmon anglers point of view. Over the last ten years, angling in seclusion is no longer a weekend sport. With no restriction of access, canoeing, kayaking and camping takes center stage each weekend, and encroaches increasingly throughout the week as the weather improves in July and August. The general public runs the river with as many as 300 boats that will pass through the hallowed pools on a Saturday or Sunday. The travelers we did see while fishing Sunday night through Friday, were courteous and respectful passing on the directed side. There was none of the excessive noise, oar banging or splashing that we feared. The jet boats and motor traffic is a far greater annoyance. Remember this was early season and the armada had not set sail. This inevitable future will change the angling environment forever. As more and more people realize the splendor of the Restigouche, and outfitting companies make access easier, the result will be less and less private time with the salmon.

If you are looking to catch fish alone, then the lower and upper Matapedia or Bonaventure in public sectors can be just as productive as the majority of the available water on the Restigouche. These and a number of other Canadian rivers in public, private and ZEC waters can offer you that 30 pound bullet you dream about. No need to spend such great sums for mere fishing. There are pools on other rivers that are just as wonderful and available through the November lotteries.

Then again, if your desire is to immerse yourself as I do in a magical playground, and you don’t mind sharing, then The Restigouche Life Experience might just be what you need. You will not be disappointed.

Looking forward, I hope my life will honor me with another trip to the River of White Light. A river that has taken hold of me and I pray will never let go.

Ask about the Restigouche River at