Gaspe, Canada great salmon fly fishing rivers
- and clean, clear water

Fishing instructor, fly fishing tuition and fishing trips based in Scotland. Salmon and trout fishing advice, flies and articles.

Gaspe - sight fishing for salmon

atlantic salmon gaspe
Ally playing a salmon on the Petit Cascapedia

The Gaspe peninsula of Quebec extends eastwards some 350 km from the Canadian mainland into the Gulf of St Laurence, bounded on the north by the St Laurence seaway and on the south by the Baie des Chaleurs. Mountains reach skywards to almost 1200m along its spine, creating beautiful rugged landscapes composed of tree lined valleys and fast clear rivers, carrying glacial water seawards in cascades of rapids and waterfalls to meet the incoming summer runs of Atlantic Salmon, fresh from their salty sojourns. This is an area of outstanding scenic beauty and grandeur, at times breathtakingly so. Its rivers are said to be the clearest in the world and, having seen them, I have no reason to doubt this.

Gaspe's fishing is fascinating, interesting and unique and what's more it is accessible, cheap and very enjoyable. So what's the catch? Truth is there isn't any, or at least there isn't any if you are a true sportsman interested in visiting a beautiful country, fishing truly great rivers whilst respecting the rules and the need for conservation. Here the water is so clear that you can watch the quickening fins of a fish as it sights the approaching dry fly, appreciating just how graceful and wonderful a creature the salmon is, (as if you ever needed convincing) and you can relax in the huge outdoors amidst wonderful surroundings.

Fishing on Quebec's rivers is administered by the province through the local ZEC, much of it being available on unrestricted zones (beats). Despite the guaranteed access, fishing pressure is light by any standards. Restricted zones have only a few rods allowed per day. They offer fabulous fishing at very reasonable cost, permits being strictly limited and allocated by ballot. Anyone who has read Lee Wulff's book "The Atlantic Salmon" will be familiar with the names of many of Gaspe's rivers, some are legendary in salmon fishing folklore due to the quality of sport and size of fish that inhabit them. Grande Cascapedia, St Jean, Bonaventure, Petite Cascapedia, York and Dartmouth rivers are perhaps the best known of the south shore rivers. I have fished the last four of these and found them beautiful and fascinating.

York is a lovely river, reminding me very much of some of the classical pools around Dinnet and Invercauld on the Aberdeenshire Dee with its gin clear, fast, boulder strewn water. Bankside trees and bushes bore scars from the "ice out" in the springtime when the frozen water suddenly thaws sending a torrent of ice and water seawards leaving behind it a trail of destruction to a height of some fifteen feet above the summer water level.

fly fishing gaspe
Playing a York salmon
In summer, Dartmouth is a spate river, and if due to a lack of rain the water falls low it can be problematical. Bonaventure River is a different kettle of fish. Its water is so cold and clean that it has problems producing enough plankton to feed its juvenile salmon population, yet out of a total run of around 2000 fish, 900 or so are caught by anglers. Finding salmon in it is no problem, you simply look for them, they can be easily spotted in moderate depths at twenty yard's range, which is just as well because Bonaventure is a large river. Its character reminded me of the Spey but its size is similar to the lower Tay.

The Petite Cascapedia is a fly fisherman's paradise. Memories of this fantastic and beautiful salmon river haunt me, after only one morning's fishing I can understand why Dave Bishop gave up America and his job as a teacher for this place. It's a salmon anglers heaven, well kept and well cared for by the ZEC, this must rank amongst the finest salmon fly fishing rivers of the World. Its larger neighbor the Grande Cascapedia is another great salmon river that I hope to fish one day. Gaspe's rivers offer exceptional wet and dry fly fishing, the peninsula is a lovely place, beautiful scenery, beaches, food and climate, really everything that anyone could wish for and it's fishing is available and inexpensive. What more could anyone ask for?

For enquiries about fishing in Gaspe please contact me by e-mail or phone +44 (0) 1796 473718. The zero in brackets must be used instead of the international code for calls within UK, it must not be used from international addresses.
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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.