Shawn Daye-Finley is a successful fisherman and Canadian wrestler. We had a chance to discuss both sport passions with him. As far as the fishing, he provides a ton of great advice for fishing New Brunswick’s legendary Miramichi River. We also discuss some general salmon fishing concepts along with his wrestling career.
Want to start by talking about the Miramichi. What have been the keys to your success in fishing this historic river?
This is a great question; I’ve only been fishing the river for two years now and have already made so many great memories that I’ll be carrying with me for the remainder of my life. I’ve found that sticking to the historic remedies for success was the key to the success I’ve found.
I often spend time at the local tackle shops tying flies with some of the greats. I won’t be name dropping but listening and reading the stories and strategies of the area’s old boys club has really been a saving grace. There is a wealth of knowledge out there if you take the time to go find it. The key I choose that some may not, is to listen to others instruction and apply it effectively. The old boys have so much information from spending years on the water that is unparalleled to anything else I’ve found out there.
Being a good listener, practicing tried and proven techniques for angling on this river are vital to your success; I cringe a little when saying this because some of the things I’ve witnessed over the past 2 seasons are pretty astonishing. I mean I’ve seen people catch their first salmon ever on a size 14 dry fly pattern tied sloppy with green foam and white dry hackle. Based on a suggestion from an old fella on the bank that the salmon were actively “feeding on the hatch of flies” the night before. Now, from everything I’ve read up to this point the Atlantic salmon aren’t supposed to be actively feeding in the rivers and no one really knows why we get anything but a reaction bite? So, to sum it up, always listen to the locals who put the time in on their native waters and never be scared to try new things, regardless of tradition.
What 5 pieces of advice do you have for anglers going there for the first time?
Read, study, watch, discover and then remember that perfect practice makes perfect. I don’t always enjoy sharing this but I would say nobody ever took me aside and taught me how to fish. The first cast I ever took, I ended up throwing the rod, reel, line, all into the water; sunk straight to the bottom… but I was like 4 so whatever I’m over it.
When I decided to try fly fishing it was because I enjoyed the top water small jaw bite so much it was all I ever wanted to do. Like many others I thought fly fishing was top water only… Obviously I couldn’t be further from the truth. I got on YouTube and watched several instructional videos about how to cast and started to tie flies in front of my computer before ever learning to cast. I studied it and practiced everyday for weeks leading unto the season opener. I was out in the snow trying to make a cast in the driveway with literally no idea what I was doing. Eventually I put something together that some may pass off as a cast. That April I caught my first ever fish on a fly…it was a 14″ native brook trout on a white wolf tied by myself, it’s been a slippery slope of addiction since that day.
What do you consider your home waters?
I can’t really claim any waters as my own. I spend a lot of time on the road, travelling from watershed to watershed. It’s always a challenge, specifically on the Miramichi river system, to find public waters that are productive, within reach and without heavy fishing pressure but we make do. I tend to think that if the fishing pressure is heavy, maybe I just need to be better than my fellow fisherman to catch fish, probably the competitor in me. Don’t get me wrong I’m literally just as happy netting someone’s fish and holding the camera for them as I am to be holding the fish myself but I am super competitive.
What are your favorite flies for chasing salmon?
Nothing beats a top water take. Sometimes I have the pleasure of sight fishing these beasts in some pristine environments and watching them get really angry at a top water bomber or butterfly is something I can watch all day, hook set or not. I’ve been known to remove the hooks from poppers during the striped bass run/spawn and just watch take after take.
When it comes to practicality for Atlantic salmon for all times of the season, specifically on the Miramichi, it would be a shame not to mention the green butt, white tailed, green machine. I’m hesitant to say that any other pattern has landed more fish on the Miramichi river system; they just get so angry at it, which is beyond me what might be the cause for such affect but damn…
In the spring I enjoy big smelt patterns; the sky is really the limit at this time of year. I enjoy the Golden Eagle, a Mickey Finn pattern, and the white ghost. I particularly use the Carrie Stephens style Partridge hooks at this time of year as some of the takes can be really lazy and frankly short. The long shanks on the hook means the hook is way to the back of the fly and I’m confident I get more hookups because of this.
You are an accomplished wrestler. What weight class do you wrestle? What are your proudest moments as a wrestler?
I’ve been a wrestler longer than I haven’t, I wrestle 74kg weight class now; very few intentions of moving. My proudest moments have always been representing my country on the international stage. I’ve had this opportunity more than most but am always looking forward to the next. The University World Games and the Pan Am Games definitely stand out as some of the most memorable. A championship is always a good time but the multi-sport Games are always a pleasure.
Are there ways that are similar between how you approach the sport of wrestling and the sport of fishing?
Well, in both, the people you meet are usually gluttons for punishment. Both wrestling and fishing have a great amount of uncontrollable factors, they are both a battle, and both have an infinite amount of tactics and techniques for accomplishing the same goal. Both sports are extremely addictive for this reason. I think what draws me to both is that your imagination is really the limit to your success. Trying new moves, new tactics, new techniques, new means of accomplishing a best result.
What are your proudest moments as an angler?
I have pictures I’d like to post instead of an answer but some of them are catching fish on my own patterns. I’ve read some fly tying books from local fisherman and altered a few patterns; mix and matching what I think are the key factors that make the fish take and put them into one fly specifically. After catching several on the same pattern my friends called me a greedy bastard and so this is what I’ve chosen to name the pattern, the “Greedy Bastard”. It’s still a work in progress but two of my best fighting, biggest and most beautiful fish have been brought to hand on this pattern. I think the draw for me here is creating something from animals I’ve harvested, ate and then catching a fish with the same hackles and furs. There’s something super simplistic and spiritual about it all.
You would consider a pro staff position. What type of companies would you enjoy representing?
I’m passionate about many types of fishing for many different species. It has always been a dream of mine to be a pro staff! I’ve always had an interest in ergonomics and product development and would love nothing more than to help develop new and improved products alongside some of the biggest organizations out there.
I am not a company marketing executive. I am just an amateur blogger. But based on this interview, I would advise any company to give Shawn a good look for potential sponsorship. So, good luck Shawn in both your fishing and wrestling. All of us can follow Shawn on Instagram.