Anna Elizabeth (Grant) Fogarty

Anna Elizabeth Fogarty believes the art of fly tying declined during the 1980’s, but not for her.  During the 1980’s she was still going strong after more than 40 years behind a fly tying vice.  Fly tying was one of her greatest pleasures, but it also provided an acceptable income.  After doing something she enjoyed for that length of time wasn’t something she could just up and quit doing. No Sir, Anna Fogarty tied flies until she was ready to retire, so in 1989 when she retired she put away her fly tying vice

Anna Fogerty in her Kitchen Corner Fly Tying Shop 1996

 Anna Elizabeth Fogarty was born on June 9, 1924 at East Cloverdale, Parish of Bright, County of York, New Brunswick.  She is the daughter of Dora Leatha (nee Briggs) and the late Frederick Redfus Grant.

Anna started tying flies in 1943.  She was 19 years old when she learned how from her father who was an artist, guide, trapper, taxidermist, and fly tier.  At the time he taught Anna, Fred Grant had already been tying flies for more than a decade.  With unending patience forged with a desire to learn, Anna Fogarty and her dad tied flies together for more than 30 years.  Fred Grant was Anna’s favourite fly tier.

In the beginning, Anna and her mother spent many hours attaching pieces of leader to hooks to form the eye.  In those days, and during the war, it was hard to get the proper gut for the hook eye, or the hooks that already had the metal eye, so they made their own. During the many years that Anna tied flies she had fishermen from as far as Alaska, and England come to her and purchase her quality flies.  For a good many years Anna sold her flies to a lot of hardware stores around the province.  Truck driver, and deliveryman Eric MacDonald, delivered her flies to the many stores along the Miramichi River.

In the late 1970’s the fly business became less prosperous. Anna blamed it on the depleted number of salmon, and she sights a couple of reasons for the dwindling fishing stocks.  First of all, the two dams on the Saint John River are a definite hindrance to the fish as they attempt to run up river to lay their eggs.  Secondly, the pools were being over-fished, due to the greater accessibility to them.  “Years ago you had to go by canoe to get to some of the pools on the rivers.  Now, you drive to every one of them”, says Anna. 

In the early 1980’s Anna’s clientele dwindled.  Since she didn’t depend on fly tying for financial gain, the decreased demand for her salmon flies didn’t bother her.  It was more of a hobby anyway.  The many fishermen who bought her flies returned to her shop, her shop being her kitchen, which was often referred to as “Fogarty’s Fly Shop.”  The fishermen knew they could depend on her for any made-to-order fly, beit wet fly or a dry fly.  The old fishing regulars and newcomers went to Anna and listened to her recommendation on what fly would be best for specific fish and conditions. You see, Anna Fogarty knows a lot about angling, having been born and raised along the Miramichi at a time when schools of salmon were common, and a member of the family could catch a salmon for dinner on just about any day.

Anna Fogarty’s fly selection is quite varied, more than the types of fish and fishing conditions.  The reason is quite simple.  According to Anna the real fishermen are fussier than the fish.  Depending on the depth of the stream determines the type of fly an angler should use.  A wet fly, which is comprised of a tail, egg sack, ribs, tinsel, floss, hackle and a wing, is most useful early in the season, when the water is high and deep.  The fly is designed to float just a few inches under the surface of the river.  A dry fly is comprised of a tail, wings, body, and hackle, and is designed to float on the surface of the river.  The dry fly is a good choice in August.  Some of the more popular dry flies that Anna used to tie were the “Royal Coachman”, “Bug”, and “White Wulff.”

Salmon flies come an array of colours, but orange is most popular.  The theory behind this is that orange is the colour of shrimp, one of the salmon’s favourite foods.

Fully dressed salmon flies like the “Dusty Miller, “Jock Scott”, and the “Black Dose”, have been around for nearly a hundred years.  They are in limited demand.  However, today’s trend favours the hair-wing flies for they are much cheaper.  There is no hard evidence to prove that the hair-wing is any better than the fully dressed pattern.

Anna’s first husband, Albert Edward Speakman, was also a fly tier.  Anna and Albert tied  and sold flies from Eddy’s Grocery in Lakeville, until his death on January 18, 1967. After Eddy’s death, Anna moved her fly tying shop into the corner of her kitchen.

Anna tied many flies for anglers fishing on the Restigouche and Upsalquitch Rivers.  Most of those flies were tied on big double hooks.  The most popular patterns included the “Rust Rat”, “Silver Rat”, and “Silver Down-Easter.”

Depending on the pattern Anna chose to tie, it took her anywhere from five to thirty minutes to get it done.  Tying flies is a very tedious job, and it is very hard on the eyes.  Anna sometimes wonders how her father ever managed to tie flies years ago by the light of a kerosene lamp.  A pattern mastered by Anna is a fly called “The Mosquito.” Because of the demand for the fly, she never seemed to have enough of them on hand.  She was continually tying it.  The repeated tying of the little fly allowed her to tie each one within a five-minute period.

Anna’s fly tying tools were very simple.  Apart from an assortment of furs, feathers, tinsels, yarns, wool, threads and hooks, she needed only her vice, wax, scissors, whip finisher, dubbing needle, and lacquer.  At a small table in the corner of her kitchen Anna Fogarty produced so many salmon and trout flies that even she couldn’t give you a total.  Many a fisherman returned time and again to Anna Fogarty’s kitchen to buy her flies and tell her how they were more affordable and durable than other flies they had purchased elsewhere.  To hear this was very pleasing for Anna. Compliments to a tier about his or her flies are always a reward.  A great feeling of accomplishment envelopes a tier when they know that the angler was pleased by the product, and so was the fish, as confirmed when the angler tells how the fish took the fly and was landed.  During the 46 years that Anna Fogarty tied flies she cannot recall ever having a customer that wasn’t satisfied with her salmon flies.

In 1983, Judy Tompkins, a newspaper reporter from Bath, New Brunswick, presented Anna Fogarty as a fly tier from New Brunswick, in her book titled “New Brunswick Profiles.”

Anna’s favourite hair-wing salmon fly is the “Orange Blossom.”  Her favourite feather-wing fly is the “Queen of Waters.”

On January 23, 2005 I spoke to Ann and she told me she would be eighty-one this June.  She folded up her vice and all but quit tying flies.  She admits that she will wrap the twine on a few for some friends.  She got a tremendous amount of pleasure through tying flies and she met the most wonderful people as a result of tying flies.

 Queen of Waters 

Head:                Black

Tag:                  Oval gold tinsel and yellow floss

Tail:                  Strips of barred mallard flank feather

Body:                 Orange floss or wool

Rib:                  Oval gold tinsel

Hackle:              Dark ginger hackle palmered forward

Wing:                Barred Mallard flank feather

Cheeks:              Jungle cock

Flies tied by Anna Fogerty in the mid 1990’s