Fishing with Don Meissner

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

For those of you that have watched my show “Streamside” the name La Reserve Beauchene is probably familiar. It is my all- time favorite fishing destination, and over the next several months, I will be sharing with you much of what makes this wilderness retreat so special. Twenty years ago I discovered the giant brook trout that are native to several of its back lakes, and since then these mysterious beauties have haunted my thoughts and dreams. You can imagine my excitement when I recently got a call from Tony, the manager at Beauchene, inviting me to take part in a special brook trout conservation program. My role would be to assist other angler-biologists in catching spawning fish with a fly rod. While the normal fishing season had ended, the Quebec government had extended this special privilege to Beauchene in order to preserve and augment the natural brook trout population.

I have to confess that I am certainly not a biologist, and my knowledge of brook trout “spawning behavior” was borderline nonexistent. I knew that they did their “act” in the fall, and that was about it. Fortunately, a group of highly motivated individuals descended upon Beauchene to carry out this very ambitious undertaking. Led by Mark Heaton, a scientist with the Canadian ministry, several dedicated volunteers began collecting trout that were preparing to spawn. These fish were anesthetized by immersing them in a solution of clove oil. They were then measured, weighed, injected with a tiny chip that would allow them to be identified at later studies, stripped of eggs or sperm, and then returned to their environment.

The accompanying video captures this process and will help illustrate the incredible teamwork that made this program possible. I must add that my efforts in assisting this endeavor were more of moral support and admiration than any tangible contribution that my angling expertise had promised. I never caught a fish! As eager as the video may make them appear, these trout were very selective in what they allowed into their mouths. They seemed to have been fascinated with any type of egg, but the bug like offerings that filled my fly book were of no interest. However, in spite of the obvious hit to my now rather suspect angling prowess, I had a fabulous time just being part of such a wonderful event.

These guys that made this possible came from all walks of life. Several were biologists or fisheries people. There was a game warden, a famous artist, a physician, and several highly successful business leaders. However, at Beauchene they were all just “folks” intent on a single-minded purpose to help assure that a wonderful fishery be allowed to survive and provide continual thrills for generations to come.

One final note: I do not know of another place that fosters as much fanatical love and loyalty as does Beauchene. It is important to note that these folks were all volunteers. They had all sacrificed time away from home and family, and yet if you asked any of them why they did it, the answer was always the same. It was their way of saying “THANKYOU” to a place that had given them so much!


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