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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Silliker passed away on May 28, 2004.
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
Rib: Copper wire
Lime calf tail