Frank McCullay Lewis

1921 - 1984

 “I remember well, for several years, when the order for salmon flies would come in from Consolidated Bathurst, especially the year that Frank had a heart attack, and hadn’t worked for months.  The money from fly tying put more food on the table”, says Mrs. Frank Lewis.

Frank McCullay Lewis was born on December 4, 1921 in Peticodiac, and soon after moved to Sackville where he grew up. He was the son of the late Josephine (nee Lister) and Elroy Lewis.

 

Frank M. Lewis was a wireless operator and an airman for the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.  He studied Fine Arts for a year at Mount Allison University, then took a watchmakers course in Moncton.  After graduating from watch making he opened a jewellery shop in Sackville.  In 1954 he moved to Bathurst and opened a jewellery shop there.

In 1959 he went to work for Consolidated Bathurst where he worked as an instrument mechanic.  He left Consolidated Bathurst in 1974, due to ill health. 

Frank Lewis was an artist, a perfectionist, and a very sensitive individual.  He was a wood carver, keen sportsman who played ball, curled, golfed, and he was a fisherman.  He was often, “gone fishing.” Many a time, in the early morning, Frank’s wife would go to the kitchen and find a salmon lying on the drain board, the reward for Frank’s early trip to the Nepisiguit River before going to work at the mill.

Frank started tying flies in the early 50’s.  He was of the opinion that he could tie a salmon fly as good as any that he could buy, and it would cost him less to tie his own, so that is what he did. He gathering information from other fly tiers he met on the river, collected books, pictures and materials, and soon he was tying his own salmon flies.  Frank Lewis was right in his opinion and pretty soon a lot of other people believed Frank was tying salmon flies that were second to none. There was many a winter night that Frank spent tying salmon flies for Consolidated Bathurst who was a major buyer, ordering hundreds at a time.  His fly tying paid off too.  When times were tough financially, Frank drew a pretty penny from selling salmon flies.

 

 His success as a fisherman helped tremendously when it came to fly selection.  Frank learned from the fish that were being caught on his flies.  He would experiment with materials, and patterns, while at the same time try and interpret why salmon preferred one particular pattern to another.  The majority of serious fishermen and fly tiers continue doing this.  It becomes a very personal thing.

Sidney Jarrett, a famous New Brunswick fly tier and angler, was witness one day to Frank’s experimentation with salmon flies. It happened one evening at Pabineau Falls on the Nepisiguit River. Frank tried to imagine what the fish wanted, and would tie the fly based on his imagination.  Having tied one of these flies, the pattern since lost with Frank’s death, he cast it into the Nepisiguit. The fish began jumping out of the water as they attacked the fly.  It was an exciting time for Frank, and an unforgettable sight for Sidney Jarrett.

In an interview with Fred’s son Jim, he said, “My father had a love of the outdoors, and the fish and wildlife that lived there.  He taught us to respect nature and to leave it in the same condition that we found it.  “Take only what you need, and leave only your footprints.”   Many a fish lived to fight another day as dad seldom, if ever return from a day of fishing with his daily limit.  He taught me to catch and release my fish properly so as not to injure the fish. In the summer he would take us vacationing and fishing trout at Portage Lakes.”

“Dad never owned a spinning rod nor metal lure of any kind, and he was a fly fishing purist of great skill who could drop with deadly accuracy to within inches of where a fish jumped.  If the fish were biting that day then man and fish would enter into a classic battle of skill and strength.  The hooking of the fish and the subsequent battle was what fishing meant to my father.  The salmon flies my father left behind are not his best examples as he most often gave his flies or a painting to a friend or acquaintance when they admired his work,” said Jim.

 

 Frank’s daughter Jill remembers when, as a little girl, her father took her fishing at Pabineau Falls on the Nepisiguit.  They were walking along the shore and she found a salmon fly.  When she showed it to her father he told her it was one of his, and that he had lost it the previous year. To this day Jill doesn’t know how her father knew that fly was his, but there was no doubt in her mind that he knew just from the way he told her about it.

As a fly tier, Frank Lewis tied both hair-wing and feather-wing flies.  He tied both salmon and trout flies.  His ability to create at was not limited to the vice, but was also displayed through his paintings, and woodcarvings.  Some of his best work is reflected in a collection of watercolour paintings he did in 1957, of fully dressed salmon fly patterns.  The accuracy with which he painted the “Durham Ranger”, “Lady Amherst”, “Silver Doctor”, and “Green Highlander” is testament to a gift that Frank Lewis was blessed with.

A person would be safe in saying that Frank Lewis loved every brook, stream and river.  He fished extensively on the Nepisiguit, but had a stronger fondness for the Pokemouche River as well.

 

Emerald

 

Head:                      Black

Tail:                        Light brown hackle fibers

Body:                     Light green floss

Rib:                         Gold tinsel

Hackle:                   Light brown

Wing:                     Pale brown mottled Turkey