Friday, August 3, 2018

Flies of a Feather...flocked together

The drake mallard duck.  Where would fly fishing, especially for Atlantic salmon in days gone by, be without that most common of the wild ducks?  Not the most striking of male waterfowl, perhaps it was its abundance that lent itself to becoming such an integral part of so many salmon (and trout) flies.  At any rate, a recent celebration honoring a man and a fly he created got me to thinking about the mallard's contributions to salmon angling.

Fred Grant (1901-1971) was an artist, fly tyer and salmon guide on the upper reaches of the Miramichi River in the mid-twentieth century.  He came to my attention via Facebook recently.  Juniper, a small town at the headwaters of the Miramichi, has a community centre (check that Canadian spelling!) which recently erected a monument to one of Fred's creations, the Grant Special (photo from the Centre's facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/JCC506/):


There is a wonderful resource for information about New Brunswick fly tyers, both past and present:   http://www.flyfishingnb.com/index.html.  I googled and googled trying to find information about Fred Grant and his Grant Special - flyfishingnb was the only place I could find anything about the man and his fly.  I combed through all of my salmon fly books...nada.   Flyfishingnb has a great little biography of Fred, and I have taken the liberty of reprinting what the site had to say about the development of the Grant Special:

In the mid 1930’s Fred Grant originated a fly pattern that proved to be successful.  He named the fly the “Grant Special.”  The fly evolved in this way.  Fred was asked to tie the “Reliable” but he didn’t have the Bronze Mallard feather for the wing.  He decided to use grey mallard instead and during the tying process also added a second tail of Golden Pheasant crest just in front of the yellow butt.  Fred tied the “Grant Special” in this presentation, and used florescent green floss for the butt.  The original patter calls for yellow floss to be used for the butt.  Fred and a lot of other fishermen used this pattern with much success.  It is one of a few flies that is a good salmon catcher, and it even earned him a few good dollars.  The “Grant Special” was his favourite feather-wing fly.  In June 1940, while fishing on his favourite river, the Miramichi, he caught a 20-pound salmon on it.  Fred Grant’s favourite hair-wing salmon fly was the “Cosseboom.”  Of all the flies he tied, and liked, Fred Grant never tied or fished with “bugs.”

          (Hijacking my own post....you gotta love a guy who "never tied or fished with bugs" - those                                  spun deer hair thingies that anybody can hook a salmon with, lol)

Here's my tie of a Grant Special.  The wing is problematic - in the text above, it's listed as topped by slips of gray Mallard, but in the recipe, also from flyfishingnb, it's listed as teal.   Since this post is all about Mallard, we'll go with the mallard wing!  Especially in light of the fact that, on that website, there is a photo of a Grant Special tied by Fred that definately sports a mallard wing.


The Grant Special:

Head:                Black
Tip:                         Oval silver tinsel
Tail:                        Red floss or red hackle fibers
Butt:                       Florescent lime green floss
Second Tail:           Golden Pheasant crest
Body:                      Black floss or wool
Rib:                         Oval silver tinsel
Throat Hackle:      Reddish brown
Wing:                      Strands of Golden Pheasant tippets topped with speckled Teal

The text from flyfishingnb makes reference to a fly named the Reliable, designed by Pennsylvanian Ira Gruber for the Miramichi, likely sometime between 1935 and 1945, according to Bates and Richards' Fishing Atlantic Salmon; the Flies and the Patterns.  They also note that Gruber was "responsible for establishing the general conformation of the Miramichi-type salmon fly: a short, cigar-shaped body ribbed with close-turned fine tinsel and with a short wing that hugs the body."

My tie of the Reliable:


Head              Black
Tail                Red breast feather fibers from Golden Pheasant
Ribbing         Fine oval silver tinsel
Throat           Black hackle
Wing              Underwing - two matched section of Golden Pheasant tippet.  Overwing - Brown mallard

Some time ago, I posted a photo of a Reliable I had tied on a United Kingdom-based Atlantic salmon forum.  One fellow's response to the photo was that it looked pretty much like an old British pattern, the Jeannie.  Good call...mostly just a different tail:




The Jeannie's wing is once again problematical.  Bates and Richards list it as two strips of brown mallard, set upright.  Others have noted that it's a mix of mallard and teal.  Good discussion here:

Jeannie (according to Bates and Richards):

Head             Black
Tip                Oval silver tinsel
Tail               Golden Pheasant Crest
Body             Rear third: lemon yellow floss.  Front two-thirds: black floss
Ribbing        Oval silver tinsel
Throat          Black hackle
Wing             Two strips of brown mallard
Cheeks          Jungle cock

Well, if that gentleman on the forum thought that the Reliable looked a lot like a Jeannie, he should get a load of the Black Fairy's resemblance to the Jeannie!


At least the tinsel color got changed up along with the addition of an ostrich herl butt.

Head              Black
Tag                 Round gold tinsel and golden yellow floss
Tail                 Golden Pheasant Crest
Butt                Black ostrich herl
Body               Black floss
Ribbing          Oval gold tinsel
Throat            Black hackle
Wing               Strips of brown mallard

The Logie (detailed here: http://theriverscourse.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-logie.html) offers a nice change of pace from the above flies, with its mallard overtopping yellow-dyed feathers from a goose or swan.  Researching the body color(s) will give you fits, though.


Logie (as I've tied it here)

Head            Black
Tip               Oval silver tinsel
Body            Rear two fifths: yellow floss.  Front three fifths: claret floss
Ribbing       Oval silver tinsel
Throat         Light blue hackle
Wing            Yellow goose topped by bronze mallard

By no means an exhaustive survey of the mallard's utility as winging material, this has been a fun exercise for yours truly.  There's just sooooo much to learn about salmon flies...and how to tie them!  Featherwing flies never cease to remind me how much I like tying hairwing flies!!

Cheers, 
Gary





Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Atlantic Salmon Fly International - Miramichi, NB, June 2018



June 20th saw me heading back to New Brunswick for the Atlantic Salmon Fly International gathering in Miramichi, NB, a gathering of about 80 fly tyers from around the world.  Countries like Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Italy, the U.S. and of course, Canada were represented.   An overnight stop at my old friends Ken and Donna Simard in Arundel, Maine, made the trip much more manageable; they are 4 hours from my house and only 6 hours from Boiestown, NB, which was my first stop.  That was hospitality much appreciated!!

Thursday, the 21st, there was an open house for the tyers at the Atlantic Salmon Museum in Doaktown.  I never tire of taking photos of my friend Charlie Krom's flies!


I woke up to this kind of day in Boiestown on the 22nd, the first day of ASFI:


Home Pool at Bullock's Lodge looked perfect!


In fact, it was perfect...just a couple days earlier, a fellow I knew from a couple forums and facebook and whom I would finally get to meet in person landed a beauty in that very pool!  Nicely done, Paul Slaney!


Renate Bullock and Vin Swazey made the trip down to Miramichi with me for the first day of ASFI.  We walked in to a pretty impressive set-up!


One of the aspects of ASFI that was most pleasing to me was that I would finally meet, face to face, a few tyers that I had known for as many as 10 years but never met in person, and I'd also get to renew acquaintances with folks I had met previously, like Bryant Freeman (here with Renate and Vin):


Paul Slaney, whose flies I've admired for some time and had just come from Bullock's Lodge, turned out to be my table mate!


Friday night there was a steak/lobster feast at Debbie and Dale Norton's Upper Oxbow Adventures on the Little Southwest Miramichi river.  A very good time was had by all!


License plates from across the U.S. and Canada:


I hadn't noticed them on Friday, but Saturday morning I looked up and realized that each tyer had a banner with their name, country, flag and a fly hanging from the ceiling!  Here's mine, with another fellow I knew only from the internet, Eunan Hendron, flying to the left of me, so to speak.  So cool that the committee knew to put my Celtic Beauty on the banner!


Here's a random selection of the kind of flies these tyers produce:










Don't know how an aging hairwing tyer snuck in the door amid all those classic tyers!


Photo of yours truly by this crazy man, Jin Woo Lee, who ties his flies without a vise, thank you very much!  (photo is a little blurry because Jin never seems to stop moving!)



I mentioned that Paul Slaney and I were table mates.  I cracked up when I realized the difference between all his gear and mine!



Saturday night there was a banquet for attendees and their family and friends.  Somehow, the organizing committee decided I should MC the event and do the auction.  I'm not sure how I did, but the auction numbers were pretty outstanding.  Here's a page from my program (confidential auctioneer type stuff blacked out, sorry):


A great audience raised more than $11,000 on the 20 items; net profits will benefit the Atlantic Salmon Museum and Project Healing Waters.  Good on everyone!!

I was very pleased, proud and complimented when these two, Lottie and Stephen Nye, bought the fly framing that Val Kropiwniki and I put together for the auction.  I am so happy to call them my friends!


Many, many more photos and videos of the event can be found at the ASFI Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/2088132268089985/  and at their website:  http://www.asfi-expo.com/canada/index.php

Over the years, I have been part of a great many conventions, fundraisers and banquets.  From every angle, the ASFI 2018 committee did an absolutely spectacular job of putting the event on.  The committee: 

Bob MacDonald  
Jacques Héroux 
Lissa Mallais 
Lloyd Lutes 
Luc Carrier 
Marc Leblanc 

Paul Leger 
A magnificent job all around.  What a wonderful opportunity it was for all concerned, and especially me.  What a treat!  And speaking of treats, we all got a cool shirt (seen in the photos), but also a cool swag bag!


And here's proof that I really can get serious about things....who knew?



Cheers!
Gary

New Brunswick Shenanigans: April - June, 2018...Part Two

Back to the Miramichi the first of June for the Central New Brunswick Woodmen's Museum annual tribute/fundraiser in Boiestown, a little roofing in Sunny Corner, a few stripers on the North West, and back home ten days, give or take, later.

I got to Boiestown early enough to wander down to our new property, down the lane from the Swazey's.  Pretty day, pretty view - and no black ducks swimming on the lawn like last visit!:


Saturday dawned cloudy and cold (if you don't like the weather in New Brunswick....wait a minute.)


My friend Vin Swazey has a boathouse full of Chestnut canoes and has decided to sell a couple of them, but we needed to dig them out from an assortment of other boats.  Time to round-up some muscle; fortunately, Vin's nephew Jason was around, with several of his buddies.  Couldn't have done the job of getting the first boat out of the boathouse with out them.  The canoe is a 20 foot Chestnut Sponson that needs restoration:





The other canoe is an 18 foot Ogilvie by Chestnut.  It has been restored, and has not seen the water since that restoration...always stored in the boathouse:




If you're interested in either boat, let me know and I'll get you together with Vin.

And thanks for the muscle, guys!


Speaking of canoes, the Woodmen's Museum was honoring Salmon Brook Camp, and especially Mervin and Myrna Green, long time employees of the camp.  Mervin took part, in 1967, of Canada's Centennial Voyageur Canoe Pageant, a 3,283 mile, 104 day race across Canada.  Provinces and Territories entered one canoe each, paddled by 6 men at a time, in the race.  The Woodmen's Museum put the New Brunswick canoe on special display for the evening and Mervin told great stories about the journey in the hour before the evening's festivities:


As always, there was a great crowd at the event, generous of spirit and funds for the Museum:


Sunday morning...great roofing weather, so I headed downriver to Sunny Corner, to help Paul and Stephanie Elson rehab half of their rood, with Howie Gould on board as well.


I will not bore my dear readers with photos of our travail, save one; whoever on earth thought it was a good idea to put a chimney through the roof immediately adjacent to a valley should be shot.  Took all of a day to fashion a platform that could be flashed.  About an hour of that day was used to get 7 (count them, 7) layers of shingles and asphalt gook cleaned away so we could remove the chimney!


Some would say "fortunately, it was raining on Tuesday, so we couldn't roof".  I would likely be one of those "some."   And if you can't roof, you CAN fish!  The North West Miramichi has more than a million spawning striped bass in it at this time of year, much to the chagrin of Atlantic salmon smolts and those that love them (I'm not going to go there at this time, but whether they know it or not - and it's apparently "not" - the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans has a huge problem on its hands from both biological and sociological standpoints).  So we loaded up, got Paul and Steph's boat in the river, and it was fish ON!

Howie's delightful daughter Melissa had joined us for a couple days before she moved out to Alberta, and she was no slouch in the boat!


She's got a healthy dose of Howie's "let's have a good time" genes, too.


Paul got in the act with her, too!


After a great day on the water, the run back to the landing was a bit chilly...just ask Paul and Stephanie!


The rest of the week was occupied with finishing the roof.  It was a tough job, but everyone pitched in and we got 'er done.  Saturday morning I headed back to Boiestown to rest up for a day or so before heading home.  When I walked into camp, this message was waiting for me (don't forget - you can click on the image to see the big picture):


When Renate Bullock tells me to "come fishing", I obey!  We had two lovely evenings together on the pools of Bullock's Lodge!  She's a generous friend!


And those evenings gave me the opportunity to try out my new best friend - a Beulah Onyx 13'7' cannon of a two-hander.  Whoa, do I like that rod!  Thank you, Elsons!!


An early June evening on the Miramichi River...what could be better?


And why oh why do the mornings that I have to head for home have to dawn so beautifully??


Of course, since I'd be back in that exact spot in just two weeks was of some consolation!

Cheers,
Gary