Doak, Wallace

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                                   WALLACE DOAK
                                By Wayne Curtis


In 50 years, until his death in 1979, Wallace Doak of Doaktown tied over 5,000 fly hooks a year or about 250,000 in all. He began W. W. Doak and Sons after he built his first fly-tying bench upstairs over his father’s woodshed in 1929.

Doak then established a tackle shop on Main Street that became a traditional stopping place for the many anglers from all over the world who come to fish the Miramichi.

He was born in 1913 and raised in Doaktown. As a young man, he was an avid angler. He worked as a river guide through which he found an interest in the art of fly-tying. He learned by observing other fly-tyers and reading books and practising. He offered his flies to the fishermen he was guiding.

Doak was a meticulous man and soon became an excellent tyer. His flies were being used everywhere. They were always tied according to pattern, they were durable and, more importantly, they caught fish.

Doak had his own theory on fly-tying. He never tried to be an inventor, but kept with the belief that there were enough fly patterns on the market and more demand for traditional designs than he could supply. He felt it was important for a commercial fly-tyer to have a consistency and a reputation for keeping with patterns and having a quality in tying. Customers knew when they came back the next year that they could find the same patterns, tied in the same way.

In his father’s woodshed, he fashioned a tyers’ bench of boards and built a desk. It was said that when Wallace Doak wasn’t on the river, he was at the bench. At this time, the family lived down the South Road, a short distance from Doaktown. In the evenings, customers drove to the Doak home for flies.

His wholesale business began when he started selling flies to W. R. McClosky, the large general store in Boiestown, 17 miles upriver. He delivered shipments of flies to McClosky’s on a bicycle. Later, when he purchased car, he made regular deliveries to James S. Neil and Sons, a sporting goods store in Fredericton.

In 1945, Wallace married and built a home on Main Street in Doaktown. The following year he built a little shop on the corner of his own front lawn. It was here that his fly-tying became a full-time business. He also stocked the shop with everything an angler would need in the way of tackle. The sign hanging over the sidewalk read W. W. Doak - Fishing Tackle.

Doak was a devoted Christian and ran the shop with a few basic rules. He offered quality product for the money, all customers (rich or poor) were simply fishermen and were to be treated equal. There was to be no profane language in the shop. This, combined with Doak’s personality, proved to be a successful formula. As respect for the man grew, so did the business. Fishermen who went into the shop for tackle were considered friends first and customers secondly.

When Doak died, his son, Jerry, who grew up in the business, took over the shop. Jerry prides himself in his father’s philosophy. “Dad had a deep sense of personal and professional integrity. He had a very strong concept of fair treatment for all customers, regardless of their station in life or the amount of money in their pocket,” he said. “When a customer came into the shop, they were simply ‘all fishermen’ to Dad.”

In 1983, Wallace Doak was the first fly-tyer to be inducted into the Atlantic Salmon Hall of Fame at the Miramichi Salmon Museum in Doaktown.

Since then, Jerry has moved the business down the street, expanded the quarters and established a successful catalogue service. The shop now employs three full-time people and one part-time, as well as several outside fly-tyers.

Jerry is a conservationist and a director of the Miramichi Salmon Association.

Wallace’s other son, George, operates a tackle business in Fredericton.


Source: Miramichi Leader – April 16, 1993

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