P.O. Box 1181, Dubuque, Iowa 52004-1181

Dubuque Fly Fishers

Logo Stream
Tete des Mortes Stream near St. Donatus, Iowa (spring 2014)
Longitute 90° 36.910' Latitute 42° 21.950'
Tete des Mortes Tributaries near St. Donatus, Iowa (spring 2014)
Longitute 90° 37.010' Latitute 42° 21.560"

Emergence of the Dubuque Fly Fishers' Club

The life cycle of the insect of the stream is a good metaphor to describe how the Dubuque Fly Fishers club came into existence. The egg was laid at a fly fishing class in 1990 which evolved into a nymph at a first gathering a year later. This nymph group in turn evolved into the pupa stage until its emergence as fully mature adult body with by-laws in 1994. Instead of a year cycle this was a four-year growth period.

Some eggs were settled in the stream bottom when Frank Potter of Dubuque offered an Introduction to Fly Tying and Fly Fishing class as an adult education course held at Senior High School on January 29, 1990. Frank was a member of the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association. After the class ended people heard about it and requested individual instruction from Frank. This gave him the idea to use the momentum from the class to gather a group who would meet regularly to offer instruction to new comers plus enjoy the camaraderie in the sport.

The first meeting of people interested in fly fishing in the Dubuque area was held one year later on January 28, 1991 at the First National Bank, Asbury Road, in Asbury. Seven of the eleven "eggs" or students who had been in Frank's class attended that meeting: Dwayne Fudge, Joe Healy, Carl Hentges, Kent Hillery, John Kemps, Gary Kruse, and Jim Petersen. Others who attended that evening and continued with the group were: Frank Ciccarelli, Mike Johnsrud, Harry Muntz, Rick Nelson, Ivan Shaffer, Mark Stone, and Dave Unsen. Mike Jacobs of Monticello was also present. (Mike continues to share his professional expertise in fly tying with the club.) Frank Potter assumed the role of acting president. Frank also acted as secretary, treasurer, and newsletter editor from 1991 to 1993.

A survey taken that evening showed the fly fishing and fly tying experience of those attending. The tally for experience in fly fishing: never fly fished 4, beginner 6, intermediate 4, and advanced 3. As for fly tying: never 5, beginner 10, intermediate 0, and advanced 2. Also, from the survey, the second Monday of the month was selected for the meeting time. By the end of the meeting these "eggs" had turned into nymphs, which were squirming with interest in the future of the movement.

After another meeting at the bank Jack Kemp secured the basement at the UAW Hall for future meetings. This 1991-1992 year saw the Club benefiting from many generous fly fishers from Iowa and Wisconsin who came to Dubuque to present programs. Mike Jacobs, of the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association, gave a tying presentation in February. The following month, Walt Coaty, from the LaCrosse area, demonstrated making bamboo rods. These numbers of the nymphs increased. They molted and enlarged as their knowledge of the sport grew from fishing experiences and club activities.

After recessing from June through August the group returned in September when a member of the Badger Fly Fishers, Paul Mauer, demonstrated tying smallmouth flies. Some new faces seen during this year included Byron Bohnen, Don Cox, Tom Jirsa, Brian Larson, John Carl Miller and Steve Wood.

In February 1993 the Club progressed to the pupa stage when it hosted a first public fly tying event at the library where Mike Jacobs once again was the featured tier. By this time other members felt accomplished enough to assist in the instruction. Activities for the Club in the summer were in support of the Hawkeye Fly Fishers' work projects at Spring Branch and the Maquoketa River. In August Frank Potter led a public presentation on entomology of the streams at Swiss Valley. In October Don Cox secured a new meeting place at the State Farm office at 3490 Hillcrest Road. Dave Kemp and Dick Saylor were new faces this winter. Gary Kruse assumed the role of acting president and newsletter editor in the spring of 1993.

Late in 1993 the pupa began to rise to the surface of the stream when it was realized that a greater commitment to the future success of the group could be made by becoming formally organized. A committee was formed and a first draft of by-laws was worked out at Gary Kruse's home. Then, on January 17, 1994, at a regular meeting at the State Farm Claim's office, the bylaws were accepted and officers elected. The officers elected at the meeting were Gary Kruse, president, Don Cox, secretary/treasurer and John Carl Miller, newsletter editor. Attending the meeting were: D. Cox, R. Fuller, P. Hird, G. Kruse, J.C. Miller, F. Potter, V. Schrunk, D. Unsen, and S. Wood. The by laws were revised again the following month with a separation of the secretary/ treasurer position and adding a director. Phil Hird was elected treasurer and Charlie Cunliffe, director. At the meeting two new projects were proposed: a youth fishing clinic for April and a bluegill outing for June. The size of the membership then was 18 and dues were $3 per year. By this time the club had emerged from its pupa stage and spread its wings.

The club had reached the adult stage of the life cycle. Now, it was officially the Dubuque Fly Fishers. Its purpose was to protect the natural environment, conserve natural resources, work with the DNR and Conservation Commission in fisheries management, to increase knowledge of fly tying and fly fishing, and encourage fellowship among members. It held a future of promise for men, women and youth in the Dubuque area who wanted to be in a fellowship whose goal was to respect and enjoy the natural environment though the sport of fly fishing.

Frank Potter

9 January, 2000