The Atlantic salmon is one of the most fascinating fish in the world. For hundreds of years the Atlantic salmon has generated a rich cultural heritage, based on sport fishing and on the mystique of the fish itself. This silvery creature is a world traveler that spawns in fresh water but spends much of its life at sea. It can jump a 3-metre waterfall and has become a symbol of the environment and of healthy river systems.
The Cascapedia is a fabled river known by most fishermen for its large Atlantic salmon called the Cascapedia Giants. For more than 160 years, anglers have made their way to this fishing paradise in the hope of catching their own trophy fish. They built private camps and lodges and set up a system that would enable them to maintain their privileged fishing grounds.
The definition of a Cascapedia Giant is a salmon weighing 45 pounds (20.41 kilos) or more. According to Ron Swanson, author of the book “Record Salmon of the Cascapedia,” there have only been twenty-two caught and recorded at 50 pounds (22.68 kilos) or more in North America and seventeen of these great fish were caught on the Cascapedia River.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation’s record for the largest Atlantic salmon weighed 55 1/2 pounds (25.17 kilos). It was caught on the Cascapedia River in 1939 by Esmond Bradely Martin from Long Island New York, with a Lady Amherst fishing fly. Martin had been invited by his aunt, Amy Guest, who owned the New Derreen private fishing camp on the river. The guides on the river had spotted the large fish and Aunt Amy had been determined to catch it herself. When her young nephew landed the fish, he was sent back to New York, never to be invited back to the river again.
There have been stories that Princess Louise caught a 50-pounder, and, according to the folklore, the princess sent a large Cascapedia salmon back to her mother, Queen Victoria. Apparently, the fish had been mounted and hung in Windsor Castle for a time.
A 50-pound Atlantic salmon was caught on the Cascapedia River in 1912 by Irving Bonbright. That fish was hooked with a Scottish 4/0 Dusty Miller fly at Red Camp Pool. The Bonbright family was among the many anglers who came to the river seeking to catch a trophy fish. Irving was one of the lucky ones to have landed such a prize.
In 1982, Perry Coull, a local fishing guide, who has spent his life on the river caught a 49-pounder. That same year, Donal C. O’Brien Jr. of Connecticut caught a 47-pound salmon on a Silver Rat fly. It measured 50.5 inches in length and 27 inches in girth.
The Cascapedia is a river where great fishing stories are told and the dreams of catching a Cascapedia Giant come to life when an angler throws a fishing line across its magnificent waters.