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Restigouche River, New Brunswick
Paradise Adrift
Camp Harmony-built by Dean Sage
Camp Harmony was built by Dean Sage in the late 19th century. "Fierce Dean" was the son of a wealth New York merchant, a philanthropist, expert fly fisherman, a boxer and breeder of trotting horses, dogs and fighting cocks. )Philip Lee Photo)

   He named the site Harmony after Julia Harmony Twichell, the wife of his good friend and fishing companion, Rev. Joseph Twichell, a clergyman from Hartford, Connecticut.

   Sage built his first camp on the Harmony site four years later, a three-room building with birch-bark partitions between the walls. While it was hardly luxurious, it was a major improvement over living in tents.

   In 1888, Sage published The Restigouche and its Salmon Fishing, a fly-fishing classic that further spread the fame of the river system.

   In 1896, he completed his new lodge, a sprawling log building designed by renowned New York architect, Stanford White.

   (White, one of the designers of Grand Central Station and Madison Square Gardens in New York, was an avid fly fisherman and regular visitor to the Restigouche River, leaving the mark of his design genius on a number of lodges along the river. These lodges bear the distinctive markings of his "shingle style" designs, which were associated with large mansions on the eastern seaboard. White designed Kedgwick Lodge for railway magnate William Vanderbilt, and decorated the main building with moose and elk heads, one of them a gift from Theodore Roosevelt. In 1906, White returned from a fishing trip to the Restigouche and was killed by a jealous husband, Henry K. Thaw, in full view of New York's high society. White was having an affair with Thaw's wife, actress Evelyn Nesbitt. A 195Os film, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, tells the story of White and Nesbitt's affair.)

   Today, Camp Harmony allows seven members only in the club. Each pays about $25,000 (U.S.) to join and more than $6,500 for a couple to fish and stay there for a week.

Micmac guides circa 1890
A british visitor to the Restigouche River in 1890 reported that in the capable care of Micmac guides, sportsmen could expect to land salmon from 25 to 50 pounds.

   The Americans who have followed in Sage's footsteps have created a secret world of luxury and comfort in the middle of the New Brunswick wilderness. The guests, known as sports to the locals, fly fish for salmon from 24-foot cedar canoes without ever getting their feet wet. In the morning, each guide picks up a guest at a riverside dock and motors off to fish one of the private pools. The guests return to the lodge at noon where they are served fine meals by uniformed staff. They spend their afternoons in quiet lounges, reading and napping. They fish again in the evening, then return for another meal. The Americans bring about $10-million dollars to the economy of northern New Brunswick during the eight-week season.

   Richard Adams once noted: "We are as glad to see the sports come to fish in the month of June as when Santa Claus comes down the stove pipe on the 25th day of December."

   On June 23, 1902, Dean Sage and his guide Alex Marchand fished the morning and landed three salmon. Sage returned to camp and ate lunch. He retired to his bed at 4 p.m. with chest pain and died soon after. During the night, a casket was brought up from Matapedia and the next day Sage's body was floated down balanced upon two canoes. Twichell later wrote that his friend was "borne down the stream over the flowing waters between the leafy banks so familiar to him."

   White designed perhaps the most famous lodge on the river system, Indian House, which is owned by the Restigouche Salmon Club and situated just downstream from the club's Million Dollar Pool.

   The Restigouche Salmon Club, the oldest fishing club in North America, was founded in 1880 by Americans who came to the Restigouche from New York in sailing ships, anchored in the Restigouche estuary and travelled upstream in small boats. These adventurers began to purchase land and fishing rights, and eventually decided to band together and pool their holdings. They built a main clubhouse in Matapedia, and Indian House and Island lodges further upstream. They once parked their private railway cars a short walk from the clubhouse in Matapedia. Today, members can fly in the morning by private jet, fish all day and fly home again at night.

   The club fishes along 64 kilometres of river, which it owns or leases. It has 30 members, half from Canada, half from the U.S.

   The club's early members included financier Izaak Walton Killam, mining magnate George B. Webster, steamship tycoon Sir Moutague Allan, Vanderbilts, Schylers, Lamonts, Whitneys, pickle king Howard Heinz jeweler C.L. Tiffany, rubber guru David M. Goodrich and automaker William Dodge.

   In more recent years, the club has hosted executives from A.E. Lepage, Sears, Marshall Field, T.E. Eaton. Coca-Cola, Noranda, Bank of Montreal , and General Motors. It has been a favoured destination for New York bankers, golfer Jack Nicklaus, U.S presidents, governor generals, prime ministers, entertainers Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Peter C. Newman, calls the Restigouche Salmon Club one most exclusive "sportsmen's hideaways" in North America.

   Club manager Al Carter, a gracious but forceful man, is deeply concerned about the future of the river. He thinks that the river has been overrun by unregulated canoeists, who leave garbage behind and spoil the tranquility that his guests have valued for more than a century. And there's a negative attitude towards the sports.

   "Everybody who is a non-New Brunswick resident is a 'damn American,' "he says. "It's all, 'Go home, damn Americans. Leave the river to us. It's our river.'"

   Today, the Restigouche is home to the Canadian and U.S. business elite during the summer months.

   Joseph Cullman 3rd, the chairmemeritus of the billion-dollar conglomerate Philip Morris Inc., owns two Restigouche lodges, one called Two Brooks on the Upsalquitch and one on the main river called Runnymede, named after the 1215 British battle when the barons forced King John to sign the Magna Cart~ charter of British liberty, which, a others things, granted the barons hunting and fishing rights. Cullma world-renowned philanthropist, is largest single financial contribution Atlantic salmon conservation movement.

   Fraser Paper runs one of the most opulent lodges on the Restigouche system on the Kedgwick River. Fraser leases a large stretch of the river from the New Brunswick government and hosts business clients from around the world, treating them to first class fly fishing and gourmet dining.

   The Irving family operates a lodge on a leased stretch of water at Downs Gulch, and is financing a major Atlantic salmon science program on the Little Main Restigouche near its second lodge at Boston Brook, a place close to the heart of industrialist K.C. Irving.

   The provincial government operates Larry's Gulch lodge on four miles of publicly owned river once managed by famous outfitters David and Jock Ogilvy. The provincial government spends about $800,000 a year treating guests to Restigouche salmon fishing, fine dining and first-rate accommodations in brown-shingled cabins on a high bluff overlooking the river. Government ministers book their space every year for "guests who may potentially invest in the province."

This article was taken from the New Brunswick Reader, August 29/98

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