George Roland Routledge

             “The Man at the Mouth” is what those who fish the Main Southwest Miramichi and Renous Rivers call him.  The man is George Routledge, owner of George's Fly Shop, located on the old river road between the Quarryville Bridge and the Renous Post Office.   The shop is adorned with a neatly painted sign displaying a salmon fly that fits nicely as the central word in the title.  The structure is small and commonplace.   “What you see is what you get”, says George.  “A number of people come into the shop expecting a fancy place, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a lot like me, comfortable.  It is a shop with a lot of material and supplies and it's friendly.  George Roland Routledge was born to the late Inza (nee Simmons) and Frank “Slim” Routledge on February 17, 1938 in Amherst, Nova Scotia. 

            George has been fishing all his life.  He fished trout since he was a kid and saw his first salmon on the River Phillips in Nova Scotia.

 

 

George Routledge at the bench in 1994

             In 1955, Routledge joined the army, went to Sussex, New Brunswick, then Aldershot, Nova Scotia before going to C.F.B. Gagetown where he spent most of his career. When stationed in Gagetown, two important events shaped his life.  First, he met his wife, Shirley, who was from Renous. It was through her that he first came to the Miramichi in 1962.  “We came over here on vacation and I did some fishing.  After we were married in 1963, we came over here a lot”, said George.  After 24 years of service and the rank of Warrant Officer, Routledge retired in 1977.  It was then that he and his wife moved to Renous permanently.  They live in his wife's homestead directly across from his fly shop.

 

George Routledge at “George’s Fly Shop” Renous, New Brunswick 1994

             The second thing that shaped Routledge's life was taking a fly tying course in Fredericton.  “I got into tying flies after my first full year of salmon fishing.  I bought fourteen dollars worth of flies.  When the season was over, I didn't have any left.  Back then, that was a lot of money.  So I decided if I was going to fish, I had to find a cheaper way.”     “At first I taught myself by trial and error, asking here and there.  Shirley's uncle, Rich Schofield, taught me a few tricks of the trade.  I tied for five years while in Fredericton and took a course from the Fredericton Fish and Game Club.  This course was on dry flies given by Frank Wilson.  I was pretty well set in my ways on wet flies.  Wilson still runs his shop in Fredericton.”   With this background, it's not surprising to hear that Routledge opened his shop in Renous during the spring of 1978. He has been “going strong” ever since.  Sometimes he puts on a fly tying course for friends, carrying the art on just like the Fredericton Fish and Game Club.

            He opens every year on May 15 and stays open until October 15.  He says, “We used to have a tradition at the end of the season when a group of the fellows would all get together and auction off my hat around a bonfire at the Mouth of the Renous. The top bidder was then required to get way across the river and spend an amount equivalent to the highest bid on refreshments for the rest.”

Hospitality

            It's this sense of camaraderie that sets the mood at George's Fly Shop.  George himself says, “The atmosphere is relaxed.  Everyone that comes in will joke about me not catching any, or catching too many.  I think people who come in only act the way they get treated-friendly and jovial.  I get along with most people by treating them just the way I’d want to be treated.  And, of course, 24 years of dealing with people sure helps."

            “There are no better people in the world than salmon fishermen because they continue to do it even though the conditions are never perfect.  The water's too high or too low, there's too much wind, there's no fish, but they always come back once they get the bug.”

            “My shop is really more of a recreation than a business.  I just enjoy it so much.  Half the fun is the people I meet, just the same as 90 percent of the fun of fishing is not catching fish, but being on the river with your friends.  If a fellow fished for fish, he'd go to the supermarket and pay five dollars a pound for it. When he fishes for it, it'll cost him one hundred dollars a pound.”

            George's shop is like a home away from home for anyone who fishes the Renous or the Main Southwest Miramichi.

            People from the United States come every year.  A couple of years ago Denis Potvin was here and Ted Williams always drops in when he's on the River.  As a matter of fact, there's a story about Williams being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on George's wall.  On the top is an inscription...”George ties my flies.”  Ted Williams signed it.  These celebrities are in addition to the many local people who drop in.  A fishing trip is not complete without a visit to George's to swap stories or to check to see how the fishing is at the “mouth.”

            Routledge has great praise for the local people.  “People are really beginning to appreciate the great thing our river is. Poaching is down and I've noticed that even the younger people are picking up garbage left by others.  And you generally hear talk of how nice the river is.  The people of the Miramichi are fine people.”

            George has done most of his fishing at “Hambrook's Bar” on the Main Southwest Miramichi and at the Mouth of the Renous River.  Occasionally, he will fish the Gray Rapids or further up the Renous if the water is low.

            His best fishing moment was in 1966 when he landed a 17-pound salmon.  It was hooked in the Rapids above the Mouth on the Main Southwest and landed below the island at the Mouth of the Renous.  It took him down the river over 300 yards.

 

Favourite Fly

            “I must have tied thousands of flies.  I really don't know how many, but my favourite is the Butterfly, a green-butt pattern on a number 4 hook.  Maurice Ingalls who was from the United States originated the “Butterfly”.  Ingalls fished around Blackville frequently”, says George.

            He fishes the traditional patterns like the hair-wings such as the Bear Hair, Black Ghost or Cossaboom.  He seldom fishes a dry fly, but if he does, it is one of the Wulff's. 

Bulletin Just In

On February 2, 2005, George Routledge received a Friend of the River Award at the Northumberland Salmon Protection Association annual dinner in Miramichi City.

George said he felt really proud and considered it special anytime you get an award for something important to do with the salmon.  He is given recognition for promoting hook and release and for making sure that whenever fishermen entered his shop he would instruct them on the rules of the river. George said, “The information is in the regulations, but a lot of people don’t take the time to read the rules.”

George was also recognized for his generosity through donations to conservation groups and is known for his fly tying lessons. 

 

 

Royal Wulff

 

Tail:                        White Deer or calftail

Rear Butt:              Peacock herl

Body:                     Red floss

Forward Butt:        Peacock herl

Wing:                     White Deer or calftail

Hackle:                   Brown                   

 

  For George’s personal use in the beginning                          Fall Fly originated in 1989

 

 

 

Local Adaptation of  “Whiskers”