Wilfred Isaac Ward

 

Wilfred Isaac Ward was born on February 1, 1935 in Red Bank, New Brunswick, and is the son of the late Mary Jane (nee Simon) and Francis Patrick Ward.  Wilfred is a very respected Mic Mac Indian, and member of the Red Bank First Nations.  He is very active in the preservation of his culture and heritage, and is held in high esteem throughout his community and province.

 

Wilfred I. Ward 1998

  Wilfred started tying flies in 1950. His father, who was a professional guide for nearly fifty years, saw an urgent need to have a good supply of useable flies for visiting sportsmen.  He encouraged Wilfred to start tying flies so he could provide the fishermen with the necessary patterns most successful for catching salmon.  He also knew Wilfred could make some extra cash by selling the flies.  The plan never worked because Wilfred, being a kind, gentle and generous person ended up giving away more salmon flies than he ever sold. 


 

Wilfred has always tied the hair-wing patterns.  He learned how to tie them by studying the patterns found in different books. He experimented with different materials, but was never able to conjure up a pattern that would act as a solo for producing accurate results in any river, under any water or weather conditions, to do so would have eliminated the need to carry so many fly boxes and flies today.  He decided to leaves the development of the perfect fish catching fly to somebody else.  He continues to tie flies on a regular basis, supplying them for quests and friends.  He does not sell his flies commercially, and the last time he bought flies was from William Freeman “Billy” Brown, the best fly tier in the country, according to Wilfred. 

Wilfred remembers the first fly he ever tied.  He did so by using some hair from his big yellow pet dog. The pet dog was an easy source of material that Wilfred frequently used, but it never did fit to well with the dog.       

Wilfred started guiding the same year he started tying flies. Warren Silliker, an outfitter from Red Bank, hired Wilfred to guide Jimmy McDonough, a fish and game biologist from Massachusetts.  Wilfred took Jimmy on a river run through the rough waters between Red Stone and Red Bank, on the Little Southwest Miramichi River, in an old chestnut canoe.  Neither to this day Wilfred, nor Jimmy can remember a thing about the fishing that day, but they never forgot the river run.  Wilfred and Jimmy became very good friends and they fished together for many years after that. Jimmy now has his own cabin on the river not far from where he and Wilfred did most of their fishing.

 

Wilfred I Ward 1986

 In 1950 the canoe was the main vehicle for transporting the sportsmen to the Square Forks some thirty miles up stream.  It was a hard push for the guide, but it was the only way the sports could get there.  Wilfred witnessed his father make the trip many a time when he worked for Harry Blackmore and Warren Silliker, outfitters in the Sunny Corner area.  The guide had to work hard then, and he had to be able to handle a canoe.  Hard work didn’t bother Wilfred, but canoeing was another matter.  Just getting a good canoe was a bigger task than learning how to handle it.  There was the time that Wilfred got a twenty-two foot canoe made by Fred Johnson.  It was the spring of the year and the ice was still running in the river.  He was in the process of anchoring it in the Warren Silliker Pool, near the swinging bridge at Sillikers. When Wilfred nosed the canoe into the pool and dropped the anchor the current was so strong that when the canoe snagged up at the end of the anchor rope the canvas let go and was torn off by the strong current. Wilfred and his sport were lucky to make it to shore.  For the last couple of yards they waded in water to their chest, while the canoe sank to the bottom of the river.  That’s where Wilfred left it.

Wilfred’s father set up a guiding outfit and Wilfred played a major part in helping guide the sports that came there.  He remembers the time in May in the 1970’s when a big Greyhound bus landed at the camp with a fishing party.  The bus was from Nashville, Tennessee, and aboard it were Ray Price, Grandpa Jones, Stoney Cooper, Wilma Lee, and a fiddler named Stoney. Frank Ward, Wilfred, Albert Ward, and Leonard Tennass guided the party.  That party had some of the greatest fishing that ever happened on the Little Southwest Miramichi, and the boys from Red Bank had the best entertainment they ever had in their lives. Wilfred says he felt guilty for taking their money, and felt the guides should have paid the entertainer instead.  What a week she was on the Little Sou’west.

In 1984, Wilfred built his own fishing lodge and named it the “The Broken Arrow.”  Since he opened the lodge Wilfred and his wife Shirley are kept busy all year hosting and guiding the many guest who still come from around the world to fish and hunt. Among his guest have been Wayne Jutras, Gaza Balante, and Paul Schmookler. 

Wilfred fishes and guides extensively on the Little Southwest and Northwest Miramichi Rivers.  His favourite salmon pool is the Boulder Pool, at the Oxbow on the Little Southwest.  However, it was at the Mitchell Pool, above Wilfred’s Lodge, in the fall of 1976, where he caught his largest salmon on the Little Southwest Miramichi River.  The 28-pounder made the fatal mistake of latching onto Wilfred’s #10 “Green Butt Black Bear.”  It took a mile-long tug down the river, and an hour-long bout between Wilfred and the salmon, before the fish was finally beached.  The “Green Butt Black Bear” has been Wilfred’s favourite fly ever since.

Over the years Wilfred has seen a lot of great fishing.  He has also been witness to years when the salmon stocks were low. The past couple of years have been like this.  Years ago you couldn’t buy meat so most people hunted and fished to provide for their families.  Today fishing and hunting is mostly for recreation.  There are so many people out there now that go after the animal just for the sport, just to kill something, whether they intend to use it or not.  He supports those who intend to harvest and use the fish and animals, but every hunter and fisherman must understand the process of management.  Good management practices will ensure a safe and healthy future for all living things.

Wilfred hears people laying blame on countless reasons for the decline in the number of salmon returning to the Miramichi. People accuse everything from native over-fishing, to the seals that recently migrated into the Miramichi Bay. But, Wilfred believes that there are other more serious factors that should be considered.  He believes the salmon will come back, but only if there is closer monitoring and efforts to prevent pollution by ships out at sea. It is common practice for large commercial vessels to empty their oils and pollutants into the sea without ever being detected for doing it. This unlawful and reckless behaviour is killing our environment and the creatures that inhabit it.  The continuation of such disregard for our earth may lead to the eventual destruction of mankind.  It is only through education of the people that we might be able to stop the problem, but the probability of success appears to be pretty low.

All the clear cutting of the forest creates another problem.  The rains and melting snow have nothing to hold the water in the earth, and as quickly as the rains fall and the snows melt the water runs quickly into the rivers washing with it everything in its path.  This has caused healthy brooks and salmon pools become destroyed because of the build-up of silt and debris adding to other problems for the salmon’s spawning beds.

Educating our children, and instilling in them a responsible attitude toward the environment seems the only sensible thing to do. Education must be a continuous process.  Not long ago Wilfred wrote a proposal for the Red Bank Band to include in the school curriculum, classes on conservation, especially for the methods of preserving the Atlantic salmon.  Teach the children to respect the fish, and help them understand the practice of releasing salmon.

Contrary to the belief of many, most of his people take only the fish they want for consumption.  Those who abuse the right are the true culprits who must be dealt with through enforcement and the legal process, a duty that everyone has.

 

Green Butt Black Bear

 

Head:                      Black

Tag:                        Oval silver tinsel

Tail:                        Black Bear hair

Butt:                       Green wool

Body:                     Black wool

Rib:                         Oval, or flat silver tinsel

Throat:                   Black hackle

Wing:                     Black Bear hair

 

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