Donald Hustins. Rivers of Dreams: The Evolution of Fly-Fishing and Conservation of Atlantic Salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador

By Hall, Jason | Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Donald Hustins. Rivers of Dreams: The Evolution of Fly-Fishing and Conservation of Atlantic Salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador


Hall, Jason, Newfoundland and Labrador Studies


Donald Hustins. Rivers of Dreams: The Evolution of Fly-Fishing and Conservation of Atlantic Salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador (1700-1949). St. Johns, 2010. ISBN 978-0-978224-51-6

Donald Hustins draws on his experience as a fly fisherman, conservationist, and civil servant to chronicle the development of the fly-fishing industry and Atlantic salmon conservation in Newfoundland and Labrador from 1700 to 1949. His work conveys the importance of fly-fishing and conservation to Newfoundland and Labradors history and the significance of conservation to the survival of Atlantic salmon and the fishing industry. Hustins also explores the changing values of anglers and conservation workers across time and deepens readers' appreciation of the riparian geography of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Rivers of Dreams is a popular history that traces 250 years of struggle to develop effective conservation regulations and to raise public awareness of the need to protect Atlantic salmon from overfishing, pollution, obstructions, and habitat degradation. These conservation initiatives included enforcement of restrictions on British settlement and fishing on the French Shore, establishment of wardens, bans on netting, and the emergence of licensing systems and closed seasons. Hustins also explores debates over such matters as artificial fish propagation, leasing freshwater fishing rights to private clubs, and the construction of fishways to help salmon reach spawning grounds. His discussion of these issues includes fascinating glimpses of the history and character of Newfoundland and Labrador waterways as well as the habits and habitats of Atlantic salmon.

The book provides a rich history of the people who developed sport fishing and conservation in Newfoundland and Labrador. Rivers of Dreams uses letters, reports, memoirs, newspapers, and magazines to illuminate the values and motivation of anglers and conservationists as well as significant events in the history of angling. It introduces readers to notable British military officers such as George Cartwright and Richard Dashwood, to the operators, guides, and fly-tyers of Newfoundland and Labradors first tourist lodges, to prominent conservationists such as Lee Wulff, and to the anglers, wardens, and politicians who supported fly-fishing and conservation. Hustins also provides insight into the social conflict generated by conservation regulations modelled on elite angling culture. Accounts of poaching, squatting of fishing holes, and the vandalism of a hatchery reveal that conservation has been divisive and contested throughout Newfoundland and Labrador's history.

Hustins's study contains rich material on the social history of Newfoundland and Labrador. Not all fishers and sportswriters were men, and Hustins notes the important contributions women and youth made to the fly-fishing industry. Some of the book's most interesting analysis centres on the local economies, cultures, and traditions that arose around the guiding profession. This includes stories of outfitters who dumped ice into a fishing hole to preserve salmon in a heat wave and discussion of the impact that the introduction of moose to Newfoundland had on fly-tying. Hustins traces the tourist industry's development from the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century vacations of angling military officers to the seasonal holidays of wealthy urbanites, while also noting the emergence of international sporting shows, popular travel, and state-sponsored tourism in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Readers learn about the social and environmental impacts of the steamships, railways, highways, and float planes that carried people to and across Newfoundland and Labrador; the region's portrayal in sporting and natural history literature and wildlife films; and the tourists, promoters, and rural residents who formed the backbone of the tourist economy. …

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