Fishing Lines: Exclusive: I've been invited to join a very select Canadian club

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The Independent Online

It became apparent that the fishing was going to be something special when I phoned a friend and asked: "What's fishing like on the Grand Cascapedia? I'm going there this week."

He replied: "You fortunate person," or words to that effect.

Neil gets the chance to fish everywhere. He's got invitations coming out of his orifices. If he's heading for Scotland, you know he won't be dabbling on the public stretches but on a prime beat of the Tweed or Spey that Lord X only allows close friends to fish.

He goes to Norway so often we're thinking of calling him Olaf. And of course, when he's there he gets to fish the best rivers, such as the Alta and Namsen, where you normally need a pedigree going back to the Vikings to wangle an invite. Neil knows everywhere that salmon swim. But even he's jealous that I'm going tothe Cascapedia.

"How good is it?" I asked him.

"Well, let's just say that you'll think you've gone to heaven,"he replied.

So much for thorough journalistic research. I still don't know much about the river, except that it's 120km long, not that far from Quebec, rises in the wonderfully named Chic-Choc Mountains and that people lower their voices when theysay the name.

What other knowledge I possess is slightly more specialised. I'm very aware that it produces the largest salmon in Canada (the average size in September is 24lb) and that all of the very big fish caught in the country, going back 100 years or more, have been Cascapedia fish. The official record is 54lb, caught by R G Dun (of Dun and Bradstreet, the credit agency).

The river has had close links with the Brits. People such as the Marquess of Landsdowne and Lord Stanley lived alongside it. The Cascapedia housed the summer retreat of Princess Louise, Queen Victoria's daughter. There is still a lodge named after her.

Of course, the prime fishing's sewn up. For eternity. But ifyou want proof that there is a God, how about the fact thatthis ageing, overweight hack will be casting across the same waters once angled by royalty and the the world's most important statesmen?

It's only a quick visit. Pricesat this time of year are so high that I have just one day on the Cascapedia itself, though I'vegot a couple more days onlesser rivers.

For an angling historian like me, the greatest fascination is that fishing still takes place as it did more than 100 years ago – from canoes. I'm sure (he said confidently) that they are a bit more stable than the thingsyou paddle down the Thames.If not, I may be fulfilling Neil's prediction.

One small problem is that my wife, Riva, is coming along. Her mother has just died, so it's an important break for her.

On the other hand, I never arranged anything but fishing when I booked the trip, andnow it's too late to add anextra permit.

Still, it looks like there'splenty for her to do. There'sthe Cascapedia salmon museum, walks along the river to watch people fishing, the chance to visit a salmon smokery and a hatchery. She'll have a great time.

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