A Brief History of Flatland Fly Fishers

It All Started Upstairs By Don Schroeder

A number (about 6 to 8) of fellows attended a fly tying class sponsored by Backwoods when it was on Main St. in downtown Wichita. The training was held in an upstairs room above the retail store. The leader was Roy Beckemeyer, an engineer from Boeing and fly tying trainer. From this class of a number of sessions the club seed was planted. The certificates received by those who attended were dated November 24, 1984.

For the next couple of years some of that initial group trained by Roy and a few others that heard some of us were still meeting once a month in the upper room to tie flies.

In time it seemed a good idea to organize this group a bit more than just showing up with some materials and equipment and see what would happen. On November 13, 1987 a committee consisting of 5 people – Don Adams (the real prime mover) , Richard Couch, Bill Ethridge, Joey Rathbun and Don Schroeder met at the office of Ethridge Financial Services. There these following decisions were made:

    • The group would meet monthly
    • Officers would not be elected but the club would have a 5 person steering committee
    • Joey Rathbun would handle publicity Don Schroeder would be the newsletter editor
    • The club would wait to affiliate with any national organization – after investigations
    • Club members would volunteer to demonstrate fly patterns each meeting
    • The newsletter would list flies and materials for each next meeting It All Started Upstairs Don Schroeder
    • Club members would bring their own materials – but sharing is encouraged
    • Dues would be $5.00 per year – for postage for the newsletter
    • Name tags or buttons would be made so all would be identified

The December 1987 Newsletter shared this information and the club continued tying three fly patterns (more or less) each meeting. That month scheduled was Paul Jorgensen‘s Western Salmon Fly Nymph – Roy Beckemeyer, Blue Wing Olive – Kevin Alexander and Rabbit Fur Leach – Dave Kline. The tradition continued on to at least tie three patterns each month. Some of the early regulars in addition to the five member planning team – Kevin Alexander, Dave Kline, Fred Crandall, Roger Batt, Roger Bryson, Kent Stannard, Jerry Burnell, Brad Hook, Bob Carriker, Lee Foster, Joe Carrithers and a few others that were a meeting or two. By the middle of 1988 the mailing list was up to 24 – who had paid the $5 dues. A discussion had been held about a club fishing trip – but all seemed to have plans of their own fishing all over the western U.S.

From time to time materials swaps provided a variety of fur and feathers and more that were shared. Even a few early videos on fly fishing were shown. By 1988 information was available that trout were being stocked in a few Kansas locations during the fall and winter.

In the 1991 Newsletter it proclaimed that membership in the club made you a member of the oldest fly tying club in town — followed by (it‘s the only fly tying club in town)! In the December 1991 newsletter it noted that trout had been released into the creek west of Sedgwick County Zoo.

The first club fishing trip was arranged by Joey Rathbun and went to Bennett Springs, Missouri in early October 1992. Roger Bryson camp cook deluxe helped make this a great event and plans were being made to have an annual trip. In the month of August 1993 one of the flies tied that night was the “Hall-A-Palusa” that had been created by the tier…Neal Hall. A second trip to Bennett Springs was planned for October of 1993. By the start of 1994 the member list had grown to 30. In 1994 another club trip to Bennett Springs….and an all family club picnic in October — to be called the ―First Annual Flatland Fly Tyer‘s Family Picnic and held at Sedgwick County Park west of the zoo. There were casting skills practice, two door prizes for each fisher attending, a raffle that included a fish mount by club member Stuart Weniger and the total that was raised was $130 for the club and even awards were given out.

By the beginning of 1995 the club had tied flies that started with “A” for “Adams” with only flies whose names started with “Q,” “V,” “X,” and “Z” yet to complete the alphabet. Dues were still $5. The biologist from Wildlife and Parks would visit the January meeting to talk about “a stretch of stream for trout”. Ken McCloskey suggested that the Sedgwick County Park stream is the best location. In May 1995 Dave Klein announced that the club was now officially a member club of the Federation of Fly Fishers. The second annual Family Picnic was held in mid September of 1995 again at the county park. There were lots of door prizes, a big raffle, a casting contest, a great cookout and more. The picnic was beginning to become a great annual event.

It was announced that dues would become $10.00 a year for current members and $15 for new members starting in 1996. In October the alphabet was completed when the “X”-Caddis was tied. By the end of 1995 the club had tied a fly whose name started with every letter of the alphabet…and had tied a total of at least 298 different patterns!! Even an additional 15 or more were tied more than once. In the fall of 1995 I moved from Wichita to Salina. I still have my connections in the northwest through my twin sons, tie flies and teach a few how to tie and cast. I miss the relationships that were so close and fun in those early days. Many of us moved from Wichita and some have passed away.