Ralph Turner “Ralphie” Miller

             Ralph Turner “Ralphie” Miller was born on September 4, 1932 in Florenceville, Carleton County, New Brunswick.  He is the son of the late Doris (nee Peters) and Norman Miller.

 

Ralph Miller at the tying bench in August 1995

 Ralphie started tying flies at the age of ten.  By the age of fourteen he was tying flies for sale.  His uncle, Carleton Miller, was his inspiration to start salmon fishing and tying flies.  At that the American fishermen from Maine often dominated time, fishing on the Saint John River.  They used the Classic flies more than any other type.  Ralphie often found their flies on the beach, thanks to their poor back casting.  He would search the shoreline constantly. This was his way of obtaining an early supply of flies.  He certainly couldn't afford to buy them.  When his uncle bought Ralphie a fly tying catalogue, he was fascinated by it.  His uncle then helped buy some of the basic fly tying materials and pretty soon he was ready to start tying, without any help or instructions. Ralphie began to dissect some of the fully dressed flies that were not usable and, slowly but surely things began to come together. His first attempt to tie a fly was with a regular bait hook, a few feathers from an old farm rooster, sewing thread from the sewing basket and some of his sister's red fingernail polish.  Ralphie and a close friend dashed to a nearby eddy just below the salmon pool where the real test was on, no luck.  His dear pal Ernie wanted to use the fly, so in disgust Ralphie gave it to him.  The unbelievable happened.  Ernie landed a chub!  Who really knows the true source of inspiration!  At least it helped to restore Ralphie's ego, if nothing else  

            For more than forty-five years, he has experimented with fly patterns.  He is confident that he could have drummed up some patterns such as “Killer Miller” or  “Fame and Fortune”, but it just wasn't meant to be.  However, he has tied his own variations of the fully dressed and the current bucktails, bombers and buck bugs.

            To Ralphie, the completion of a well-tied fly is rewarding, especially when it catches a big salmon.  Fly tying is a very challenging art that opens up one's imagination.  Having your customer’s report their catches and request special flies tied to their specifications is extremely exciting.

            Ralphie's favourite Classic fly is a “Jock Scott.”  His favourite fly to fish with is a dry fly.  The “Royal Wulff” or “Royal Coachman” is his preferences both for tying and fishing.  His favourite fly tier was the late Clovis Arseneault from Atholville, New Brunswick.

            As a fly tier, Ralph Turner Miller represents the Saint John River, Tobique River, the Restigouche and Miramichi drainage in the northern half, such as Miramichi at Juniper, Renous, Little Southwest and the Northwest.  His favourite river is the Restigouche where he landed fish up to thirty pounds, not to mention the big ones that got away.

            In the early years of Ralph Miller's life, he was blessed with an environment that was only short of paradise for fishing salmon and trout.  He had access to three trout streams that ran across his parent’s farm.  His years on the farm were truly full of romance and adventure.  He also had excellent hunting.  He had the best of both worlds. 

            He graduated in 1950 and went on to become a schoolteacher. In 1977, he opened “Miller’s Rod and Gun Shop” that he operated out of the Village Place Mall in Florenceville, New Brunswick until 1993.  Most of Ralph's life has been dedicated to education, twenty years of teaching school and forty-five years of offering his services in fly tying, gunsmithing and rod and reel repair.  He also rented boats to his customers in the fishing and hunting fraternity.  He has taught fly tying at the Community College in Woodstock as well as teaching the art on an individual basis, especially through his Rod and Gun Shop where he had constant contact with many fine fishermen and fly tiers.  He would like to be classified as a good sportsman.  He is a strong supporter of “hook and release.”  He believes that fishing in the future will have to rest with new attitudes.  Fishermen must learn to put back what they have taken away.  They can no longer think that the fish resource is limitless.  They should make a gallant effort to find better ways of conservation.

 

L/R Dewey Gillespie, Ralph Miller and W.F. “Budd” Kitchen standing in front of Ralph’s Framed Presentation at Where The Rivers Meet, The Fly Tyer’s of New Brunswick Display at Brookdale Nurseries at Miramichi City in 1996

Since selling his shop, he now mopes about the place offering his assistance.  He still has that desire to be near his customers and probably always will.  He does not have much interest in full retirement.  His philosophy is “to wear out as opposed to rusting out.”

            On December 30, 2004 I spoke to Ralph and he told me that he does not tie as many flies as he used to.  He has been spending a lot of time trying to master the art of tying the fully dressed patterns.  He also has several personal projects on the go that keep him busy.    

  

Rusty Wulff tied by Ralph Miller 1995


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