Joseph Patrick “Joe” Hubbard

           Joseph Patrick “Joe” Hubbard was born on February 4, 1922 in South Nelson, New Brunswick.  His parents were the late Mary (nee Murphy) and Marshall Hubbard. 

          For many years, he was a well-known fly tier and accomplished free-lance guide.  Most of his guiding led him into the river areas of Renous, Dungarvon and Miramichi, but he also guided on the Tabusintac River.

 

Joseph “Joe” Hubbard tying flies in July 1964

(Herter’s automatic fly tyer in bottom right corner)

 

Joe was first introduced to fly tying in 1952 when he saw someone tying flies at a hospital in Lancaster, New Brunswick.  It was at that time that decided he was going to tie flies.  When he returned home, he started gathering equipment.  He had a half dozen old bait hooks. He utilized the components of a brace and bit to act as a vise.  He bought a little green book titled “How to Tie Flies” by Ivan H. Crowell.  The book showed him how to make a pair of hackle pliers from a clothespin, and how to wrap elastic around a spool of thread to get the effects of a bobbin.  He then gathered hackle feathers from the neighbor's chickens and “away he went.”  The equipment, to say the least, just wasn't doing the trick.  Some of his friends from the Royal Canadian Legion bought Joe a fly tying kit.  The kit contained a gooseneck vise, tinsel and other materials.  Now he was in business.  He started out by tying trout flies.  “I tied the “Parmachene Bell” till I was blue in the face”, says Joe.  “Ernie Mullin was buying them for 10 cents a piece, and he was buying 6 and 7 dozen at a time.  I couldn't figure why on earth that man wanted all those flies.  I later learned that he was selling them to someone else.  I didn't mind because Ernie got some business going for me and it wasn't long before I had people coming from all over to buy my flies.  I sold a lot of flies to Bill Boyd in Blackville, Charlie Allen in Newcastle and Ed McCluskey in Boiestown.  Carl Manderville bought a lot of my flies for Inglehart Industries, a fishing outfit on the Renous River.”

          The fly tying business really picked up for Joe.  It wasn't long before he was having trouble meeting the demand.  That's when he got his wife involved in fly tying. Together they averaged nearly 6000 flies a year.  In order to help keep up with the demand, Joe purchased a “Herter's Rotary Vise”, a machine for rapid fly tying.  “You turned a crank which was connected to a gear that had a 3 to 1 ratio.  You could really spit the flies out if you concentrated on what you were doing”, said Joe. 

          Joe's favourite hair-wing flies are the “Preacher Special” and “Black Joe.”  His favourite feather-wing is the “Black Dose.” Joe believes that the creation of flies by many tiers today is a delusion to the fishermen.  “There is no need for fishermen to carry hundreds of flies.  I've fished many rivers and seen a lot of fish caught.  Most were caught on a common black fly, like the “Black Bear” or “Black Squirrel Tail.”  The materials, like chenille and peacock, used in the bodies of flies, will turn black when wet.  Use the old traditional flies and keep it simple”, says Joe. 

          “Dr. Frank Wilson from Newcastle originated a fly one time and got me to tie it for him.  It was one of the best flies I ever saw.  Could it ever catch fish!  It was a multi-colored hair-wing fly, but it had wood duck feather fibers mixed in the wing.  He called it “Jeremiah Madidly.”

          Joe originated several of his own patterns that were very well known and used by many fishermen during his era.  His creations included the “Sam Day Special”, originated in the early 1950s.  Joe tied the fly, but didn’t give it a name.  One afternoon he was guiding Sam Day at Bill Connors’s place.  Sam saw the fly in Joe’s fly box and asked if he could try it.  Shortly after Sam started fishing with it he hooked and landed a great big salmon.  That’s when Sam Day put the name on the fly.  “A lot of people started using the fly after that.  It caught a lot of fish, but as new flies were born the “Sam Day Special” lost it’s popularity, not because it wouldn’t catch fish, but because people wanted to try other flies that were also successful.  I guess they were looking for something new”, says Joe.

          There’s a “Stone Fly Nymph” Joe created in 1955, and the “Preacher Special” he made in 1956.

          Joe was an avid fisherman, but his first interest was trout.  It was only by accident that he caught his first salmon in 1955.  “I went fishing with Bissack Malley and Waldo and Gerald Henderson.  We went up the Little Southwest Miramichi to a place called “Tom's Pool.”  That's where they left me.  It was a great big pool.  I tried to tell them I couldn't fish trout in it because I was used to fishing little brooks.  It didn't make a bit of difference to them.  I remember saying to myself, “big pool, big fly.”  I tied on a great big “Royal Coachman” and started fishing.  The first thing I knew this thing grabbed that fly and away it went; scared me real bad.  I nearly passed out.  I tried to hold the fish, but the line burned my fingers, so I had to let it run.  The salmon jumped and I said to myself, “this is the biggest trout I've ever seen.”  The fish was upending and racing about when Waldo and the boys came on the scene.  Waldo was roaring for me to hold the fish and he'd help me land it.  He kept shouting,  “You got a salmon.”  I told him that I couldn't have a salmon because I had on a trout fly. “That goes to show you how much I knew about salmon fishing”, says Joe. 

          “Waldo got out into the river, in water up to his knees, and when the fish came close, Waldo made a lunge for the salmon, but he slipped on a rock and fell on top of the fish.  He had some kind of a hold on the salmon, but he couldn't get back onto his feet, and his head was barely above the surface of the water.  I thought for sure he was going to drown, but he wouldn't let go of that fish.  I raced to give him a hand, but slipped on the rocks and landed on top of Waldo.  What a commotion it was!  Waldo and me thrashing about in the river, wrestling with this great big salmon while Gerald and Bissack Malley were up on the shore roaring and laughing their heads off.  By luck, I somehow got hold of the salmon's tail, and got clear of Waldo.  I dragged the salmon to shore and Waldo dragged himself in behind us.  After the waters calmed, we made a great big fire, right there on the shore.  We both stripped buck-naked in order to get our clothes dry.  If anyone had come along and seen us, we'd have been reported and sent away for being crazy.  After catching that fish, I was really hooked on salmon fishing.”

          Joseph Hubbard’s commercial fly tying business dwindled in the late 1960's due to the poor fish runs in the rivers, but from the early 1950's to the late 1960's, Joe Hubbard was a major supplier of salmon flies to fishermen on the Miramichi.  In 2004, at the age of 82, Joe still ties and sells a few flies, but most of his time is spent on woodworking and playing guitar. 

          Joseph “Joe” Hubbard is a member of Where The Rivers Meet “The Fly Tyers of New Brunswick” collection.

Dewey Gillespie, “Joe” Hubbard and his wife Phyllis and “Budd” Kitchen at the Fly Tyers of New Brunswick exhibit in Miramichi, October 1994

 

Sam Day Special

Head:  Black
Tag: Couple of turns of black silk
Tail: Bunch of fibers from the blue neck feather of a Blue Jay
Body:  Flat silver tinsel
Rib:  Oval silver tinsel
Throat:  Ice-blue iridescent hackle (quite thick)
Wings:  White hair of any kind  (Sam Day did not like the fly tied with Polar Bear hair because it was to course)
Cheeks: Small Jungle Cock tied close to the head