The rewards of fly–fishing go far beyond hooking a fish: The feeling of being immersed waist–deep in nature and connecting to your surroundings can last a lifetime. When it comes to wild Atlantic salmon, anglers of all abilities point their rods toward Newfoundland and Labrador – a mecca for the regal species and its admirers alike – and nobody knows the iconic (and mostly unknown) salmon rivers of the west coast of “The Rock” like Kastine Coleman and Terry Byrne. The owners of the guiding outfitter Tight Loops Tight Lines, based out of Corner Brook, are now stars of a new fishing series now airing on Sportsman Channel Canada. In their show, Coleman and Byrne lure viewers to rivers well–known and off–the–beaten–path across the province. We chatted about their passion for the sport, how to ensure a future for wild Atlantic salmon and what a perfect day on the river looks like to them.
On river and onscreen, this angling power couple shine their lights on salmon conservation and the best Newfoundland and Labrador fishing spots.
enRoute What do you love most about fly–fishing?
Kastine Coleman You put all your focus and attention on that fly as it moves through the water. If you start thinking about something else, even for a split second, you’re going to miss the fish taking. It brings salmon fishing to that place where it is like a meditative state. You have no choice but to forget about everything else when you’re on the river. You have that sound of the water rushing by you and all your senses are working.
ER What makes Atlantic salmon such a sought–after fish for anglers?
KC It’s their strength and their abilities. They enter fresh water from the sea to spawn on the same river they were born. On their journey upriver they don't eat, unlike trout who actively try to feed to stay alive, so you’re trying to agitate the salmon to the point where it takes your fly.
Terry Byrne Everyone has a theory on why they take a fly, but I’m just happy that they do. They’re so powerful. They leap, jump and run with your line way more than most other species. When you hook them, you feel their power and strength. It’s unbelievable, it’s electric. If you’re a fisher, whether you see it once or 10,000 times, it never gets old.
KC I get a fright every time I hook a fish — I actually scream.
ER How do you approach guiding someone if it is their first time fly–fishing?
KC We teach as we guide. You learn a lot more when you’re immersed in the sport compared to just standing onshore and listening. We spend a lot of time on proper fish handling, even if the client doesn’t get a fish during the lesson. By the time they have left, they know the right way to catch and release if they ever do get one. That’s something we preach a lot.
ER Do you have go–to rivers for beginners?
TB We’re lucky here on the west coast of Newfoundland. We have so many rivers to choose from that we can always match the river with what the client is looking to achieve.
KC You want to pick a river, or a section of a river, where they can have a safe introduction to the sport.
ER Are you seeing an increase in females getting into the sport?
KC I have a lot of women that are coming to me every summer saying, “I always wanted to try this, but never had anyone to teach me.” It’s an intimidating sport to get into on your own because you're not just going to suit up and walk down to the river. I’ve really enjoyed helping those people find their place on the river.
ER What makes fly–fishing for Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador unique?
TB We have over 60% of the best rivers for wild Atlantic salmon in North America, and they are all public access, which means anyone can fish them. In other places, unless you go with whoever owns that section of river, you can't fish it. Here, it doesn’t matter who you are. You can pay your 20 bucks for a licence and fish every river all summer.
ER What are the trophy rivers in Newfoundland and Labrador that people really want to fish?
TB For trophy Atlantic salmon it’s the Lower Humber River. You can hook a 40–to–50–pound fish there. It is world–renowned, and anyone that’s going after big Atlantic salmon has heard of it. It’s just a great river to fish.
KC In terms of seeing fish, it would be Big Falls on the Humber. Even if you can’t catch them, you will get to watch them jump the falls.
ER What does a successful day on the river with a client look like for you?
KC When someone makes a good cast, it’s like a light bulb goes on for them. If I can introduce someone to the river and give them the confidence so that they can go back any time on their own, then that’s my success.
TB I’m different. I always want to try to get the fish.
ER What do you do on the river when the fish aren’t biting?
KC The most important part of fishing are the breaks! Fishing gives you that little bit of a high. When you come off river and sit down, that’s your chance to relax, breathe and just take it all in.
TB We always make a fire riverside. Having a meal or tying a fly, it all just immerses you in the whole experience.
ER How did you two meet?
KC We met on a salmon river in 2018. I hooked him! There was no catch and release there. We both realized that we had the same passion for teaching and fishing. We started our business in 2019 and have been doing guided fishing and teaching ever since.
ER How has the culture around fly–fishing here evolved?
KC Initially, it began as a food source. When my dad was a kid, they were allowed to take eight fish a day. You could go down to the river every morning, get your eight fish, and come in back in time for breakfast. It’s down from that to two per year now. It’s a change in culture and a change in conservation at the same time.
ER What role does conservation play in the way you approach fishing?
TB Wild Atlantic salmon populations are in decline. Kastine and I have chosen to not keep any fish. We let them all go, and we practise the latest principles on catch–and–release so that we don't hurt the fish. We’re doing all we can to help ensure that they're going to survive, spawn and hopefully come back another year.
KC I got into catch–and–release because my dad always wanted us to be able to fly–fish and to experience what he loved about it. I want my kids to fly–fish, and I want their kids to fly–fish.
Related: Cast Away in Western Newfoundland
ER What are some of the latest conservation principles anglers should follow?
KC Regulations require using a barbless hook. Don’t hold the fish tightly at all, and don't touch its eyes, gills or mouth. Use a rubber knotless net which doesn’t hurt their eyes or take any of their scales off. Don't ever take the fish out of the water. If you do, it must be for less than five seconds based on current science. Keep the fish pointed upriver and when it's ready, it will just swim out of your hands.
ER How does someone set themself up for success as an angler?
TB It’s easier now than ever. Even moderately priced gear is good quality. And with the Internet, everything is at your fingertips. Taking a lesson really does set you up for success though because it’s less frustrating when you get on the water.
KC You should treat fishing as an adventure. Your objective shouldn’t be to go and get a fish, it’s to go fishing. You find a river, go down through the woods, make your way to the water, and learn how to fish that river. It's a learning experience, and when you come out of that, you celebrate everything.
ER What sets your TV series Tight Loops Tight Lines apart from other fishing shows?
KC All of the episodes are filmed in Newfoundland and Labrador. In addition to covering fly–fishing techniques and giving tricks and tips for casting and fishing, we try to spotlight local businesses. Our show highlights the incredible outdoor opportunities in the province by visiting rivers that are easily accessible as well as some remote locations in Labrador.
TB We fish for a variety of species, but primarily Atlantic salmon. We promote conservation and the current best practices for catch–and–release, which we believe is one of the cornerstones for the survival of Atlantic salmon in North America.
ER What is your dream fishing destination?
KC For fly–fishing for Atlantic salmon, we think that Newfoundland and Labrador is actually the dream destination. We have so many rivers, even just here on the island, and they are so accessible.
TB We know a lot of people who have travelled the world for Atlantic salmon, and they all come back and say, “You know, we’ve got it all right here.”