Guy Irvin Silliker

1918 - 2004

           If you’re looking for the earliest fly tier from the Little Southwest Miramichi River, then Guy Irvin Silliker's “the guy” you’re looking for. 

          Guy Irvin Silliker was born on April 25, 1918 in Sillikers, New Brunswick.  His parents were the late Minnie Maude (nee Mathews) and James Warren Silliker.

 

 

Guy Silliker 1997

 

At the youthful age of 14 years, Guy Silliker was guiding sportsmen.  He wasn't supposed to be guiding; he wasn't of legal age, but times were tight and guiding was a sure dollar if a person could get hired.  If you could do the job, then you'd get the job. Age didn't have much to do with it, so long as you had some knowledge of the river, skill to handle a boat in the turbulent waters of the spring river run‑off and of course you had to know how to fish.  Guy inherited the fishing skill from his father.  Knowledge of the river was learned during the many days he spent swimming and exploring it.  His boating skill was quickly learned as he explored the river in his father's old board boat.  Regardless of any skills he had in 1932, Guy Silliker was still a little boy, a boy who also had respect for the river.  He was always aware of the ever-present river dangers.  He knew it could swallow you alive and never release you again.  In 1996, the allowance of a boy of 14 years to guide sports, let alone navigate the spring-swollen rivers of New Brunswick would be considered criminal.  In 1932, it was just a way of life.

          In the Spring of 1932, a local outfitter by the name of Johnson brought sports in that year and Guy Silliker was assigned to one, one that would point the way for Guy's love of fly tying. 

          John C. Cosseboom was his name. He was an insurance businessman from Woonsocket, Rhode Island.  In 1923, John Cosseboom originated the “Cosseboom Special.”  It was just one in a series of salmon flies he tied that are known around the world.  During his salmon fishing intermissions, John Cosseboom showed Guy how to tie the famous “Cosseboom Special.” This happened 64 years ago, but Guy remembered it as though it was yesterday.

          Guy started tying flies 64 years ago. His first flies were tied using pieces of yarn. Even the wings were made from the yarn. They were streamer flies, tied on bait hooks. They were used for fishing Spring salmon. He then started using the hair from squirrel, deer and ground hog for the wings on his flies. Ground hog hair was nice to work with.  Guy continued tying flies regularly, practicing the patterns he got from friends or that he found in books.  There wasn't much of a demand for salmon flies at that time.  In 1932, there were only a few people on the Little Southwest Miramichi who used salmon flies for fishing. 

          In the late 1930's Guy joined the army and served his country until 1945. When he returned from the war he started a carpentry trade and began tying flies again. He purchased a large volume of materials from Leo Richard in Chatham, New Brunswick.  Leo tied flies, but had an allergy with feathers so he had to get rid of his material.

          Guy found that salmon flies were becoming more popular and the demand for them increased dramatically, but the tying of flies was also very demanding.  He was supplying a lot of flies to the local and visiting anglers, but his joy of fly tying was diminishing because of the commitment to fill back orders and this interfered with his work, along with his fishing time.  He quit tying commercially, but continued tying flies as a hobby.  He still had lots of people who wanted to buy his flies and if he had what they wanted he would provide them.  He charged a buck a fly or a dozen for the price of ten.  The flies were free to any kid that was going to school.

In 1995, Guy produced over 2,800 salmon flies.  He tied a lot of the standard hair-wing patterns.  He also experimented a little and originated a number of flies that produced well.  One of his creations is the “Little Falls Special”, which he originated in 1993.

          One might think that having such a famous fly tier as John Cosseboom introduce Guy to fly tying would guarantee Cosseboom the distinction of being Guy’s favourite fly tier.  This was not the case for Guy Silliker.  His favourite fly tier was a man by the name of Fred Steup.  Fred was a machinist from the States.  Guy met him while guiding at a local Miramichi fishing camp, a short time after returning from the war.  They became very close friends, a friendship that lasted the rest of their lives.  “Fred was an excellent fly tier.  He had his own tackle shop from which he supplied me with fine materials.  Before I met Fred I used a cheap little vice for holding my flies.  Fred made me a real good vice,” said Guy.

          “I was also friends with Billy Brown, one of the greatest fly tiers New Brunswick could ever know.  Billy lived in Newcastle. We shared tying information.  Billy was a champion.  His fingers were like thumbs, but he could tie flies the best I ever saw,” said Guy.

          Guy Silliker's favourite hair-wing fly is the “Irritator” or “Same Thing”, a fly tied by his friend from Quebec.  His favourite fully dressed patterns are the “Black Dose” and “Silver Grey.” His favourite river is the Little Southwest Miramichi, but he fished and guided extensively on the tributaries of both the Main Southwest Miramichi, Little Southwest Miramichi, Northwest Miramichi Rivers; fished many stretches of the Grand Cascapedia, Matapedia and Restigouche Rivers.  He has also fished the Grand Matapedia River from its headwaters to its tidewaters.  His favourite fishing pool was the Johnson Pool located between Little Falls and Park's Brook on the Little Southwest Miramichi River. He caught his largest salmon in the late 1980's, at a pool near Harris Brook. The salmon weighed 23 pounds.

          On October 6, 2000, Guy Irvin Silliker was inducted into the Sportsman Hall of Fame in the Atlantic Salmon Museum at Doaktown, New Brunswick.   

Guy Silliker had an enormous love for the Atlantic salmon, but he feared for their safety.  He believed the new regulations being employed will produce a sport that only the rich can afford. Government is forcing people to become poachers.  Fishing is a lifestyle for Miramichiers.  Restricting their fishing is like trying to stop a wind from blowing.  Impossible!  He believed that more stretches of river should be made available to resident anglers in New Brunswick.  Providing advanced education programs geared at respecting, protection and preservation of the salmon and it's habitat, are keys to keeping the sport of salmon angling alive and well in the province.  A strong educational program for New Brunswick guides would also help. 

          He had mixed feelings for supporting hook and release programs.  “You can't fool with an Atlantic salmon.  You overplay the fish and it can easily die.  There is a “fine line” between the delight of an angler and the demise of an Atlantic salmon when talking hook and release.  Drawing that line so both angler and salmon come up winners is difficult indeed.  Like everything else, the key is knowing where to draw it”, said guy.

          Guy also experimented with boat building.  He has constructed some fine crafts that still cruise the waters of the Miramichi today.       

Guy Silliker was not a man of few words.  Author, Michael Brislain who wrote several books on fishing, traveled with Guy.  Mike amusingly named Guy the “Miramichi Radio”, because he never stopped talking.  Reference to the nickname “Miramichi Radio”, Guy was probably vaccinated as a baby with a gramophone needle.

Guy Irvin Silliker passed away on May 28, 2004.

 

 

Little Falls Special (originated by Guy Silliker, Fly Tied By John Scott) 2016

 

Tag:                  Copper wire

Butt:                 Orange floss

Body:                Rear Half: Green floss, Front Half: Blue floss

Rib:                  Copper wire

Wing:                Lime calf tail

Collar:               Grizzly hackle

Head:                Black