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As autumn’s palette unfolds, the Margaree River in Cape Breton becomes a haven for fly fishers. I’ve been fortunate to revel in this spectacle for the past two autumns, each visit enriching my spirit.
Though, before the northern allure beckoned again, I had a chance to revisit my roots in Portland, Maine. In May, a whimsical interaction with the crew from Oxbow Brewing occurred at the Sippin’ Suds event, orchestrated by Ben Carmichael of New England on the Fly, at Boston’s Seaport in the Filson Store. The camaraderie of the event led to a proposition: hosting an International Fly Fishing Film Festival at Oxbow’s venue on Washington Ave, in Portland.
With a spirit of community, the Oxbow team generously offered their space, time, and a hearty supply of beer and gear. The event unfolded into a lively evening, attended by a diverse crowd. It provided a platform to share tales from my summer odyssey writing Rivernotes. The room buzzed with the enthusiasm of young anglers from Southern Maine, whose eyes widened at the fishing adventures awaiting just north of their border. Jeff Reardon from ASF’s Maine team and I delved into the ongoing restoration efforts across the state, shedding light on a cause close to our hearts.
The gathering of over 60 individuals, beer clinks resonating with hearty conversations, made for a memorable rendezvous. Reuniting with friends post a long summer of travel was a cherished respite.
As the season winds down I want to thank you all again for being a part of the Rivernotes community and tuning in each week as I navigate the stunning, rugged landscapes of salmon country. As always, share the Rivernotes blog with friends who might appreciate these stories. Each share and gift given becomes a ripple that could spark a wave of change.
Please consider contributing to ASF, HERE.
Also, I love hearing from you all, especially those of you who challenge me to do a better job! Please, always feel encouraged to reach out directly to Rivernotes@asf.ca or Pdore@asf.ca with comments, questions, or concerns!
Until next week, stay sharp, and tight lines!
ASF’s 75th Anniversary New York Gala is here!!
Wednesday, 8 November 2023
6:00 PM EST | RECEPTION | SILENT AUCTION
7:30 PM EST | DINNER | PROGRAM | LIVE AUCTION
Seats are still available for ASF’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
-Reserve yours here.
The Live Auction is now online!
-View and bid here.
New Brunswick Program Director Serge Collin, reports:
As the New Brunswick Program Director, my inaugural Atlantic salmon season has been an illuminating experience. The phrase “Great water conditions for Salmo Salar!” echoed frequently amongst our community. However, these remarks often came with a caveat – the water conditions, while excellent for the salmon, posed challenges either for anglers or for fieldwork.
The unpredictability of water conditions this season didn’t just affect the angling community. Watershed management groups also faced hurdles, finding it difficult to carry out their annual research activities and planned projects. The inconsistency brought about by the water conditions proved to be a test of adaptability.
Despite these challenges, the resilience and passion within the Atlantic salmon community have been palpable. Everyone seemed to rally to make the best out of the situation. Success varied among individuals, and timing played a significant role in navigating the challenges posed by the water conditions.
As we reflect on this season, there is a hopeful anticipation that the favorable water conditions will have a positive impact on our wild salmon population. The community looks forward with eagerness to analyzing the array of data and reports that will emerge over the coming months regarding the 2023 season. The forthcoming insights will hopefully corroborate the observations made by anglers and affiliates, aligning anecdotal evidence with scientific data. This alignment could provide a fuller understanding of the season’s impact on our cherished Atlantic salmon population. The anticipation for clarity and the continuous engagement of the community paint a picture of hope and commitment towards safeguarding and understanding the dynamics of our Atlantic salmon ecosystem.
On Sunday, October 22nd, the Sackville Rivers Association will be hosting our 18th Annual Fall Dinner Auction at the Kinsmen Community Center in Lower Sackville.
Bedford and Sackville were drastically affected by the flooding this summer. People lost homes and businesses lost valuable time as they cleaned up in the days and weeks following the flood. The Sackville Rivers, the Bedford-Sackville Connector Greenway, and the Sackville Greenway have also suffered considerable damage due to the flooding this summer. In some instances, we lost known breeding areas. We also had to shut down our fish ladder that was significantly damaged. We were unable to get a true count of the salmon that may have come through.
We need your support more than ever this year to mitigate the damage to the river, fish habitat, and trails.
Please consider joining us at our biggest fundraising event of the year. Tickets can be purchased in advance in person at the SRA office (the Sackville Heights Community Center, Room 203) via cash or cheque, or can be purchased via e-transfer (to this email) or through PayPal (go to: Home | SRA Website (sackvillerivers.ns.ca) and click on the “Donate” button). Tickets can be held at the door the night of the event.
We will gladly arrange to pick up any item you may consider donating to the Auction.
This week, I had the pleasure of attending a heartening event held in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The event unveiled a significant grant of $75,000 from the Sustainable Communities Challenge Fund to our Wild Salmon Watershed partner, the Cheticamp River Salmon Association. This provincial funding, managed by the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities, is a testament to the province’s commitment to nurturing sustainable local efforts.
The event also marked the commencement of the second round of funding under the Sustainable Communities Challenge Fund, with an additional $15 million investment from the province. We wholeheartedly commend this initiative, as it reflects a proactive approach towards building resilient communities.
The gathering, though intimate, sparked lively and insightful discussions following the formal announcement. Representatives from CBC and the provincial communications team were present to document the proceedings. The collective consensus underscored the importance and cost-effectiveness of supporting conservation initiatives for existing natural assets. Emphasis was also laid on the critical nature of community-centric projects.
The Cheticamp River Salmon Association’s grant will fuel their endeavors around cold water refugia and other climate adaptation strategies on the Cheticamp. This funding not only advances the Association’s mission but also resonates with our shared values and approach towards protecting wild salmon populations.
The event saw encouraging acknowledgment for the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and Wild Salmon Watersheds from notable attendees like Rene Aucoin, President of the Cheticamp River Salmon Association, Paul MacNeil from Margaree Salmon Association, and representatives from Parks Canada. This positive recognition during the announcement and in subsequent discussions and interviews amplifies our collective efforts and the broader community engagement in conserving our precious salmon watersheds.
For more details on this development, the official press release is available here!
Despite facing adversities with heavy rains and swollen rivers, the angler community has been reeling in remarkable MSW (Multi Sea Winter) fish this fall. My inbox brims daily with messages from friends who are releasing fish in both Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia salmon rivers, painting a picture of perseverance and triumph over nature’s challenges.
The Thanksgiving weekend provided a vivid backdrop for camaraderie and recognition as I joined the Margaree Salmon Association (MSA) for their Annual General Meeting (AGM) and the subsequent Dinner/Auction. The turnout was substantial and vibrant, with attendees spanning across generations, a sight that instilled hope and enthusiasm. The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) extends heartfelt congratulations and gratitude to the Cormack Award recipients over the last four years: The MSA Board, Greg Lovely, Gordie MacKinnon, and Rudy Ciecko, for their unyielding dedication to the cause.
Fast forward to last week, and the fall colors framed a picturesque day for the Celtic Colours Learn to Fish event hosted by MSA at the Old Trout Miller Farm. Under the gentle autumn sun, Rene Aucoin, an FFI Certified Casting Instructor (CI), introduced the art of fly fishing to over 36 eager participants. The event, further brightened by John & Pat Stinson’s scrumptious BBQ and social gathering, left a warm, indelible mark on everyone present. An attendee from Ottawa encapsulated the day’s essence beautifully: “The ambiance, the volunteers, the setting, the weather, and of course, the food, orchestrated a beautiful day.”
The undeterred spirit of the community, coupled with the educational and celebratory events, underscores the collective passion and resolve that drives the conservation efforts forward, even when nature throws a curveball.
Our First Salmon
I had lived in Antigonish for six years, but I had never dipped my line for Atlantic Salmon, something I am not proud to admit.
That all changed in September 2023. I had spent considerable time asking (hounding) local guide and experienced salmon angler Matt Dort to prepare myself with the basics. He was more than gracious on several occasions. I was not new to fishing, but my two fly rods had seen considerable closet time after several moves and two young children. The thought of my children accompanying me out there seemed to rejuvenate my interest to get out and swing a line. Or at least increase the chances it looked like I knew what I was doing when my kids might come along.
A few days after opening day, Felix, my 10-year-old son, arrived home asking to go salmon fishing. I decided it was a great time to take an hour off work and head out to the West River in Antigonish. He had also been asking to try his “new to him” waders. I brought him to a pool where the water descended gradually, a great area for him to build confidence wading. I had hoped this might increase the chance of a positive experience and likely return. It was the first time he casted a fly rod, and the first of several “dad let me do it myself” statements. It worked, he was hooked.
One hour in, Felix needed to relieve himself. I refreshed him on wader removal strategies, and he headed to the bank. As he was doing his business in the bushes, I casted the bomber dry fly for another drift and suddenly something hit with aggression. I was hooked up and I yelled loud with excitement to let him know. As Felix somehow got the waders back on and scrambled down to the river, I instructed him to grab the net and get ready. Our salmon gave a spectacular show, emerging two or more feet out of the water six or seven times. It was a grilse, but size was irrelevant to us. We could see it cruising with power through the shallows as it got closer. When the fish was ready, Felix leaned in gently and successfully netted it like a pro. He was speechless; his smile is something I’ll never forget. Our first ever Atlantic Salmon together on a dry fly he selected. A story folks dream of and there we were living it. The experience will be tough to beat but I am still smiling inside knowing I’ll have a willing partner for that next big fishing adventure (not to mention a daughter who’s up next too!).
A week ago on foggy Thanksgiving Morning I had the opportunity to meet a young angler In the tent pool on the Margaree river. As luck would have it, he was very enthusiastic and happened to be celebrating his 10th birthday. When his parents asked him what he wanted his only request was that his father take him fishing in Cape Breton on the Margaree.
We spoke with them for a bit, and Rudy and I gave him two salmon flies, and one for his father, this put the biggest smile on his face. Sebastian had just returned from a moose hunting trip where he got his first ever Bull moose, now hoping for his first Atlantic salmon on the Margaree River . He hasn’t caught it yet, however , he’s still working on it.
Wishing Sebastian a very happy, 10th birthday and a year of celebrating the outdoors. We all know that it’s not only about the fishing it’s about the people that you meet along the way.
ASF Member, Gaelen Kilburn, writes:
A Tale of Two Fish I’m sitting in the bow of my neighbor Scott’s canoe as the spring breeze picks up, still carrying a nip of winter and pushing the bow of the canoe back and forth. It’s late May, and the small pond in central Vermont is still very cold, too cold for there to be any fish rising, much to my disappointment, as I sit with my fly rod hopefully tucked beside me. Instead, Scott and I take out the lures he brought which seem to most closely resemble an earthworm. As a newly converted fly fisher, I’m a little disgusted but Scott insisted that these would catch fish…
Newfoundland and Labrador Program Director Don Ivany, reports:
The recreational salmon season in Newfoundland and Labrador concluded on October 7th, bringing both melancholy and hopeful news. Tragically, we lost a cherished member of our angling community, Rob Solo, to cancer on the same day. Rob, a revered angler, guide, and a world champion in fly-tying, left an indelible mark with his generosity in sharing his fly-tying expertise and donating numerous flies for salmon conservation causes. His family encourages anglers to remember Rob with their first cast next season. His legacy will be felt on the rivers he loved.
From September 27-29th, I participated in the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador’s (SCNL) AGM in Glovertown, where a DFO biologist revealed concerning preliminary data on 2023’s salmon returns. The figures highlighted a significant decline in salmon counts across many rivers, prompting calls for an extraordinary DFO meeting to address this alarming trend.
On a brighter note, the season’s end saw favorable angling conditions on our three Fall Rivers – the Humber, Exploits, and Gander. Success stories from anglers, including Corey Wight’s notable catch and release of a large salmon on the Lower Humber River, provide a glimmer of hope. As we reflect on the past season, we look forward to better returns and enduring camaraderie in the angling community in 2024.
ASF Maine Headwaters Project Manager Maranda Nemeth, reports:
Despite experiencing the rainiest summer in recent memory, the construction of fishways at the outlet of Baskahegan Lake in Danforth and Branch Pond in China is advancing smoothly. The unprecedented rainfall this past summer resulted in several construction delays, necessitating permit extensions to extend our work into the fall at both sites, beyond the usual in-water work deadline of September 30.
The good news is that the fishways in both Danforth and China are nearing completion this fall. By next spring, these channels will be ready for adult alewives to migrate upstream, marking a significant milestone in local conservation efforts. The Branch Pond fishway will unveil passage to 325 acres, aiding in the restoration of the Sheepscot River. Meanwhile, the Danforth fishway will open up passage to nearly 9,000 lake acres, promising a substantial boost to the river herring population in the Penobscot. The population that had plummeted to zero fish upstream of the Veazie Dam, saw a remarkable recovery with more than six million returning this past year.
These fishway projects, born out of collective endeavor, have been made possible through partnerships with several organizations including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Maine Department of Marine Resources, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, among others. The collaboration underscores a unified commitment towards nurturing and preserving our natural waterways and the life they sustain.