After thinking about it I wondered if it could have been a son of Bob Carmichael you were talking about, since his children would be pretty old by now too.
I know what you mean about the term "variant". When I first started fly fishing and heard about a fly being a variant, I assumed it was a variation of some other fly. Then I was told it was a style of fly with long hackle etc. Now when someone says a fly is a variant, they usually mean that it's a variation.