Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Nepisiguit Grey Atlantic Salmon Fly

 Every so often, I get hung up on a fly.  This time around, it's the Nepisiguit Grey (note well the Canadian spelling of the G-word!).   I don't believe I'd ever even heard of the Nepisiguit River until Paul and Stephanie Elson and Howie Gould took me fishing there one lovely Autumn day a few years ago.  More about the river in this post from 2017, if you're interested:

 There is another spelling, "Nipisiguit", that based on an hour of googling, looks to be an old French way of spelling.   I just bought a book, Salmon Fishing on the Nipisiguit - 1874, that lends a little credence to the older spelling.  Modern maps all seem to spell it Nepisiguit.  Several fly tying books, notably Farrow and Allen's Flies for Atlantic Salmon and Poul Jorgensen's Salmon Flies - Their Character, Style and Dressing use the Nipisiguit spelling, as does Joseph Bates, Jr. in The Art of the Salmon Fly.  

Historian David Ledlie, in an article he wrote for The American Fly Fisher (Fall 1976) concerning Dean Sage and his writing of the Ristigouche and its Salmon Fishing found this memo from Sage to his publisher regarding the spelling:  "Nepisseguit - Hickman spells it Nepisaguit and it is also spelled Nepiseguit and Nepisiguit, but my spelling is I think the most common and most in accordance with the pronounciation."

Others, including Bates and Richards Fishing Atlantic Salmon - the Flies and the Patterns and the monumental Hardy's Salmon Flies - Patterns from the Fly Tying Department 1883-1969 use the Nepisiguit spelling.  

In its earliest form, it's a beautiful fly - this one tied by Tyler Thompson.   Click on the pics for a larger version!

So who developed the Nepisiguit Grey?  Bates and Richards note, "No authentic information as to where, when or by whom the Nepisiguit Grey was originated, this evidence evidently being lost in antiquity."  In his Atlantic Salmon Flies, Jacques Heroux notes that the pattern was created by Ira Gruber.  I doubt that very much; the fly was around before Gruber's time, and looks unlike any other fly that notable fly developer created, particularly the complicated wing.  I am in communication with Gruber's grandson to see if he can shed some light on the subject.  New note:  Ira's grandson, also Ira, doubts that the fly was originated by his grandfather (pers. comm).  Also of note, a book he is writing about his grandfather is currently at the copy editor.

Enter Dewey Gillespie and his The Fly Tyers of New Brunswick - the 2nd Time Around (   Dewey introduces us to David Arthur LaPoiinte, a gentleman that owned a Fredericton, NB barbershop in the 1920's, and who moved to that hotbed of Miramichi fly tying, Atholville, NB in 1935 where he became more of a fly tyer than a barber.   He began teaching fly tying; Clovis Arseneault of Rusty Rat fame was one of his students.

Dewey credits LaPointe with creating the Nepisiguit Grey.   For the sake of argument, let's say LaPointe developed the hairwing Nepisiguit Grey.   He gives the dressing as follows:

Tag: Oval gold tinsel
Tip: Yellow floss
Tail: Golden Pheasant crest
Butt: Peacock herl
Rib: Oval gold tinsel
Body: Gray underbelly fur of a Muskrat
Throat: Grizzly hackle
Wing: Black Bear hair
Head: Black

In Hardy's Salmon Flies - Patterns from the Fly Tying Department 1883-1969, when discussing the Nepisiguit Grey, LaPointe was again given credit for the hairwing version:  "This was a pattern that adapted very well, largely because of its colouring, to a hair wing dressing, and the notebooks have a description, said to be taken from an illustration of one dressed by the American fly dresser LaPointe."

That's the most common dressing for the hairwing I've found.  Looks something like this:

In Bates and Richards' Fishing Atlantic Salmon, they list a simplified feather wing recipe:

Tag: Fine oval silver tinsel or wire and bright yellow floss
Tail: Golden Pheasant crest
Butt:  Two or three turns of peacock herl or black wool
Body: Medium gray wool, not built up
Rib: Fine oval tinsel
Throat: Barred rock (grizzly) hackle feather
Wing: In four sections, two on each side, bronze mallard
Head: Black

Looks a bit like this:


Those flies are part of a shadow box I created for the latest MSA online auction:

I found an old mining map of the river:

and through a little work with Paint, I was able to get this:

This whole deal pretty much started with a little favor I was doing for my friends up in Centreville, NB, Lottie and Stephen Nye.  They wanted to give a present to friends with a place on the Nepisiguit.  Stephen, like Tyler Thompson in the first pic in this blog post, has tying skills WAY above my paygrade, first tied the classic version from Hardy's recipe:

Tag: Silver and 152 yellow silk
Tail: Golden Pheasant crest
Butt: Black Ostrich
Body: Grey monkey fur (!!!!)
Ribs: Silver
Hackle:  Grizzly cock down body and at shoulder
Wing:  Golden pheasant tippet and golden pheasant tail, broadish strips of grey peacock wing feather and bustard, slip of summer duck and blue swan, brown mallard over.

They do list another wing variation.  You'll have to spend the 100 bucks for the book to get it, lol!

Here's what we ended up with for the gift the Nyes are giving (at least I THINK they're still giving it, lol) to their friends:

All that and we still don't know who designed the first Nepisiguit Grey!

Cheers, and get your shots!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Save the Date! MSA-US Atlantic Salmon Celebration 2021

 Save the Date! Feb. 20th at 7:00PM. The Miramichi Salmon Association's U.S. counterpart has put together an evening of salmon fishing entertainment that we are calling the MSA-US Salmon Celebration 2021.
We have a great Zoom livestream performance put together that will please any Atlantic salmon enthusiast. There will be lots of photos and videos of Miramichi salmon fishing that will feature some of the sport's best known personalities from today as well as the past. These include Lee and Joan Wulff, Ted Williams, Charlie DeFeo, as well as modern day fishers April Vokey, Deirdre Green, Bryant Freeman and Topher Browne. We have a fascinating illustrated history of the Miramichi salmon fishery by Morris Green from the Salmon Museum, and histories of the storied Black Brook Salmon Club and Doctor's Island. A special look at more than 50 flies tied by Charles DeFeo will also be featured. There's a lot more than this too.
The price for all this fun is $0. That isn't to say that the MSA wouldn't like a donation. The new president of the MSA, Dr. Robyn McCallum will also introduce herself, and I assure you we'd be happy to have your donation - but it isn't required to view the celebration. We want everyone to be able to see it. Donations of $50 or more will each get one chance in a drawing for a wonderful, Luther Hall, original painting. Goose Island Salmon. I almost can register right now at this link
So set the evening aside, open a couple of your favorite beverages, maybe order-in, and get set for a great evening of Atlantic salmon entertainment.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

An etching project with Adriano Manocchia

Artist Adriano Manocchia and I go way far back that I can't remember just how far back far back is!  We've fished together a lot, mostly on the Batten Kill, but some warm water stuff, too.  Even a trip to Pennsylvania to fish together.  We've worked on his vehicles a bunch, too.  Everything from classic pick up trucks to his Austin Healy.  Good times.

He has had an MGB restoration project to keep him busy during the warm weather and I have never-ending yard work to do then as well.   But as the cooler weather was showing up, we starting talking about what we were going to do to keep out of trouble when the weather started keeping us indoors.

I've been tying some older featherwing flies over the last year or so; I enjoy the look of them, and once I got bronze mallard feathers to bend to my will somewhat consistently, I began to enjoy tying them.  Out of the blue one day a month or so ago, Adriano wondered out loud to me about doing an etching centered around those old featherwings.  He didn't have to suggest that to me twice; I jumped right in and sent him photos of the flies I had done to date.

He came up with a lovely concept that harks back wonderfully to days gone by on the Miramichi.  Love the gent poling - not paddling - the canoe.  Just the way it's done on that river.  He hand-colored the flies, really capturing the look of 'em.

Uh oh - my turn.   While Adriano is selling some of the edition of twenty unframed (go here:, my job was to create a fly plate (when did shadow boxes full of flies ever become known as fly plates?) - one for him, one for Bridget and me, and one as a donation to the Atlantic Salmon Museum up in Doaktown, NB.  I said I'd like to frame 3 or 4 to sell mostly to raise money to buy more framing and matting materials for more donations to groups associated with the Atlantic salmon.  A guy can only dip into his social security check so often.

I usually fool around with a design for matting on a big piece of white cardboard or paper and then transfer that design to a first set of mats.  In this photo, you can see the white paper under the double mat, which really shows all the changes I end up making to the design.

I like to keep dimensions in easy (for me) multiples.  Double mats, for example, aren't very hard to do at all if you adhere them to each other before cutting the bottom mat.  It's a different story if the mats are going to be separated by spacers; you better have your act together when measuring out and cutting that bottom mat or what is supposed to be a quarter inch difference in mats will end up "not so much."

Once I've got the mat scheme down to what I want it to be, I've actually learned that it saves a lot of time if I do however many sets I'll need all at one time.  If you have a small shop like mine that has to serve as both a woodworking and a framing space, there is a major clean-up that has to be done, say, between making frames and making mats.  Sawdust is the enemy.   So here's a tidy stack, with a couple different mat options, ready for flies and frames:

On to the frames.  Always a fan of "simple" (the frame is about the artwork, not the framing, after all), I decided to use a simple oak frame.   I mill my own frame stock, usually from rough cut lumber.  In this case, I was using oak that had already been through the planer, but that would need to be re-cut and re-joined, and then the rabbet cut out.  There are several ways to cut that rabbet; I choose the safest way (most of the time), and use my table saw.

I do match up the face grains best I can.  I identify what will be the face and outside edge of the material with blue tape so that I know how to orient the piece in the table saw:

There is one little drawback to the way I do it.  Occasionally, the piece I am cutting out sort of has a mind of its own, and rather than sitting nicely on the table saw after being cut. tends to er, wander.  I had a few of those while making these frames.  I put the cardboard in front of the door in deference to buying a new door - and I always stand to one side when I'm doing this kind of work.  I have seen 2X2 lumber eject from the table saw and go through half inch particle board.  That taught me about the "stand to the side" deal.

I have taken to using strap clamps when gluing up frames.  Very easy to use.

A pile o' frames:

So there you have it.  I hope my framing does justice to Adriano's lovely hand-colored etching.   As I mentioned, I have 3 or 4 of these for sale.  Archivally matted and framed, they are $200 delivered to anywhere in the U.S and $220 delivered to Canada.  Anywhere else....let's talk.   Edition size is only 20.
Contact me through a PM on any forum I post this blog on, through FB's message system, or email me at   You can specify a light or dark frame.  The dark frame is a redish brown, which picks up the sepia bottom mat very nicely.


Friday, October 16, 2020

A Grandfather Remembered and Revered

 I did not know my own grandfathers well at all.  Truth be told, I never even met my mother's father, but I think, based on the one photo I have of him, that I inherited my moustache from him.   My father's father was an avid bird hunter and gear fisherman.  I have a photo of two of his setters, and a few of his shotgun shell boxes.   You can click on the pics to see an enlarged version.

Sadly, I never got to hunt or fish with him.

Not so for a fellow that recently contacted me about a creating a shadow box through Speypages message system.  Johnny Maltby's grandfather Charles (Chuck) Maltby was also a serious hunter and angler, and he and his wife would, according to John, often pick him up and take him fishing after school.  Chuck Maltby and his wife relaxing along the Ausable in Michigan:

John relates that his granddad was an architect, but was mostly a troutfisher, woodworker, and grouse hunter.  And an artist on several levels.  He made John this bobbin threader:

He made these tackle boxes for the Kalamazoo Trout Unlimited chapter every year:

John told me that the binders behind the box above contain his grandfather's notes on every trout over 6 inches that he caught between 1951 and 2011.  John wryly noted that "everyone thinks Robert Travers caught the most trout in Michigan...they are very wrong!"

Chuck Maltby took many trips to Yellowstone over the years, and would draw his own post cards to send back to the family.  He also tied his own flies.  These two facts lead us to why John contacted me in the first place:  he wanted a shadow box that contained mementos  of his grandfather's talent and thoughtfulness.  I agreed that it was a delightful idea, and why didn't John send me some cards and flies and we'd see what would become of it.

John sent me these two post cards that his grandfather drew, and 6 flies he tied:

I was unsure about how to mount the post cards and so purchased some clear "envelopes" that post card collectors use to store their cards.  That was never going to look right, so I eventually mounted them the same way I mount lithographs - with an acid-free hinge/tape system.

I played around with arrangements, and settled on this one:

That's the easy part.  Now a person has to start worrying about windows and spacers and such, and draw it out.

So, you get the top mat all cut out and put back together, now you have to stick the bottom mat on to that with two sided tape, and map out all the new cuts.  Gets a little dizzying!

I selected mats that I thought complemented the art, and I think it worked out.  I also used only an eighth inch difference between the mats, instead of a more customary one quarter inch.

Adding a one half inch foam core spacer gave the framing the depth it needed for the flies:

Now, about those flies.  I'm used to mounting nice big Atlantic salmon wet flies, either on their own posts or using beads:

These flies were little, puffy trout flies.  What to do?   I can (and do) make myself superglue a big salmon fly to a post by the hook point.  That's still what museum folks (remember, I used to be one of those) want: a  reversible attachment.  And the bead method is totally reversible.   Time for some experiments.  I have seen stiff, tiny diameter wire twisted around a fly to mount it (I have a John Betts litho with the fly mounted that way by a fellow in Denver), but this framing has to travel from Vermont to Chicago; I need a pretty bulletproof method to keep the flies aligned.

I needed a different kind of bead to "shroud" the wire.  Enter Heddie, from my high school homeroom fifty two years ago.  We are "friends" on facebook (even though she became a lawyer after high school) and I knew she is into "beading."   She turned me on to what has to be the world's biggest bead company, and we came up with just what the lawyer ordered...a little tiny clear tube that the wire could pass through on its way through the matboard to be secured on the other side.

My first attempt looked like this:

That silver wire wasn't going to cut it, so yippee, more fly tying materials!

A nice delicate yet stout arrangement:

Pretty invisible set-up looking head on:

I chose a red chestnut stain for the oak frame.  Think it complemented the artwork nicely.

Some closeups of Chuck Maltby's ever-so-cool post cards at home in the finished frame:

With renewed interest in bullet-proof packaging after a debacle with the USPS and their alleged insurance after they used one of my frames that went to California as a frisbee, I am happy to report that the framing is safely enjoying its place on Johnny Maltby's den wall.  All's well that ends well.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

Shadow Boxes

I thought it would be fun to put together a little "history" of my shadow box building endeavors over the past several years.  The framings have given me a way to raise funds for conservation and museum work - through the sale of them via auctions - that I could not have otherwise contributed.  And, if we ever get to cross the border and build our camp, we also have a few for the walls as well.

Except where noted in the framing, I tied the flies.

I got into making shadow boxes in the first place simply as a way to donate a BIG batch of hairwing salmon flies to the Miramichi Salmon Association.   I detailed that process here:  These were the first shadow boxes I ever made.  They had pine frames, were sold at a Boston MSA dinner, and reside now in one of my best friends homes here in the states.  The framings (you can click on the pics for the enlarged versions):

Steelhead living legend Dave McNeese also donated flies for the same book that mine were in, and gave them to me to frame for the same MSA auction:

Rather than present things in some sort of chronological order (and because I'm too lazy to figure that order out), we'll just cruise through the little collection of my work as it comes along.

It's been important for me to get better acquainted with Microsoft Word, not only to name the flies in the frames, but to add maps and photos and such to them.  One that took quite a bit of work to figure out how to get both a map and fly names on the same sheet of 140# watercolor paper is this one:

That last photo details the way I've begun mounting larger flies.   Here's the same frame concept, done earlier for an MSA online auction, with modern flies and using the "bead" method of mounting the flies:

I recently found a source for legal, open-edition, prints of Ogden Pleissner's work, printed on canvas.  The giclee' printing method that the vendor uses allow them to print on a variety of materials, and they can do them one at a runs of a thousand prints to store.  I purchased one (I hate paying retail, but what can you do?) and came up with the largest frame I've done to date.  The print is Pleissner's "Deep Pool."

One of the most enjoyable salmon fly-related events I've been invited to was the Atlantic Salmon Fly International gathering in Miramichi, NB,Canada back in July, 2018.  The organizers (volunteers all!) did a fine job of promoting the event and creating "take-aways" for the tyers.   Here's the poster they created for me, which I downloaded from their website and printed on a quality photo paper:

I always liked taking photos of flies dug into pieces of driftwood and the like while on the river.  It struck me that a frame with the flies in a piece of a beaver cutting would be cool, so I started collecting pieces of those cuttings along the Miramichi and smuggled 'em home.  Found one that I could cut in halves the long way on the band saw and came up with these:

I probably thought a little too much of myself when I created this framing in a limited edition of 10.  But they sold well, and made a few grand for the MSA and the Atlantic Salmon Museum.  I even gave one to the Atlantic Salmon Federation to sell, and I'm mad at them.  By the way, that's a photo of my wet fly box, which I took emulating a photo of Warren Duncan's box in Judith Dunham's The Atlantic Salmon Fly.   In fact, it was that single photo that got me into salmon fly tying.

Over the years, some good friends and FAR better fly tyers than I gifted me one of their classic salmon flies, which sat on top of a bookcase in plastic baseball card holders.  It took some thought (which always gives me a headache), but I came up with a way to feature them on our wall, and keep them safe for a couple generations at least.  I was able to cut the ovals with a gargantuan oval cutter given to me by fly tyer, author and stone polisher (I forget what people that work with stones and jewelry are called) Paul Rossman.  It takes two very strong people to move that thing!

Classic tyers Stephen Nye and Brian Cuming contributed multiple flies to my little collection; I came up with this way to preserve, protect and display them:

And yes, I spelled FredERicton wrong.  NOT taking that framing apart!!

One for the cave wall, and eventually the camp wall.  I've always liked Henry McDaniel's work, and when one came my was a thank you, I gratefully accepted it.  It is a fall scene on the Miramichi, so I framed it with some barn wood I boosted from my pal Vin Swazey's wood pile, and smuggled it home.  Don't know why (well, yes I do) Customs doesn't like to see wood like that and my beaver cuttings coming into the country.

Some artist friends and acquaintances have donated their work that I could put into a frame and raise funds for my favorite two groups.   My own sister, Kathy Rasimas, stepped right up and donated a watercolor of a salmon that was fun to sell (I was the auctioneer):

John Maticko did a painting of two salmon flies:

Val Kropiwnicki is an artist with brush, feathers and metal.  He gave us this painting of a camp on the Miramichi:

And Nate Carter, from all the way out in California, contributed this one (it was an early one for me; in retrospect, I wish I had used a light background for the flies):

My friend and fellow MSA board member Brad Burns asked his friend, tyer Bill Utley, to do up a set of Cains River Streamers for an online auction Brad was hosting.  He then asked me to frame them.  It was the largest frame I did as of that date, and was the very good reason I used to convince she who must be obeyed (that would be Bridget) that we needed a large format printer that could print on heavy, 140# watercolor paper.   It was a fun project, and made a LOT of money for MSA.  The photos of the framing are by another MSA board member, Ralph Vitale.   It takes a village!

A couple small ones, that I have made several sets of (these are those that we kept), that feature reproductions of William Schaldach's work:

I contributed some framings for this summer's MSA online auctions.  Happily, they raised some pretty good funds:

This one had a little Pleissner reproduction in it:

Finally, a framing that is popular in the silent auctions I've donated it to:

Some day, when I grow up, I'd like to be able to build shadow box fly frames as well as William Cushner did.   When I ran the American Museum of Fly Fishing, this was my favorite of all the artifacts (or, if you're one of those Canadian spellers, artefacts).   He framed it, and I boosted the photo from AMFF's website.  LOL, sue me.

I don't do this for a living, but if you've got a photo and a fly or something you'd like to see in a shadow box, let's talk.  It will help me buy more matboard and foamcore board and other supplies to keep on donating to Atlantic salmon conservation and the Museum.