Sydney Girwood “Sid” Matchett
Sydney Girwood Matchett was born in Newcastle, New Brunswick, on August 2, 1952. He is the son of Mary Catherine (nee Daigle) and Eldon George Matchett.
Sidney is employed with Heath Steele Mines where he works under ground as a shaftman.
As a youth, Sidney spent a lot of time with his grandfather, Hubert Matchett. There was always something for him to do and learn when they were together. Hubert had many friends and there was always someone coming or going around Hubert’s place. One of those friends was Raymond Roy from Pokemouche, New Brunswick. Raymond was an avid fisherman and an excellent fly tier. He spent many years studying the art of dressing flies. Trout patterns were Raymond’s specialty, but he also tied many of the patterns used for catching salmon. He learned to tie flies from the late and great Restigouche fly tier, Joseph Clovis Arseneault.
Sydney “Sid” Matchett busy tying in 1997
Of the people who visited Sid’s grandfather, there was no one who intrigued Sid more than Raymond Roy. Raymond’s stories fascinated him, but it was the excitement of seeing the boxes of rainbow-coloured trout and salmon flies possessed by Raymond, along with the reasons he gave for why this, or that particular fly was created, that kept Sid spell-bound. It had such an effect on him that he was driven to learn how to tie flies.
In 1978, with the assistance of Raymond Roy, Sid started learning the art of fly tying. He began duplicating many of the same fly patterns he remembered seeing in the boxes that Raymond once showed him at Hubert Matchett’s home. In 1983, Sid’s tying skill advanced to such a level that he began selling his flies commercially. He was tying an average of 2500 to 3000 salmon flies annually. He recognized the demand for trout and salmon flies, so in 1986, just eight years after he began tying flies, Sid Matchett opened Trout Brook Fly Shop, situated in the little settlement of Trout Brook, not far from the Northwest Miramichi River.
That was eleven years ago. Now, in order to meet with the supply and demand, Sid has several local people tying flies on a regular basis for him. To tie flies for Sid Matchett, the flies tied by his tiers must meet a certain standard. It’s a standard established by Sid over the years he spent fishing the flies, and with information collected from hundreds of anglers, year after year.
According to Sid, the placement of material on the hook is extremely important. Fishermen have preferences when it comes to selecting a salmon fly. The tip, tag, and butt of the fly have to be located in just the right place. The throat and collar are equally important. Sid learned that fishermen on the Northwest Miramichi River prefer a fly tied with a throat, instead of a collar. Whether or not these preferences make any difference to the fish is anybody’s guess, but it sure makes a difference to some fishermen.
Over the years, Sid has seen the development of many new fly patterns. Some of them have been successful, while others have simply passed on as a novelty. However, this didn’t mean the fly was no good. A lot of flies will produce if the conditions are right, but the big mystery is, “what are the right condition?” Therefore, many factors add in to what will make a salmon or trout fly successful. A clearly defined answer to a definite and successful pattern is impossible. According to Sid, this is all for the best. To find the absolute in a salmon or trout fly would be a disaster. The tying of such a fly would no doubt be outlawed and fly tying possibly banned forever. “No one ties a bad fly, everyone ties a different fly”, says Sid.
Sid has witnessed the development of many new patterns. Some flies become so similar to one another that it is literally impossible sometimes to tell the difference between them. By removing or adding a single component to an established pattern, is an exception for the birth of a new salmon fly. Or is it? One such example is the “Hubert Hare Special”, a fly originated in 1962, by the late W.F. Billy Brown from Newcastle, New Brunswick. Some years later, an American by the name of Slater, tied the identical same fly, but added Jungle Cock eyes, and called it the “Slater Killer.”
Sid originated a fly called “Fish Finder” for Mr. Marvin Palmer, a doctor from the United States. The fly is a combination of the “Black Ghost” and “Butterfly.” The fly caught nine fish one morning, at the “Little Forks”, on the Little Southwest Miramichi River. The fly is Sid’s favourite because today it continues to be very successful for him. He also fishes with a “Lady Ellen” that is successful too.
There are many stories among fly tiers about similar successfully developed salmon flies. However, in a lot of cases we never seem to know what become of those very successful flies after their development, or seldom do we come across anybody using them. There is no implying that these are tall tales, but a lot of fly tiers and fishermen have one or two to tell.
Most fly tiers have a particular fly that they like to tie. Sid Machete’s is the “Hubert Hare Special. His favourite river is the Northwest Miramichi.
Sid, like most anglers is concerned about the future of salmon angling in New Brunswick. He supports a “hook and release” program, but believes the participating fishermen should use a use a “barbless hook.”
In 1998, the Atlantic Salmon Federation invited Sydney to attend their Annual Conclave, in Miramichi City, and do a fly tying demonstration on the salmon flies of the Miramichi area.
Hook: Mustad 399A, #4
Tag: Silver tinsel
Butt: Fiery red wool
Tail: Yellow hackle fibers
Rib: Silver tinsel
Body: Black wool or nylon
Wings: White Polar Bear, angled at 45 degrees
Collar: Yellow hackle