Harmony has had histrionic moments, not the least of them when Harry Payne Whitney tipped over his canoe and was rescued, thrashing on the river bottom in his knickers. And there is the unappetizing story of the dead man in the drinking water. The Micmacs had been told never to set foot in Mill Brook, the spring that supplied Harmony's water. Heedless, a group of them was diving for a 50¢ piece in the clear pool one afternoon when one Indian drowned. The others, apprehensive about the consequences, left the drowned man there and did not confess what had happened for several days.
Despite (or perhaps because of) the Indians' antics and their incorrigibly rough manner, some fishermen liked having them as guides. The experience was usually entertaining, at least in retrospect. Once a lady at Camp Harmony insisted that her Indian guide sit for his portrait. When she completed the sketch she asked the Indian what he thought of it. "Damn ugly," he said and stomped off. At another Restigouche camp a Micmac guide was noted for taking sportsmen out fishing in the morning and—before they had made their first cast—sniffing the air and declaring, "By God, no fish. Guess we go home." The anglers would object, and the guide, if he was in a contrary mood, would threaten to upset the canoe in mid-river. The men waited until they were on more solid ground before continuing the argument.
The most celebrated confrontations between millionaire and guide were the Archie Rogers vs. Peter Gray matches. Rogers was a bristling man who spent his life and much of his money in sporting pursuits; Gray was his guide of long standing. The scene was Kedgwick Lodge, the second of the river's distinguished clubs. The bellows of the two men could be heard for half a mile. "You damned old red man," Rogers would shout. "You don't know where to fish." Gray's replies were usually equal to the occasion. One afternoon, after being drenched by a downpour while fishing, Rogers took Peter to the lodge and poured him a jigger of whiskey. It was a rare occasion, certainly, for sportsmen on the river never gave liquor to an Indian. Rogers held the small glass to the light and, relishing the moment, said, "Now, Peter, I want you to know this is over 100 years old."
"By God," Gray declared, "he's small for his age."
This uncommon fellowship lasted 46 years until Rogers died. Now Peter Gray's grandson guides Archie Rogers' great-grandson at Kedgwick Lodge.
The Indians remain terse, blunt and moody (and most camps have replaced them with Scots-Irishmen). A recent guest at Kedgwick tells of trying to ingratiate himself with an Indian guide. "Through the first morning's fishing I talked with considerable enthusiasm about my experiences on the river and the places that I had fished. I know a lot of the guides on the Restigouche. The Indian didn't say anything. He just sat there mute in the bow of the boat. At lunchtime my host asked if we'd done any good. 'Much talk, no fish,' the Indian mumbled."
Heavy fish stir in the deep pools at Kedgwick and for weeks each season fishermen see them and tempt them but get little response. Three hundred salmon will lie in the placid Looking Glass Pool and scores in Jimmy's Hole (which is 30 feet deep and gets its name from a local boy, Jimmy Gillis, who jumped into it and was not seen again).
Because of the water's depth at Kedgwick Lodge, its fishermen use a special method called patent fishing. Instead of shooting the line straight out on the water, the patent fisherman stops his cast abruptly at the halfway point of his follow-through. He pulls some of the slack line toward him, and the fly, a large hair one, lands lightly on the current and quickly sinks. When the angler sees a salmon take the fly, he strikes the fish, something never done in standard salmon fishing. Several people claim to have invented this very successful way of casting, but the story told on the Restigouche is that its originator was a chorus girl, who was invited to Kedgwick Lodge many years ago. The woman was killing salmon when no one else was getting a strike. One of the fishermen at the camp was intrigued. He and his guide climbed to the rock that overlooks Jimmy's Hole to watch the star angler. The woman cast a tangle of slack line. Some plunked into the river and the rest fell at her feet and over the gunwale. The fly would sink, its hair spreading out; it would pulsate invitingly and the salmon would hit it. Such was the ingenuous beginning, the river people say, of patent fishing. The two men refined the style considerably but the basic principle remains the same.
At the time it was not unusual for a lady of the stage to be found angling on the Restigouche. It was the Mauve Decade, after all, and passions were sometimes purple. From time to time suspicious wives, riding in buckboards, would appear unannounced in the wilderness to check the guest list.
The fishermen were men of power, and their enthusiasm for the sporting life was immense. Consider some of the members in those early years of the third great fishing establishment on the river, the Ristigouche Salmon Club: