A trout that is mouchetée is a trout that is pink on the inside, speckled on the outside and always hungry. Mouchetée trout and, to a point, even arc-en-ciels (see cover) abound in that schizoid land of French Canada where part of the population speaks French, the other part English, and signs are printed in both.
I can't think of a more comfortable way of getting to the trout than by vapeur, a term which to much of the Quebec population means steamboat. These steamboats are operated by the Canada Steamship Lines on a half-French, half-English basis, and puff regularly down the St. Lawrence River from the quay at Montreal, carrying padres in berets and black robes, French-Canadian honeymooners in new shoes and fishermen in old shirts.
A vapeur is something less than the Ile de France and something more than, say, a bateau mouche, those little craft that skim along the Seine loaded with French lovers and American tourists. They have cabins with regular beds, a hold in which to carry your car, and a menu that is printed in French and English. Here in this 50-50 world, puffed wheat becomes blé soufflé, and little things you took for granted, like a maple walnut sundae, emerge as sundae √† l'érable et aux noix.
SUMMER FISHING HOTELS
June 5, 1955
Now the vapeur people, besides running the vapeurs, also operate two fabled summer hotels along the route, the Manoir Richelieu at Murray Bay, and the Tadoussac Hotel at the entrance to the Saguenay River. The Manoir is a double, king-sized Norman ch√¢teau with great carpeted halls, a dining room in which the 405th United States Infantry could stage an encampment, and a golf course which requires two elevators to transport players from green to tee. Tadoussac is both smaller and simpler, but both resorts, besides having golf, swimming pools, tennis courts, and ample places to exchange your cash for cashmere sweaters, Murray Bay blankets and other impedimenta, maintain fishing camps in the environs.
The Manoir's fishing camp is 42 miles from the hotel, a route covered by chauffeured limousine with one brief stop for last-minute equipment at C.A. Brouillard's general store, a place that sells pickles, linoleum, spinners, landing nets and shares in a nearby uranium mine. The Manoir's base camp consists of three cabins, each of which has two double rooms with a bath between. The tariff is $14 a day for room and board, the use of a rod and reel if you don't have your own, and also the camp's jeep.
French-Canadian guides are assigned by L. (Paul) Chamberlain, the camp manager, and you can have your choice of 36 lakes to fish on, including Bonhomme Laurent, Calabash, Belly and Lac au Blanc. A few can be reached by a short jeep journey, but most are open only to a man on foot. There is one boat tied up at each lake, and Chico, a 45-minute walk, is equipped with a sleeping cabin, outdoor plumbing and a supply of food.
Those who return to the base camp each night get home cooking over a birch-log fire by Mme. Chamberlain, including soupe aux pois, tourti√®re—a farmer pie, or a bouilli, which is a sort of stew of beef, pork, cabbage, turnips, carrots and whatever else is handy. Also there is trout, pan-fried, pink and crusty.
The trout are all brook trout here, and the season runs from June first to the end of September. Only fly fishing is allowed. No trolling, no still fishing, no worms, no bait, no spinning. Fishing licenses for residents and nonresidents are on sale at the camp. If you are wondering how large is a large trout hereabouts, one checked in on June 14, 1946 weighing 5 pounds 6 ounces and now lies in state, suitably embalmed, over the dining room fireplace.
Tadoussac, a few hours ride down the St. Lawrence from the dock at Murray Bay, sits like a doorman at the entrance to the Saguenay, a deep and strange river where cliffs rise like fjord walls 500 feet higher than the Empire State Building, whales come in from the Atlantic, and seals sun themselves like summer tourists on the shoreline rocks.
The Indians were the first humans to come to Tadoussac as a resort, assembling each summer in a vast convention to hold a fair where they could barter Canadian furs and walrus ivory for tobacco and pearls up from the Caribbean. They hunted for seals, walruses and white whales, and they fished the streams. Then came Cartier looking for a route to Cathay and the Indians beguiled him with stories of gold and silver mines up the Saguenay, of "men and women who dress and wear shoes as we do," and also of people who never eat, have no bottoms and do not digest food.
THE FAMOUS SAGUENAY
The Saguenay turned out to be devoid of these marvels but a rich kingdom of blueberries, salmon and scenery, and thousands have been riding the steamboats every summer to see it. For anyone stopping over at Tadoussac there is the handsome hotel sitting high on the bluffs with black carriages to run you up there from the dock. It is an informal place run with easy grace by Capt. Carl Bodensieck, a tweedy charmer once of England.
For fishing widows there is a new pool on the lawn, tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, and Amazonian types can sand-ski down a tremendous pile of dunes dipping right into the sea. As for the fishermen, the camp is a handy seven miles away, sitting in a grove of birch trees and blueberry patches, looking down on Baker Lake, one of nine based by the hotel. Balsam Lake, a three-minute portage away, is set aside for fly-casting, but all the rest can be used for trolling with spinner and worm, still-fishing or fly-casting. The catch is brook trout and sometimes landlocked salmon.
Tadoussac's camp is run by Edouard Harvey, a bronzed outdoorsman descended from a British soldier and a French frontier girl. There is a standing guarantee from him that he "nevair come back wid no fish. That night I do I sleep in da wood." Edouard's experience with the local trout spans the era from the days of President Taft, for whom he was a guide, to the present fissionable age, in which he has little confidence.
The somewhat more rugged aspects of the Tadoussac camp compared with the Manoir's—there are double-decker bunks and all the plumbing is in the main house—means that the clientele is mostly male, the ladies being content to stay in the comfort of the hotel 15 minutes away. However, the very proximity sometimes draws strange types to the backwoods camp, and Edouard remembers with great clarity the day "two hactresses from 'Oily-woods" showed up ready to fish. Later they decided to explore the home of the trout, but lacking bathing suits, insisted on swimming in the buff. Edouard was bidding a hasty retreat into the coolness of the woods when the ladies demanded he remain to stand guard, and this he did with the blood converging in his brain and his hands atremble. Later when he returned to camp, he rushed up to Mme. Harvey to tell her about his extraordinary experience. "I say to my wife, 'Today I see something...something absolutely divine!' 'E say, 'I know what, I bet you saw a moose.' "