Tradition lives on — a trouting family

Paul Sparkes
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Published on June 08, 2014

It is 1987 and, dripping with mist and rain, A.M. (Gus) Cochrane (1917–2003) signs a warden’s book verifying that the catch has been checked. On this particular expedition, Cochrane was 70. On the left is Gus Geoffrey Cochrane, grandson of A.M. — Photo courtesy of Gus Cochrane (Jr).

Published on June 08, 2014

Catherine Marie Cochrane Legge, 2, examines the second trout caught by her brother, Aidan, this past Victoria Day holiday. Catherine Marie and Aidan are the children of Gus’s daughter Melanie, and her husband, Steve Legge. The trout was released, unharmed.
— Submitted photo

Published on June 08, 2014

Gus Cochrane and son, Geoffrey, tenting at Placentia Junction. — Submitted photo

Published on June 08, 2014

Grace Cochrane and her big brother, Zachary Gus (pictured here) are the children of Geoffrey and his wife, Gwen. If these small children are anything like their father, grandfather and great-grandfather, they have already begun to develop a love of Newfoundland’s outdoors — in fact they regularly visit the Placentia Junction area, so how could they not? Notes Gus Cochrane, the grandfather of the four children profiled here, “I just believe that Dad’s love of nature and our great outdoors has filtered down and helped shape the character of us all.” — Submitted photos

Published on June 08, 2014

Grace Cochrane (pictured here) and her big brother, Zachary Gus are the children of Geoffrey and his wife, Gwen. If these small children are anything like their father, grandfather and great-grandfather, they have already begun to develop a love of Newfoundland’s outdoors — in fact they regularly visit the Placentia Junction area, so how could they not? Notes Gus Cochrane, the grandfather of the four children profiled here, “I just believe that Dad’s love of nature and our great outdoors has filtered down and helped shape the character of us all.” — Submitted photos

Published on June 08, 2014

The basket makes a good seat for the successful fisherman who wishes to interrupt his trouting and admire his first-ever pink-bellied beauty. — Submitted photo

Published on June 08, 2014

The handsome trout lying atop the basket was caught by Gus Cochrane (grandfather of four, father of two and son of the late A.M.). Gus makes the point that his wife, Michelle (nee Scott), rather than go through married life as a trouting widow, joined in and has since become her husband’s “best trouting buddy.” — Submitted photo

The cast goes out — I feel the strike, and lo! a silver flash —
I know I’ve hooked a beauty, and I’m thrilled by every splash;
I give him lots of lea-way as he shoots across the pool,
No kinks or loops are in the line to snap off at the spool.

Many authors over the years have attempted to capture the spirit of angling in Newfoundland. The above lines from the poem “Fishing” were contributed more than 90 years ago by Peter C. Mars. (“The Call of Terra Nova,” 1924).

Admittedly, much more has been written about the salmon than our island’s assemblage of trout — C.H. Palmer in his 1928 book “The Salmon Rivers of Newfoundland” refers to the salmon as “this king of the sporting fish.” More recently, Donald Hustins (“Rivers of Dreams,” 2010) demonstrated the dedication of the salmon angler on this island when he wrote, “they are quite prepared to walk through rough country, over mosquito infested barrens and bogs, eat crusted sandwiches from a knapsack and endure the penetrating cold, heat or rain in pursuit of their prey.”

The nice thing about that observation is that it can be applied to many of our trouters, too. Granted, his prey may be fractionally less glamorous, but his dedication is certainly not a jot less than that of the salmoner.

Heading out for a couple of hours’ fishing or a full day complete with boil-up is programmed into many a Newfoundlander. Foggy, wet days with northeasterlies, humid and “close” days with no shortage of flies, solitary bird calls from the other side of the pond … these are the irreplaceable elements of the trouting environment. The pursuit captivates not only the lone stalwart but whole families, and I have come upon no better example of the latter than the family of Gus Cochrane of St. John’s.

Right now, the fourth generation seems thoroughly to enjoy a day in the country at a stream or a pond and if we knew more about the generations before A.M. (Gus) Cochrane (1917-2003), we would probably find their tradition goes well back.

In my column of May 20, I looked back to the Victoria Day holiday of 65 years ago (1949). In one part, I listed the winning trout from fishing jaunts that day. Gus Cochrane noticed something there — the first place winner in the submitted catches displayed in the windows of A.E. Hickman Company that May 25th so long ago, was none other than his father.

Here is the meat of a letter which Gus Cochrane sent on May 20:

 

“I read the above noted article which appeared in today’s Telegram with particularly great interest. The connection between the annual 24th of May fishing/trouting expedition via train from St. John’s to Argentia and Newfoundland joining Confederation was especially poignant for me.

“Your article referenced that Gus Cochrane, my Dad, won the prize offered by A.E. Hickman Company Ltd. for catching the biggest single trout at 2 lbs., 2.5 oz. Dad was also an important cog in the provincial government both before (Responsible government) and after Confederation.”

 

In a November 2003 Globe and Mail obituary written by J.M. Sullivan, it was noted that St. John’s-born Augustine Michael (Gus) Cochrane served at pivotal times under different government administrations here and held key positions. He was charged with significant tasks that helped create a modern public service in Newfoundland.

Cochrane (Jr.) continues his letter to me:

 

“This 24th weekend I took my grandson, and, of course Dad’s great grandson, Aidan John Cochrane Legge (four-and-a-half years old) on his very first trouting trip. We went to Placentia Junction on the old rail bed, one of the most popular fishing destinations years ago on the Trouters’ Special.

“My Dad would have been so proud tat that his great grandson, Aidan, caught his first trout, especially at Placentia Junction.

“Dad’s great granddaughter Catherine Marie Cochrane Legge, two years old, not to be outdone, at least held the second trout caught by her brother, Aidan, telling the world that she soon will catch her own. Obviously it was not the beauty that Dad caught 65 years ago, but much joy and fun for the two little ones and for me as well.”

 

The photos assembled here will show to some degree how A.M. Cochrane’s ongoing family enjoy the outdoors. It is clear he implanted in them an enthusiasm for Newfoundland’s countryside, its bogs, barrens, ponds and brooks — and perhaps even in the kind of weather that encourages the building of crackling boil-up fires and welcoming country homes.

 

Paul Sparkes is a longtime journalist intrigued by the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. Email:  psparkes@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Hickman Company, A.E. Hickman Company, Globe and Mail

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Terra Nova, Argentia

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Recent comments

  • Lisa McDonald
    June 09, 2014 - 21:26

    Great article & wonderful pics Gus :)

  • Melanie Cochrane
    June 09, 2014 - 20:05

    Thank you for printing this article. It will be a cherished memory and keepsake for both Aidan John and Catherine Mary. Aidan is particularly delighted to see himself on the front page; something he will enjoy reviewing again tomorrow as well as many years from now.