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From September 26 - October 2, 2011
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The Undertaker

Back in the early 1970s when I began tying flies I used Hector (Hec) Wallace salmon flies as models for my tying. Hec was an expert and prolific commercial tyer. Most salmon flies for sale in Halifax shops were tied by him. He was a neighbor of mine & lived on Cherry Street in Halifax. I lived a block away on Pepperell.

Hec named one of his wet flies the Stewiacke, and it was an excellent pattern for salmon fishing Nova Scotia’s Stewiacke River in the fall. I also used it for many fall seasons on Antigonish’s West River and it was a great producer there. Hec told me stories of his annual fishing trips to New Brunswick, and I think his Stewiacke was adapted from a Miramichi fly, one of the popular Black Bear patterns. Some New Brunswick anglers called it the Firefly because it had both green and red fluorescent butts.

At about the same time late Saint John fly tyer Warren Duncan also discovered a similar fly on New Brunswick’s Nashwaak River. Dunc made a few refinements and called it the Undertaker.

Judith Dunham, in her book The Atlantic Salmon Fly – The Tyers and Their Art, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1991, quotes Dunc as follows: “The first time I used it, on the Hammond River, I caught a twenty-four-pound salmon. Then Chris (a friend) used it on the Kedgwick and got a thirty-eight-pound salmon. Bill Hunter put it in his catalog. The next year it was in the Orvis catalog, then in L.L. Bean’s. All of a sudden the Undertaker was a fly.”

The name stuck and the fly became a popular standard, not only for fall fishing, but in smaller sizes for summer fishing.

Dunc once told me that if jungle cock “eyes” were included, the fly was called a Sighted Undertaker, but if not, it was a Blind Undertaker. I’ve always liked jungle cock sides on a dark fly because they show up so well.

The fly produced many salmon for me over the years and I’ve always found it great for fall fishing, in size 2 or 4. Our son Donald, at 13 years of age, landed his first-ever salmon in Bridgeville, East River Pictou, on an Undertaker he tied himself.

The photo shows an Undertaker tied by Warren Duncan and my own marabou version, inspired by the Eagle flies of old.

The Undertaker

Thread:               UTC G.S.P. 50 Denier black thread

Hook:                   Partridge Bartleet Supreme or Daiichi 2161, size 12 – 1

Marabou version – Bartleet Traditional size 2

Tag:                     Fine oval gold tinsel, fluorescent chartreuse
and then fluorescent red floss

Tail:                      None

Rib:                      Oval gold tinsel

Body:                   Peacock herl

Hackle:                Grizzly hen hackle dyed black for Dunc’s
                             version, b
lack marabou for mine

Wing:                   Black bear hair

Sides:                  Jungle cock (optional)

Head:                  Black thread finished with 2 coats Angler’s Corner Clear Wet Head Cement

Please send comments and suggestions to slim@rivermagic.ca

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