To many fly-fishermen, no game fish ranks as high or costs so dearly as the Atlantic salmon. Nor is any other game fish as valuable to the local economy; in eastern Canada, where most Americans pursue the salmon, the angling industry is worth upward of $15 million a year and provides employment for at least 4,000 people. But today the salmon's existence in Quebec and New Brunswick is threatened by a new breed of professional poachers known as les braconniers. Often armed and sometimes violent, they serve a booming black market in Atlantic salmon. Last summer, in some rivers in Quebec and New Brunswick poachers took an estimated 50% of all the salmon that returned from the sea to spawn; this summer's pillage promises to be even worse. To date, the Canadian government, reacting to sensitive politicians and a citizenry which is apathetic, if not sympathetic to the poachers, chooses to look the other way. Even the most optimistic salmon conservationists predict that unless the government immediately declares all-out war, les braconniers may well be sounding the death knell for the Atlantic salmon in Canada.
In the otherwise unspoiled tranquillity of Quebec's Gasp� Peninsula, les braconniers are about as subtle as a bright salmon bursting through the surface of a quiet pool. Claude, a young Quebecois in his mid-20s, poaches the Matap�dia River and openly solicits visiting anglers in the lobby of a local hotel.
"Going to fish salmon, eh?" he asks you.
"Yes. We start tomorrow."
"Would you like a very big salmon? Twenty-eight pounds. A good fish, fresh from the Matap�dia."
You hesitate, momentarily confused. Then it hits you—the guy is a damn poacher.
"Hell, no," you reply. "I'm going to catch my own salmon—legally, on a fly."
Claude smirks. "How long will you be fishing?" he asks.
"Four days. Why?"
"Well," Claude says, "if you don't catch them, I will have more fresh salmon for you. Big ones to take home, eh?"