The Good Old Days were days when salmon were plentiful and anglers were allowed to retain large fish. Each summer, rivers like the Lower Humber gave up many double figure salmon that tested both equipment and angler to the hilt. Hooking a 40 lb silver beauty fresh in from the ocean and in the Humber’s strong current was indeed an exhilarating challenge.
Many other Newfoundland rivers have large fish as well, but grilse make up the predominant run. Here we show you some of the memories, retained in photos, links and copies of rare hard to find documents.
Updated September 2020
Down to Sally’s Cove
“DOWN TO SALLY’S COVE” is a collection of stories about Newfoundland and Labrador by Ella Manuel (1911-1985) and read by me, Antony Berger. I’m the editor of my mother’s writings about the history and rich culture of the places she lived, and the people she knew and loved. New episodes will be uploaded every week throughout the spring and summer of 2020.
In 1945, after years in England and the USA, Ella returned to Newfoundland to live, a single mother with two small boys. Using her maiden name, she began to write for newspapers and magazines and to read for radio stories about the places and people she met, recapturing some of the forgotten men and women of Newfoundland’s past. Over the next three decades, her voice became known across Canada through her many broadcasts on the CBC. When she died, she left behind a confused mass of undated manuscripts and notes, which I have now arranged and edited. Only a few recordings of her marvelous voice still exist, so I have decided to read her stories myself, notwithstanding the challenge of a male voice substituting for hers.
Of note are episodes 2 & 3 where Ella talks about how and why she opened Killdevil Lodge and it’s relation to the birth of outfitting in Western Newfoundland.
Afton Farm House
A few of the photos from the galley above reference the Afton House Farm, Tompkins. This was the first fishing lodge in the province and it ran for around 70 years before it unfortunately burned down in the 1950’s. Sports primarily fished the Little Codroy River that was located just behind the house and many records were set over the years. The little river was well known for large Atlantic Salmon. History says that due to the farms longevity, location to the gulf ferry for American sports and reliability of putting fisherman over fish all the time, the lodge never had to advertise for each season and was always full. We, however have purchased a brochure advertising the farm. This is a true piece of Newfoundland angling history. For more information about the farm house you can search the MUN online archives, thumb through some old SPAWNER magazines and read Don Hustin’s Newfoundland fly fishing history book – Rivers of Dreams. Its available for purchase in our store.
In 1950 you could fish from May 15th when salmon start to ascend the Bay St. George Rivers, right through Sep 15th for $5.
A 1984 Decks Awash magazine article covering the status of Atlantic Salmon stocks in the Newfoundland and the Maritimes.
Killdevil lodge ownes and operated by Ella Manuel was located near Lomond in Grose Morne National Park was the base of operations for Lee Wulff during the years when he operated his fishing lodges on the Northern Peninsula. It is named after the mountain to which the Lomond faces looking across the bay. More history of the area can be found here: Down to Sally’s Cove.
Lee Wulff was a writer. He wrote for many publications over the years and one of them was Outdoors Magazine. In December 1945 a story about the Lower Humber was published – “Hail the Humber”. Hail indeed!
If you have read anything about North American fly fishing you have probably read or come across an article by Lee Wulff – see above. Wulff’s early mark in Newfoundland was made when he started his fishing camps on the Northern Penninsula. Specifically, the camp at Portland Creek seemed to be his most prized to which he penned his book “Bush Pilot Angler”. In the off fishing season he traveled North America lecturing the angling public about his camps and his experience in Newfoundland and subsequently recruiting new sports for the upcoming season. Much like the Afton farm he didn’t need to advertise as word of mouth provided enough clients to fill the camps each summer. However, he did do a brochure and we have a copy we have provided here to satisfy your Newfoundland angling history curiosity. If you visit Portland Creek you can see the last camp Wulff had (fallen down) and the concrete dams built to hold salmon in pools in a small feeder brook right beside the old camp.
During the early years of the fly fishing sport tourism in Newfoundland, the tourism bureau published annual reports on fishing and distributed printed brochures. This was an attempt to market the island to wealthy sports who could afford the travel and guide requirements. Here is a snippit of the report from 1950 and the brochure from 1955. There is some very useful information in here that is still applicable to fishing the island these days.
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