RECOLLECTIONS OF THE MIDWEST COUNCIL 1976-1981

By Bob Cunningham

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During the early years of the Green Country Flyfishers, their Flyline was actually a newspaper designed for those who could not because of distance be expected to attend our meetings. Thus it was elaborate in description of our activities for their benefit. Upon the establishment of the Midwest Council this level of detail was no longer necessary and the Flyline was abbreviated.

The Green Country Flyfishers then prepared the Midwest Council news letter for some time. My direct knowledge of the Council’s activities was limited as I was very busy as Vice President of FFF in charge of the Vibert and later the Whitlock-Vibert Boxes. Even if the Flylines could be located, it is doubtful if they would be of much value as to the developments occurring in the Midwest Council.

               IMG_0078_1                            
Midwest Council first  Youth  Fly Tying Program, Ramada Inn 1976, was sponsored by GCF.  Youth in blue shirt, Steve Stewart, won FFF international Junior Fly Tying Championship at age 12.
Program was conducted during  noon hour  on Saturday so ladies could enjoy each other at lunch.

So most of what follows comes from my recollections, items in various documents which jog my memory, and some statements of fact in those documents.

It is my recollection that the vast majority of those persons outside of what is now the geographic limits of the Southern Council who attended our conclaves were those striving for positions in it or those who wanted to share their expertise in fly tying.   I cite the names of Bill Heckel, an expert Illinois fly tyer and youth promoter, Tom Yates from the Southern Illinois Flytyers, and Walt Twarowski of Illinois whose stated desire was to be our Treasurer.   Then there was Lee Wahl, of the Miami Valley Flyfishers in Ohio, a very personable fellow who felt the need for and acquired their area’s representation as Director for Midwest Council-East at the FFF’s business meetings. Lee was very concerned about the Great Lakes' problem of an over abundance of alewives. During his Directorship, he oversaw the introduction of steelhead and salmon into their waters to control them. In Ohio, they formed a coalition to develop the Mad River as a trout stream.  

Frank Schneider became the first Director for Midwest Council-West and remained in that position for many years in what is now the Southern Council.  

 Exceptions to this majority were Ted Calvert, Cullman, Alabama  and Wayne Stracener of Mobile, Alabama, who from inception of the Green Country Flyfishers have always had strong ties to our activities and who developed and represented their clubs in Alabama.

Jim Wingfield, a school teacher in Prescott, Arkansas, as President of the Midwest Council visited with me about why there was so little in common between the northern and southern portions of the Council and stated he felt that he could get along with anyone and that he could bring us all together. Jim was a neat guy with a good personality and I think if anyone could have unified such a diverse council, it was he.

Thus, the beginning of an effort to restore the Council.   Dr. Charles Nelson became President of the FFF and supported this effort.   It is my belief that Jim Wingfield and Dr. Nelson were behind the promotion of Charles Weidman of the Indianapolis Fly Fishers as President of the Midwest Council to further this effort.

Dr. Nelson attended the Midwest Council Conclave and sat at the officer’s table during Charlie’s first business meeting.   President Weidman offered for vote an additional office to be filled by Walt Twarowski of Chicago to further promote the melding but his motion was denied because the FFF Bylaws limited the number and titles of Council officers to the four existing offices discussed elsewhere in this history.   Bob McCalmont of Fort Scott, Kansas, and the representative of Hillbilly Flyrodders, offered the motion that rejected this proposal.  

Also to promote unity among the” North” and the “South” was the movement of the Midwest Council Conclave to Ludington, Michigan.   Recently uncovered documents show that the Conclave met October 15, 16, and 17, 1976. This agrees with my recollection of the time of year because I passed through Holland, Michigan, and saw fields of asparagus that had been allow to fully fern and turn brown, and I remember that the Pere Marquette River was dense with spawning salmon.

In 2004 at the Southern Conclave Dave Johnson, who is Charter Member 92 of the FFF, and I were visiting about “old times” and talked about that very conclave.   Both of us recalled Jim Wingfield crossing the lobby of the conclave hotel with a salmon perched on his shoulder. I have recently found a document which attests that the salmon weighed in at 30 pounds! Many more”southerners” attended this conclave than “northerners”.  The attendance and income were not sufficient to justify doing it again.  

I do not recall that Charlie Weidman was there and I do not recall a business meeting but documents confirm that Jim Wingfield was Southern Council President at the time. The FFF has informed me that the Great Lake Council records do not go back that far.   There is no one else to check with about this conclave as all the attendees I remember except Dave and I have passed away.

Having established that Jim Wingfield of the Arkansas Fly Fishers was “Chariman/President” of the Midwest Council for the fiscal years 1976 through 1978, that Charlie Weidman of the Indianapolis Fly Fishers was President during the fiscal years 1979 and 1980, and that Bill Butts of the Hillbilly Flyrodders  was President of the Midwest Council in fiscal 1981, probably the most important event remaining to be discussed is the official division of the Council into two councils and naming them the  Southern Council and the Great Lakes Council.  

I quote from the minutes of the FFF’s Director’s Meeting, August 18, 1981, at West Yellowstone, Montana:

“Ike Hayes moved that the Board of Directors authorize the splitting of the Midwest Council into two Councils.   These two Councils shall be:   Great Lakes Council – MI, OH, IN, IL, WI, MN, ND, SD, NE and IA; Southern Council – AR, MO, KS, OK, TN, AL, GA, LA, TX, KY.   Bill Butts, seconded.   Carried.”      

It can be seen that this is not the present geographical area represented by the Southern Council, but it brings the history into the present generation where it may be better advanced by others.  

POSTSCRIPT

The division of the Green Country Flyfishers establishing the Tulsa Fly Fishers occurred in September 1988 when the Tulsa members founders' meeting was held.   In October 1988, they held a meeting to nominate officers and discuss goals, bylaws, etc.   Joel Kantor was elected President of the newly-formed group.   He was later followed in that office by Steve Fritz and then by Tom Rinehart.   They join with Trout Unlimited as a strong conservation group serving Oklahoma .    

The one person of that group who make fly fishing his life profession is Steve Fritz, now of Srpingfield, Missouri, where he is "Fly Fishing Team Leader" for Bass Pro Shop. Steve also served the Southern Council for several years as editor of Long Casts.

It is my recollection that of the persons who transferred their memberships from Green Country Flyfishers to Tulsa Fly Fishers, Glen Ramsey is the member with the longest combined membership still living.       

copyright©2007

R.M. Cunningham II

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