At about this point in a New England winter, when the first warm spell has given way to more sub-zero temperatures, the opening of the fishing season once again appears like a mirage on the horizon: we’ve come so far, and seem no closer. And so it that at this very time of year, the fishing trips your friends take are nearly as good as the ones you hope to take in a few month’s time.
Such is the case with my good friend Ben. We had a great time last weekend in a hut in the Maine woods talking about his trip to the Miramichi this spring. It will be his first trip salmon fishing, and his first trip to the Miramichi — a river I’ve had the great pleasure to fish many times over the years. Over those years, I’ve come to accumulate some wonderful memories.
The desk I now tie all of my flies on was built by a good friend, and long-time Miramichi fisherman, Charles E. “Ted” Ferree. It was on this desk, with Ted, at his cottage on the banks of the Miramichi, that I tied my first Atlantic salmon fly at the age of 9 or 10. (I called it something like “Firebolts and Lightning” if memory serves.) It was on this river that, one night, with fish rising all around us, Hoagy, Ted and I all hooked onto salmon at once — a feat I’ve never repeated in the 20 years of Atlantic salmon fishing since. And it is on the river that I hope to one day own a cabin.
For all those who knew Ted, he was a remarkable man: one of the most kind men I’ve ever met. He was quick to tell a story, always funny and kind, and never harsh. He and his wife Mildred “Hut” — remarkable in her own right — were wonderful to me growing up, hosting and fishing with us many times over the years. In addition to their generosity to their friends, they were generous to the river, both as active members in the Miramichi Salmon Association, and also as early conservationists. I never saw Ted kill a single Atlantic salmon: he released every single one I saw him catch — and that was many. They are missed.
In sitting with Ben the other night, we talked about the river, and what might work well while he’s there. Being one for tradition, and for history, I suggested he try the classic Miramichi flies. Upon getting home, I was drawn to Ted’s old desk to tie those very patterns — patterns I plan to share with Ben, in hopes that he might catch a salmon on one.
In addition to these flies (an admittedly limited selection) I recommended Ben visit the fly store W.W.Doak in Doaktown, NB. If there is a better Atlantic salmon retail store on a famous river, I’ve never stepped foot into it. The brothers Doak are, to continue the theme, exceptionally nice. As a kid, I used to love looking at the fly selection their store, while my dad talked with Jerry. Now, as an adult, I make it a point to visit the store when I fish the Miramichi, which hasn’t been nearly as often as I’d like in recent years.
Even if I can’t join Ben this spring on the Miramichi, I sat out the last snow storm at the bench, tying some Miramichi salmon patterns. Tonight, I did the same. And, with snow in the forecast tomorrow, I plan to be right back here at the desk, doing the same until the thaw.
Black Bear Green Butt
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