Doaktown, Miramichi River – Tom Cruise has done it, so has Bobby Orr, Dick Cheney, Lorne Michaels and HRH Prince Charles, to name just a few. New Brunswick’s world-famous Miramichi hosts the largest Atlantic salmon run in Eastern North America, and it attracts fishing enthusiasts from families to some of the world’s most famous anglers. On a previous visit several years ago, when I stopped to the tackle shop in Doaktown I learned George Bush Sr. had been in the day before.
Just a 90-minute drive from Fredricton, the Miramichi and its tributaries drain a watershed of 60,000 sq kms. The six-to-seven hundred riverbed ‘pools’, are the prime spots to fly fish. Many pools are private, some can rent for $900 a day for two people to fish, and a few are even worth over one million dollars. That’s quite an investment, considering that a winter with damaging scraping ice could simply remove it.
I headed out in the early morning from O’Donnell’s Cottages , in a small outboard boat with my guide Greg. About 15 minutes up the river he positioned our boat over a pool, located right below a fishing camp owned by the McCain Family. Birds sang, the river rushed past, and the tea coloured clear water that made it look like the water was just several feed deep. It’s a glorious setting to spend a morning. I stood casting, or ‘presenting the fly’, as I’d been coached earlier by guide Bev Gaston. Not even a nibble.
I know what I missed, though. As we returned, just in front of the cottages another guest was reeling in a large salmon. I watched the 20-minute struggle, then the guest take photo and release the salmon back to the water. In the spring the anglers will be out in small boats with a guide, by summer they’ll be standing right in the smooth-flowing clear water in chest-high waders. If you are from outside the province you must use a guide. Near public pools you might see older anglers who have even moved their chairs into the water to relax and wait their turn. In the spring the fish feed, but in summer they bite because they are annoyed or curious. At the museum you can learn more about these remarkable creatures that can leap up to 12 ft in the air, and go up to 22 months without eating. The museum even offers special children’s camps each summer. A year ago 40,000 salmon came up the river, last year it was 60,000. The average salmon would be 9 to 23 lbs, the largest caught in this in this river so far was a little more than 50 lbs. On the wall of Doaktown’s Atlantic Salmon Museum you can see a replica of a 72 lb salmon caught in the Restigouch River to the north. Photos of Atlantic Salmon Museum & Salmon fishing by Lucy Izon
Chef Luc Ledges Inn by Lucy Izon Set back from the river shore are public lodges and private fishing camps. I managed to see the inside of two private camps, both rustic, but with fine perks – at one, nine guests would have the services of 20 staff, and a helicopter pad. For those of us mere mortals, there are comfortable lodges like O’Donnell’s Cottages with pleasant cabins, guiding services and Valarie’s home-cooked fare, which from Fiddlehead soup and pumpkin squares to a fabulous lobster feast. Nearby the 4.5 star riverside Ledges Inn offers luxury accommodation and gourmet dining. Both offer packages and can arrange guides, etc.
Don’t let the rural setting fool you. This region is a world-leader in the use of Smart Board technology, having been the first community to outfit every classroom with this futuristic internet and Skype-friendly blackboard replacement in 2008. Now you’ll see and be able to use the Smart Boards at tourism information venue’s, too. The real heart to communications here is Tim Horton’s, though. If you want to know who caught what, where. That’s how people find out.
It’s also a region of colourful characters. Up to 50 people a day stop by the tiny one-room shop of elderly George Routledge, the master ‘fly guy.’ A long-time fishing friend to baseball great Ted Williams, George, sells the brightly coloured tiny teasers (Shady Lady, Black Ghost, Hairy Mary) for $3.25 to $4. But to kids, always at cost.
And, you can’t drive out of Doaktown without noticing the huge white house with the illuminated angels. That would Glendella, the home of Glenna Taylor. Eccentric, charming, after moving the house from another area of the village, she’s decorated it with her collection of thousands of dolls, angels, and keepsakes – covering every possible inch of the interior.
Doaktown, Doaktown Northumberland County NB