Mike Huffman Honored with Charles E. Brook Memorial Life Award
In the late 1980's, a couple of Texas Conclaves were sponsored by the Dallas and Fort Worth Fly Fishers. At that time, these clubs had made the decision to include a number of the more promising "young" tyers in that region to participate as tyers. I was honored to be included amongst those avid young tyers. While there I met or became better acquainted with a cadre of characters. Yes, when you gather up tyers from Texas and the surrounding southern states, you will inevitably have a bunch of "characters".
It was at that time that I first remember meeting the two of the most innovative tyers ever to come off the plains of Texas. These two tyers were be directly responsible for a "school" of innovate tyers who would change the way that tyers in the mid-South would approach the art of tying flies.
The first was Michael Verduin. A strong advocate for the Federation, he was a gentle man with an amazing grace, who in the years before this untimely death in 2003 would teach hundreds of tyers in dozens of Federation clubs across the South his innovate patterns. In 2000, Michael was recognized by the Federation as the second recipient of the Dick Nelson Teaching Award.
The second was Michael "Mike" Huffman, who has been actively teaching the skills of Fly Fishing since 1969 throughout California, Texas and Missouri. He was the "yin" to Michael Verduin's "yang". These were two fast friends, who were amazing tyers , tying instructors and fly fishermen.
Tyers in the SOC, S.E.C., GCC and Texas Councils were extremely fortunate to have such gifted tyers, as Verduin and Huffman, who delighted in and were inspired by the nuances of the natural world around them. They rivaled in "besting" each other, both publicly and privately, with novel, innovative approaches to recreate the fauna of the entomological and aquatic realms onto cold-steel hooks with new techniques and materials. Their great skills, wonderful wit, friendly rivalry and zest for life have inspired many to our sport.
In 1992, Along with Verduin, Huffman founded the "Road Kill Round Table" in Dallas Texas. One of best known group of tyers in the nation, the Road Kill Round Table is an open group of tyers who have met weekly for over twenty years. The tyers that have emerged from this group have been widely recognized throughout the Southern, South Eastern, Gulf Coast and Texas Councils, as well as at National – Al Wilkie, Grace Lu, Charles "Slim" Mitchell, "Big" Dale Wilkinson, Richard and Diane Blair, Fred Dupre, Bill Sergeant, Jimmy Nix and dozens of others. Texas has long been known as the land of deerhair tyers, Michael Huffman and the "Road Kill" tyers are at the core of that tradition of tyers best known for their innovative and creative approach to the art of tying.
When given a chance to study Huffman designed patterns, some of which are produced for H2O/Umqua, tyers inevitably say things like, "That's so simple (or logical)"; or "Why didn't I think of that?" As an example, one afternoon about 25 years ago, while fly fishing the Guadeloupe River, a central Texas stream with long expanses of high, cut clay banks which are covered with the nest of "mud daubers", which are blue-black potter wasps with characteristic, long, thin waists, Mike Huffman laid down his rod and just watched hundreds of the small vespids repeatedly dip-down to the river's surface. As they did, the Guadeloupe Bass rose up and fed on them, as if they were rainbows rising to a salmon fly hatch. By his next trip to the river, Mike was armed with an innovative pattern of an incredibly thin-waisted, black, foam Mud Dauber, that proved very effective. Soon thereafter, he utilized the same folded-foam techniques to create a wonderful large, yellow-foam, Hexagenia mayfly.
At the 1998 National Conclave in Gatlinburg, Mike was responsible for one of the most widely discussed scenes of that event. As Mike was tying, I unceremoniously and without invitation, rummaged through his fly boxes and came upon a huge dragon fly. It was beautifully tied with a clipped deerhair head and brown, Maxima, mono-loop wings that extended several inches out from either side of the long body. I snidely commented to Mike, that while it was exceptionally beautiful, it "probably cast as well as a startling impaled on a 6/0 hook". Mike just looked up and smiled that well-know "minx" smile of his and calmly challenged me to "Go cast it." As the Fly Logic booth and indoor casting pool were just a few feet away, we ambled over, where Mike passed up the 9 and 10 wt. rods and unceremoniously picked up a 6 wt. rod to which he affixed the "beast". He then proceeded to cast his "monster fly" 65 - 70 ft.! No twisting… No turning… Each cast ended with the fly floating gently onto the pools surface with barely a ripple, all with a fly that looked as aerodynamic as a brick! A crowd of spectators quickly grew and shortly other Federators were clamoring to inspect and cast the "bird". Soon, several were casting that monster fly well over 80+ ft. As the people lined up to cast his creation, Mike leaned over and quietly explained to me that the wings were specially hinged, so that with only the slightest amount of air pressure the wings would "fold" back and present only the ½ inch deerhair head. He further explained that as the velocity of the fly slowed, the wings sprang back. He had to explain it, because none of the dozens of folks watching were able to see the imperceptible movement of the wings as it flew past us and landed so gracefully on the water's surface.
In his book, Bassin' with a Fly Rod, Jack Ellis describes Mike as "an extraordinary fly tyer of the 'Dallas School'…" (p. 18). For more than 30 years, Huffman has blended deerhair to achieve unique colors, and the sculptures that he cuts from his rough balls of deerhair are in a singular class. I've never seen anyone else "cut-in" gill plates, tympanum, eye notches and other details into deerhair sunfish, frogs and bugs with the skill displayed by Huffman. His frog pattern is the only one that I've ever seen that displays an attitude! I looks like it'll rip your hand off if ya' mess with it!
While beautifully tied, Mike's flies are extremely effective patterns that orientate correctly in the water and exhibit the desired and appropriate actions to entice his targeted fish, or else these patterns are never seen by others. His sculptured deerhair blue gills and dragon fly nymphs are renowned their unique weighting, thus allowing them to maintain a proper attitude as they dart on the surface, dive, reach neutral buoyancy and hover in place, or slowly sink in the weeds of and "tag" bass in, Texas "tanks". Mike's simple looking, spun-wool shrimp is "balance-weighted" to sit in one spot and "teeter totter". His creations just blow you away!
Mike's innovative steamers and dries easily match the artistry of the best tyers in the Federation, which is why Huffman was honored by Lefty Kreh, who in both 2001 and 2006 teamed up to Mike to create tying videos, i.e. "Handcrafting Effective Flies".
Huffman is also an extraordinary artist with both paint and pen. His line drawings and paintings were used to illustrate the original, 1992 edition of Jack Ellis's book – The Sunfishes.
In the late 80's/early 90's, the Dallas Fly Fishers' newsletter, The Leader, the published a series letters by Huffman and Verduin which "debated" the differences between "Western" tyers (Huffman is originally from California) and "Eastern" tyers like Texas(Verduin was born and raised in Texas). When Verduin asked, "Since when did Texas qualify as the East?" Huffman calmly proclaimed that "Texas or anything east of the Rockies was in the East"… and the challenge was on! Full of mirth and sarcasm, those hilarious "debates" have become the stuff of legion. To this day, those issues of The Leader are still occasionally copied and pasted around to amongst the tyers in a number of Federation clubs.
Raised in his native California and trained as a student of his friend, mentor and Buz Buszek Award Recipient, Darwin Atkins, for many years Mike was able to share his skills and wit with Federators in Dallas, Texas. However, about 20 years ago, Bass Pro Shops lured Huffman to their corporate headquarters in Springfield, MO. Shortly after leaving his beloved adopted state of Texas, Mike told me that his goal with the Bass Pro's White River Fly Shop was to insure that the needs of the "average Joe" could be met with "well-made, excellent quality, rods and reels at a moderate - affordable price." A quick review of the evolution of the White River tackle lines in the years since Mike has joined Bass Pro reflects his philosophy. At Bass Pro, Mike's duties there have encompassed assisting design, production and marketing of Bass Pro's White River Fly Shop rods, reels, tackle and production of Bass Pro's annual catalogue. Mike currently co-manages the fly fishing business for Bass Pro Shops Corporate Headquarters in Springfield, Mo.
While at heart Mike is a quiet individual, who never seeks the limelight, he is a warm and wonderful friend to numerous Federators, Federation clubs and councils. His sharp mind and quick wit have endeared him to all those who have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to know him. Those that know Mike well know that he has always displayed a joy-of-life crossed with a wonderful streak of devilment and mirth.
Mike has taken fish on his original designs in Alaska, the Bahamas, Mexico and across North America. He has spent his entire professional life in angling commerce: publishing, wholesale and retail fly shops and fly fishing production design. He is currently working on a book of his patterns and techniques.
After reviewing the Federation's Awards Criteria, one could easily make very strong arguments that this individual more than qualifies for the Buz Buszec, Don Harger, Arnold Gingrich, Lew Jewett and/or Charles E. Brooks Memorial Life Awards, but like Charlie Brooks, Mike Huffman is truly a character – a unique, wonderful and grand character indeed!
The criteria for the Charles E. Brooks Memorial Life Award state that the recipients of the Charles E. Brooks Memorial Life Award are supposed to be unique individuals. Like Charles, they should write books, invent new fly patterns, be active at Federation Conclaves and seminars and be true students of nature. The individual who receives the Charles E. Brooks memorial award each year should have a history of being similar to Charlie in two or more of the following areas - Mike meets them all!
Charles E. Brooks Memorial Life Award
- Demonstrate a deep affection for the out of doors, fly fishing and perhaps one particular area that received the individual's special attention over a period of time.
- Be an innovative fly tier. This doesn't necessarily mean that the individual be well known for inventing new patterns, although that would apply. Rather, the winner should have a history of being non-conventional in his approach in fly tying.
- Have some background in writing, books, magazines articles or pamphlets. Like the other criteria, this is not mandatory, merely something Charlie did. Hopefully, some of the winners will too.
- Be a member of the FFF and have some history of serving at banquets, seminars, regional conclaves, etc. Winners need not demonstrate the speaking skills of Charlie, just his enthusiasm to help the cause of fly-fishing.
- Be a character. This is strictly a bonus. It would be nice if each year's winner had a unique, spicy personality. That would be in keeping with the man being memorialized. Again, this is not mandatory, simply something extra if it's available in the list of yearly nominees.
I can think of no more fitting an individual in the Federation to whom the Charles E. Brooks Memorial Life Award should go than the Southern Council's, Michael "Mike" Huffman.
Gulf Coast Council
Mike Huffman is a member of Southwest Missouri Fly Fishers and this award presentation skipped by our local club and was not noted at the recent Fly Fishing Fair. Kyle Moppert presented the nomination and we thank him for his acknowledgement of Mike's talents.
President of SOC/IFFF
Summary of the 2013 Fly Fishing Fair
The 2013 Fair was successful enough to cover all of the Fairs costs and all of the SOC's operating costs and grants in 2013. While the proceeds from the Fair fell short of funding new grants from a 2013 surplus, the SOC has a strong reserve of funds to fall back on.
The number of clubs affiliated with the Southern Council has been reduced about one-half after loosing the Texas area. Our reduced numbers of affiliated clubs had a partial effect on the lower attendance. As we have fewer clubs, each club has become a more essential component in the success of the fly fishing fair.
Several SOC members have expressed that the dates of the Fly Fishing Fair do not favor working families. Next year we hope to change the dates to a Friday-Sunday event to improve attendance. The last day will end around 2 PM to accommodate travel time. We have a commitment from Jason Randall to be our featured speaker for the 2014 Fly Fishing Fair. He is an author of four fly fishing books and a frequent writer for American Angler.
In our efforts to appeal to families, we also have tentative plans for a professional Bluegrass band, Missouri Boat Ride, to perform for the Saturday evening session. They play an assortment of popular music in addition to Bluegrass. We are investigating the return of a banquet to the awards presentation. An auction committee has been formed that is working on improving our items at this early date. We have a board that is committed to make "lemonade" this next year. We may be smaller in size, but I have a determination to keep the Southern Council a dominant part of this regions' fly-fishing community.
The Southern Council needs your help in spreading the information about the October event to induce more attendees to make the trip to Mountain Home. As we enter the summer fishing season in 2014, I will be providing material to be placed on vehicle windshields in areas frequented by fly fishermen, such as access points to fishing sites. This includes trout areas and warm water sites. The same information could be posted in local fly shops. This past year the Corps of Engineers were not aware of the event and made no accommodations for the attending fly fishers. I will be notifying them next year and hope they can make adjustments in their generation schedule. We will have more advertising in newspapers, radio and television. Your suggestions on improving this event are welcomed.
A little extra effort by all of our members will enhance next year's Fly Fishing Fair.
President Southern Council of the IFFF
2014 Annual Awards
by Larry Murphy, VP Communications
Someone deserves recognition...
Every year Southern Council members are honored for the efforts performed over the course of their involvement with SOC or for something special that they have performed during the past year.
Please take time this coming year and look at members around you who truly are worthy of this type of recognition. Then make a nomination before July 1, 2014 for one of the many categories we award annually.
Without your input, it is impossible to honor them for the service they render to the Southern Council. Many folks deserve this recognition yet few are given it. It only takes a little time to send in your nomination. Who knows you might be the one person responsible for seeing them get the recognition they deserve.
For more details and requirements for the Southern Council Annual Awards, visit Awards page for more information.
2014 IFFF Annual Award deadline is April 1, 2014.
Bristol Bay, Alaska Efforts
by Paul Goodwin, VP Conservation
Photo Credit - Jim Klug
Help conserve Bristol Bay, Alaska. This will only take 2 minutes of your time.
We sent an email about gaining business or conservation organizations signatures for a letter to the EPA to stop the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Personal signatures are not needed.
We want your Fly Fishing Club to sign-up and we would like for you to forward this email to any other conservation organization or business that has any interest in the outdoors, such as sporting goods retailers, archery and gun shops, fishing and hunting guides, etc.
To sign the letter via email just click on this link - Scott Hed's Letter - you can go straight to the bottom of the letter click the email address for Scott and the submit the following information - Name of the organization, your name, title, city and state.
Another hyperlink is found in Scott Hed's letter that provides the correspondence being sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator and other elected officials.