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That Old Feeling


Canada’s federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) first posted ugly “NO FISHING” signs on various parts of Nova Scotia’s glorious St. Mary’s River 3 years ago. These closures, unfortunately, continue today.


I’m a passionate salmon angler and life-long conservationist with an undying love of the St. Mary’s River, its salmon, culture and community.


DFO’s signs were deeply offensive: they simply broke my heart and spirit.


Other anglers and friends express similar feelings, knowing that DFO’s strategy has no basis in conservation because regulation requires that all salmon caught in the St. Mary’s were released alive. Furthermore it encourages poachers by reducing angler presence of the river and reduces much vital scientific information that DFO could use for salmon population estimates and management.


With the stroke of a pen at DFO, it was gone.


The regulation hit our small business community hard, reducing seasonal gross revenue by 20 – 30%. Outward migration now outnumbers folks attracted to the region. As rural Nova Scotia goes, we’re now just another pretty place, one of many Nova Scotia is blessed with. Salmon fishing gave us something very special, a unique economic, social and cultural way of life that attracted folks from all over the globe.

Now it seems our community’s population decline will most certainly result in reduced services like health care and education cuts in future. Local real estate sales are stagnant, despite many beautiful homes and properties being on the market.


In short, that pen stroke is destroying the fabric of our community.



For the past two years DFO’s management of the St. Mary’s discouraged me so much that I quit fishing altogether. It hurt just to see the river, and I see it from my home in Stillwater every day.


This season we’ve been blessed by good water conditions and anecdotal evidence, so far, indicates that we have a good number of large salmon, a fair number of grilse, and that our gorgeous sea-trout are now present throughout the system.


In late June, Molly and I were persuaded by friends to try an open section of the river one evening. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, even capturing a spectacular photo of the river.


Last week a friend and I had the honor of accompanying a first-time visitor to Nova Scotia on a morning’s fishing. We were in great spirits, the weather was great, and the few other anglers we encountered were very genial as well, making our guest feel welcome on the river. The St. Mary’s has always been a friendly river, where anglers of all stripes share in its magnificence.


A few fish that appeared to be nice sea trout showed themselves on the pool’s surface. A couple had risen to flies that morning, but no one had been lucky enough to hook one.


When our visitor’s turn to fish came he was primed and excited, wasting no time getting started at the top of the pool, then working his way carefully downstream with a wet fly.


My turn came next, so I followed him with a dry fly. Near the tail end of the pool a grilse rose abruptly and grabbed my fly. He (grilse are mostly male) ran and jumped three times, then was released bouncing and kicking.


Although our guest’s offering provoked no response, we all enjoyed the morning immensely. At home later the familiar feeling of a good day on the St. Mary’s came over me, covering me like a warm blanket. It’s always great to know there are salmon in the river and that I had the honor of returning one to complete his cycle of life late this fall.


It was a wonderful feeling that I hadn’t experienced for a very long time, far too long.


Thank you St. Mary’s River!


Here’s a dry fly that appeals to both sea-trout and salmon, one of Chris Williams tiny deer-hair microbugs. 




Hook:                  #10-12 bronze wet fly hook

Thread:               Red

Tail:                      Orange calftail

Body hackle:       Orange cock saddle hackle
Body:                   Red deer hair, clipped to shape

Head:                   Red thread finished with clear head cement



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