Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Forrest Life in Acadia
Chapter IX. Acadian Fish and Fishing

Salmo Fontinalis (Mitchell.)

The following description of this fish—and I believe the latest—appears in the “Transactions of the Nova Scotian Institute of Natural Science for 1866/’ and is due to Dr. J. Bernard Gilpin, M.D.—

“The trout, as usually seen in the lakes about Halifax, are in length from ten to eighteen inches, and weight from half a pound to two pounds, though these measurements are often exceeded or lessened. The outline of back,* starting from a rather round and blunt nose, rises gradually to the insertion of the dorsal fin, about two-thirds of the length of the head from the nose ; it then gradually declines to the adipose fin, and about a length and a half from that runs straight to form a strong base for the tail. The breadth of the tail is about equal to that of the head. Below, the outline runs nearly straight from the tail to the anal fin; from thence it falls rapidly, to form a line more or less convex (as the fish is in or out of season), and returns to the head. The inter-maxillary very short, the maxillary long with the free end sharp-pointed, the posterior end of the opercle is more angular than in the S. Salar, the lower jaw shorter than upper when closed, appearing longer when open. The eye large, about two diameters from tip of nose; nostrils double, nearer the snout than the eye. Of the fins, the dorsal has ten or eleven rays, not counting the rudimentary ones, in shape irregularly rhomboid, but the free edge rounded or curved outward: the adipose fin varies, some sickle-shaped with free end very long, others having it very straight and short. The caudal fin gently curved rather than cleft, but differing in individuals. Of the lower fins they all have the first ray very thick and flat, and always faced white with a black edge, the other rays more or less red. The head is blunt, and back rounded when looked down upon. The teeth are upon the inter-maxillary bone, maxillary bones, the palatine, and about nine on the tongue. There are none so-called vomerine teeth, though now and then we find one tooth behind the arch of the palate, where they are sometimes irregularly bunched together. The colour varies; but through all the variations there are forms of colour that, being always persistent, must be regarded as typical. There are always vermilion spots on the sides; there are always other spots, sometimes decided in outline, in others diffused into dapples, but always present. The caudal and dorsal fins are always spotted, and of the prevailing hue of the body. The lower fins have always broad white edges, lined with black and coloured with some modification of red. The chin and upper part of the belly are always white. With these permanent markings, the body colour varies from horn colour to greenish-grey, blue-grey, running into azure, black, and black with warm red on the lower parts, dark green with lower parts bright yellow; and, lastly, in the case of young fish, with vertical bands of dusky black. The spots are very bright and distinct when in high condition or spawning ; faint, diffused, and running into dapples when in poor condition. In the former case all the hues are most vivid, and heightened by profuse nacre.' In the other the spots are very pale yellowish-white, running on the back into vermicular lines. The iris m all is dark brown. I have seen the rose or red-coloured ones at all times of the year. The young of the first year are greenish horn colour, with brown vertical stripes and bright scarlet fins and tail, already showing the typical marks and spots, and also the vermilion specs. Fin rays D. 13, P. 13, Y. 8, A. 10 ; gill rays 12. Scales very small; the dorsal has two rudimentary rays, ten or eleven long ones, varying in different fish. Typical marks—axillary plate nearly obsolete, free end of maxillary sharp, bars in young, vermilion specs, both young and adult lower fins red with white and black edge.”

To the above description I would add that the numerous yellow spots which prevail in every specimen of S. Fontinalis vary from , bright golden to pale primrose, that the colour of the specs inclines more to carmine than vermilion, and that in bright, well-conditioned fish, the latter are surrounded by circlets of pale and purest azure.

It will thus be seen that the American brook trout is one of the most beautiful of fresh-water fishes. Just taken from his element and laid on the moist moss by the edge of the forest stream, a more captivating form can scarcely be imagined. His sides appear as if studded with gems. The brilliant brown eye and bronzy gill-covers reflect golden light; and the gradations of the dark green back, with its fantastic labyrinthine markings, to the soft yellow beneath, are marked by a central roseate tinge inclining to lavender or pale mauve.

This species abounds throughout the Northern States and British provinces, showing a great variety as to form and colour (both external and of the flesh) according to locality. In the swampy bog-hole the trout is black ; his flesh of a pale yellowish-white, flabby and insipid. In low-lying forest lakes margined by swamp, where from a rank soft bottom the water-lilies crop up and almost conceal the surface near the shores, he is the same coarse and spiritless fish. Worthless for the camp frying-pan, we leave him to the tender mercies of the mink, the eel, and the leech. The bright, bold trout of the large lakes, is a far different fish. His comparatively small and well-shaped head, followed by an arched, thick shoulder, depth of body, and brilliant colouring; the spirited dash with which he seizes his prey, and, finally, the bright salmon-pink hue of his delicate flesh, make him an object of attraction to both sportsman and epicure. Such fish we find in the clearest water, where the shores of the lake are fringed with granite boulders, with beaches of white sand, or disintegrated granite, where the rush and the water-weeds are only seen in little sheltered coves, where the face of the lake is dotted with rocky, bush-covered islands, and where there are great, cool depths to which he can retreat when sickened by the heat of the surface-water at midsummer.

Though more a lacustrine than a river fish, seldom attaining any size if confined to running water between the sea and impassable falls, the American trout is found to most perfection and in greatest number in lakes which communicate with the sea, and allow him to indulge in his well ascertained predilection for salt, or rather brackish tidal-water. A favourite spot is the debouchure of a lake, where the narrowing water gradually acquires velocity of current, and where the trout lie in skulls and give the greatest sport to the fly-fisher.

In a recent notice of S. Fontinalis from the pen of an observant sportsman and naturalist appearing in “Land and Water,” this fish is surmised to be a char. Its claim to be a member of the Salveline group is favoured by reference to its similar habits in visiting the tidal portions of rivers on the part of the char of Norway and Sweden, its similar deep red colouring on the belly, and general resemblance. I am quite of “Ubique’s” opinion touching this point, and think the common name of the American fish should be char. Indeed, I find the New York char is one of the names it already bears in- an American sporting work, though no comparison is made. Besides its sea-going propensities, its preferring dark, still waters, to gravelly shallow streams, and its resplendent colours when in season, a most important point of resemblance to the char would seem to be the minuteness of its scales.

The American trout spawns in October and November in shallow water, and on gravel, sand, or mud, according to the nature of the soil at the bottom of his domains.

In fishing for trout through the ice in winter to add to our camp fare, I have taken them at the “run in” to a large lake, the females full of spawn apparently ready to drop at the end of January, and all in firm condition. This would seem a curious delay of the spawning season : my Indian stated that trout spawn in early spring as well as in the fall. They congregate at the head of a lake in large numbers in winter, and readily take bait, a piece of pork, or a part of their own white throats, let down on a hook through the ice. In such localities they get a good livelihood by feeding on the caddis-worms which crawl plentifully over the rocks under water.


Before the ice is fairly off the lakes—and then a few days must be allowed for the ice-water to run off— there is no use in attempting to use the fly for trout fishing in rivers or runs, though eager disciples of Walton may succeed in hauling out a few ill-fed, sickly looking fish from spots of open water by diligently tempting with the worm at an earlier date. Indeed trout may be taken with bait through the ice throughout the winter, but they prove worthless in the eating. But after the warm rain storms of April have performed their mission, and the soft west wind has coursed over the surface of the water, then may the fisher proceed to the head of the forest lake and cast his flies over the eddying pool where the brook enters, and where the hungry trout, aroused to appetite, are congregated to seek for food.

“Now, when the first foul torrent of the brooks,
Swell’d with the vernal rains, is ebbed away,
And, whitening down their mossy-tinctur’d stream
Descends the billowy foam: now is the time,
While yet the dark-brown water aids the guile,
To tempt the trout.”

About the 10th of May in Nova Scotia, when warm hazy weather occurs with westerly wind, the trout in all the lakes and streams (an enumeration of which would be impossible from their extraordinary frequency of occurrence in this province) are in the best mood for taking the fly; and, moreover, full of the energy of new found life, which appears in these climates to influence such animals as have been dormant during the long winter, equally with the suddenly outbursting vegetation. A few days later, and the great annual feast of the trout commences—the feast of the May-fly. Emerging from their cases all round the shores, rocky shallows, and islands, the May-flies now cover the surface of the lakes in multitudes, and are constantly sucked in by the greedy trout, which leave their haunts, and disperse themselves over the lake in search of the alighting insects. Although the fish thus gorge themselves, and, for some days after the flies have disappeared, are quite apathetic, they derive much benefit in flesh and flavour therefrom. The abundance of fish would scarcely be credited till one sees the countless rises over the surface of the water constantly recurring during the prevalence of the May-fly. “It’s a steady boil of them,” says the ragged urchin with a long “troutin’-pole,” as he calls his weapon, in one hand, and a huge cork at the end of a string with a bunch of worms attached, in the other.

There is now no one more likely place than another for a cast. Still sport may be had with the artificial May-fly, especially in sheltered coves, where the fish resort when a strong wind blows the insects off the open water. Some anglers of the more patient type will take fish at this time on the lake by sitting on rocks, and gently flipping out a very fine line with minute hooks, to which the living May-fly is attached by means of a little adhesive fir balsam, as far as they can on the surface of the water, where they float till some passing fish rises and sucks in the bait. However the best sport is to be obtained on the lakes a few days after the “May-fly glut,” as it is termed, is over.

The May and stone flies of America, which make their appearance about the same time, much resemble the ephemeral representatives of their order found in the old country. The May-fly of the New World is, however, different to the green drake, being of a glossy black colour.

With the exception of these two insects, we have no .representatives of natural flies in our American fly-books. The scale is large and the style gaudy; and, if the bunch of bright feathers, which sometimes falls over the head of Salmo fontinalis, were so presented to the view of a shy English trout, I question whether he would ever rise to the surface again. Artificial flies are sold in most provincial towns in the Lower Provinces, and are much sought for by the rising generation, who, however, often scorn the store-rod, contenting themselves with a good pliable wattle cut in situ. It is surprising to see the bunches of trout the settlers' “sonnies" will bring home from some little lake, perhaps only known to themselves, which they may have discovered back in the woods when hunting up the cows; and the satisfaction with which the little ragged urchin will show you barefoot the way to your fishing grounds, skipping over the sharp granite rocks strewed in the path, and brushing through fir thickets with the greatest resolution, all to become possessed of a bunch of your flies and a small length of old gut.

The cast of flies best adapted for general use for trout-fishing in Nova Scotia consists of the red hackle or palmer, a bright bushy scarlet fly, with perhaps a bit of gold twist or tinsel further to enhance its charms, a brown palmer, and a yellow-bodied fly of wool with mallard wings. The latter wing on a body of claret wool with gold tinsel is also excellent. Many other and gaudier flies are made and sold to tempt the fish later on in the year : they are quite fanciful, and resemble nothing in nature. I cannot recommend the artificial minnow for use in this part of the world, though trout will take them. They are always catching on submerged rocks, and are very troublesome in many ways. The most successful minnow I ever used was one made on the spot by an Indian who was with me after moose—a common large trout-hook thickly bound round with white worsted, a piece of tinfoil covering the under part, and a good bunch of peacock’s herl inserted at the head, bound down along the back, and secured at the end of the shank, leaving a little projection to represent the tail. It was light as a feather, and could be thrown very accurately anywhere—a great advantage when you find yourself back in the woods and wish to pull a few trout for the camp frying-pan from out a little pond overhung with bushes. The fish took it most greedily.

The common trout is to be met with in every lake, or even pond, throughout the British Provinces. One cannot walk far through the depths of a forest district before hearing the gurgling of a rill of water amongst stones beneath the moss. Following the stream, one soon comes on a sparkling forest brook overhung by waving fern fronds, and little pools with a bottom of golden gravel. The trout is sure to be here, and on your approach darts under the shelter of the projecting roots of the mossy bank. A little further, and a winding lane of still water skirted by graceful maples and birches, leads to the open expanses of the lake, where the gloom of the heavy woods is exchanged for the clear daylight. This is the “run in,” in local phraseology, and here the lake trout resort as a favourite station at all times of the year. A basket of two or three dozen of these speckled beauties is your reward for having found your way to these wild but enchanting spots.

Though, as has been observed, the trout of America is more a lake than a river fish, yet the gently running water at the foot of a lake just before the toss and tumble of a rapid is reached is a favourite station for trout. Such spots are excellent for fly-fishing ; I have frequently taken five dozen fine fish in an hour, in the Liverpool, Tangier, and other noble rivers in Nova Scotia, from rapid water, weighing from one to three pounds.

Towards midsummer the fish begin to refuse fly or bait, retiring to deep pools under the shade of high rocks, sickened apparently by the warmth of the lake water. As, however, the woods, especially in the neighbourhood of water, are at this season infested with mosquitoes and black flies, a day’s “outing” by the lake or river side becomes anything but recreative, if not unbearable. The twinge of the almost invisible sand-fly adds, too, to our torments. In Nova Scotia the savage black-fly (Simulium molestum) disappears at the end of June, though in New Brunswick the piscator will find these wretches lively the whole summer. They attack everything of life moving in. the woods, being dislodged from every branch shaken by a passing object. No wonder the poor moose rush into the lakes, and so bury themselves in the water that their ears and head are alone seen above the surface. In Labrador the flies are yet worse, and travelling in the interior becomes all but impracticable during the summer.

In August the trout recover themselves under the cooling influence of the frosty atmosphere which now prevails at night, and will again take the fly readily, continuing to do so until quite late in the fall, and even in the spawning season.

(Salmo Canadensis (Hamilton Smith).

Closely approximating to the brook trout in shape and colouring—especially after having been some time in fresh water—the above named species has been pronounced distinct. They have so near a resemblance that until separated by the careful comparison of Dr. Gilpin, I always believed them to be the same fish, especially as the brook trout as aforesaid is known to frequent tidal waters at the head of estuaries. The following description of the sea trout is taken from Dr. Gilpin’s article on the Salmonidee before alluded to, and is the result of examination of several fish taken from fresh water, and in the harbour :—

“Of those from the tide-way, length from twelve to fourteen inches; deepest breadth, something more than one quarter from tip of nose'to insertion of tail. The outline rounds up rather suddenly from a small and arched head to insertion of dorsal; slopes quickly but gently to adipose fin; then runs straight to insertion of caudal; tail gently curved rather than cleft; lower line straight to anal, then falling rather rapidly to make a very convex line for belly, and ending at the gills. The body deeper and more compressed than in the brook trout. The dorsal is quadrangular; the free edge convex ; the lower fins having the first rays in each thicker and flatter than the brook trout. The adipose fin varies, some with very long and arched free end, in others small and straight. The specimen from the fresh water was very much longer and thinner, with head •proportionally larger. The colour of those from the tide-way was more or less dark greenish blue on back shading to ash blue and white below, lips edged with dusky. They all had faint cream-coloured spots, both above and below the lateral line. With one exception, they all had vermilion specs, but some only on one side, others two or three. In all, the head was greenish horn colour. The colour of the fins in pectoral, ventral, and anal, varied from pale white, bluish-white, to pale orange, with a dusky streak on different individuals. Dorsal dusky with faint spots, and caudal with dusky tips—on some a little orange wash. The lower fins had the first ray flat, and white edged with dusky. In the specimen taken on September the 10th from the fresh water, the blue and silver had disappeared, and dingy ash colour had spread down below the lateral line; the greenish horn colour had spread itself over the whole gills except the chin, which was white. The silvery reflections were all gone, tlie cream-coloured dapples were much more decided in colour and shape, and the vermilion specs very numerous. The caudal and all the lower fins had an orange wash, the dorsal dusky yellow with black spots, the lower fins retaining the white flat ray with a dusky edging, and the caudal a few spots. The teeth of all were upon the inter-maxillary, maxillaries, palatine, and the tongue; none on the vomer except now and then one tooth behind the arch of palate. Fin rays, D. 13, P. 13, V. 8, A. 10 ; gill rays 12. Axillary scale very small. Dorsal, with two rudimentary rays, ten or eleven long ones, free edge convex; first ray of lower fins flat, scales very small, but rather larger than those of brook trout.’’

Dr. Gilpin sums up as follows on the question of its identity with brook trout:—

“We must acknowledge it exceedingly closely allied to Fontinalis—that it has the teeth, shape of fins, axillary plate, tail, dapples, vermilion specs, spotted dorsal, alike; that when it runs to fresh water it changes its colour, and, in doing this, approximates to its red fin and dingy green with more numerous vermilion specs, still more closely. Whilst, on the other hand, we find it living apart from Fontinalis, pursuing its own laws, attaining a greater size, and returning year after year to the sea. The Fontinalis is often found unchanged under the same circumstances. The former fish always preserves its more arched head, deeper and more compressed body, and perhaps shorter fins. In giving it a specific name, therefore, and using the appropriate one given by Colonel Hamilton Smith—so far as I can discover the first de-scriber—I think I will be borne out by all naturalists.”

The size attained by this fish along the Atlantic coasts rarely exceeds five pounds : from one to three pounds is the weight of the generality of specimens. The favourite localities for sea trout are the numerous harbours with which the coasts of the maritime provinces (of Nova Scotia in particular) are frequently indented. First seen in the early spring, they affect these harbours throughout the summer, luxuriating on the rich food afforded on the sand flats, or amongst the kelp shoals. On the former localities the sand-hopper (Talitrus) seems to be their principal food; and they pursue the shoals of small fry which haunt the weeds, preying on the smelt (Osmerus) on its way to the brooks, and on the caplin (Mallotus) in the harbours of Newfoundland and Cape Breton. They will take an artificial fly either in the harbour or in fresh water.

When hooked by the fly-fisherman on their first entrance to the fresh water, they afford sport second only to that of salmon-fishing. No more beautiful fish ever reposed in an angler s basket. The gameness with which they prolong the contest—often flinging themselves salmon-like from the water—the flashing lights reflected from their sides as they struggle for life on removal of the fly from their lips, their graceful form, and colouring so exquisitely delicate—sides molten-silver with carmine spangles, and back of light mackerel-green —and, lastly, the delicious flavour of their flesh when brought to table, entitle the sea trout to a high consideration and place amongst the game-fish of the provinces.

In some harbours the trout remains all the summer months feeding on its favourite grounds, but in general it returns to its native fresh water at distinctly marked periods, and in large detachments. In the early spring, before the snow water has left the rivers, a few may be taken at the head of the tide—fresh fish from the salt water mixed with logies, or spent fish that have passed the winter, after spawning in the lakes, under the ice. The best run of fish occurs in June—the midsummer or strawberry run, as it is locally called—the season being indicated by the ripening of the wild strawberry. As with the salmon, there is a final ascent, probably of male fish, late in the fall. The spawning fish remain under the ice all winter in company with the salmon, returning to sea as spent fish with the kelts when the rivers are swelled by freshets from the melting snow.


A more delightful season to the sportsman than “strawberry time” on the banks of some fine river entering an Atlantic harbour and well known for its sea trout fishing, can hardly be imagined. With rivers and woods refreshed by recent rains, the former at a perfect state of water for fishing, and the river-side paths through the forest redolent with the aroma of the summer flora, and the delicious perfume of heated fir boughs, the angler’s camp is, or should be, a sylvan abode of perfect bliss. Or even better — for then we are free from the persistent attack of mosquito or black fly — is the cabin of a comfortable yacht, in which we shift from harbour to harbour, anchoring near .the mouth of the entering river. The flies and sea fog are only drawbacks to the pleasant holiday of a trouting cruise along shore. The former seldom venture from land (even on the forest lake they leave the canoe or raft at a few yards’ distance from the shore) and, if the west wind be propitious, the cold damp fog is driven away to the north-east, following the coast line, several miles out to sea.

Nothing can exceed the beauty of scenery in some of the Atlantic harbours of Nova Scotia; their innumerable islands and heavily-wooded shores fringed with the golden kelp, the wild undulating hills of maple rising in the background, the patches of meadow, and the neat little white shanties of the fishermen’s clearings, are the prettiest and most common details of such pictures, w^hich never fade from the memory of the lover of nature. How easily are recalled to remembrance the fresh clear summer mornings enjoyed on the water; the fir woods of the western shores bathed in the morning sunbeams, the perfect reflections of the islands and of the little fishing schooners, the wreaths of blue smoke rising from their cabin stoves, and rendered distinct by the dark fir woods behind, and the roar of the distant rapids, where the river joins the harbour, borne in cadence on the ear, mingled with the cheerful sounds of awakening life from the clearings. The bald-healed eagles (H. leucocephalus) sail majestically through the air, conspicuous when seen against the line of woods by their snow-white necks and tails. The graceful little tern (Sterna hirundo) is incessantly occupied, circling over the harbour, shrilly screaming, and ever and anon dashing down upon the water to clutch the small fry; whilst the common kingfisher, as abundant by the sea-shore as in the interior, thinking


all fish, salt or fresh water, that come to his net, equally good, shoots over the harbour with jerking flight, and uttering his wild rattling cry; now and then he makes an impetuous downward dash, completely burying himself beneath the surface in seizing his prey.

If there is a run of trout, and we wish to fish the river, we go to the sea-pools, which the fish enter with the rising tide, and where we may see their silvery sides flashing as they gambol in the eddies under the apparently delightful influence of the highly-aerated water of a large and rapid stream, or as they rush at the dancing deceit which we agitate over the surface of the pool. Here, in their first resting-place on their way up the river, they will always take the fly most readily; and with good tackle, a propitious day, and the by no means despicable aid of a smart hand with the landing-net, the mossy bank soon glitters with a dozen or two of these delicious fish.

Should they not be running, or shy of rising in the fresh water from some of the many unaccountable humours in which all game fish are apt to indulge, harbour fishing is our resource, and we betake ourselves to the edge of the sand flats where the fish, dispersed in all directions during high water, now congregate and lie under the weeds which fringe the edge of the tide channels. Half-tide is the best time, and the trout rush out from under the kelp at any gaudy fly, temptingly thrown towards the edge, with a wonderful dash, and may be commonly taken two at a time. The trout-beaches in Musquodoboit Harbour, lying off Big Island, of which an engraving is given, may be a pleasant remembrance to many who may read these lines.

A deserted clearing, with soft grassy banks positively reddened with wild strawberries, is a most tempting spot for a picnic, and we go ashore with pots and pans to bivouac on the sward. “ Boiled or fried, shall be the trout ? ” is the question ; we try both. Perhaps the former is the best way of cooking the delicate and salmon-flavoured sea trout (especially the larger fish), but in camp we generally patronise a fry, and this is our mode of proceeding. The fire must be bright and low, the logs burning without smoke or steam; the frying-pan is laid on with several thick slices of the best flavoured fat pork, and, when this is sufficiently melted and the pan crackling hot, we put in the trout, split and cleaned, and lay the slices of pork, now sufficiently bereft of their gravy, over them. A little artistic manoeuvring, so as to lubricate the rapidly browning sides of the fish, and 'they are turned so soon as the under surface shows of a light chestnut hue. Just before taking off, add the seasoning and a tablespoonful of Worcester. The tin plates are now held forth to receive the spluttering morsels canted from the pan, and we fall back on the couch of maple boughs to eat in the approved style of the ancients, whilst the fresh midday breeze from the Atlantic modifies the heat, and drives away to the shelter of the surrounding bushes the fisherman’s most uncompromising foes—the mosr quitoes and black flies.

In Nova Scotia the best localities for pursuing this attractive sport are the harbours to the eastward of Halifax—Musquodoboit, Tangier, Ship, Beaver, Liscomb, and Country harbours. In Cape Breton the beautiful Margarie is one of the most noted streams for sea trout, and its clear water and picturesque scenery, winding through intervale meadows dotted with groups of witch elm, and backed by wooded hills over a thousand feet in height, entitle it to pre-eminence amongst the rivers of the Gulf.

Prince Edward's Island affords some good sea-trout fishing, and, further north, the streams of the Bay of Chaleurs and of both shores of the St. Lawrence are so thronged with this fish, in its season, near the head of the tide, as seriously to impede the salmon fisher in his nobler pursuit, taking the salmon fly with a pertinacity against which it is useless to contend; nor is he free from their attacks until a cascade of sufficient dimensions has intervened between the haunts of the two fish.

(Salmo Salar.)

The Salmon of the Atlantic coasts of America not having been as yet specifically separated from the European fish, a scientific description is unnecessary, and we pass on to note the habits of this noble game fish of our provincial rivers.

From the once productive rivers of the United States —with the exception of an occasional fish taken in the Penobscot, or the Kennebec in Maine—the salmon has long since been driven, the last recorded capture in the Hudson being in the year 1840. Mr. Roosevelt, a well-known American sportsman and author, states that “the rivers flowing into Lake Ontario abounded with them, even until a recent period, but the persistent efforts at their extinction have at last prevailed ; and, except a few stragglers, they have ceased from out our waters.”

Cape Sable being, then, the south-easternmost point in the salmon's range, we first find him entering the rivers of the south coast of Nova Scotia very early in March, long before the snow has left the woods; thus disproving an assertion that he will not ascend a river till clear of snow water. At this time he meets the spent fish, or kelts, returning from their dreary residence under the ice in the lakes, and these gaunt, hungry fish may be taken with most annoying frequency by the angler for the new comers.

As a broad rule, with, however, some singular exceptions, the run of salmon now proceeds with tolerably progressive regularity along the coast to the eastward and northward, the bulk of the fish having ascended the Nova Scotian rivers by the middle of June. The exceptions referred to occur in the case of a large river on the eastern coast of Nova Scotia—the Saint Mary—and some of the tributaries of the Bay of Fundy, in which there is a run of fish in March, as on the south-eastern coast. This fact militates somewhat against the theory of the salmon migrating in winter to warmer waters to return in a body in early spring and ascend their native rivers, entering them progressively.

In the Bay of Chaleurs the season is somewhat more delayed ; the fish are not fairly in the fresh water before the middle of June, which is also the time for their ascending the rivers of Labrador.

At midsummer in Nova Scotia, and in the middle of July higher up in the gulf, the grilse make their appearance in fresh water in company with the sea trout. They are locally termed jumpers, and well deserve the title from their liveliness when hooked. With a light rod and fine tackle they afford excellent sport, and take a small bright, yellowish fly with great boldness.

The American salmon spawns very late in the fall, not before November, and for this purpose affects the same localities as his European congener—shallow waters running over beds of sand and gravel. The spawning grounds occur not only in the rivers, but around the large parent lakes, at the entrance of the little brooks that feed them from the forest, and where there are generally deltas formed of sand, gravel, and disintegrated granite washed down from the hills. The spent fish, as a general rule, though some return with the last freshets of the year, remain all winter under the ice (particularly if they have spawned in lakes far removed from the sea), returning in the following spring, when numbers of them are taken by the settlers fishing for trout with worm in pools where the runs enter the lakes. They are then as worthless and slink as if they had but just spawned. In May the young salmon, termed smolts, affect the brackish water at the mouth of rivers, and fall a prey to juvenile anglers in immense numbers—a practice most destructive to the fisheries, as these little fish would return the same season as grilse of three or four pounds weight. The salmon of the Nova Scotian rivers vary in weight from seven to thirty pounds, the latter weight being seldom attained, though a fair proportion of fish brought to market are over twenty pounds. Those taken in the St. Mary are a larger description of fish than the salmon of the southern coast. In the Bay of Chaleurs, in the Restigouche, salmon of forty and fifty pounds are still taken; in former years, sixty pounds and over was not an uncommon weight. The salmon of the Labrador rivers are not remarkable for size: the average weight of two hundred fish taken with the fly in the river St. John in July, 1863, was ten pounds, the largest being twenty-three; and the largest salmon ever taken by the rod on this coast weighed forty pounds.

The average weight of the grilse taken in Nova Scotia and the Gulf appears to be four pounds. Fish of seven or eight pounds which I have taken in American rivers are, to my thinking, salmon of another years growth, and present an appreciable difference of form to the slim and graceful grilt. In the latter - part of November, the time when the salmon in the fresh water are in the act of spawning, a run of fish occurs along the coast of Nova Scotia. They are taken at sea by nets off the headlands, and are, as affirmed by the fishermen, proceeding to the southward. Brought* to market, they are found to be nearly all females, in prime condition, with the ova very small and in an undeveloped state, similar to that contained in a fish on its first entrance into fresh water. Where can these salmon be going at the time when the rest of their species are busily engaged in reproduction ? Another of the many mysteries attached to the natural history of this noble fish ! In fresh running water the salmon takes the artificial fly or minnow, whether from hunger or offence it does not clearly appear; in salt water he is not unfrequently taken on the coast of Nova Scotia by bait-fishing at some distance from shore, and in sixty or seventy fathoms water. The caplin, smelt, and sand-eel, contribute to his food.

Dr. Gilpin, of Nova Scotia, speaking of many instances of marvellous captures of salmon, tells the following authentic story; the occurrence happened in his own time and neighbourhood—Annapolis :—

“Mr. Baillie, grandson of the ‘Old Frontier Missionary' was fishing the General’s Bridge river up stream for trout, standing above his knees in water, with an old negro named Peter Prince at his elbow. In the very act of casting a trout fly he saw, as is very usual for them, a large salmon lingering in a deep hole a few yards from him. The sun favoured him, throwing his shadow behind. To remain motionless, to pull out a spare hook and penknife, and with a bit of his old hat and some of the grey old negro’s wool to make a salmon fly then and there, he and the negro standing in the running stream like statues, and presently to land a fine salmon, was the work of but a few moments. This fly must have been the original of Norris’s killing £ silver grey.’”


Rivers and streams of varying dimensions, but nearly all accessible to salmon, succeed each other with wonderful frequency throughout the whole Atlantic Sea-board of Nova Scotia. In former years, when they were all open to the ascent of migratory fish, the amount of piscine wealth represented by them was incalculable. The salmon literally swarmed along the coast. Their only enemy was the spear of the native Indian; and the earlier annals of the province show the prevalence of a custom with, regard to the hiring of labourers similar to that once existing in some parts of England—a stipulation that not more than a certain proportion of salmon should enter into their diet. Now, the salmon having passed the ordeal of bag-nets, with which the shores of the long harbours are studded, and arrived in the fresh water, vainly loiters in the pool below the monstrous wooden structure called a mill-dam, which effectively debars his progress to his ancestors’ domains in the parent lakes, and before long falls a prey to the spear or scoop-net of the miller. FronjL wretchedly inefficient legislation the salmon of Nova Scotia is on the verge of extinction, with the gaspereaux and other migratory fish, which once rendered the immense extent of fresh water of .this country a source of wealth to the province and of incalculable benefit to the poor settler of the backwoods, whose barrels of pickled fish were his great stand-by for winter consumption.

One of the noblest streams of the Nova Scotian coast is the Liverpool river, in Queen’s County, which connects with the largest sheet of fresh water in the province, Lake Eossignol, whence streams and brooks innumerable extend in all directions through the wild interior, nearly crossing to the Bay of Fundy. All these once fruitful waters are now a barren waste. The salmon and gaspereaux are debarred from ascent at the head of the tide, where a series of utterly impracticable mill-dams oppose their progress to their spawning-grounds. A pitiful half dozen barrels of salmon taken at the' mouth is now shown against a former yearly take of two thousand.

A few miles to the eastward we come to the Port Medway river, nearly as large as the preceding, which, not being so completely closed against the salmon, still affords good sport in the beginning of the season, in April and May. This is the furthest river westwardly from the capital of the province—Halifax—to which the attention of the fly-fisher is directed. There are some excellent pools near the sea, and at its outlet from the lakes, twenty miles above. The fish are large, and have been taken with the fly in the latter part of March. The logs going down the stream are, however, a great hindrance to fishing.

Proceeding to the eastward, the next noticeable salmon river is the La Have, the scenery on which is of the most picturesque description. There are some excellent pools below the first falls. The run of fish is rather later than at Port Medway, or at Gold River, which is further east. On the 4th of May, when excellent sport was being obtained in these waters, I have found no salmon running in the La Have. About the 10th of May appears to be the beginning of its season.

We next come to Mahone Bay, an expansive indentation of the coast, studded with islands, noted for its charms of scenery, and likewise commendable to the visitor in search of salmon-fishing. About six miles west of the little town of Chester, which stands at its head, is the mouth of Gold River. Until very recently this was the favourite resort of sportsmen on the western shore. Its well-defined pools and easy stands for casting added to its inducements; and a throng of fish ascended it from the middle of April to the same time in May. The increase of sporting propensities amongst the rising generation of the neighbouring villages proves of late years a great drawback to the chances of the visitor. The pools are continually occupied by clumsy and undiscerning loafers, who infest the river to the detriment of sport, and do not scruple to come alongside and literally throw across your line. Though dear old Isaac might not possibly object to rival floats a yard apart, another salmon-fly careering in the same pool is not to be endured, and of course spoils sport. Still, however, without such interruptions, fair fishing may be obtained here, and a dozen fish of ten to twenty pounds taken by a rod on a good day. Excessive netting in the salt water is, however, fast destroying all prospects of sport here as elsewhere.

There are two fair sized salmon rivers entering the next harbour, Margaret’s Bay, which, being the nearest to the capital of the province, are over-fished. With the exception of a pretty little stream, called the Nine-mile River, which is recovering itself under the protection of the Game and Fish Preservation Society, these conclude the list of the western-shore rivers of Nova Scotia.

The fishing along this shore is quite easy of access by the mail-coach from Halifax, which jolts somewhat roughly three times a week over the rocks and fir-pole bridges of the shore-road through pretty scenery, frequently emerging from the woods, and skirting the bright dancing waters of Margaret’s Bay and Chester Basin. The woodland part of a journey in Nova Scotia is dreary enough; the dense thickets of firs on either side being only enlivened by an occasional clearing with its melancholy tenement and crazy wooden out-buildings, and by the tall unbarked spruce-poles stuck in a swamp or held up by piles of rocks at their base, supporting the single wire along which messages are conveyed through the province touching the latest prices afloat of mackerel, cod-fish, or salt, on the magnetic system of Morse.

Indian guides to the pools, who are adepts at camp-keeping, canoeing, and gaffing the fish for you, as well as at doing a little stroke of business for themselves, when opportunities occur, with the forbidden and murderous spear, reside at the mouths of most of these rivers. Their usual charge, as for hunting in the woods, is a dollar per diem.

The flies for the western rivers of Nova Scotia are of a larger make than those used in New Brunswick and Canada, owing to the turbidity of the water at the season when the best fishing is to be obtained. They may be procured in several stores in Halifax, where one Connell ties them in a superior style, and will forward them to order anywhere in the provinces or in Canada. A claret-bodied (pig’s wool or mohair) with a dark mixed wing is good for the La Have. Green and grey are good colours for Gold River. With the grey body silver tinsel should be used, and wood-duck introduced into the wing. An olive body is also good. There is no feather that sets off a wing better than wood-duck. It is in my estimation more tempting to fish than the golden pheasant tippet feather. Its broad bars of rich velvety black and purest white give a peculiarly attractive and soft moth-like appearance to the wing.

The harbour of Halifax, nearly twelve miles in length, has but one stream, and that of inconsiderable dimensions, emptying into it. The little Sackville river was, however, once a stream affording capital sport at Midsummer, its season being announced, as the old fisherman who lived on it and by it, generally known as “Old Hopewell,” told me, by the arrival of the fireflies. He has taken nineteen salmon, of from eight to eighteen pounds weight, in one morning with the fly. It offers no sport to speak of now; the saw mills and their obstructive dams have quite cut off the fish from their spawning grounds.

To the eastward, between Halifax and Cape Canseau, occurs a succession of fine rivers, running through the most extensive forest district in the province. The salmon rivers of note are the Musquodoboit, Tangier river, the Sheet Harbour rivers, and the St. Mary's. There are no important settlements on the sea-coast, which is very wild and rugged to the east of Halifax, and consequently they are less looked after and more poached. Formerly they teemed with salmon. Besides the mill-dams, they are netted right across, and the pools are swept and torched without mercy by settlers and Indians. The St. Mary’s is the noblest and most beautiful river in Nova Scotia, and its salmon are the largest. The nets overlap one another from either shore throughout the long reaches of intervale and wild meadow, dotted with groups of elm, which constitute its noted scenic charms, and the lumbermen vie with the Indians in skill in their nightly spearing expeditions by the light of blazing birch-bark torches.

There are many other fine rivers besides those mentioned discharging into the Atlantic, which the salmon has long ceased to frequent, being completely shut out, and which would swell the dreary record of the ruin of the inland fisheries of Nova Scotia. In these waters, at a distance from the capital, “Halifax law,” as the settlers will tell you, is “no account’ The spirit of wanton extermination is rife ; and, as it has been well remarked, it really seems as though the man would be loudly applauded who was discovered to have killed the last salmon.

Salmon are abundant in the Bay of Fundy, which washes a large portion of Nova Scotia, but its rivers are generally ill adapted for sport. Running through flat alluvial lands, and turbid with the red mud, or rather, fine sand, of the Bay shores, they are generally characterised by an absence of good stands and salmon pools. The Annapolis river was once famous for salmon fishing. On its tributary, the Nictaux, twenty or thirty might be taken with the fly in an afternoon ; and the Gaspereau, a very picturesque stream entering the Basin of Minas at Grand Pre, the once happy valley of the French Acadians, still affords fair sport.

We will now turn to the rivers of the Gulf which enter it from the mainland on the shores of New Brunswick, Lower Canada, and Labrador, commencing with those of the former province.

Proceeding along the eastern shore of New Brunswick from its junction with Nova Scotia, we pass several fine streams with picturesque scenery and strange Indian names, which, once teeming with fish, now scarcely afford the resident settler an annual taste of the flesh of salmon. The Miramichi, however, arrests our attention as being a noble river; its yield and exportation of salmon is still very large. Winding sluggishly through a beautiful and highly cultivated valley for nearly one hundred miles from tlie Atlantic, tlie first rapids and pools where fly-fishing may be practised occur in the vicinity of Boiestown; here the sport afforded, in a good season, is little inferior to that which may be obtained on the Nepisiguit. One of its branches, also, the north-west Miramichi, is worth a visit; and I have known some excellent sport obtained on it in passing through to the Nepisiguit, from which river the water communication for a canoe is interrupted but by a short portage through the forest. .

It is, however, on entering the southern expanses of the beautiful Bay of Chaleurs that we first find the paradise of the salmon-fisher; and here still, despite of many foes—innumerable stake-nets which debar his entrance, the sweeping seine in the fresh water, the torch and spear of the Indian tribes, and lastly, and perhaps the least destructive agent, the tackle of the fly-fisher-man—the bright foamy waters of the Nepisiguit, the Restigouche, the Metapediac, and many others, repay the visitor and sportsman, whence or how far soever he may have come, by the sport which they afford, and by the wild scenery which surrounds their long course through the forests of New Brunswick.

And, first, of the Nepisiguit. This now famous river, which of late years has attracted from their homes many visitors, both English and American, to spend a few weeks in fishing and pleasantly camping-out on its banks, discharges its waters into the Baie des Chaleurs at Bathurst, a small neat town, easily accessible from either Halifax, St. John, or Quebec, and by various modes of conveyance—coach, rail, and steamboat. Rising in the centre of northern New Brunswick, in an elevated lake region which gives birth to the Tobique and Upsal-quitch, rivers of about equal size, the Nepisiguit has an eastward course of nearly one hundred miles through a wilderness country, where not even a solitary Indian camp may be met with. It is one of the wildest of American rivers; sometimes contracted between cliffs to the breadth of a few yards, coursing sullenly and darkly below overhanging forests, and sometimes, though rarely, expanding into broad reaches of smoothly-gliding water—its most common feature is the ever-recurring cascade and rapid.

The adventurous fisherman will do well to supplement his sport on the river by embarking on a long journey through the solitudes of the interior to its parent lakes. A short portage of a couple of miles, and the canoe floats on the Tobique lakes, and thence descends the Tobique through another hundred miles of the wildest and most beautiful scenery imaginable. At the junction of this latter river with the broad expanse of the upper St. John, civilisation reappears; the traveller changes his conveyance for the steamer or coach, and the frail canoe returns, with her hardy and skilful sons of the river, to battle with the rocks and rapids of the toilsome route.

The whole of this tour is, however, fraught with interest to the sportsman and lover of wild scenery. Moose, cariboo, and bear are invariably met with; the two former being generally seen bathing in the water in the evenings, whilst a visit from a bear at night is by no means an uncommon occurrence at some camp or another on the way; or, perchance, Bruin may be surprised when gorging in the early morning, breakfasting amongst the great thickets of wild raspberries which abound on the banks. A little search, up the tributary brooks will discover the wonderful works of beaver now in progress; and other frequenters of the river, mink, otters, and musquash, are plentiful, and frequently to be seen. In July and August the young flappers of many species of duck form an agreeable change in the daily bill of fare ; and though salmon do not ascend the Nepisiguit beyond the Grand Falls, twenty-one miles from Bathurst, they may be taken at the head waters of the Tobique; whilst river trout of large size, and affording excellent sport, will greedily rise at an almost bare hook throughout the whole extent of water.

Reclining in the bottom of the canoe, the position of the traveller is most comfortable, and he may make notes or sketches, as fancy leads him, with ease; indeed, from the facility with which all necessaries and even luxuries may be conveyed, but little hardship need be anticipated in a canoe voyage through the rivers of northern New Brunswick.

The length of the journey just described much depends on the state of the water and the number of the party. With good water a canoe will get through with two sportsmen, two canoe men, and all their goods —camps, blankets, and provisions—in ten or twelve days; but should the rivers be low, two canoes must be employed by the same number. A few years since I took a still more northern route to the upper St. John, vid the Restigouche and Grand River; the head-waters were so shallow that we literally had to drag our canoe, fixed on long protecting slabs of cedar, for some days over the rocky bed; we were, moreover, nearly starved, and occupied nearly three weeks in reaching Fredericton on the St. John, down whose broad, deep stream, however, we paddled at the rate of fifty miles a day.

The scenery on this line of water-communication with the St. John, is grander, but not so wild as on the former route, which I recommend as possessing many advantages, particularly in the way of sport.

Mais revenons d nos saumons—to describe the capabilities of the Nepisiguit to afford sport to the salmon-fisher, and direct the visitor. The ascent of salmon in this river is restricted to twenty-one miles of water by an insuperable barrier—the Grand Falls ; but from the head of the tide, two miles above the town, to this point, are a succession of beautiful pools with every variety of water, so stocked with fish, and with such picturesque surrounding scenery, that the eye of the sportsman who may happily combine the love of nature with the lust of sport drinks in constant and ever-varying delight as he is introduced to these bewitching spots. And now of the pools seriatim.

Two miles above Bathurst we come to the “Rough Waters,5’ where there is good fishing. No camp is needed here ; for it is so near the accommodation of a comfortable hotel, that I question whether any one would care to experiment, except for novelty. It is a pretty spot, and the dark water here and there breaks into pure white foam as it passes over a ledge which crosses the channel from the steep red sandstone cliffs opposite. A short distance above are the “Round Rocks,” with little falls and intervening pools, where the river begins to show its true character; and here, as at the last-mentioned spot, a good day’s fishing may be obtained from the town. But one is now-a-days liable to interference, however, for of late years the little ragged urchins from the Acadian settlement on the south shore have imbibed a strong love of sport in addition to their hereditary poaching propensities, and with a rough pole, a few yards of coarse line, and a bait in appearance anything but a salmon fly, they will hook some dozen or more salmon in a day when they are running freely, of course losing nearly every fish.

Distant eight miles from Bathurst, and accessible by a fair waggon road, are the Pabineau Falls, one of the choicest fishing stations on the river. The scenery here is most beautiful; the forest has now claimed the banks, and, as the. stranger emerges from its shade, and stands on the broad, smooth expanses of light grey and pink rocks which slope from him towards the brink of the stream, viewing its clear grass-green waters rolling in such fierce undulations over long descents, and thundering, enveloped in mist, through various contracted passes into boiling pools, with congregated masses of foam ever circling over their black depths, he becomes impressed with the idea of irresistible power, and is constrained to acknowledge that he stands in the presence of no ordinary stream, but of a mighty river.

I have here stood by the margin of the water, where hundreds of tons momentarily rushed past my feet in a compact mass, and watched the bright gleam of the salmon' as they would dart up from below like arrows to encounter the fall; a slight pause as they near the head; another convulsive effort, and they are safely over; but many fall back, at present unequal for the contest, into the dark pool.

There are several well-built bark shanties on the rocks above the falls, for the fine scenery, and the ease with which the numerous pools in the neighbourhood of the Pabineau can be fished, have made this a favourite haunt for anglers.


Two miles above are the Beeterbox Pools, where there is some swift, deep water at a curve in the river, and at the foot of a long reach of rapids. It is a very good station to fish, en passant, but not of sufficient extent to induce more than an occasional visit.

“Mid-landing” is the next spot where good sport may be obtained, particularly at the end of July, when the river becomes low. The great depths of water here, shaded by high rocks, induce large fish to remain long in these cool retreats. Very small, dark flies, and the most transparent gut must be used; and with these precautions, when other pools have been failing in a dry season, I have taken half a dozen salmon a day from the deep waters of Mid-landing, and from the long, rough rapid which runs into the pool.

Three miles above are the “Chains of ^Rocks,” the great and the little. A camp below the last fall of the lower chain will command all the pools. This range of pools contains an abundance of fish. Below the fall is a long expanse of smooth water, at the head of which salmon congregate in great numbers preparatory to ascending the rough water above ; they lie in several deep, eddying pools, where projecting ledges narrow the channel, and may be seen flinging themselves out of water throughout the day. Above this long series of cascades which fall over terraces of dark rocks, for nearly half a mile, there is some evenly-gliding water, in which fish may be taken from stands on the left bank. Here, and at the little chain just above, is my favourite resort at this part of the river; there is excellent camping-ground in the tall fir-woods on the north shore, and bold jutting rocks command the pools admirably.

Between this spot and the Basin, two miles above, there are but few spots where the fly may be cast profitably ; and, taking the bush-path which skirts the river, we may now shoulder our rods, and trudge up to the Grand Falls, our canoes following, spurting through the rapid water in long strides as they are impelled by the vigorous thrusts of the long iron-shod fir-poles. The Basin is a broad and deep expansion of the river, and a reservoir where the salmon congregate in multitudes, ultimately spawning at the entrance of numerous gravelly brooks which flow into it from the surrounding forest, and daily making sorties to the Falls, a mile above, to enjoy the cool water which flows thence to the lake between tall, overhanging cliffs, sometimes completely shaded from the sunlight save during a very limited portion of the day.

In this mile of deep swift water, which winds in a dark thread from the Basin to the foot of the falls between lofty walls of slate rock, salmon lie during the day in thousands; there are certain spots which they prefer, found by experience to be the best pools, where the splash of the fish and the voice of the angler awaken echoes from the cliffs throughout the season. Fine fishing, and fine tackle for these—aye, and a good temper, too—for it is the most favoured resort for rods, and we may often be compelled to cease awhile from our sport, whilst a canoe (here the only mode of conveyance from pool to pool) with its scarlet-shirted paddlers, creeps through the water by the opposite shore.

There are but one or two places in the cliffs here where a camp may be pitched, and, if these are occupied, we must drop down-stream again to some less-frequented locality. The best of these is a green sloping bank, over which a cool brook courses between copses of hazel and alder into the river below. It is a charming situation, and from a grassy plateau overhanging the river, where the camps are usually placed, we may look down into a clear pool, some seventy feet below, and watch the salmon which occupy it, dressed in distinct ranks.

The Grand Falls are rather more than 100 feet in height. The river, here greatly contracted, descends into a deep boiling pool, first by a succession of headlong tumbles, and then in a compact and perpendicular fall of forty feet. The first fishing pool is just below the eddying basin at the foot of the fall, which is seldom entered by the canoe men, as currents both of air and water sweep round it towards the pitch; besides, the fish here are so engaged in battling with the heaving water, in their vain attempts to surmount the falls, that they will not regard the fly.

All this portion of the Nepisiguit must be fished from a canoe, excepting a few rocky stands, where almost every cast is made at the risk of the hook snapping against the cliffs behind; and this leads us to say a few words on the canoe men of the river. They are a hardy and generally intelligent race of Acadian-French, apparently a good deal crossed with Indian blood, exceedingly skilful in managing their bark canoes, and in getting fish for the sportsman; they have great experience in the requirements of a camp in the woods, and are, withal, very merry, companionable fellows. For a fishing camp anywhere above the Pabineau, a canoe and three men (one to act as cook and camp-keeper), are indispensable; and on arriving at Bathurst, the services of any of the following men of good character should be secured : The Chamberlains, the Yineaus, David Buchet? Joe Young, and others; Baldwin, the landlord of the little hotel, knows them all well. Their wages are a dollar a day for the canoe men ; the cook may be hired for half a dollar, but he will grumble, and most likely succeed in getting three shillings. If a voyage through to the St. John, vid the Nictaux and Tobique lakes, be contemplated, selection should be made of those men who have taken parties through before. All provisions necessary for a sojourn on the river—everything, from an excellent ham to a tin of the best chocolate—are to be had at the store of Messrs. Ferguson, Rankin, and Co., in Bathurst, obliging people, very moderate and liberal; they will deduct for all the cooking utensils, supplied by them, which may be returned on coming down the river.

Notwithstanding the immense destruction of fish in the Nepisiguit in every possible way—netting and torching in fresh water, whenever the nature of the stream allows of such proceedings, wholesale sweeping and spearing on their spawning beds by tribes of Indians, even into the month of November, when they are quite black and slimy, extensive netting at its mouth, and the number taken by fiy-fishers—even yet the river swarms with salmon; a favourable condition of the water and the command of a few pools will insure good sport. The fish are not very large, as in the more northern rivers of the bay; the average of the weights, of seventy salmon killed by one rod at the Grand Falls a few seasons since, was 11lb. 8oz.; and of thirty grilse, 41b. The fish commence running up in June, but, from the height of the water, there is rarely good fishing before July; the 10th is about the best time, and by that time they have gone up as high as the Grand Falls. The flies for the Nepisiguit should be small and neat, and of three sizes to each pattern, for different states of water. As mistakes are often made from the different mode of numbering by different makers, it will be sufficient to say that the length of the medium fly should be 1-fin. from the point of the shank to the extreme bend, measuring diagonally across. The patterns should be generally dark, and all mixed wings should be as modest as possible; no gaudy contrasts of colour, as used in Norway or Scotland, will do here. A dark fly, tied as follows, is a great favourite: body of black mohair, ribbed with fine gold thread, black hackle, very dark mallard wing, a narrow tip of orange silk, and a very small feather from the crest of golden pheasant for a tail. Then I like a rich claret body with dark mixed wing and tail, claret hackle, and a few fibres of English jay in the shoulder. Small grey-bodied flies ribbed with silver, grey legs, and wing mixed with wood-duck and golden pheasant, will do well. Many other and brighter flies may be used in the rough water, and a primrose body, with black head and tip, and butterfly wing of golden pheasant, will prove very tempting to grilse, which, late in July, may be taken in any number in many parts of the river, particularly at the Pabineau and Chain of Rocks. These flies will do anywhere in New Brunswick.

At the head of the Bay of Chaleurs, and about fifty miles from Bathurst, we come to the Restigouche, one of the largest rivers of British North America, 220 miles in length, and formerly teeming with salmon from the sea to its upper waters. So abundant were the fish some twenty-five years ago, that Mr. Perley, Her Majesty's Commissioner for the Fisheries, states that 3000 barrels were shipped annually from this river, and in those days salmon of 60lb. weight were not uncommon. Of late years there has been a sad falling-off, and instead of eleven salmon going to a barrel of 200lb., more than twice the number must now be used. Unfortunately for the preservation of the fish, and the prospects of the fly-fisher, the character of this beautiful river is very different to that of the Nepisiguit. For 100 miles the Restigouche runs in a narrow valley between wooded mountains with an almost unvarying rapid current, with but few deep pools and no falls. Hence the chances of rod-fishing are greatly diminished, whilst settlers and Indians torch and spear everywhere. The channel is much used by the lumberers for the water-conveyance of provisions to the gangs employed in the woods at its head-waters—scows {i.e., large flat-bottomed barges) being employed, drawn by teams of horses which find a natural tow-path in its shingly beaches by the edge of the forest. High up the river there are many rifts and sand-beaches, partly exposed in a dry season, through which the channel winds ; and the scow is often dragged through shallow places, thus ploughing up the spawning grounds of the salmon.

A few years since, after a fortnight’s fishing on the Nepisiguit, during which my companion and myself took eighty salmon, notwithstanding an unprecedented drought, we visited the Restigouche, more for the sake of enjoying its fine scenery than expecting sport. Staying for a day, however, at the house of a hospitable farmer who dwelt by the river-side, at the junction of the Matapediac with the main stream, I had the pleasure of hooking the first salmon ever taken with a fly in the Restigouche water, a fine clean fish of twelve pounds. In an hour’s fishing I had taken three salmon, each differently shaped, and at once pronounced by my host to be frequenters of three separate rivers which here unite—the two already mentioned and the Upsal-quitch.

The Matapediac has a course of sixty miles from a large lake in Rimouski, Lower Canada, and the Upsal-quitch runs in on the New Brunswick side. They are both fine rivers, and ascended by salmon in large numbers; the latter is stated to be very like the Nepisiguit in character—full of falls and rapids, and I believe it would afford equal sport. It looked most tempting as we passed its mouth on our long canoe voyage up the main river, but we had not time to stay and test its capabilities. About sixty miles from the sea we discovered a salmon pool in the Restigouche, and took eight small fish from it in an afternoon ; but such pools are few and far between, and I would not recommend any one to ascend this river for sport above the Upsalquitch. The flies we used here were dark clarets and reds; I believe any fly will take, recommending, however, larger sizes than the Nepisiguit flies, as the Restigouche salmon run much larger, and even in these days commonly weigh thirty pounds.

Campbelltown, a neat little village at the head of the tide, twenty miles from the sea, is to be reached from Bathurst by coach; and here the traveller or sportsman intending to ascend the Restigouche or its before-mentioned tributaries, will find a large settlement of Indians of the Micmac tribe. They all have canoes, and many of them are good guides, and trustworthy. There is a good store at which to purchase provisions, and a very comfortable little hotel kept by a Mr. M‘Leod.

We now leave the rivers of New Brunswick: the Restigouche being the dividing line between the two provinces, the rivers of the north shore of Chaleurs Bay are Canadian. About thirty miles from the head of the bay we come to the Cascapediac, a large river running in a deep chasm through the mountains of Bonaventure. It is frequented by salmon of large size, and I have been told by Mr. R. EL Montgomery, who resides near its mouth, that the average weight is between thirty and forty pounds. He offered to procure me good Indians and canoes for ascending to the first rapids, which are some distance up the river. The whole district of Gaspe is intersected by numerous and splendid rivers, abounding in salmon and sea trout, the latter of four pounds to seven pounds in weight. The mountain scenery through which they flow is magnificent, and many of them have never been thrown over with a fly rod. Amongst the largest may be noticed the Bonaventure, the Malbaie, and the Magdeleine.

On the south shore of the St. Lawrence, from Gaspd to Quebec, these are several streams which formerly abounded in salmon, but of late years have been so unproductive that attention need not be directed to them. From the Jacques Cartier, a few miles above Quebec, to the Labrador, the north shore of the St. Lawrence is intersected by innumerable rivers ; in many of these the salmon fishery has been nearly destroyed, but the energy of the Canadian Government is fast remedying the evil. The process of reproduction by artificial propagation under an able superintendent, and the preservation of the rivers, are bringing back the salmon to comparative plenty in many a worn-out stream; and the visitor to Quebec will soon be enabled to obtain sport on the beautiful Jacques Cartier and other rivers in the neighbourhood, without having to seek the distant fishing stations of the Labrador. The Saguenay, too, with its thirty tributaries, is improving; for many years past this noble river has scarcely proved worth a visit, except for its wonderful scenery. In fact, the legislature, aided by an excellently constituted club for the protection of fish and game, have taken the matter up in earnest; fish-ways are placed on those rivers which have dams or slides upon them; netting and spearing in the fresh water is prevented; an able superintendent of fisheries, and several overseers, have been appointed ; and, finally, an excellent measure has been adopted—the annual leasing of salmon rivers to gentlemen for fly-fishing, for small rents—on condition of their aiding and carrying out the proper preservation of the fisheries.

Amongst the largest and most notable salmon rivers which are passed in proceeding from the Saguenay along the northern shore are the Escoumins, Portneuf, Bersia-mits, Outardes, Manacouagan, Godbout, Trinity, St. Margaret, Moisie, St. John, Mingan, Natashquan, and Esquimaux. Salmon ascend all these rivers, and take the fly readily. Whether they will rise in the rivers of the north-eastern coast, past the straits of Belle-Isle, remains to be proved. It has been affirmed that they will not do so in the Labrador rivers of high northern latitude, thus evincing the same peculiarity which has been observed on the part of the true sea salmon of Siberian rivers flowing into the Arctic Ocean. I have heard, however, that they will rise at a piece of red cloth trailed on a hook over the water from the stem of a boat.

In conclusion, the salmon rivers of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, though they offer no extraordinary sport, possess the charms of wild and often noble scenery; life in the woods, in a summer camp, will agreeably surprise those who hold back for fear of hard work, and the discomforts of “ roughing it.” Any point, excepting the extremes of Labrador, may be reached with ease from either Quebec or Halifax ; whilst the economy which may be practised by a party of two or three, will be found to be within the means of most sportsmen. At the termination of the fishing season a few weeks may be spent in tourising through the Canadas or the States; and in the nionth of September the glowing forests of Nova Scotia or New Brunswick may be traversed in search of moose, cariboo, or bear. Between the Ottawa and the great lakes there is excellent duck-shooting, and the woods abound in deer (Cervus Yirginianus), whilst the vast expanses of wilderness in Newfoundland teem with cariboo, ptarmigan, and wild fowl; the former so abundant as sometimes to tempt the sportsman (?) to kill more than


he can carry away or dispose of, leaving the meat rotting in the woods. To all such, Avaunt! say we ; wholesale and thoughtless slaughter, except on the fiercer species —the natural enemies of man—is always to be deprecated; but the true sportsman we confidently invite to the forests and rivers of British North America, believing that his example in carrying out the fair English principles of sport, will tend much to the preservation of game.

S. Gloverii (Girard.)

My first acquaintance with this handsome salmonoid began many years since, when I would take basketsfull in the month of April in the runs connecting the upper lakes of the Shubenacadie river in Nova Scotia. At first I took them to be young salmon, both from their jumping propensities when hooked and the resemblance they bore to the parr on scraping away the scales from the sides. Yet their rich olive black backs and beautiful bronze spots on the head and gill covers made them appear dissimilar, and I could no longer doubt them distinct from salmon, when I had succeeded in taking them of one, two, and three pounds weight, and still spotted, in the early summer, quite dissimilar in colour from grilse, and far exceeding the size of smolts, which the smaller individuals somewhat resembled. Finding out their haunts, and seasons for changing their abode, we were content to take them in the spring and late in the autumn, in the runs and streams lying between their spawning grounds and the deep waters of large lake basins (where they spent the hot season and could only be tempted by bait), under the common local misnomer of Grayling. And glorious sport we found it; the dash with which this game fish seizes the fly, its surprising jumps to the level of one’s shoulder, and its beautiful metallic hues, particularly in the spring, invested it with an interest far exceeding that of fishing for S. Fontinalis.

At length, however, on referring several specimens to Dr. Gilpin, they were identified by him in the “Proceedings of the Nova Scotian Institute” as S. Gloverii, or Glovers Salmon of Girard, better known in New Brunswick as the Silvery Salmon Trout of the Scoodic Lakes, where its abundance in the rapid waters connecting the upper lakes of the St. Croix river, render this locality one of the friost famed fishing stations of the Lower Provinces. The following is Dr. Gilpin’s description taken from specimens forwarded by myself and others :—

“Length, about seventeen inches ; breadth of widest part from first dorsal, two and a half inches; length of head nearly two and a half inches; the shape of the head fine and small, the back rising rather suddenly, from posterior to head, sloping very gradually upward to insertion of dorsal, thence downward to insertion of tail, lower line corresponding with line of back; a long elegant shaped fish with a strong base to a powerful tail; eye large, nearly half an inch in diameter and two diameters from end of nose ; opercles rounded, and with the pre-opercles marked with numerous concentric streaks; the lower line of inter-opercle parallel with line of the body, labials, both upper and lower, arched, line of pre-opercle not so rounded as opercle; the pectoral fins coming out very far forward, almost touching the gill rays, dorsal commencing about two lengths of head from tip of nose, sub-quadrangular, free edge concave; ventral about opposite sixth ray of dorsal; adipose fin opposite posterior edge of anal; caudal deeply left, and very nearly the length of head in depth. In one instance the tail was square. Inter-maxillaries, maxillaries, palatines, vomer and tongue armed with sharp and recurved teeth, the teeth on the vomer extending half an inch down the roof of mouth, a fleshy line extending from them to the gullet, the upper jaw notched to receive the lower. In two specimens a prolonged hook in lower jaw advancing beyond the teeth. Girard says the male fish has adipose fins opposite anterior edge of anal, the female opposite posterior edge. Whilst in the following description, taken from a female fish, I have verified his remarks, I have added, that in the male the adipose fin is very much larger, which is almost the same thing. Colour black above, shading down to sepia brown at the lateral line, the brown being the back ground to numerous black spots, some round, some lunated extending from opercles to tail. The opercles partake of the same general colour with yellow reflections and blue tints, but also marked with spots extending to the pre-opercles, beautifully round and distinct; sides yellowish, and belly white with pearly tints, the whole covered with bright scales larger about the sides than beneath. The colours vary much by the reflected lights made in turning the fish. The colour of the fins when fresh out of water,—caudal brown, dorsal brownish black, and spotted, lower fins dark brown, edges and tips dark, a very fleeting lavender wash on dorsal. Sides yellowish. In one adult specimen I noticed a few red spots on sides, but in the young fish they are very marked and beautiful. Some seen by myself in July had vertical bars, red spots, very silvery on sides, and all, even the smallest, had the typical opercular spots very distinct. They were exceedingly beautiful and might have readily been taken for a different species. On opening the fish from gills to tail, the heart with its single auricle and ventricle first presented, the liver overlapping the stomach and pale yellow; the stomach descended about one-half the length of the fish, was then reflected suddenly upon itself where it was covered by numerous cceca (about thirty) ; these are the jpyloric ceeca of authors. It then turned down again, and soon was lost in small intestine ending at the vent. The spawn were each of the size of currants and bright scarlet, about a thousand in number, and encased in a very thin bilo-bular ovary, the left lobe occupying the left side, being a little over three inches, and only one half the length of right lobe occupying right side; a second fish gave the same placing of ovary. Both these fish were taken on the 2nd and 4th November at Grand Lake, Halifax, and evidently near spawning. Fins, D. 12 or 13, P. 14, Y. 9, A. 9, C. 20. Axillary scale small. The first dorsal ray in some instances contains two, in other three small rays. Typical marks, spots on opercles.”

In its general appearance, markings, and delicate primrose tint on the belly, the fish is not unlike the trout of gravelly streams in England.

In former years, before the construction of the Shube-nacadie Canal, it was found in that river during the summer months far below the lakes. A place called the “Black Bock,” just above the head of the tide, was a famous stand for grayling fishing; and five and six pound fish were not unfrequent. Now cut off from salt water by the locks, their migrations are restricted between the deep basin of the Grand Lake and the numerous chains of lakes which give rise to its affluents; and the fish, whilst they seldom attain a greater weight than three pounds, are not so silvery in the spring as formerly. The same fish taken at Loch Lomond, near Saint John’s, New Brunswick, are much smaller, browner, and paler in flesh than the St. Croix trout, and apparently from the same cause.

In Nova Scotia this trout will take the fly as readily late in the fall (even to first week in November) as in the spring, and long after the common brook-trout ceases to rise. As it is then, however, immediately proceeding to the spawning grounds, and with fully developed ova, this sport should be rendered illegal after October.

Two great lake trout inhabit the deep lakes of the Provinces—Salmo confinis and S. Amethystus—the former being abundant, and sometimes attaining a weight of twenty pounds. They may be taken in deep holes with bait or spoon-hook trolled and well sunk. Their flavour is insipid, and they are unentitled to more than a passing notice in a description of the game fish of Acadie.

The yellow perch (Perea flavcscens) is exceedingly numerous in lakes and rivers. Though seldom exceeding half a pound in weight, heavy baskets may be taken in a day's fishing on some lakes (where they seem to affect particular localities) by those who care for such sport. It is a handsome fish, of a bright golden yellow colour, striped with dusky perpendicular bands. Its fins are vermilion ; and altogether it is a decided analogue to the English river perch. It may be taken on either a fly or bait. When properly cooked it is very palatable. The so-called white perch, also very abundant in fresh waters, is in reality a bass (Labrax pallidus), and a worthless fish. The common sucker (Catostomus) will sometimes rise at the fly, as also will the cat-fish, whose enormous mouth, surrounded by long fleshy feelers, gives it a hideous appearance. It will seize a trout of half its own size.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus