William Earl “Bill” Carter

 There’s a tiny settlement called Riverglade, which is nestled between Moncton and Petitcodiac, New Brunswick.  If you’re not aware it exists you can whistle on through it without knowing the difference.  But, to New Brunswick fly tyers, Riverglade is as well known as Moncton, Fredericton, or Miramichi, because it is the birthplace of a very important member of their fly tying family.  A fly tying brother who originated a fly, so successful, that he guaranteed it would catch fish, or “your money returned.”  You will be hard pressed to find a fly tyer in this day and age that would offer the same guarantee. 

William Earl Carter was born near the banks of the Pollett River in Riverglade, New Brunswick on July 27, 1934. He is the son of the late Violet (nee Paynter) and George Carter.

Bill maintains that he has been fishing all his life.  When trying to recall when he first started he thinks it all began before he ever grew out of diapers.  “I always had a desire for fishing and as a boy I used angleworms to fish for trout in the brooks, situated a few hundred yards from my home. But, when I was about 14-years old I read a book written by Native Idahoan Ted Trueblood.  I was so influenced by his book because it taught me a lot about fishing, about the fish, and the fish's habitat”, says Bill.

He was seventeen years old when he caught his first Atlantic salmon.  He was out hunting partridge and came upon a bunch of fishermen on the Petitcodiac River.  “They were all catching fish.  I had my rod in the car, so I got it out and tied on a “Parmachene Belle” and began fishing near the mouth of the Pollett River where it runs into the Petitcodiac.  It wasn’t long before a salmon grabbed onto the fly and made off with it.  Now, hooking an Atlantic salmon was a far cry from hooking and playing a brook trout.  That salmon had the jump on me right from the start, and jump he did.  He broke the line and got away.  I tied on another fly and the same thing happened.  The fish took, the fish run and jumped and got away.  I only had the two flies with me, so home I went where I got some more stuff and returned to the river.  This time I brought my father with me as backup”, says Bill. 

“Out into the river I went again, but this time when the salmon took the fly I was ready.  The fish slipped and slid and run, but couldn’t get away. I was so excited, but worried that the salmon was going to get away, so I talked my father into taking off his shoes and socks and then got him to wade into the river to help me capture it.  It all worked out in the end however and I left the river with two Atlantic salmon.  Not only had two salmon been hooked and beached, but that same day I was hooked on salmon fishing forever”, says Bill.

In 1951, which is the same year that Bill caught his first salmon, he tied his first fly.  It happened just this simple.  He was hooked on salmon fishing, therefore he was going to need salmon flies and the best way to get them was to tie them.  He started gathering materials and equipment and obtained a copy of John Veniard’s Fly Tying Guide.  He believes his very first material were feathers from the chicken coop.  By following the photos, patterns and instructions in the book Bill was able to tie some pretty decent flies.  Let there be no mistake by thinking that tying flies didn’t require a major commitment on Bill’s behalf.  Everything he learned about the art of tying flies was self-taught and from information out of fly tying books.  Hour upon hour of practice, over a long period of time, enabled him to become a very proficient and reputable fly tyer.  As his reputation grew he started getting anglers going to him to purchase flies.  

As a result of traveling and fishing the many pools and rivers Bill got to promote his flies and also meet a lot of other anglers.  One of them is Bill Leaman, who was a vacuum cleaner salesman from the Sunny Brae area of Moncton.  Leaman was also tying a few flies.  Over the years Carter and Leaman became very good friends.  They decided to form a partnership and eventually opened a little fly tying shop on Robinson Street in Moncton.  The business was very successful, but eventually Bill grew tired of the business end of it and finally closed the shop.  He also became allergic to deer hair and this didn’t help matters.

At the peak of his tying Bill was producing large numbers of flies for a large personal clientele in the province. He was continuously filling fly orders for such people as K.C. Irving, Len Lockhart, doctor’s and lawyers and judges.  In the highlight of his fly tying days he was tying most of the fly patterns, which included the fully dressed ones.  He eventually gave up on the fully dressed patterns because of the cost of material, time to tie them and the minimum return for his effort.  He never found them to work any better than the simpler hair and feather wing flies of today.  Today the same flies are sold for close to a hundred dollars each.  People buy them now to hang on the wall.  Bill has no idea how far across the planet his flies have traveled.  

Origin of the Carter’s Bug

             The “Carter’s Bug” was originated by William Earl “Bill” Carter in 1961. 

Bill likes fishing with the “Wulff” fly patterns, but he was not having much success with the patterns on the day he developed the idea for the “Carter’s Bug.”   On that day he was fishing the Pulp Stick Pool on the Salmon River.  There was about two hundred salmon, some averaging 35 pounds, in the pool, but they just wouldn’t touch a fly.  He decided to climb up and onto a cliff overlooking the pool where the salmon were schooled.  He sat and watched them for quite some time.  Suddenly, and innocently he reached down and picked up a little piece of brownish tan colored moss from the ground and tossed it over the cliff where it landed on the water near the school of salmon.  As soon as the moss hit the water a large salmon attacked it.  The salmon did not simply go to the moss and nose it, or look at it and retreat.  The salmon deliberately attacked and grabbed it. 

Being fascinated by what he witnessed he went home and tied a bug style fly, which perfectly resembled the piece of moss, on a #6 lightweight hook.  He was able to get a perfect resemblance by using deer hair.  When he tied the deer hair on the hook he didn’t compact it tightly, which is so often the case when people tie bugs.  “The mistake made by many when tying the Carter’s Bug is that they try to tie the body on similar to the way they tie on the bodies of the Wulff’s and Bomber’s, or as another example the “Rat Face McDougal”.  When tying the “Carter’s Bug” the way it is meant to be tied and to be effective, the deer hair must be left loose, or else it will not work.  The “Carter’s Bug” is a very simple fly and is an excellent fly for catching salmon, at any time of the year and under most water conditions, but it has to be tied correctly.  The fly is as equally as effective fished wet, or dry, but Bill I prefer dry fly fishing so I fish it dry and when fished wet the fly is cast at a 45 degree angle to the direction of the current”, says Bill.

“Material is of major significance too.  You just can’t cut pieces of deer hair off a hide and expect to achieve the proper pattern.  The deer hair I use is from an older deer hide that has been sun bleached.  The hackle has to be tied on correctly.  When I first started using the fly the salmon were chewing off the hackles so I had to devise a way to prevent this from happening.  The proportion of the tail to the body is also important.  There are many people out there tying the fly, but only a very select few are able to duplicate because they are willing to follow the directions of the pattern. 

A New Brunswick fly tyer who has mastered the technique for tying the "Carter's Bug" is well known angler and fly tyer, Bryant Freeman, who operates Eskape Anglers in Riverview, New Brunswick.  Freeman has always acknowledged the "Carter's Bug" as being a tremendous fly and one he encourages anglers to add to their collection for fishing Atlantic Salmon.

The pattern is as follows:

            Bill can remember going to the pools on the Salmon River and taking two hundred of his new creation with him.  He was able to sell everyone of them too.  He guaranteed every fishermen that if they didn’t catch a salmon on the “Carter’s Bug” he would give them back their money.  He has never had an angler use the guarantee.

            His “Carter’s Bug” has been fished successfully in rivers in Scotland, Newfoundland and Anticosti Island.  Bill Carter’s pattern for his famous fly is as follows:


“Carter’s Bug” tied by Bryant Freeman

Thread: Yellow

Tail:      Tan deer hair in an eighth of an inch round bunch and about a half to three quarters of an inch long

Body:               Tan deer hair tied on loose and trimmed like a bullet

Hackle: Natural red cock hackle, which is doubled and wrapped five complete  turns around the body to the eye of the hook

Head    Yellow tying thread, which is wrapped from the tail through the hackle to the head of the fly and tied off and then the head is wound on normally.  Doing this ensures the hackle is more secure on the body. 

The fly is finished by adding clear lacquer to the head and at the base of the tail to seal it and ensure better durability

Not long after the creation of the “Carter’s Bug”, Bill designed a wet fly that was named “Carter Lightning” by David MacDonald from Moncton.  The fly never became as popular as the “Carter’s Bug”. The pattern is as follows.


“Carter Lightning”


Tail:                  Hot orange hackle

Rib:                  Heavy oval gold tinsel

Body:               Black floss

Wing:               Black Bear hair

Throat:             Hot orange hackle collared and tied down                    

Head:               Black


Bill Carter has crossed paths an awful lot of fly tyers since 1949, some good, some not so good, but every one of them were gentlemen.  One that stands out foremost in his mind is a tyer named Perley Morton.  Perley drove train for Canadian national railway for a living, but he also operated a fly tying sport shop on Cameron Street in Moncton.  Perley built Greenhart rods right from start to finish.  He was a master at it, but he was also a Master Fly Tyer and the only commercial tyer who specifically tied the fully dressed salmon fly patterns on 4/0 and 5/0 hooks, which he sold in Monteal.  According to Bill, Perley was one of the most perfect tyers at that time.  He was still tying quality flies when he was in his eighties.

William Earl Carter, who has retired from being a Retail Saleman and business owner, does a bit of prospecting these days.  He has discovered and sold some claims over the years and enjoys being in the outdoors.  Nowadays Bill ties only a few flies whenever he gets the urge to bring out the vise.  He tied so many flies over the years that he kind of got tired of it, but this doesn’t mean that he has quit all together.  He still has a lot of equipment and one of these days he may bring it out and go at it again, just for the fun and joy of it, just the way it was meant to be.