A passion! A passion that marked my blood at a very young age. I must’ve been 10 years old when I looked at my dad’s fly rod witch he barely ever used, and started remembering him catching a few trout with it on the Upsalquitch Lake. It didn’t take long that those thoughts were brought to action and I asked him to borrow it. Of course, he said yes and I went on down the hill on the south branch of the Eel River witch is just half a kilometer from my parent’s house. I immediately got hooked, to a branch behind me of course, but I still had fun. I didn’t know then, but like the old saying says, ‘’a bad day fishing is way better than a good day at work’’.
On that first outing, I still managed to get a few trout in my basket. I had always fished with the good old earth worm, and I loved it, but this new way for me to fish was way more than I expected. You can match the hatch, change size, color, and size, learn new knots and much more. Of course, I had that learning curve for casting where I wanted to place my fly and the anticipation of where the current would then bring it hoping it reached the trout’s view and so on.
Not long after getting hooked on fly tying, I learned that You could build your own flies, so I checked it out a bit, and I found myself using my mom’s sewing thread and some pipe cleaners to build ‘’something’’. One actually looked like a mouse and it caught a nice 12’’ trout (on a fly built with my own hands). Now I was hooked again and started to make flies with what I could put my hands on.
When my dad notice how much I enjoyed tying flies, he went on to buy me a fly tying kit for Christmas. Little did he know that it would end up being the gift that I would use for many years to come. That fly tying kit was my Xbox or Play Station, call it what you want, but I had fun tying and catching trout, smelts and mackerel on my creations.
One day, while I was in school, a teacher that was in charge on organizing a career day approached me. He ask if it was true that I tied flies and went on telling me that there would be someone there for fly tying on the program, and if I was interested, he would make sure that I had a spot. Of course, I said I was interested. When that day finally arrived, I went to the classroom where the fly tying seminar was and met with JC (Jean-Claude) Comeau and his brother Vincent. We went on with the seminar with 3 or 4 other kids that were in there with me. I got to see way more stuff than what I had seen so far and realized that there was a whole lot more to it than I originally thought. With all the talking and what not, JC told us he had a fly shop in Campbellton at his other business, Comeau Optical. When I got home that day, I started begging my mom to go see JC Comeau Fly Shop ASAP.
JC was also an optometrist but I’m not sure witch one was the side line between the eyes and the flies. That man was so passionate about flies, he had a world map on the wall with push pins where he sold some flies. Everything was in his home, a big rich house built right after the 1910 fire that burnt most of the town of Campbellton. That house has four floors and even an elevator. He showed me his fly shop, asked me if I’d be interested in tying some flies for him. Of course, I know now what he had in mind. It was his way of teaching me and being able to correct me on every fly that I would bring back in. I went on to tie quite a batch of 12 dozen grey hackles and 12 dozen brown hackles. Then, He got me to tie just the bodies of #4/0 flies that he was finishing himself and sending down to Florida for I don’t remember what salt water fish. I would tie some Thor, Cardinelle, Cardinal Green and a whole bunch more almost to the point of breaking. I would bring back the flies I tied and instead of coming out of the fly shop with some money, I would come out with bags full of materials. My mom would be mad at me at the beginning, but then, when my parents noticed how much I liked fly tying, they understood that I need some material to tie all kinds of flies.
I went on tying for JC for a bit, and every time I would bring in flies, he would have something to correct me on. He wanted a perfect fly to catch the fisherman more than the fish, but he also wanted a good solid fly that would last a good long time. I still remember the first time he told me that my flies were perfect….those flies for not even for him they were for a salmon fishing camp on the Restigouche River. My mom’s uncle was the manager there for a few years and he had given me a small order of bugs and bombers to do. But those bug were really well made. JC had a big heart, he would supply the material for his flies, and then give me the rest to keep. He would sell material to me sometimes at ridiculously low prices just to see me happy to tie something new.
Being a teenager at the time had me involved in different things, but I would still try to sit down and tie as often as I could. When my friends would be biking or killing time just doing nothing, I might have been tying in my parents camping trailer when it was 25-30’ Celsius (80’ Fahrenheit) outside. I’d be sweating and tying, trying to get as many flies ready to fish in the evening. I even seen my and a friend who also tied for a bit, borrow a friend of the family’s camper on the Little Main Restigouche and take our shift of staying awake tying flies because we forgot an alarm clock to wake up early the next day and fish for salmon.
Then, on August 15 1993, a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, we received a devastating phone call. My 23 year old sister Sylvette and my favorite fishing partner was involved in a head collision on the highway that took her life and the lives of two others. That was a dark time for the 15 years old kid that I was. I think I only managed to hold it together for my parents and my brother. Instead of turning to rebellion, alcohol or drugs, I tied flies and I fished. I had great friends and family that supported Me thru it all and even if the pain is still there today, like a lot of people, I learned to live with it and try to remember the nice things.
That same year, in November, I wanted a coyote pelt to tie some big flies like JC had started me on. I call a local trapper and he told me to go see him. He was actually skinning some beavers at the time and although he didn’t have a coyote, he had a fox. I bought the fox from him for really cheap, and stayed there to watch him and his friend skinning the beavers. I asked a few questions, and already a good rabbit trapper, I borrowed some traps from a friend (the same one who lent me his camper for fishing), bought a trapper’s license and went trapping. That became my biggest passion for year to come. Now I could fish, hunt, trap and tie flies. I was busy and keeping it together in my hobbies and sports. I also managed to play a little hockey for 3 years. I guess I was a better goon than a player, but I never was too good at it anyway. I like team work, but I love doing a lot of things by myself.
In 1995, I was in my last year of school, and I found myself a girlfriend who is still enduring me 21 years later. We started going out on hunting season, which was going to be the ultimate test if she was going to last. (My ex-girlfriend’s father would barely talk to me until I started talking hunting and trapping one evening. We went on talking hunting and trapping and she started to cry, so that kind of ended pretty soon) My new girlfriend followed me in the woods hunting and trapping, she even helped me stretch some beaver pelts on the board. Then winter came and We went ice fishing for smelts and she also loved that. I would tie a few flies to use for smelts and got her whole family to have fun behind the vise. When spring came back, I brought her camping and fishing in a boat at Mt Carleton provincial park and she also past that test. We even went salmon fishing together. She had learned a lot of outdoor hobbies before she met me.
We went on finishing school, I became an electrician, she became a nurse, then we got married in 2002 and now have 2 beautiful kids. I didn’t tie much for almost 10 years, but in 2014, some friend of ours came over in July, and we just sat and talked for most of the evening. When I mentioned the fly tying, my wife told me that I should show them what it was all about. So 3 or 4 flies that night, probably 200 flies up to December, and I WAS HOOKED AGAIN! Approaching the new year, I told my family that I was tying 2000 flies for 2015. My daughter told me I may as well tie 2015. It was going to be 6 flies per day, 6 days per week. I almost kept it at 7 days a week and managed to tie 2138 flies in 2015. Now in 2016, I’m going to tie a lot, but I don’t really have a set goal. My only goal at the vise this year is to have fun, sometimes having a coffee, and other times a beer or something stronger.
There’s nothing like catching a fish on a fly that you tied yourself. There’s nothing like saying to a fishing friend of someone you don’t even know (a new friend)…Here! Try this. There’s nothing like the smile of a kid when you give them a colourful hook full of hair and feathers. There’s nothing like seeing your grandma smiling ear to ear being so proud of you tying those beautiful flies. There’s nothing like seeing 5 anglers (including myself) on the beautiful Miramichi River catching 7 salmon on 5 flies that you tied in the afternoon while they all went golfing and you stayed at the lodge have a spiced rum and a spin on the vise and finally, there’s nothing like being on the top run of a pool on the south east Upsalquitch River fishing salmon in July, seeing a mother duck with 6 or 7 ducklings come down the current and saying up to the sky ‘’come on JC, this is to beautiful, you got to help me get my first salmon tonight’’ and having that fly reel drag whining about 5 second later and your wife running up to help you land it safely in the net.
I would like to thank my mom and dad, my wife, my kids, my brother, my sister up above, my in-laws and everybody that supported or waited for my while I’m ‘’just finishing this fly’’.
So why fly tying? That’s why!