Fishing on the fly

This is a story about three friends who fish for Atlantic salmon together–and like every good fish story, it gets better every year.

For her 30th birthday, photographer and outdoor enthusiast Nathalie Mongeau received a complete fly-fishing kit. Friends taught her how to tie flies and she was soon practicing her casting… in city parks! Now seriously bitten by the bug, Mongeau introduced her pals Guy Gervais, founding president of Céragrès, and Henri Atlas, a surgeon, to the sport. All three are licensed pilots, and they began meeting in the Gaspé around the York, Bonaventure and Cascapédia rivers, which are known for their salmon fishing. Guy Gervais states frankly that his bucket list includes “becoming a really good tennis player, and a really good fly fisher.” Every fly-fisher is always working on improving his or her technique. This is a precision sport that demands patience and persistence, but both are amply rewarded by the adrenaline rush when you get a bite. As Henri Atlas explains, “It’s a real battle! It can take up to an hour to reel in a big fish.”

While the three friends can talk endlessly on the subject, they sometimes find themselves at a loss for words when it comes to describing the experience itself, which can feel larger than nature itself. No surprise there, as Quebec proudly calls itself the number one destination for Atlantic salmon fishers, who come from around the world to fish in our crystal-clear rivers and pools. Precious fishing permits are renewed every year for a season that runs from late May to late September. June is when they meet. “We fish eight hours a day for three days,” says Guy. “It’s pretty intense! You have to be really stubborn and determined,” adds Nathalie. “I’m generally not a patient person, except when it comes to salmon fishing!”

Contrary to what you might think, the days do not finish with a dinner of freshly caught salmon. For the last decade or so, a dramatic decline in fish stocks has made catch-and-release mandatory, so every fish goes back in the river. But no matter! As Henri says, “The fun is in hooking the fish, reeling it in and taking a picture with it!” He and Nathalie happily spend 40 to 50 days a year fishing. “For the last 10 years, I’ve been going to Patagonia in the winter, which has doubled my fishing season!” says Nathalie. There can be a little envy among friends when someone brings in a big catch—Henri’s 44-pound salmon is the stuff of legends—but they are not driven to compete–except with themselves, of course. Philippe, Guy’s son, will turn 20 on September 1, a birthday his dad has been waiting for to introduce him to fly fishing. The date is set, the outfitter reserved, and that first bite awaits.

Fishing on the fly – e-mag

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