By Hoagy B Carmichael, from Anesha Publishing
$175 (with Volume One, $265), 44 Crosby Road, North Salem, NY 10560, USA, www.booksbycarmichael.com
I‘ve only fished the Grand Cascapedia in Quebec once. On that occasion I caught a 19lb salmon and felt very pleased with myself until the guide said: “Nice fish! That’s only 1lb or so below the average size for this river.”
Ouch. Collapse of stout party.
On the same day, I was privileged to take a look at the record book for Middle Camp, arguably the very best stretch on the river. The first entry for that season read: “My first salmon, estimated 45lb. Where does one go from here?” Where indeed?
But that’s the Cascapedia, which surely has the highest average size of Atlantic salmon in the world. No wonder Hoagy Carmichael is obsessed by it. He’s now written two substantial (and beautifully produced) volumes totalling more than 800 pages about it. That might sound like an awful lot of words on a 120km river, but this is no ordinary salmon stream.
It’s not so much its huge fish (the river’s record is 64lb) that are the real story either, but the cast of fascinating characters, from royalty to politicians, from captains of industry to poachers, who have been involved in its major camps that make this a great read and a truly spectacular piece of research.
People like Amy Guest, who rescued the river in 1932 when there was not enough money in the old club’s funds to pay the $15,000 annual lease for the river (what a small sum that seems now!), and when it could have fallen back into government hands. (You can guess what effect that would have had.) Her tremendous drive (and wealth) revived an ailing club, reorganised the stretches and set the tone for the next century.
Hoagy’s first volume detailed the early history; this work takes us up to the present day, recording the stories of the main stretches in detail, and addressing problems like logging that the Cascapedia still faces.
River history books are mostly dull as a menu book for cows, but this is superb, with anecdotes galore, a wealth of wonderful photographs and every stone unturned. (Though even Hoagy can’t trace the genesis of the famed 4: 24 pool story.)
It is a monumental work, not frightened to address issues like netting, logging and Native Indian rights, but doing so in a well-written and comprehensive but interesting way. It is elegantly produc ed, comes in a slipcase and with a colour map detailing every pool, which makes the often complicated interchange of people and fishing rights easier to understand.
You may never get to fish the river. Access to fishing is limited. I certainly don’t expect to do so again. Doesn’t matter. This story of a great river will fascinate any fisherman.