By Rob Potter
LIVINGSTON MANOR October 26, 2007 The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum (CFFCM) inducted six people into its Fly Fishing Hall of Fame during a ceremony last Saturday afternoon at the museum, which is located on Old Route 17 in Livingston Manor.
Hall of Fame Committee Member Luke Edwards, who introduced the honorees along with fellow Hall of Fame Committee Member Sara Low, noted that this year’s honorees “are a diverse group which includes authors and a famous actor.”
The members of the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame Class of 2007 are Julia Freeman Fairchild, Preston Jennings, Martin J. Keane, Norman Maclean, Robert Redford and Lou Tabory.
CFFCM President Miriam Stone welcomed the group of people seated before her to the ceremony and then took a moment to talk about the honorees.
“The six people we honor today join 48 other members of the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame,” she said. “All of them have worked to greatly enhance the world of fly fishing.”
Low noted that Jennings, who passed away in 1962, was the first American to write a book accurately identifying major fly hatches found along trout streams and connect them with artificial flies. That book, titled “A Book of Trout Flies,” was published in 1935.
In addition, Jennings created two flies the Grey Fox and the American March Brown that have become standards in the Catskills.
In his book “Trout Fishing in the Catskills” that was published earlier this year, Livingston Manor fly fisherman Ed Van Put pointed out the influence Jennings had on fellow fly fishing enthusiasts.
“As a fly tier, he was excellent and well-qualified to create fly patterns that best imitated the natural insects found along trout streams,” Van Put wrote. “Jennings’ work was an inspiration to others, and he set the standards they would follow.”
Maclean, who was an English professor at the University of Chicago for 45 years, took up fly fishing as a child growing up in Montana. He retired from teaching in 1973 at the age of 70 and wrote “A River Runs Through It.”
Edwards noted that because of Maclean’s book, along with the 1992 movie of the same title based upon the book, “fly fishing suddenly became trendy.”
People from all over flocked to Montana to fish on the Big Blackfoot River, which is the river referred to in the book and movie.
“The trend had its upside,” Edwards said. “The book and movie inspired many years of effort and the spending of many millions of dollars for stream restoration across the nation, including on the Blackfoot.”
Low accepted the Hall of Fame plaque on behalf of Maclean, who passed away in August 1990.
Keane, currently a collector and dealer in fly fishing tackle, was lauded for his work with fly fishing rods.
“His appreciation for finely crafted rods became a lifelong focus,” Edwards said. “He soon earned respect as the authority for identification of classic and fine cane rods and their makers.”
Keane also wrote the 1976 book “Classic Rods and Rodmakers.” The book examined the evolution of the bamboo rod and the craftsmen who made them.
Before Keane walked to the front of the room to receive his Hall of Fame plaque, Jerry Girard took a few moments to praise Keane.
“I want to thank you for your efforts,” Girard said to Keane. “You have helped me and thousands of other fly fishers around the country. You have done a great service in writing about rod making and its history.”
Upon accepting his plaque from Edwards, Keane thanked everyone for the honor. He then related some of the obstacles he encountered while writing his book.
One of the major proverbial hurdles he had to leap over was the reluctance of many rod makers to share their knowledge and experiences with him.
“One rod maker directed me to about 10 or 15 other rod makers, but they didn’t want to talk with me,” Keane said. “One rod maker finally spoke with me and led me to other rod makers. I discovered that they were very nice, pleasant and helpful. They did whatever they could to help me.”
Low explained that Fairchild, who passed away in 1984 at the age of 98, was “a leader in the fly fishing community.”
In 1931, Fairchild and her friends created what became the first fishing organization for women, The Woman Flyfishers Club. Fairchild was the first president of the The Woman Flyfishers Club and held that position for 40 years.
An avid conservationist, Fairchild encouraged anglers to support causes vital to the environment. She and her husband donated 125 acres of land to the National Audubon Society for the development of a bird sanctuary.
In 1983, the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery in New York honored Fairchild for her enthusiasm in sparking the project to save the 100-year old hatchery from extinction by naming its new educational center the Julia F. Fairchild Exhibit Building.
Fairchild’s grandson, Tappen Soper, proudly accepted the Hall of Fame plaque for his late grandmother. Soper noted that she would have been very pleased to receive the prestigious honor.
“My grandmother was a very intelligent, enthusiastic, energetic woman,” he said.
Janet Nelson, who is the current president of The Woman Flyfishers Club, also shared some thoughts about Fairchild.
“We are immensely proud of her,” Nelson said.
Nelson then presented a beautiful silver bowl, which features an engraved inscription by Fairchild, to Stone.
Stone said that the bowl will be placed under glass and included in the Class of 2007 Hall of Fame exhibit at the museum.
Low explained why legendary actor Robert Redford was being inducted in the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame.
“Robert Redford has preserved thousands of acres of woodland, mountain slopes and trout streams in his beloved Utah. He is a nationally recognized environmentalist,” she said. “But it is his filmmaking efforts that bring him recognition in the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame. In 1992, Redford directed and produced “A River Runs Through It,” the emotionally and visually stunning film woven around fly fishing.”
Low noted that the film was seen by millions of people worldwide and is credited with an unprecedented surge of interest in the sport of fly fishing.
Stone stated that Redford is a very busy man and therefore was unable to attend Saturday’s ceremony at the CFFCM. She graciously accepted the Hall of Fame plaque on Redford’s behalf.
The final honoree of the afternoon was Lou Tabory, an outdoor writer for 40 years whose work has appeared in many national fishing magazines, including “Field and Stream” and “Outdoor Life.”
Tabory is also the author of several books, including “Inshore Fly Fishing” and “Lou Tabory’s Guide to Saltwater Baits and their Imitations.”
Low said that Tabory is “the pioneer who bridged the sea between fresh and saltwater fly fishing.
“As an educator, Lou is recognized as the first person in the U.S. to open a saltwater fly fishing school,” Low stated. “He annually participates as an instructor in more than a dozen saltwater fly fishing schools.”
Moments later, Tabory humbly accepted his Hall of Fame plaque from Low.
“I thank all of you for coming today,” Tabory said. “When I look at all of the Hall of Fame plaques on display here of many people whom I admire, I am truly honored to join that group. This is really an honor, thank you all very much.”