Growing up on the shores of the Saint-François River

Written by François Tremblay, aka Arthur L’aventurier
We recently launched a new Watershed Reports interactive website to engage Canadians and raise awareness about the watershed they live in, and the health and threats it faces.  TV Personality François Tremblay’s appreciation for nature and freshwater was instilled in him at a young age. François grew up in the Central St. Lawrence watershed, along the shores of the Saint-François River. This is his watershed story.
I have so many memories associated with this beautiful corner of the country… The river was like a whole extraordinary universe for me to explore. I had so many adventures on its shores. Discovered so many hiding spots at the foot of the giant willows that grew in the humid earth. Watched so many birds, from the great heron to the snipe, not to mention the multitude of ducks! It was fascinating to grow up alongside a river that contained in its depths species of fish ranging from the yellow walleye to the chain pickerel, the smallmouth bass to the French carp, and of course, the hypocritical crawfish concealed under the rocks! Actually, that reminds me of an adventure I once had on the shores of the Saint-François River.

Saint-François River near Ascot Corner, Québec. © imaginativstudio
Saint-François River near Ascot Corner, Québec. © imaginativstudio

It happened one summer’s day in July, when I was 11 years old. My friends and I (all valiant adventurers) were at the river’s edge fishing for walleye. It was heaven. The birds were chirping, the temperature was nearly 30 degrees Celsius, and the fishing was good. But the riverbed was lined with rocks that kept trapping my fishing hook, and eventually, my line got stuck. There’s nothing more frustrating than having your line caught on a rock when the fish are biting, especially since my friends were catching beautiful specimens to either side of me. So I tried as I might, pulling my line in all directions to dislodge my hook, but to no avail.
Undeterred, I took off my shoes and socks, and carefully waded out into the river towards the spot where my line was caught. I advanced at a snail’s pace, painstakingly feeling my way forward, trying not to hurt my feet on the rocks. Little did I know what I had coming to me!
Step by step I advanced, when all of a sudden, I felt an intense burning sensation on the big toe of my right foot. Ouch!! Oh!!! Ouch!!! And with that I launched into a bizarre dance, complete with yelling and screaming. Ouch! Ouch!!! Ow!!! I dropped my fishing rod, which landed at the bottom of the river. I fell to my knees, got back up, jumped around, ran forward, and finally, with great difficulty, made it to the shore, under the baffled stares of my friends, who were clearly wondering what was wrong with me. I continued my dance in the sand of the little beach, before collapsing to the ground. My friends gathered round with confusion on their faces. I grabbed my right foot in my hands, and a drop of blood appeared on my big toe. “What happened?” One of my friends asked. “Did you get bitten by a pike?” Asked another. “A leech! I bet it was a leech!!”
It was the first time in my life I’d had my toes bitten by a crawfish, and believe me, it hurts!!!
All that to say, the Saint-François river watershed, between Windsor and Richmond in the beautiful region of Estrie, was the most amazing playground for my adventurous friends and I, back in the day. We spent entire days inventing imaginary worlds within this real and infinitely beautiful place. All children should have the opportunity to grow up with that kind of freedom, far from parents, and in perfect harmony with nature!
Want to learn more about the health and threats to your watershed? Visit, and check out our Watersheds 101 infographic for more information on how WWF is assessing the state of Canada’s freshwater.