As you travel North from Bangor, Maine the exits get fewer, the mountains get taller, and the speed limit signs on the interstate read 75 mph. In the shadow of Mount Katahdin lies a small town known as Stacyville, Maine. Stacyville has a population shy of five hundred people. Among those few folks residues a family farm. Not just any old cow and corn farm. A unique farm much like the natural environment that engulfs the area.
The farm is owned and run by the Theriault family, mostly just Alvin and his wife Connie nowadays. Their daughter Holly has moved to the Texas oil fields as a geologist. As a youngster she used to raise prized rabbits for show competition and fly tying materials. Holly at one point had over 200 rabbits and was winning praise and prize for her wonderful animals. She gained respect quickly and soon had folks asking her for advice on raise such prized rabbits.
Holly is no stranger to a fly tying vise, at the age of four she was tying her own flies. For many years she supplied Mainers with the famous Maple Syrup Nymph. These days the Theriault farm consists of perennials, vegetables, goats, six llamas, and fly tying birds. Lots of birds for fly tying; hens, roosters, guinea fowl, and even jungle cocks. Along with the farm they run a rock and gem shop and a fly tying material shop that can easily consume any fly tier for half a day or more. The shop is spacious with so many bird skins to pick through it is tough to know where to begin. There are several fly tying books worth cruising through when you become overwhelmed in the hackle inventory. Then there are the furs, dubbing, synthetics, the custom dyed colors, vises, and tools. The list goes on and could sound like any ordinary fly shop, but this place has charm, and that down home feel.
Alvin is a blast of knowledge and stories that seems to fit the niche of the shop to a tee. It should since Alvin built and expanded the shop twice, himself. Alvin is a retired Game Warden for the State of Maine. His wife Connie ran the fly shop and tied flies while Alvin was a Game Warden. She now works for Baxter State Park full time. Alvin claims to have fished so many days in his life that he is satisfied being busy with his business and supplying fly tiers from all over. A big portion of his business is supplying flies to other stores and mail orders. At the age of twelve he was tying his own flies and at fifteen he was raising chickens for fly tying. Alvin reminisces about fishing everyday at the camps which his father ran for family and private cliental. Alvin thrived on a daily lunch on soda and a large bag of potato chips. The stories that Alvin shares are full of detail and passion, even to a virtual stranger like myself. When our conversation switches to raising birds for fly tying, Alvin quickly shows his knowledge and thirty plus years experience. Confidence glows from him as he fills an open ear with tales of success, trial, and error. Fascinating to me is the difficulty of raising jungle cock. Alvin tells me of the first batch of jungle cock he tried to raise, that ended in instant disaster and a $500 investment was gone as quickly as it had started. These birds are so sensitive to human contact, that disrupting their daily routine can send them into days of sulking or even suicide. Even after years of breeding jungle cock still remain a tough bird to raise.
As Alvin tells his stories, I paw through the bin of jungle cock skins and notice that none are alike. Getting the perfect cape of jungle cock eyes is very difficult, and time consuming. Once you’ve raised a good bird it is hard to sacrifice them for their cape since you want to keep the bloodlines strong for future generations. It’s easy to see why jungle cock capes can fetch $100+. Searching through all the variations of not so perfect jungle cock, I’m enthralled at the uniqueness of each one and envision the endless possibilities of flies to be tied in my mind’s eye. As our visit wraps up, my family takes me to see some of the Theriault’s family farm and animals. It really makes you appreciate the fact that you can still find good people and American run businesses.
As we pile in the family vehicle and head back to the coastal shore of lobster land I ponder all the facets to the Theriault Farm and Maine itself, with all the hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
You can visit their shop in person or online www.theriaultflies.com