A chronicle of the fishing exploits of five generations of the Mumford family, who for the past 100 years have been enjoying regular trips to the fishing camps along Canada’s Miramichi River.
At the beginning of the 20th century, some well-heeled New Englanders began heading up to New Brunswick, Canada, to take part in the excellent salmon fishing along the Miramichi River. These “sports,” as the tourists were called by locals, hired their own guides, cooks and packhorses as they set out on their one- or two-week adventures into the wilderness. The journals and log entries from these expeditions inspired Mumford (Cloudy Night Books, 1979) to assemble the collection into a memoir. In 1916, the author’s father accompanied his own father to the Miramichi for the first time, and he began writing the journal entries that make up the first, most interesting, part of this book. These were the early, rustic years, during which guides could raise a makeshift shelter out of birch bark in time to protect their charges from an oncoming storm. Lunches were served by campfire along the shore, and the guides happily shared their life-in-the-wilderness techniques and local humor with the citified members of the Miramichi Fish and Game Club. (It doesn’t seem that the “sports” actually practiced any of these survival skills themselves.) Time marched on, and automobiles began to replace the trekking by foot, horseback and wagon. Lunches were served at the lodge in between morning and afternoon fishing forays, and the frequent comments in the club log, which make up the bulk of the latter portion of this book, focus on the number of salmon caught, the number of grilse (salmon that have returned to spawn after their first trip into the Atlantic) caught, the number of each that avoided the hook and a seemingly endless list of lures used. Information like this might only be relevant to fellow anglers already familiar with the terminology—e.g., a fishing experiment includes “a brown dry fly known as a Macintosh or Squirrel Tail.” Likewise, the extensive citing of names of fellow participants might only concern the men and women of the Miramichi Fish and Game Club.
An enjoyable look at how outdoorsy vacations have changed, though the appeal isn’t too broad.