Theophilus “Ben” Connell
“Ben” Connell was born on February 13, 1915 in Bartibogue, New Brunswick.
He is the son of Cecilia (nee Arseneault) and James Connell. Ben lived most
of his life at Bartibogue, close to the Little Bartibogue River, a tributary
of the main Bartibogue that flows into the Miramichi River.
It wasn’t until the
late 50’s and early 60’s that fly fishing for salmon became popular on the
Little Bartibogue River. Prior to the late 50’s bait was mostly used for
Ben's father guided
hunters, but on occasion there would be a fisherman among the crowd. If a
visiting sportsman wanted to fish, more than likely he would use bait, unless
he happened to have with him a few feather-wing flies. There wasn't anyone
tying salmon flies on the Bartibogue because there didn't seem to be a need
for them. Ben remembers his father tying a piece of squirrel tail to a hook.
It was effective, but to Ben it looked more like a mouse than a salmon fly.
Fishermen were lured to the Bartibogue River for
the action of the trout more than the salmon. Trout weighing over five pounds
were not uncommon. Ben remembers fishing for those big trout when he was only
five years old.
Ben Connell 1995
Budd Kitchen, Ben
Connell and Dewey Gillespie at the Where The Rivers Meet “The Fly Tyers of New
Brunswick” exhibition at Brookdale Nurseries in Miramichi, August 1996
Ben Connell started
tying flies in the early 1960's. A friend and fly tier from Moncton came to
visit him and during the visit the friend started tying flies. Ben was
fascinated by it so he got some fly tying material and started tying.
Together, they tied flies and fished for more than 30 years. Research shows
that Ben is the earliest known fly tier from the area surrounding the Little
Bartibogue River, that is if we exclude his father who tied the piece of
squirrel tail on a hook. In an interview with Ben in 1994 he told me
that continues to fish, tie flies and enjoys experimenting with materials to
create the fly that will entice the most Atlantic salmon. He says that his
salmon flies are not the prettiest or fanciful, but they produce well. He has
always had success with his flies, especially the one that he refers to as
“Ben's Best.” His favourite is the “Butterfly”, but he also likes the “Black
Ghost.” He caught his largest fish, weighing 20 pounds 10 ounces, on a “Brown
Bug.” He landed it at the “Mountain Pool”, on the Miramichi River near
Blackville, New Brunswick.
Ben was presented in a custom framed presentation for Where the Rovers Meet
“The Fly Tyers of New Brunswick” exhibition.
Theophilus “Ben” Connell
was inducted into the Sportsman Hall of Fame in the Atlantic Salmon Museum at
Doaktown, New Brunswick. On February 3, 2005
Ben Connell will celebrate his ninetieth birthday.
One strand of Peacock sword fiber
Medium oval silver tinsel
Black Bear hair