campfire tales Nanook's Campfire Tales
Carnage on the Patapedia
 by Wolfgang

My buddy Wolfgang told me this story about fishing from a canoe on the Patapedia, a salmon stream that borders on Quebec. I know you are probably jaded by now with canoe flipping stories, but he raised some points that might bear sharing.

Patapedia River by Paul Maybee.

"I almost drowned on the Patapedia this year," he started out.

"The water was low, and I was standing up poling from pool to pool. I guess I was feeling complacent, after all this must have been the 30th time I'd run this river.

I did have a life jacket on, one of the kind that goes around your neck you pull a string to inflate if you need to. But of course, it wasn't inflated. It was a sunny day, and we were just cruising. Nothing was tied in. Why bother?"

Gin-clear water on the Patapedia.
Photo Credit: Michelle Lavery

I didn't think the rock up ahead would cause any problem. I had already passed it almost all the way, but it caught the back end where I was standing. It all seemed to happen so slow, but I knew right away we were going over. I remember having the time to say, "Sorry George," to my brother up front. We both tumbled into the water in a heartbeat.

We lost all our food, beer, and fishing gear, more than a thousand dollars worth. My brother's rod and reel was worth several hundred alone. The only item we were able to save right then was my brother's insulin, so I guess we were lucky that way. We picked up odds and ends of our gear, like my spare flies and such, but it all went down the river.

I think next year we'll go to a fishing lodge somewhere and hire a guide package. My brother's gittin' on, and, well, I'm not that young myself anymore."

So ... complacency, nothing tied in, no life jackets, it can't happen to me, I'm gittin' on ... that's all cool, but the rock don't care none. Something to think about, for a few minutes anyway.

Kirk Gordon says:
"Along the NB-Quebec border, this remote river is difficult to access and isolated once you depart from the 23 mile camps. The descents through twisting rapids are steep and fast, with lots of deep salmon pools in between runs. The river banks are almost vertical for the most part, rising hundreds of feet to the ridge tops, and heavily forested by conifers and hardwoods. It is a world class river, but unfortunately the salmon numbers are now few. Not protecting this resource should be viewed as an ecological crime. It is such an incredible place! :)"

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