1135 Station Rd., Stacyville. 207-365-4007.
By Ron Joseph
Photographs by Mark Mccall
Alvin Theriault was 11 when he tied his first fishing fly. “The material came from a Boy Scout kit,” he told me recently. “I tied several colorful feathers onto a hook, cast it into Fish River, a short walk from my Fort Kent home, and caught a nice trout. From that moment, I was hooked on tying flies because it was more fun than digging worms.” More lucrative too. By the time he was 15, Theriault, the oldest of 11 kids, was selling flies to Aroostook County anglers for a buck apiece.
A small selection of hand-tied flies from Theriault’s Stacyville shop (bold indicates an original design): (a) Warden’s Worry; (b) Flavored for Trout; (c) Black Ghost Marabou; (d) The Gold Guppy; (e) Amanda’s Blue Copper; (f) West Branch Caddis; (g) Big Trout Only; (h) Nesowadnehunk Dark Side; (i) Rainbow Smelt; (j) Emerger Green Drake; (k) Salmander; (l) West Branch Special.
Photograph by Cody Barry
Now 64, Theriault and his wife, Connie, have been making and selling flies for 44 years, plucking the materials — feathers, hair, and fur — from the animals they raise on their farm in Stacyville, 10 miles east of Baxter State Park. With more than 50,000 flies, the couple’s unassuming store is Maine’s largest supplier of flies and fly-tying equipment. “That’s a dizzying number of flies,” admits Alvin, a retired Maine game warden, “so I posted a sign in the store: ‘You only need two flies: Maple Syrup Nymph and Black Ghost Marabou.’”
Amanda Desrosier ties all of the flies offered in Theriault’s shop.
Shipped to fishers throughout the U.S. and sold in 20 Maine fly-fishing stores and sporting lodges, Theriault flies are legendary. The late Bert O’Leary, a venerated Allagash fishing guide, once told me that Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams was so enamored with Theriault’s flies, they were the only ones he used casting for trout from O’Leary’s canoe on Fourth Musquacook Lake. Many years ago, I met a Chicago fisherman in Yellowstone National Park who’d caught several impressive cutthroat trout. When I asked him what fly he’d used, he showed me a dark nymph. “It’s my favorite fly,” he said, “made in Maine by a fellow named Alvin Theriault.”
Tell us more Alvin Theriault
How many different fly patterns do you make?
We offer flies in 38 categories, but each category may have a dozen or more different fly patterns. For example, we sell 16 different caddis flies. Our fly-tying material comes primarily from our farm animals: rabbits, llamas, white goat kids, Saanen goats crossed with cashmere goats, Boer goat crosses, Icelandic sheep, junglefowl, guineafowl, specialized chickens bred for colorful feathers. Some Maine hunters provide grouse tail feathers in exchange for salmonid flies. They make superb caddis wings in dry flies for surface-rising trout. Conversely, grouse head feathers make ideal wet flies for fishing the bottoms of ponds, lakes, and rivers.
Describe a couple of your colorful flies.
The Montreal Floozy is an age-old, sleek, flashy, multi-colored fly, named after the city’s ladies of the night. The Amanda Blue Copper fly features a copper body and a blue mallard feather. Two other originals are named after Amanda Desrosier. She grew up nearby and has tied flies for us for many years.
What’s the secret behind an effective fishing fly?
“There’s no secret. Fish are biting or they’re not. Most fishers cast their favorite fly first. If that doesn’t work, they’ll constantly switch flies. We sell a variety of flies to appeal to fishermen, and not the fish. Years ago, I paddled on Nesowadnehunk Lake to chat with fly fishermen. One claimed, “A Chartreuse Hornberg is the only fly the trout are biting.” I paddled 100 yards and two fishermen said, “The trout are only taking a Royal Coachman.” In another cove a fisherman boasted, “Trout are only interested in a Green Drake.”
What’s your most popular fly?
Our best-selling fly is the Maple Syrup Nymph. Our daughter Holly designed the fly when she was very young. In fact, she tied her first fly at age 4.