LORI GALLAGHER Fredericton Daily Gleaner
This 2014 calendars for the Miramichi Salmon Association are hot off the presses and filled with things that will make those who love fishing smile.
Each year the calendar features something of interest to those who love salmon fishing, and this year is no different. The theme of the 2014 calendar is flies and the people who tie them.
Each month features two different flies, plus there is one on the cover, says Greg Sprague, one of the organizers of the annual calendar.
“Fly tying is a real art. The fly tiers are true artists, and the flies are works of art,” he says, at least when they’re hand tied.
“New Brunswick has more fly tiers per capita, especially salmon flies, than any place in the world. We have some amazing artists here who tie salmon flies, so we are paying homage to those artists in this year’s calendar.”
This is the seventh annual calendar, he notes.
“We did three featuring photos, then three featuring paintings, so this year we decided to feature fly tiers and some of the most common Miramichi salmon flies.”
Helping Greg Sprague co-ordinate this year’s calendar was his brother, Jay Sprague.
“Atlantic salmon flies have really evolved over many years from exotic materials and feathers and components that aren’t readily available to become more localized,” says Jay Sprague.
“In Atlantic Canada they’ve become more localized using available materials. Local fur and feathers, wool and other materials, and increasingly with the use of synthetic materials, like mylar.”
This means you might find similar ties elsewhere, but none quite the same as we have in this province.
“It’s just a nice feeling to know that you’re using a New Brunswick tie. And to me, they tend to be more durable, they last longer, when they’re hand tied by craftsmen,” says Greg Sprague. “It’s frustrating to buy a fly and you make three casts and it starts to come apart.”
Using a New Brunswick fly also means using a piece of tradition and history surrounding salmon fishing in the province.
“Even the names have a local context,” points out Greg Sprague.
“The names tend to centre around either the blend of materials used or a place on the river system or a noted person who has been involved in the salmon fishery over the years who is well known,” says Jay Sprague.
The Renous Special, for example, is named for the Renous River, which is a tributary of the Miramichi River, he says.
“A Blue Charm demotes the prominent blue feathers that are tied into the fly,” he says. “And another example would be an Abe Munn Killer. He was a noted 20th-century guide from the Boiestown area.”
The flies often have fun names, showing that those who like to fish have a pretty good sense of humour. Take, for example, the Green Butt Bear Hair and Killer Whiskers.
“You might not find those flies typically in Newfoundland or Iceland or Scotland,” says Greg Sprague. “They have a very New Brunswick flavour to them.”
The 25 patterns found in the calendar represent 20 tiers and were donated by 13 suppliers, says Jay Sprague, adding that the suppliers were either fishing camps, fly tying shops or river guides.
He says they wanted to reach out to people from communities all along the Miramichi River system, including its branches and tributaries, to be a part of the calendar.
“I say there are two categories of flies, and you hear this repeated often. There are flies that catch fishermen and there are flies that catch fish,” says Jay Sprague. “These are truly flies that catch fish. We wanted to reflect what people actually have in their fly box, not what you might see in a coffee-table book or in a picture frame.”
If you asked someone what they used to fish that day or what they used to catch their last salmon, it would likely be one of the flies in this calendar.
The Spragues say that everyone they contacted was only too happy to be part of this year’s calendar.
“We had so much co-operation, we have enough to do another calendar next year,” says Greg Sprague.
All of the flies that were donated will be doing double duty, as not only will they grace the pages of the two calendars, they will be auctioned off at a future fundraising dinner. For a full list of fly donors, check the MSA website.
The calendars are available now for $15. To get yours, visit www.miramichisalmon.ca or call the Fredericton office of the MSA at 457-2220.
“They are mailed free to all of our members each year. We have a special on if you’d like to become a member. A normal regular membership is $50, but for new members it’s only $25 and that includes your calendar,” says Greg Sprague.
All of the money raised goes to help the association in its efforts to save the wild Atlantic salmon.
“This is a ongoing struggle,” says Greg Sprague. “It’s not a given we can win this battle, but we feel that if we lose this battle, what else are we losing at the same time?”
He adds, “What does it say about the state of our environment, of our eco-system? So it’s really important for us as a conservation organization.”
The salmon are the canary in the coal mine, says Jay Sprague.
“It’s a really strong indicator of the health of our rivers, and that’s why we’re putting so much energy into it,” says Greg Sprague.
The money raised covers the many programs run by the MSA, including a hatchery, education programs, promoting live release and programs aimed at improving habitat.
“We also play a role in public advocacy, working with government and other organizations to make sure they understand the importance of the salmon, not just to those who appreciate the wilderness but also economically,” he says. “All along the river system, salmon fishing creates jobs for outfitters, for guides, for people who own motels or sell equipment. It’s a really big part of the economy in the Miramichi system.”
This is the 60th anniversary of the MSA, and as part of that, the association has been running a major fundraising campaign.
“The calendar is one of our fundraising initiatives, a way of getting out and contacting people and raising a little money to protect the environment and do our conservation and education and research work,” says Greg Sprague. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The organizers of this year’s calendar want to give a tip of the hat to all of the people who spent time at the fly-tying vice to create the flies used in this project, as well as the ones that will be in the 2015 calendar.
Something worth noting about this year’s calendar is the fly featured on the front, says Greg Sprague.
“The inside cover of this year’s calendar is a fly tied by Warren Duncan, who is a very famous fly tier from the Saint John area. He died in 2007,” he says.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but there is a provincial fly. It’s called the Picture Province, and it is featured on the inside of the cover.”
To learn more about the MSA or to purchase a calendar for $15, visit www.miramichisalmon.ca or call the Fredericton office of the MSA at 457-2220.
To purchase MSA 2014 Calendar click here.