Our Man In Canada
March 11th, 2002

Jack Shaw: The Father of Chironomid Fishing

By Robert H. Jones
From Fly Fishing Canada, Published by Johnson Borman Publishers

The inventor's name appearing most often in the fly patterns chapter [in the book] is Jack Shaw; however, nine patterns represent but a few of those developed by the man many consider to be the "father of chironomid fishing."

Brown Pheasant Chironomid

Born in 1916 in Montreal, Quebec, Jack was 9 years old when his parents moved to Burnaby, British Columbis, where his lifelong passion for fishing began in the local creeks. He left school at age 11 and entered the work force, but continued fishing whenever possible.

Black and Silver Chironomid

After moving to Kamloops in 1940, Jack met Dorothy Lawrence and they married in 1942. He also discovered fly fishing, which led to tying flies. He quickly determined that imitative patterns produced more consistent results than attractor patterns, so in order to learn more about the insects he wanted to duplicate, he acquired the first of several aquariums. For years thereafter, hatches of may flies, damsels, dragonflies, caddis and chironomids flitting throughout thier house became common occurrences, even in midwinter. In the meantime, but studying aquatic insects in their environment, Jack learned to imitate their movements through manipulation of his line and rod tip.

Black Chironomid Pypa

Although several productive new patterns evolved from his observations, his dissatisfaction with their colors led to photographing the insects. He eventually elevated this to an art form by capturing amazingly detailed close-ups of swimming insects, then enlarging them to large Cibachrome prints. By 1962 Jack was using a series of chironomid patterns he had developed, but it wasn't until 1966 while working at Burfield's Ski and Sport Shop in Kamloops that he introduced them to anglers. He taught night school fly-tying classes for 15 years, and three of his students are contributors to his book: Brian Chan, Jim Crawford and Ralph Shaw. (Although not related, Jack and Ralph were the closest of friends and fishing companions.)

Turkey and Gold Chironomid

He was the author of two popular best sellers: Fly-Fish the Trout Lakes with Jack Shaw and Tying Flies for Trophy Trout, both of which are still in print. As well, he was a frequent contributor to BC Outdoors magazine. Author, photographer, teacher, conservationist and a highly respected amateur entomologist, Jack Shaw spent a lifetime sharing his knowledge with others. With his passing on February 2, 2000, an important page in British Columbia's fly-fishing history was turned, but his written words and fly patterns have left a legacy that will last forever. ~ Robert H. Jones

Fly Fishing Canada Credits: From Fly Fishing Canada, From Coast to Coast to Coast, By Outdoor Writers of Canada, Published by Johnson Gorman Publishers. We appreciate use permission!

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