Sunday, February 16, 2014

The RBM Salmon Fly

RBM stands for Renate Bullock's Muddler, a fly that is pretty unique among atlantic salmon flies swimming the Miramichi system.   Designed by Renate back in 1993, my good friend and two-handed casting mentor Bill Tomielli of New Jersey was the first to tie it to a tippet and hook a salmon with it that year.  It hooked five salmon it's first day in the river.

Renate ties it with both blue and black heads, and a variety of floss body colors.  Her basic recipe:

Hook  - Mustad 3665A, most often in sizes 4 and 6
Tag     - flat silver tinsel
Body   - floss of several colors (chiefly chartreuse) underwrapped with silver mylar
Rib      - flat silver tinsel
Wing   - 6 strands of fine, limp, pearl flashabou  and 6 strands Krystal Flash
Collar  -  wrapped black hen under unclipped deer hair
Head   - deer hair clipped muddler-style

She often uses the two-tone RBM pictured above in the fall; here's one of her favorite summer variations:

I think one of the fly's most important features is the pearl flashabou in the wing.  It flashes incredibly, and I vividly remember watching the fly, on a day when the Miramichi was particularly clear, swing and sparkle across the current...right into the corner of the mouth of a grilse that came out of nowhere to grab it.

That experience with the RBM was all I needed to tie up a batch of them in Renate's recommended color schemes.  She fishes it June through October, varying the size and color to suit the river's mood.  It even takes kelts in the Spring.

She told me recently that last fall, Bill T. tied one up with a copper body, copper and gold flash and a black head that he hooked two salmon with during his week on the river.

The RBM is now "calendar quality", too!

Renate is an incredible person.  She started salmon fishing with her husband Fred on their honeymoon at Rocky Bend in 1966.  She was, as they say, hooked.  In 1977, she and Fred acquired their riverfront home in Boiestown from "Griff-Inns" Outfitter Clayton Stewart.  She got her first guiding license at about that time so that she could take family and friends salmon fishing...right out the front door (color me green with envy concerning the place Renate calls home!).   She sent me these winter photos of her "back yard" just the other day:

In 1986, downriver neighbor Vin Swayze approached Renate and Fred about leasing their pools (School House, Pine, Elbow and Home...I've landed salmon in all of them) for sports coming to his Tuckaway Cabins outfitting business.  The deal was done...and Renate became a Guide 1...the first licensed female guide 1 on the river, working for Vin.

I hooked my first atlantic salmon, a grilse, under Renate's tutelage, in 1998.  Kind of a funny story, really:  It was my first morning ever fishing for salmon.  I was with great friends Pam Bates Richards and Bob Warren. The late Gardner Grant knew of my impending trip, and gave me a small box of flies for the occasion...tied by none other than Keith Fulsher.  Renate picked out a Black Bear Green Butt for me and tied it on my tippet ("turle knot, what's a turle knot?!).  I stepped into the river at Elbow Pool, and on my second feeble cast, I hooked a grilse.  Landed it, remarking, "What's so hard about salmon fishing?"  Renate and I with that first fish:

About a dozen years later, Renate said something, in an email to me, to the effect that when she first met me, she wasn't sure she was going to like me.  But wouldn't say why.   That summer, on the river, I wheedled it out of her:  it was my cocky comment about salmon fishing not being so tough years earlier that got her dander up.  Fortunately for me, she learned, over the years, that I often say dumb things, and now she just laughs at with me!

Renate is a patient teacher.  She is an incredible caster in her own good as any I've ever seen...and imparts her knowledge subtly and understandingly.  She just seems to know when to step in and lend a hand to a struggling caster.   But can she hook and land fish?  ha.  Her best is a 37 pounder.

Renate's talents as a cook and host make for memorable meals and occasions.  I relish (pun intended) invites to the table she sets!

She even brings that kind of thoughtful largesse to the boat!  Renate, Vin and I usually get to take an early summer brook trout trip...we never go hungry or thirsty thanks to her!

Renate was elected to the Atlantic Salmon Museum (in Doaktown, NB) Hall of Fame in 2012.  She stands in awesome company, and very deservedly so.  I was proud to be there as she accepted her award.

And delighted when she broke out her accordion to give us a rendition of her song, "The Guiding Lady."

Photographer, guide, chef, musician...Renate is all those things, and more; she's a friend.  I hope you get to fish with her and enjoy her experiences and talents at Bullock's Lodge ( ).  The fishing is as good as it gets on the Miramichi there, and it is the most reasonably priced atlantic salmon fishing on the river.


  1. Fabulous article about a fabulous Lady.

    1. Thank you Gary. Must say she makes me feel very unaccomplished but I'm proud to say Renate is my sister-in-law.

    2. Well said, Gary. An interesting and accomplished lady for sure. I was there on one occasion when she was guiding the American actor, William Hurt.She was going to show him how to "pole a canoe" that afternoon and I've seen her first hand do it with ease, something I've never been able to do, but then I've never had a lesson from her.

    3. She's a peach, no doubt about it!

    4. Richard, maybe we could both sign up for lessons!

  2. Great post Gary. May have to head up to Bullock Lodge and give it a try!

  3. Another fine tale. I am surprised, though, that you included the picture of you trying to wrest that big Salmon from Renate....

    Of course, my attention was especially grabbed by the boat in the "Brook Trout Brunch" photo.

    All the best,
    Cap'n Fowler

    1. Lol, Steve! Those boats are HEAVY!! Glad you liked the post!

  4. I had the pleasure to fish with her as my guide last week, and learned just what a wonderful and talented person she is. She really loves and appreciates the river, and creates some of the very best pastries I've ever had the pleasure to taste !!! I can't wait to go back !!

    1. She's all of what you say she is, Lawrence and a great friend to boot!