On 1 July 2015, I was lucky to be invited to Tom’s Brook Salmon Club, a wooden village built on the river bank. It stands alone on the slopes of Restigouche, at the junction with Tom Ferguson’s Brook, not far from the famous Matapedia River in Canada, in the Province of Quebec.
It is a wonderful uncontaminated place thanks to the care of its owner, and not the least, the direct descendant of its founder, that is my landlord.
At dinner we drank to him: my host’s grandfather was called Jack McConnell and it was his birthday, as he was born on 1 July 1877 in a rural village north of Toronto, from an Irish-Scottish father and an English mother.
The legend says that Jack’s father arrived in Canada from Northern Ireland in 1863 to escape from creditors and, perhaps due to a strange twist of fate, his son Jack would become one of the most important financial experts, philanthropists and editors of his time in Montreal!
Jack bought Tom’s Brook in the 1930s and established a club formed by Anglophones fond of fishing and wild places. During his times reaching the lodge was a real adventure: it took 10 hours on a wagon-lit from Montreal to Matapedia, and then on carriages pulled by horses till you reached the house on the river where the whole family used to spend a month’s holiday, or let’s say bliss (with no phones, mobiles, internet, television, newspapers, except the one the family owned)….
The photos hanging in the room which is today the hall of Tom’s Brook Salmon Club, portrays him as an elegant man wearing a garment of white linen, holding his newspaper, MONTREAL STAR, all the time. Old guide Calvin remembers that before the 1970s, he caught as many as 76 salmons on a day, only with his canoe!
Today Tom’s Brook Salmon Club has nine members who fish in five pools, alternatively: Home, Stephens, Island run, Premier, and Macdougals.
You spend your day like this: you go along the river on wooden nice green canoes, like those you see in the pictures by Winslow Homer, who was the most important American landscape painter of the 19th century.
Born in New Brunswick, his favourite topics were fishing scenes, wild woods, and sailors from New England (his pictures at the Metropolitan in New York, like Boy Fishing, Two men in a canoe, Casting the Fly, Gone fishing, and Jumping Trout are unforgettable).
Well, on the Restigauche River I found those atmospheres, those dark woods, the quiet water and the majestic moose that in the early morning met me at my cottage – regularly like clockwork.
What is nice here is the fact that you feel as if the world had really stopped at the last century, however, with all the advantages of modern times (fantastic cuisine and just a few hours to reach it from the inhabited village).
As I was saying, days passed by slowly like the river. We had some fishing, came back for amazing breakfasts, changed place in the afternoon and evening and then came back to Tom’s Brook, which was not actually a fishing lodge, but a fantastic private house with my great old friend, Murdock Laing, as the host.
His laughter could be heard always, and the hours were very flexible. We enjoyed the moments among excellent drinks and the rustle of the river flowing slowly in front of us.
A few days after Jack’s birthday, Murdoch invented an excuse in order to honor me, giving me a nickname that he seemed to like a lot: “RaiFiume.” It was evening and our eyes bore the colours of an unforgettable day among wood, water and sky.
I was lucky, I must admit: I got it on a small fly that was so small and convincing as to irritate a really majestic silvery salmon rising fast in the Restigouche River.
It bit in the pool and the flight was long, as it lasted 45 minutes and a 700-m run. But in the end, it got with some effort into the net of my guide, Jeremy. We exulted while holding this charming small animal weighing 36-3/4 lbs.
Raimonda Lanza di Trabia
Contents NEW ZEALANDSOUTH ISLANDFEBRUARY 2012WEST OTAGO NEW ZEALAND New Zealand’s South Island is practically uninhabited; today, in an overpopulated
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