Chronicles

My Restigouche River Run part Two
by: Irene Doyle  

            The Mighty Restigouche was even the host to Royalty, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were its notable guests, while on a fishing expedition, staying at the lodge owned by Izaak Walton Killam. According to Pat, the man who was to guide the Duchess, Duncan Myles, passed out from emotion at the site of her as he helped her into the canoe.

            During the long winter months, the Restigouche may be covered with ice and snow but the lower part of it is also the place to be if you are a true fisherman. Day or night, blistering winds, blowing snow and below zero temperatures do not stop the true northshore fisherman. As he dons his warmest boots and suit and walks out to his shanty, lantern or flashlight in hand, to try his luck at catching a mess of delicious "frozen on the ice" winter smelts.

            There is so much that can be said, so many stories about the Restigouche River that remain untold, that it is a wonder that no one has written a book about it. Articles have been written in famous magazines about her. Father Michael Broderick has written of his family's stay at the Vanderbilt lodge, while his parents Mathew and Bella worked as their caretakers for many years.

            An American reporter, Charles Robert of the mid-1800's, called it the "far-famed Restigouche". He also says in his Canadian guide-book: The tourist's and sportsman's guide to eastern Canada and Newfoundland; "The course of the Restigouche is nowhere broken by falls or impassable rapids; and its strong, full, unflagging current makes it a magnificent stream for the canoe-man. Its salmon-fisheries are famed the world over, and are for the most part in the hands of fishing-clubs made up of wealthy Canadian and American anglers. The Restigouche salmon is remarkable for his size. He is a very different fish from his fellows of Nepisiquit and Miramichi. He does more of his fighting under water, and usually takes the fly when it is below the surface. He has been made the subject of a bright article in Scribner's Magazine for May, 1888. Gigantic and magnificent as he is, he is capricious in his appetite, and frequently when he is most wanted he is not there. His fame has quite eclipsed that of the noble Restigouche trout, who is always on hand to console the disappointed fisherman."

            The 1888 article he refers to describes the catch of a Restigouche salmon as follows: "We pass around two curves in the river and find ourselves at the head of the pool. First cast, to the right, straight across the stream, about 20 ft.; the current carries the fly down with a semicircular sweep until it comes in line with the bow of the canoe. Second cast, to the left, straight across the stream, with the same motion; the semicircle is completed, and the fly hangs quivering for a few seconds at the lowest point of the arc. Three or four feet of line are drawn from the reel. Third cast, to the right; fourth cast, to the left. Then a little more line. And so, with widening half circles, the water is covered gradually and very carefully, until at length the angler has as much line out as his two-handed rod can lift and swing. This seems like a very regular and somewhat mechanical proceeding as one describes it, but in the performance it is rendered intensely interesting by the knowledge that, at any moment, it is liable to be interrupted by an agreeable surprise. One can never tell just when or how a salmon will rise, or just what he will do when he has risen. This morning the interruption comes early. At the first cast of the second drop, before the fly has fairly lit, a great flash of silver darts from the waves close by the boat. Usually a salmon takes the fly rather slowly, carrying it under water before he seizes it in his mouth. But this one is in no mood for deliberation. He has hooked himself with a rush, and the line goes whirring madly from the reel as he races down the pool. Keep the point of the rod low; he must have his own way now. Up with the anchor quickly, and send the canoe after him, bowman and ternman paddling with swift strokes. He has reached the deepest water; he stops to think what has happened to him; we have passed around and below him; and now with the current below to help us we can begin to reel in. Lift the point of the rod with a strong, steady pull. Put the force of both arms into it. The tough wood will stand the strain. The fish must be moved; he must come to the boat if he is ever to be landed. He gives a little and yields slowly to the pressure. Then suddenly he gives too much, and runs straight toward us. Reel in now as swiftly as possible, or else he will get a slack on the line and escape. Now he stops, shakes his head from side to side, and darts away again across the pool, leaping high out of the water. Drop the point of the rod quickly, for if he falls on the leader he will surely break it. Another leap and another. Truly he is "a merry one," as Sir Humphry Davy says, and it will go hard with us to hold him. But those great leaps have exhausted his strenght and now he follows the line more easily. The men push the boat back to the shallow side of the pool until it touches lightly on the shore. The fish comes slowly in, fighting a little and making a few short runs; he is tired and turns slightly on his side; but even yet he is a heavy weight on the line, and it seems a wonder that so slight a thing as the leader can guide and draw him. Now he is close to the boat. The boatman steps out on a rock with his gaff. Steadily now and slowly lift the rod, bending it backward. A quick, sure stroke of the steel! a great splash! and the salmon is lifted high and dry upon the shore. Give him the coup de grace at once, for his own sake as well as ours. And now look at him, as he lies there on the green leaves. Broad back; small head tapering to a point; clean, shining sides, with a few black spots on them; it is a fish fresh run from the sea, in perfect condition, and that is the reason why he has give us such good sport."

            Lord Aberdeen was Governor General of Canada from 1893 to 1898, he and Lady Aberdeen visited our area in 1894, they stayed at what she called the "Restigouche Club House Metapedia". While he fished, she kept a journal of their trip.

            In Lady Aberdeen's Journal of 1894, we find on Sunday September 2nd and Monday September 3rd: "Spent at the Restigouche Club House Metapedia a most charming resort which comes up even to A.'s (probably Archie Marjoribanks) & H.D.'s brag about it. We had a perfectly quiet Sunday, going to the Presbyterian Church, where a service is held in the afternoon for the handful of adherents who attend & then taking a walk with children & enjoying the lovely view of the noble river. On Monday H.E, I, Haddo & Marj went by train by the new Baie des Chaleurs line to inspect our purchase, Stanley House. It is the fishing house put up by the Stanleys for the Cascapedia fishing." She also says; "I have not joined them on these occasions, having too much respect for the black flices and sand-flies & mosquitoes which abound on the river. But I drove up there with them to-day & came back to my letters. A. enjoyed his two or three days fishing on the Restigouche very much, & got a few nice fish, the biggest being 24 lbs."

            Lady Aberdeen was born in 1857, the daughter of the first Baron Tweedsmouth, she married the first Marquis of Aberdeen in 1877. Lord Aberdeen became Governor-General of Canada in 1893 and remained in that office for the next five years. One of the outstanding public figures of her time, Lady Aberdeen had been active in philanthropic and educational work along many directions for nearly sixty years. She was president of the International Council of Women for nearly forty years, 1893-1899 and 1904-1936. She was president of the Irish Industries Assoc., of the Women's National Health Association of Ireland, of the Onward and Upward Association, and for a number of years chairperson of the Scottish Council for Women's Trades. In Canada, Lady Aberdeen founded the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). While in Canada, she took a leading part in the formation of the National Council of Women of which she was the first president. She died in Scotland in 1939.

            Oh.. the stories those fishermen could tell you about their days spent floating on its waters, I wonder how many BIG ones got away. The stories your ancestors could tell you of early settling along its banks. If only that pulp could talk about their trip down through the islands. And if the many birds that fly over it today could tell us about the Birdseye view of its grandeur. What a book that could fill. For my part I will try to describe what I saw along the way and next summer I intend on doing a full "run of the river".

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