winnersof sowbug roundup fly tying contest announced

March 14th, 2014 berrybrothersguides



This year I was the chairman of the Sowbug Roundup fly tying contest. A couple of years ago I chaired the Baxter Bulletin Fly Tying Contest. I moved the event because; the Sowbug Roundup is a fly tying festival and is therefore a better venue for the contest. The contest is a great way to recognize the best among us and also to identify up and coming tiers that had not been previously recognized. The simple rules were the same as used before.


We had three judges, Tony Spezio, Tom Schmuecker and me. Tony is our living legend. He is a past winner of the Buz Buzek Award for his lifetime achievements as a fly tier. This is the highest award that the Federation of Fly Fishers can bestow for fly tying. He has been inducted into the Bamboo Rod Makers Hall of Fame at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum for his innovative rod building techniques and teaching. In addition, Tony was one of the founders of the Sowbug Roundup.


Tom Schmuecker is the owner and operator of Wapsi, which is the largest wholesaler of fly tying materials in the world. Tom is a lifelong fly tyer and fly fisher. In 2013, he was inducted to the Trout Hall of Fame at Arkansas State University Mountain Home Trout Nature Center. Tom and Wapsi have been huge supporters of the Sowbug Roundup and fly fishing in general.


Though I have thirty years experience as a fly tyer and have been guiding for over two decades, I am still humbled to be judging a fly tying contest with these gentlemen. I looked at my job to be the tie breaker in the deliberations. I was amazed at how quickly the whole thing went and how we all basically chose the same flies for all categories. I learned so much and truly enjoyed working with Tony and Tom.


As the entries came in, I accumulated them unopened in a large bin. On the day of the judging, I took them to the conference room at Wapsi. In addition to the judges, we had two committee people helping us. They were Mike Tipton, past president of the North Arkansas Fly Fishers and next year’s chairman of the Sowbug Roundup and Schuyler Brower, a member of the Sowbug Committee and my neighbor and fishing buddy.


They assigned a number (1, 2, 3, etc.) to each entry and opened the packages. As they removed each fly, they attached it to an index card and assigned it the number of the entry and a letter (a, b, c, etc) to track an individual fly from an entry with multiple flies. They then arranged the various flies in categories, dry fly, nymph, smallmouth, etc. This way the judges did not know who had tied the fly. The judges had index cards with all of the categories listed and wrote the alpha numeric code of their favorite fly on it. The judging went smoothly. Mike Tipton tallied the votes with Schuyler assisting.


There were six winners in nine categories. Three tyers won two categories. Two of the winners were local tyers, Chad Johnson and Michael Schraeder. Chad, a local guide, won Best in Show, the top award for the contest. It should be noted that he won Best in Show at our previous contest. There is no doubt that he is the up and coming fly tyer. Michael Schraeder, who won our youth category, is also a fellow fly fishing writer for the Baxter Bulletin. He decided to branch out this year and also won the category for best smallmouth fly. At thirteen years of age, Mike has a very promising future in fly tying.


The other winners were Clarence Winans of Joplin, Missouri (best dry fly and best streamer), David Boyer of Tustin, California (best wet fly), Steve Hegstrom of Mission, Kansas (best nymph) and Jacques Demers of Quebec, Canada (best bass fly and best warm water fly). As you can see, this contest brought in tyers from all over.


We took the winning flies and are having Mike Schraeder (Michael’s proud father) make a framed fly plate from them that we will auction off at the Sowbug Dinner next Friday to help defray the cost of the contest. Any funds left over will be used to fund a local scholarship. We will also hand out the plaques to the winners.


I wish hearty congratulations to our winners. I invite all of you out there to enter our contest next year. You can’t win unless you enter.

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