By JIM ABRAMS
While returning home from a late spring trout fishing trip last year, I passed through the little town of Kingsley, Michigan. Stretched above the street was a banner that read “Adams Fly Festival” and it really caught my attention. You see, I just got done floating an Adams dry fly along the riffles and eddies of the Boardman River in the hopes of fooling a brook trout or two.
“Huh,” I thought…which, in my lexicon of post cold-water wading, signifies deep thought. The dates on the waving standard indicated the event had finished up the day prior to my driving through the little town. “Should have been here yesterday,” I could imagine some sharp-witted fishing guide telling me, like I’d never heard that one before.
I called the state’s natural resource service center in Traverse City and my fisherman’s luck began to turn. Maureen Lajko answered and remembered selling me my fishing license. Not only did she know about the Adams Fly Festival, but she was from Kingsley and was one of the orchestrators of the event. She encouraged me to attend since I enjoyed the sport. Well, if you can’t trust those folks from the Department of Natural Resources, who can you trust? I noted the June 1 date in my itinerary and headed home.
Now, I realize that there are plenty of local festivals throughout Ohio. Why choose to venture to that state up north to support one of its events? Several reasons: it’s held at a time that the area offers some great trout fishing, which happens to be one of my pastimes; the spirit of the affair surrounds one of the most popular flies in any fly fisher’s collection; and it benefits the local library and community.
The Adams fly was first conceived in Mayfield, Michigan, by expert tyer Leonard Halladay in 1922. At the urging of his friend Charles F. Adams, an Ohio attorney, the two contrived to imitate the mayflies that inhabit areas along cold, clear streams; an insect that also serves as one of the most delectable items on any trout’s menu.
Since it’s a well-known fact that most fishing lures have been designed to catch more fishermen than fish, imitating one of North America’s roughly 630 mayfly species doesn’t seem all that significant. What is important is to realize what’s important to the fish: color, size, the life-cycle stage of the insect and the presentation of the fly to the fish.
Halladay and Adams were on the quest for a general imitation that was flexible enough to be tied in an assortment of sizes and could assimilate the identity of a variety of mayfly species. Halladay, also an angler, presented Adams with a supply of the new unnamed bug impostor and headed for his favorite trout stream, which happened to be the Boardman River, near Kingsley.
The rest, you might say, is history. When Adams returned to report his experiences, he expounded upon his success and that it outfished other flies he had come to rely upon. Halladay named the fly after his friend and the Adams fly, considered one of the most popular, versatile, effective and best-selling dry flies since its creation, was born.
That indispensable little Adams fly can be found in every fly fisher’s box in the country, and Kingsley has used that notoriety to highlight this spring festival. The event had live music, custom fly fishing crafts, fly tying, casting demonstrations and clinics, the always popular beer tent and an original Halladay-tied Adams fly on prominent exhibit in the library.
One man was nestled into a corner of the displays and selling tickets. I really wasn’t sure what those tickets were for but it was for a good cause, so why not? He mentioned his name was Bob and as we talked I realized he wasn’t any old Bob; this was Bob Summers. I’m not surprised if the name doesn’t quite ring a bell.
Bob didn’t play for one of those Michigan teams and never wanted to be a presidential candidate, a real oddity these days. Robert W. Summers has become as much a legend to fly fishing as has the Adams fly.
Summers has been building bamboo fly rods continuously on a full-time basis since 1956, having worked with prominent custom builder Paul H. Young for 18 years. He continues building bamboo rods today in his shop near Traverse City. Bob also specializes in repairing and restoring the classic rods of Young and the renowned Lyle Dickerson, both of whom he knew well.
Bob has become a legend for those seeking the very best of bamboo fly rods. Ordering a rod built on one of his tried patterns can have you waiting nearly five years, and the cost of getting it in your hands will set you back nearly $3,000. A bit of a sticker shock? Late Young fly rods, which were likely built by Bob, have been sold for as much as $7,000, and many used Summers rods sell for more than a new one because folks just don’t want to wait.
While I couldn’t quite bring an R.W. Summers fly rod home with me, at least I got to stand where fly fishing history was made and shake the hand of the man who has had such an impact on classic fly fishing…but I can still dream, can’t I? I expect to become a regular at this annual event.
“The great charm of fly fishing is that we are always learning.” “” Theodore Gordon
Along the way:
The 12 best Ohio festivals you may have never heard of…
Walleye Festival, Port Clinton; Utica Sertoma Ice Cream Festival, Utica; Banana Split Festival, Wilmington; Lily Fest, Rockbridge; Annie Oakley Festival, Greenville; Bratwurst Festival, Bucyrus; Milan Melon Festival, Milan; Backwoods Fest, Thornville; Johnny Appleseed Festival, Lisbon; Ohio Heritage Days, Malabar Farm State Park; Ohio Swiss Festival, Sugarcreek; Ohio Sauerkraut Festival, Waynesville.
Festivals are wonderful hometown traditions that have the ability to highlight history, culture, art, crafts, foods and so much more. They support the localized needs of the hosting communities and help them continue many services including libraries, parks and volunteer fire departments while supporting the arts and culture of the area, along with supplying each of us with a little fun.
Find a list of Ohio’s festivals at: www.ohiofestivals.net/ohio-festivals
• Tomorrow: Trap shoot, 1 p.m., Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186.
• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243.
• Wednesday: Deadline to sign up for the Native Plant and Pollinator Workshop on July 13, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sandusky River Coon Hunters, 7575 S. Township Road 131, Tiffin. Preregistration required by July 10. Contact Christina Kuchle at 419-348-5073 or email@example.com. The event is free.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org