Book Reviews

A Celebration Of Salmon Rivers by R. Randolph Ashton

Before we go any further into this book review, it’s necessary to clarify a salient point. If you must ask the price of anything associated with fishing for Atlantic salmon, you can’t afford it.

Atlantic salmon fishing is not cheap, and some of the rivers featured in this book would cost thousands of dollars to fish for one weekend. I began fishing for these game fish in 1966 in New Brunswick, and then fished several streams in Quebec. All were pricey but nothing like it is today.

But if we forget about the price, and concentrate on the lore of Atlantic salmon fishing, we find ourselves taking a great reward by just being on some of these storied streams. I’ve fished Maine’s Penobscot River, and jumping across the border, I fished for two weeks on the Miramachi, St. John, Renous, and on to Quebec’s Eagle, George, Grand Cascapedia, Koksoak, Moise and Restigouche rivers.

Many of these rivers were extremely difficult to reach in the 1960s and 1970s, and trying to fish them now is most expensive. All of these rivers, and many more, are storied streams. People who fish such places place great value on owning great reels and rods. Fly boxes are filled to overflowing with beautifully tied exquisite single and double-hook flies. The materials that go into these flies are expensive and the flies are time consuming to tie.

This is a book of rivers. Suffice it to say that only a mere handful of Maine streams have Atlantic salmon. Eastern Canada may have several dozen, but not all are mentioned in this book. In fact, some of the priciest salmon rivers like the Alta, Laerdal and Namsen rivers in Norway command huge fees to fish, and people are happy to pay for this privilege.

Atlantic salmon fishing is a happening. It is something very special to those who participate in the fishing. This is more mental than physical, and it is far from being a crowd sport. High costs keep each fishing area (a beat) free of others. For many anglers, seeing a fish turn for a fly before abandoning the chase is cause for celebration. Some rivers seems to attract mostly grilse (young salmon up to eight to 10 pounds) while other rivers are known for their big fish.

The author offers a plea for readers to endorse the North Atlantic Salmon Fund. Many threats keep pecking away at Atlantic salmon populations, and netting the high seas and the estuaries of the mighty rivers are only two of many. Some of the monies made from the sale of this book will go to raise funds to protect the fish wherever Atlantic salmon are found.

The color photos are breathtaking, and areas where these salmon are found is invariably beautiful. The fish themselves are a thing on beauty and wonder, and it’s what keeps pulling anglers back, year after year, just for the hope and faint promise of a big salmon. This book is more about the magic of salmon rivers and the fish than how to catch them, which in most cases, is invariably difficult.

This too is part of the allure of this grand game fish.


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