Our guide Jacky Beaudin is waiting for us sitting on the tailgate of his van, in the parking lot of the Corporation de gestion des rivières Matapédia et Patapédia (CGRMP), which is the manager of the Rivières-Matapédia-et-Patapédia and Dunière wildlife reserves as well as from the Chutes et Marais site. It’s here, at the entrance to the village of Causapscal, that you can hire a guide, hire fishing equipment or take an initiation session – that’s our plan for in the morning, as this is our first fly fishing experience.
After trying on our boots and bib shorts, we expected to follow our guide to a more or less easily accessible place, but we stopped to our great surprise in the heart of the village, at the confluence of the Matapédia and Causapscal rivers. . It is indeed one of the 80 pits of the CGRMP’s ten fishing areas, an ideal place to find the salmon that come up the rivers of Gaspésie to return to their spawning grounds. Knots, choice of flies, positioning in the river, casting technique, Jacky Beaudin explains in detail the basics of this contagious hobby. “It’s an art, fly fishing,” says our guide, who worked for a long time as a heavy equipment operator. I’ve been fly fishing since I was 5 years old, I caught my first salmon at 8 years old, a 10 pound fish. »
On this beautiful spring day, he recommends fishing with a “firefighter” fly, which provides a good contrast against the blue of the sky – the salmon have an amazing field of vision indeed. “When salmon swim, what they see above them is blue,” Beaudin explains. So you’re going to fish with colored flies. When it’s cloudy, it’s white, you’re going to go with dark flies. Also, when the water is high, you choose a “wet” fly, which stalls a little, while you take a dry fly, which floats on the surface, when the water is lower and calmer. »
As for the casting technique, it’s about being precise in the movement and feeling the comings and goings of the fly – we didn’t do too badly, even if our fly went hooked once on our sleeve. “The quality of a good fly fisherman is not the distance, it’s the presentation of the fly, continues Jacky Beaudin, installed a few meters from us, downstream. With the fly, it takes a good presentation, the fly must present itself well to the salmon. It takes patience, but one day you will manage to do what you want. It’s like a lasso; At 60, 70 feet, I’m going to put a foam ball on your head and I’m going to take it off with my fly. You fish for a summer full, and I tell you, in the end, you’re gonna have fun! A look at the Practical Guide to Salmon Fishing, a tool for beginner anglers produced by the Quebec Federation for Atlantic Salmon, is also a gold mine of advice and information.
In fact, no matter if we came back empty-handed, we really had fun. The activity is incredibly zen. We are most of the time in the middle of nature, the contact with water is direct, which awakens all the senses. But succeeding in catching a salmon is, it seems, an experience that you have to live at least once in your life.
“It’s visceral, fishing for salmon,” says Michelle Lévesque, director of the CGRMP. He is strong, he has great vitality. Then when the person takes it and puts it back in the water, contact is created, something happens. Then you have the fight! It takes 20 minutes, half an hour, before putting it back in the water. Sometimes you’ve been fishing for five days, you have to be patient, but you’re so proud when it bites! Look, I get chills just saying it! »
So we’ll have to come back – that’s what the initiation package is all about. “So someone can come back alone, but it’s better to take a guide, at least for the first three or four times,” advises Mr. Beaudin. You don’t know the river, the guide will show you a few pits, if you come back, you’ll end up knowing about ten, enough to be able to fish for two or three days. »
In addition to passing on his knowledge to neophytes, Jacky Beaudin is also a guide in the Glenn Emma sector, a former private fishing club from the end of the 19th century which is today one of the restricted areas where it is possible to go. fishing by reservation. The most popular spots can cost up to $1000 for two anglers for two days.
“When people pay to go to restricted areas, it’s to be the first to put the fly, the salmon has not been teased there 70 times, says Michelle Lévesque. But when we quota, it is most of the time in thermal refuges where there is retention of salmon. We don’t want to overexploit the resource, because it’s important for us that the client can take advantage of a wildlife reserve context, in a beautiful place that respects the habitat’s support capacity. »
It is for the same reason that catches are released in the majority of cases – last year, no less than 77% of the salmon caught in Quebec were released.
Proof that the conservation of the resource bears fruit, last year we noted a 16% increase in total returns. “We have to protect the resource, because if we don’t, our children and our grandchildren will no longer be able to fish,” concludes Jacky Beaudin. When you put the spawner back in the water, it may be he who will breed again. We have to protect our resource, because if we don’t, it’s over. »
Salmon counted in the 40 rivers of Quebec
Decreased harvest of large salmon since the 2016 implementation of the Atlantic Salmon Management Plan
Lord Mount Stephen, the originator of the famous Jardins de Métis, first established the Matamajaw fishing estate in Causapscal exactly 150 years ago. His club, renamed the Restigouche Salmon Club, became the largest private fishing club in Canada. It is now a museum that has undergone a complete makeover this year. “It’s going to be an immersive auditory experience,” explains director Édith Ouellet. We have great photos, artifacts, but everything will happen between the two ears. We visit the exhibition accompanied by Joe and Florence; Joe is a former employee of the Matamajaw Salmon Club, and Florence, a former Causapscal who is doing her baccalaureate in history. It is as if we were walking with them in the museum. »
Salmon fishing has experienced an exceptional resurgence in recent years, a measurable trend because the number of visits to salmon rivers amounted to 76,706 days/fishing in 2022, an increase of 11% compared to the average of the last five years. . In fact, 2022 represents the best fishing year since the Department of the Environment, the Fight Against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks began collecting recreational data in 1984. really up-and-coming in salmon fishing, says Micheline Lévesque, director of the Corporation de gestion des Rivières Matapédia et Patapédia (CGRMP). There is great fashion on the move, thanks in particular to the manufacturer and retailer of hunting and fishing equipment Hooké and the PALM fly fishing film festival. And all that has really rejuvenated the clientele, it’s beautiful to see. »
In addition to young people, fishing in the Matapédia Valley attracts an impressive number of tourists in search of the best catches. In the ledger of fishing licenses issued last year by the CGRMP, we see visitors from all over Europe, from the United States, from Thailand, from South Africa. “We have incredible spinoffs,” says Micheline Lévesque. Our turnover is 2.5 million, we employ nearly 60 people and our customers come from all over. We want them to come from afar, because we want to bring money back to the region. According to the Quebec Federation for Atlantic Salmon, each visitor represents between $600 and $700 per fishing day in spinoffs. For the CGRMP, we are talking about benefits of 5 to 6 million per year.