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Although the huge, productive river systems of New Brunswick get most of the attention from Atlantic salmon anglers, neighboring Nova Scotia has some very enticing Atlantic salmon and sea trout rivers. And the good news is, they are all easily accessible. For one thing, every river in Nova Scotia is public water, with guaranteed free trespass rights on all river banks. Furthermore, guides are not required in Nova Scotia, while they are in New Brunswick.

Even with all this going for them, most of Nova Scotia’s rivers are virtually ignored by visiting anglers. The exceptions are the Margaree on Cape Breton Island and the St. Mary’s in Guysborough County. Unfortunately, these two rivers are now so crowded that rotation fishing is required on most of the pools when the runs are on. Much less attention is paid to the La Have, the Medway and a host of smaller rivers too numerous to mention, all of which can offer excellent fishing if conditions are right.

If Nova Scotia has a major drawback as a salmon fishing destination, it’s that the rivers are all short and subject to fast water level changes. Basically, if it rains just before or during your trip, you’ll have good salmon fishing. If it doesn’t, you probably won’t. The ideal way to plan a trip to Nova Scotia is to have your gear packed and ready, watch the weather and leave the day it starts raining. Most people can’t do that, of course. And that’s where this province’s good sea trout, shad and smallmouth bass fishing comes in handy.

The infrastructure which supports do-it-yourself angling – fly shops, motels and hotels – is mainly concentrated around the Margaree and the St. Mary’s. This makes it a bit hard to ferret out the best pools on other rivers. The do-it-yourselfer can get started by contacting Nova Scotia Tourism Information (*). They have maps, outfitter listings, guide listings and general guidebooks to help get you started. You might also want to request the "Fishing Guide to Nova Scotia" from the Department of Fisheries (*).

As I said above, anglers are not required to use a professional guide, but the right one can greatly increase your efficiency. I recently spent four days with Bill Bryson of Winding River Guide Service (*). Bryson operates a tiny (four guests maximum) log lodge overlooking a productive pool on the Stewiacke River. Unfortunately, the Stewiacke and 30 other Bay of Fundy rivers have been temporarily closed to salmon angling for the past four or five years while they recover from an apparently temporary decline in fish stocks.

Since the Stewiacke is closed, Bryson has contracted with various inns and bed and breakfasts around the province, which lets him move his clients to wherever the fishing is best. We concentrated our fishing efforts on several North Shore rivers near the town of New Glasgow. The fishing conditions were perfect, as there had been a heavy rain the night I arrived. All the rivers were high and dirty for our first day, and gradually fell and cleared over the next three days. In one full day and three half-days of fishing, we fished Waughs River, which yielded a 12-pound hen salmon, a four-pound grilse and a three-pound sea-run brown trout; River John, where I caught a 14-pound hen and a six-pound grilse, my heaviest ever; and the Wallace River, which yielded a 16-pound hookbill male and a 12-pound hen. We also sampled one pool each on the tiny French River and the large East River without success.

Standard tackle here is a nine or ten-foot, eight or nine-weight rod. I’d also recommend bringing a six or seven-weight in case you end up fishing for other species. I did most of my fishing with a 12-foot Thomas & Thomas eight-weight two-hander, and found the long rod an advantage even on the relatively small rivers. Bring a floating line and a sink-tip or intermediate to use if the water is high. Bryson is a master fly tyer and can supply you with the correct flies. Make sure you buy a dozen of his "Bryson Specials" in various sizes, and specify the "private stock" version rather than the "public" version. It’s a proven pattern on salmon in other regions, and is a standard in my salmon box.

Bryson runs his fishing operation from May through October. The fishing begins with the La Have and Medway rivers on the southern Atlantic coast and moves north and east as the season progresses. The big attraction of Bryson’s operation is the adaptability. If one river isn’t producing, he can move you to one of 20 or more others. During July and other dry periods when the rivers are low, for example, Bryson goes after salmon on dry flies in tide water.

Bryson charges $125 (US) per day per person for guiding only, $850 for an all-inclusive (except license) three-day fishing package, and $1,200 for a five-day, six-night package. All prices include pickup at the Halifax airport. A seven-day salmon license is $42.80 (Can.), which includes tags for eight grilse (salmon under 63 cm). Nova Scotia is justly famous for its sightseeing and tourist attractions, so there’s plenty for non-fishing companions to do. Enjoy! – Tim Jones.

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