Earle William Donahue
1926 – 1984
William Donahue was born in the Village of Blackville on
August 24, 1926.
He was the son of the late Euna (nee Duffy) and Earle Donahue.
At an early age he became familiar with the outdoors and enjoyed hunting,
trapping and fishing. Living near the banks of the Southwest Miramichi River,
one of the greatest salmon rivers in the world, he learned to fish when he was
just a young boy and continued to do so until his untimely death in 1984.
Throughout his life he worked at various jobs such as trapping and lumbering.
He also guided throughout the year to help supplement his income. He also
tied and sold salmon flies.
L/R: Bill Dickerson and Earle Donahue
at the old Blackville Bridge on the
Southwest Miramichi River in the late 1940’s
Earle W. Donahue 1966
Earle began tying flies in the early 1940’s. He also started guiding sports
around the same time and probably started tying his own flies as it was
cheaper than buying them, it afforded him a chance to have variety and gave
him an opportunity to make a few dollars on the side from the people he was
guiding. He acquired the basics of fly tying from his friend and neighbour,
the late Everett Price who is an icon in the realm of fly tying in New
Brunswick. Having access to an experienced teacher such as Price ensured that
Earle got off to the right start. He practiced, religiously, the things that
Everett taught him, yet over the years developed his own unique style of
Earle got most of the hair material, such as fox, squirrel, muskrat, beaver,
deer and bear, for his flies from local animals that he trapped, or hunted.
He tied a lot of flies using squirrel and bear. His favorite wet fly was an
“Oriole” and his favorite dry fly was a “Coachman” type fly that he tied from
a greyish brown deer hair. The hair mixture resembled grey squirrel. He
would fish this fly when the water was low and the fish were sulking. Like
most anglers he liked fishing the early morning and evenings, but you could
also find Earle fishing mid day during the hottest days of summer. He was
successful them too.
In the late 1960’s I used to visit Earle and watch him tie flies. I remember
him trying to teach me how to tie bombers and bugs. I never did learn to do
it very well, but he sure made it look easy.
He sold most of his flies locally. He never made a great deal of money from
this and probably gave away more flies than anyone will ever know. He never
bragged about his ability to tie flies and he never criticized other fly tyers.
Earle is the only fly tyer in “The Fly Tyers of New Brunswick” collection who
made his own double hooks used in his fly dressing. It was his unique way of
having double hooks, which he believed were better than any of the ones he
could buy, had he been able to afford them. Earle taught the technique to his
friend Leo White, an experienced angler now residing in Millerton, New
Brunswick. Leo still makes his own doubles the same way. Leo says that, “You
use two fine hooks. Cut the eye off one of the hooks about a millimetre back
from the eye. Use a candle to heat the shaft behind the eye of the second
hook and while the metal is very hot use a pair of needle nose pliers offset
the eye. Determine the desired angle you want the two hooks to form your
double and file the inside of the shafts so that when the shafts rest together
they are well matched and solid against each other. Cement in place with a
small bit of head cement and tightly wrap the shafts of the hook with strong
L/R: H.C. Wiswall, Al Moulton, with Guides: Warren Sturgeon and Earle Donahue
North Branch Pool, Renous River, New Brunswick in 1966
Earle was a man of few words, but when he told you something you could trust
it. He had incredible knowledge about the river and the Atlantic salmon. He
would study a pool and fish it with great finesse. He was a superb angler who
would play a salmon with as much care, as a jeweller would take in cutting a
precious gem. Earle was an excellent caster and although the fishing rod he
had was far from the state of the art, and continuously under repair, watching
him fish a salmon pool was like watching an artist paint a portrait. Each
cast was carefully predicted just like the stroke of an artists brush.
Earle was best known among the anglers and outfitters between Upper Blackville
and Renous. He was well liked for his quiet gentle manner as a guide, and for
his knowledge as an angler.