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In The Field

New book highlights best of the Atlantic Salmon Journal


Only 700 printed. To buy yours contact Jennifer –
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The Atlantic Salmon Treasury, published by Goose Lane Editions, features rare imagery from photographers like Tom Cheney, shown here on the cover.

To celebrate ASF’s 75th anniversary, we teamed up with Goose Lane in Fredericton to publish a “best of” the Atlantic Salmon Journal hardcover book called the Atlantic Salmon Treasury.

It’s the second volume in the Treasury series. The first was published in 1974, highlighting stories that appeared in the early issues of the magazine, which began in 1952.

In this book, authors, and long time ASF supporters, Monte Burke and Charles Gaines, started with the spring 1975 issue, and stopped in 2022. They reviewed nearly two hundred magazines, looking for the best features, photos, art, and letters.

Atlantic Salmon Journal Editor Martin Silverstone recently spoke with the uncle (Gaines) and nephew (Burke) duo about the project.

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Monte Burke, left, and Charles Gaines edited the latest volume of the Atlantic Salmon Treasury, on sale now. Both men are noted polymaths and published authors who have written extensively about fishing and conservation.

Editor: Going back to 1975 you would have reviewed something like 200 issues of the Atlantic Salmon Journal. What kind of change did you see over time?

Charles Gaines: The magazine had a very clear mandate at the very beginning – to be a forum for the Atlantic salmon community – and that hasn’t changed, but we did see an evolution over time from a sporting magazine concerned with conservation, to a conservation and issue focused publication with good stories peppered in.

There were other interesting changes too, like back in the 1970s and 1980s there were often recipes for cooking salmon and we don’t see that anymore.

Something else that has remained constant is the quality of writing. It has been of a very high quality, consistently, through that time. I found the magazine to have—and this is probably my single most overwhelming impression of the work that Monte and I did—a really lovely continuity that pervades all of the writing, especially the angling writing.

Monte Burke: I would agree, good writing—and there is a lot of good-to-great writing in these ASF Journals—is really transportable. It’s thrilling to read about Lee Wulff trying to figure out how to go back after a salmon that’s risen for his fly. That’s the cool thing about Atlantic salmon angling, that it really hasn’t changed that much.

I mean, you can see these huge changes in the way people go about catching tarpon, bonefish and trout, but salmon fishing remains essentially the same. There’s continuity, which is one of the sport’s great attributes.

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A spread from the Atlantic Salmon Treasury 75th Anniversary Edition features a selection of the rich artwork that has been published the the Atlantic Salmon Journal.

Editor: Yes, there is continuity, but so much variety as well. What guided your selections?

Monte Burke: Quality of writing was top of mind in everything, and because the quality was very high, it was hard to make these selections. I also thought some of the quirky historical items were fun to put in there. Charles mentioned the fish recipes, but there were also ads for all sorts of weird things in those old issues that we don’t use anymore. Like priests, for instance, which were once used to dispatch a salmon. You won’t find one now and most anglers have no idea what they are.

There was also the man who ate the salmon that was supposed to be sent to the President of the United States, we couldn’t pass up things like that.

Then there were the trends in language and style, and we tried to highlight that with our selections. Like somewhere in the 1980s the Journal stopped referring to “killing” a salmon, and wrote only about releasing it. Live release. To show the evolution in conservation ethics, but also the great writing and some of the quirky things, that was kind of the way that I approached it.

Charles Gaines: I agree with that. It did feel like a privilege. And also, what Monte said about the first criterion—the quality of the writing. And there was a lot to choose from! But then also to represent the Journal’s various departments: Travel, fly tying, fishing methods, research and conservation. As Monte pointed out, it’s interesting how little has changed in salmon angling as opposed to other types of sport fishing.

But what I most wanted with the Treasury was for it to represent the breadth of the Journal at its best. That’s what I had hoped for and I think that’s what we achieved.

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Atlantic Salmon Journal editor Martin Silverstone reviewing the book. Silverstone worked closely with the editors and managed the project. Photo ASF

Editor: Some things have stayed the same, but I see things like the increasing diversity of the Atlantic salmon community. Your selections seem to counter the stereotype that this is only an elite pursuit.

Monte Burke: True, I remember talking to Joan Wulff about this very thing and she would… not complain, but she would point out that she was one of the few women in the ASF Journal. In more recent issues, we picked covers with youngsters and women and Indigenous anglers. The Treasury definitely reflects a more welcoming sport, which is a good thing.

Editor: Did you get a sense of tradition at the same time? I mean there are not a lot of other medium sized NGOs anywhere that have continuously published a print magazine since 1952.

Charles Gaines: I have a feeling that angling might be one of the last bastions of printed books. Anglers tend to like books rather than digital versions. I spent some time at the Flyfisher’s club in London a few months ago. They probably have the finest angling library in the world. And a lot of young guys would sit in that club in the morning, afternoon and evening, taking out and dipping into those old books. I have a feeling that printed angling literature is going to be around for quite a while yet.

Monte Burke: I wholeheartedly agree with that. I’m staring right now at the bookshelf that comprises my angling library, which I love. It’s kind of fun just to be with the titles. You’re not really physically present with a book on a Kindle. It’s only digital, just words, you know, ether. Here you’ve got these actual books that you can hold onto, feel and even smell. The same goes for magazines. And angling organizations are some of the last bastions actually printing magazines.

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Lee Wulff, emeritus chair of ASF, was an angling genius and featured contributor to the Atlantic Salmon Journal. His 1984 piece called 'The Art of Catch and Release' is featured in the treasury collection. It is an early example of writing that stresses "it's the technique, not just the thought that counts."

Editor: Where did the idea come from for this project?

Charles Gaines: I first heard about it on the Bonaventure River when Bill Taylor, ASF President of course, turned to me and asked, “What do you think of a Volume II of the Atlantic Salmon Journal Treasury for ASF’s 75th anniversary?”

I wasn’t familiar with the first Treasury. I had heard about it, but I had never seen one. So he explained to me what it was and said, “What do you think of doing it again for the last 45 years?” And I thought it was a great idea.

Monte Burke: Yes, it was fishing with Bill when I first heard about it as well. He, Charles, and I were together on the Margaree in 2021 and we had a good chat about what we would like to see in a collection like this.

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ASF President Bill Taylor on the Cascapedia River in this photograph by Tom Montgomery. Bill's call to action, 'Wild Salmon, Wild Rivers', published in 2000, is featured in the new Atlantic Salmon Treasury. The title of the piece stuck and remains ASF's tag line today.

Editor: Now we know this was an idea born on the Bonaventure River and fleshed out on the Margaree, fitting I guess. Is there anything else you want to add?

Monte Burke: Yes, it was Wilf Carter, ASF’s first president, in the old journals who did a lot to raise awareness about live release fishing, and you can trace this voluntary revolution among anglers throughout the years. It’s hard for me now to believe we actually killed most of the salmon we caught. One thing I wonder is what the next Treasury might look like on ASF’s 100th anniversary?

I think that gets to the importance of the Atlantic Salmon Treasury, the documentation of salmon angling and salmon conservation. It’s really important, certainly for entertainment, but also to inform, and to see where we’ve come from. There’s an old adage about how when we’re in a fallen world, when ecological systems are breaking down, that we kind of become inured to it, we become accustomed to the fall.

The Atlantic Salmon Journal and especially the Treasury, are useful to keep traditions alive, to keep conservation front of mind by embedding it into stories about angling trips, tactics, and fly-tying.

It’s a way of keeping us from not becoming accustomed to the fall. To remind us how important Salmo salar is, how important angling is, how important the traditions are, and how important it is to keep welcoming in new people.

Editor: Thank you!