Carters Bug Sequence ] Page 2 ] Page 3 ]

Carters Bug History (The complete Story)


July 2nd 2006

Hi Bryant

Just back from the Gaspé and wanted you to know that the bug works

well. Plus a question: didn't you used to have tying instructions for

the bug on your website? I looked and looked and can't find a

reference to the tying instructions that I was sure I saw a couple of

years ago.

Any help would be appreciated.


Bill Kessler

July 2004

Hello Mr. Freeman,


My name is Jennifer Orpen. I am one of Pat's daughters. Last summer I had the pleasure of taking up fly fishing. Dad brought me out to the St. Marguerite River to fish sea trout. Amongst the flies used  was the Carter Bug. It appears to be quite a popular 'treat' for them.

We are planning at least two more trips there this summer and early fall. Would it be possible to have some made with #6 and 8 hooks please?


Jennifer Orpen

I received a call on September 18th 2007 from my friend Robert Barnaby, a member of the Listigouche First Nation Band in Pointe-a-la-Croix Que, he was excited to tell me his friend who guides at  Kedgwick Lodge on the Restigouche River reported to him the Carter's Bug created quite a stir on their pools this summer. He said the lad who tied the fly must have been blind-folded, as the fly was as described, a mess. I introduced the fly to Johnny Sullivan, guide at Larry's Gulch  in June and the word spread upriver to Kedgwick Lodge, mainly because of its effectiveness on big salmon.

On September 28th 2007 A note from Serge Noel at Cap Chat on the south shore of the St Lawrence, says, "I really appreciate. Yesterday I released a "Big One" but lost another one. (Carter's Bug) Just hope to catch one as big as the one you caught.    Bye  Serge Noel


It all began in Moncton, in the Sixties, when a lad Named Bill Carter ran a fly tying,  and sport  fishing shop.  I walked into his store and asked him for some deer hair, to make a Carters Bug.

Well, Bill exclaimed, " have the hair over here, but I am the only one who can tie one of those."

Imagine!! Someone telling me he is the only one who can tie one of those, when I have been tying for as long as he has. I purchased some hair and went home and tried to tie a Carters, each try was as unsuccessful as the first, so I gave up. I tied what I thought was a good Carters Bug., only it was not what a real Carters was suppose to look like.

My choice of hook in those days was a  Wilson #4. which was a long hook, with light wire, not the same as the Wilson #4 Made today by Partridge which is a stout wire. Bill's choice of hook was a Mustad 94840, or the 94833, with the longer shank ones tied on a 94831, sizes 4 and size 6. I can still see those flies, they were not pretty flies, which adorned a fly box, no, these flies were unruly. Most look upon this as a fly to represent some sort of insect, but if one takes close examination of the fly from under the water, a silhouette is cast which represents a shrimp, one of the main food sources of the Atlantic salmon while at sea.

In my quest to imitate the flies which Bill tied, I found I was close to the pattern which was so effective, but my color was off on the deer hair. I could not locate this hair no matter where I looked.

  One day in 1991,Bill called me to see if I was interested in purchasing his fly tying equipment which he had left over from his fly shop. He told me he  was going in search of gold. (The man had turned Prospector--Literally)

I went over to his place and loaded my car up with all the materials Greenheart and old bamboo I could get into it, one trip proved enough. I had  hooks and materials to keep a 50 year old man busy for the remainder of his days on earth.

Among the Thousands of Sealy, Alcocks and old Hardy Hooks, Bustard, Jungle Cock from the 50's, and Indian Necks was one treasure, of which I still have to this day, a Real Carters Bug, tied by the Inventor and Master, Bill Carter.

I examined it, looking it over closely to see how it was made, what he used for deer hair. It was not hair from the fresh killed buck or doe, it had a certain patina to it, which I had seen before but could not recall where.

Bill was not a secretive person, if I had only called him I would immediately get the answer I needed on how the color was obtained, but being proud and a fly tyer, I would not ask. I suffered it out for another year.

Then one afternoon while driving along the old abandoned railway right of way in Amostown, with my Son in Law Greg,  there it was.  Attached to the back of an old wood shed,  in full view,  was a full deer hide,  tightly stretched, with the hair turned out, facing due south. which would allow it to be naturally bleached with the suns rays which lay low over the northern hemisphere over winter. I stopped the truck, walked up to the hide, examining it closely. This was it, this was the color of the Carters bug.

I pulled out my knife and cut out a small section of this hair, I wrote a  note to the owner and  attached it to one of the nails. "Thank you for the hair, we are now even, Elwood.", I also signed my name.

I brought the hair home. headed to the vise, armed with Bill's original pattern . Immediately after the first fly was tied on a 94840 #4, tears came to my eyes in the excitement of being able to reproduce the fly. These were not only tears of joy, as I have found out in recent years I have an allergy to deer hair, the same as what curtailed Bill's tying of the bugs.

One of the Trademarks of the Carters bug, was the yellow head, which adorned every one which Bill tied. It was quickly learned from experience in tying deer hair bugs, that the yellow was not easily seen through the spun hair, it also could be wrapped back through the hackle to give the fly durability. Tensile strength of yellow thread is a little stronger than the black which is weakened by the suns rays over time.I use yellow Monocord. (For Females), Orange Monocord (Males)

A little about the hook should be said here The shank should be:  Length, 22MM- Gape 9MM- weight .180 GM. The weight is very important, as the fly should not cause a shock ring when it hits the water. Most bombers cause shock rings, both above on the surface, and below on the river bottom due mainly to the tightly packed deer hair.

A Carter's Bug presentation is best performed by casting the fly on the back-stroke to one o'clock, then move rod back to the forward stroke to Nine o'clock, and lifting the tip to 11 o'clock to stop the forward movement, the fly then flutters to the surface of the water with the line in one soft movement, landing on the surface of the water without any disturbance or a shock-ring.  Let the fly float from 3 to five seconds, if nothing has taken the fly, repeat the case, changing positions in where the presentation is made. (Most fish take the fly instantly on its landing on the water) after five seconds if nothing takes the fly it should be repeated) The lightness of the hook coupled with the roughly installed loose deer hair and the double hackle all add to the effectiveness of this bug, as well as the color of the hair used to make the body.  Too tight a pack results in too heavy a fly, and a non producing fly.


Bombers just irritate the fish, as most fish chase them to get them out of the way. A soft landing Carters, is irresistible, the fish come up and suck it in, they squeeze it between the cheek and gum to get the juice out of it. This prolonged savoring of the fly allows plenty of time to set the hook. ( A nicely tied bomber is too hard, when a salmon puts it in his mouth it is so tough he spits it right out, not allowing time for the angler to set the hook. (Some stupid fish do get hooked on Bombers but not the amount taken on the Carters.)


This is the final installation on the Carter Bug.

Grasp 10 to 13 deer body hairs the same color from the same patch you will use to spin the body with. On the end of the hair, (Tips) grab the center of these hairs and pull them so they are disarrayed and very uneven. (Do not Stack). Holding them on the bend of the hook tie them in on top of the shank. do not let go and do not let them spin. After secured, take a lift of hair from the deer about the size of a Cigarette, (no larger, or it will spin around and break the thread). Now lay this on top of the shank and hit it with the thread, let go when the thread is 3/4 way around the shank and hair will spin out, make one turn back toward the bend and then three towards the eye, do this four times, but do not push the hair tight, it must be loose (Not Packed) When you have enough hair on to the eye of the hook, clip the bottom first with scissors, making a gape large enough for hooking the fish. then the motion I use next is something which may take time.. I call it my up, over, down stroke with scissors, clipping on sides, and top. The bottom is clipped flat as I explained on the first stroke with the clipping scissors. When I have the body clipped to the shape of a Carters, I then select two ginger to light brown saddles about 3 inches long for the hackle.

I shall explain why I use these hackles before I go into their tying instructions. The short cock saddles found on genetically bred saddles, just over the base of the cape are usually best. Just take one of these off a saddle patch and hold it up to the light. (Whoops Translucence!!!!!) Preston Jennings, and Charles DeFeo would be proud. Indian saddles (Fighting Cocks) are also in this class and should not be overlooked on your special flies.

Take two of these feathers and tie them in just back of the eye of the hook, still using your yellow monocord. Make one complete turn at the head then three turns to the tail ending on the bottom. I tie these in without hackle pliers, I hold them with my thumb until I wrap my monocord back to tie them off,. one or two turns will do as the trip back through the hackle back to the head where the whip finish ends the fly. Slop lots of Cellire on the fly and make sure lots gets in the eye, so when the lad who buys the fly knows its a new one, I have been accused of selling used flies, because they look so bad, that is why I use the cellire in the eye. Also there are lads who say they can't tie a fly that looks that bad.  I will tell you one thing, as a fisherman of 50 years, this fly has caught more fish for me than any other fly in my box. There is another which is competing for the carters position, but I will hold that one off till later on in the winter season. 

  Click here to go to Picture Sequence on tying the Carters