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Norman Duncan January 3, 2021.

Andy Mill chats it up with Norman Duncan, the man in the thick of the Golden Years of saltwater fly fishing and its most prolific inventor/technical influencer

By Skip Clement

Like me and many of us, we were famous at a time and in a small world, but my friend, although he fits that scenario, had distinct impacts that lasted beyond his time at-bat and will be part of known history.

Norman Duncan is his name, and he’s an octogenarian with a twenties something bounce in his cerebral step, but not so much in the other. Norman can defend himself in any company on a range of subjects – like most of us prone to offering opinions.

However, when it comes to the history of fly fishing, and fishing in what might be noted as it’s golden years, the introduction of big game fishing with a fly rod. He was there when it all happened in saltwater in South Florida. The elephant in the room became, and every fly fishers dream, was Megalops atlanticus, tarpon.

A novelty in 1880. It wasn’t until a world record tarpon was caught on a fly by Billy Pate in 1987 with his custom Tibor built Billy Pate Tarpon Reel that saltwater tarpon fishing was on for the masses. Image 1987 in Homosassa, Florida. The record stood for 21 years. “ . . . They smashed five heavy tarpon rods, broke several lines that would each sustain over sixty pounds and broke or straightened at least a dozen tarpon hooks. We held the canoe from which we fished as near the tarpon as possible, and as soon as he seemed tired pulled it beside him and took the hook from his mouth . . .” Charlotte Harbor, FloridaA public domain image.

Norman’s timing was perfect, being in the now and central figure of those Golden Years along with the other ‘Band of Brothers’, John Emory, Chico Fernandez, Flip Pallot. All of Duncan’s achievements that have stood the test of time and play out in every aspect of knot making to tarpon catching. The latter a subject Mill knows best as his book A Passion for Tarpon proves beyond challenge.

Namely, the Duncan Loop [incorrectly called the Uni-Knot], which I’m going to gamble and say that anyone who owns a fly rod knows how to tie, and the origins of Lefty’s Deceiver, Duncan showed Kreh how to tie his ‘In and out flies’ – foundation of the Deceiver.

Andy Mill is the podcaster here, and you should subscribe. Andy, a perfectionist, always does anything he’s involved in well prepared, and his charisma and subject knowledge of fly fishing and the outdoor life quickly bleeds through.

Listen here . . .

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