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Celebrating our sportfishing heritage

Don MacLean
Don MacLean

OUTDOOR WORLD by Don MacLean

Next Monday is Heritage Day in Canada. It was created in 1973 by the Heritage Canada Foundation to help preserve and promote Canada’s natural, architectural, and historical heritage.

Starting in 2015, Nova Scotia made Heritage Day a provincial holiday to celebrate provincial heroes and events. Sport fishing has a long and colourful history in Nova Scotia and we are fortunate that we have two facilities in our area which have been created to honour this fishing heritage. They are the St. Mary’s River Education and Interpretation Centre and the Margaree Salmon Museum.

I am a big fan of both facilities and I try to visit them every year as I enjoy looking at the displays and old fishing gear in their collections.

The St. Mary’s River Association Education and Interpretative Centre, located outside of Sherbrooke, was built in 2001 and has a first-rate collection of photographs, fishing tackle and angling memorabilia belonging to famous anglers ranging from Babe Ruth to Lee Wulff. The education component includes information on Atlantic salmon life history as well as the work being done by the Association to improve fisheries habitat in the watershed. These projects range from bank stabilization to enhancing trout stocks.
The Margaree Atlantic Salmon Museum also has an excellent collection of early fishing equipment including rods, reels, lines and flies. Their rod collection has all the famous names such as Payne, Leonard, Hardy and so on. The reel collection ranges from massive Vom Hofes to reels from Hardy, Orvis, Leonard and J.W. Young but my personal favourite is a reel made from the piston of a Model A Ford by a local angler, a testimony to the ingenuity of early salmon fishermen.

If you have any interest in flies then you can spend an afternoon poring over the collection at the Museum. Virtually every famous fly tyer is represented: from Lee Wulff to Poul Jorgensen, Dan Bailey, Megan Boyd , Wallace Doak and Joe Aucoin. Lee Wulff first fished the Margaree in 1933 and he counted it as his first love among salmon river. The legendary Catskill fly tying team of Harry and Elsie Darbee were longtime visitors to the Margaree and their work is also on display.

Margaree fishing guides also have a place of honour in the museum but my favourite exhibit is a small collection of equipment which once belonged to John Cosseboom. The Cosseboom Corner, as it is affectionately known, highlights the angling exploits of John Cosseboom, a Rhode Island insurance executive who was a yearly fixture on the Margaree until his death in 1938. He was the originator of the cosseboom salmon fly, in my opinion one of the best flies ever developed for Atlantic salmon.

The Margaree Museum is located just off the Cabot Trail in Margaree and there are signs to help you locate it. Both facilities are closed for the season but will be opening in the spring. I hope you get a chance to visit them when they reopen so you can appreciate the rich sportfishing heritage they celebrate. Make sure you give yourself some time to look around, you won’t be disappointed.

Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.

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