NW Fly Tyer and Fly Fishing Expo

History of the FFF - By Greg Pitts

The Conclave of the Federation Fly Fishers (now The International Fly Fishing Fair of the International Federation of Fly Fishers) is coming back to Oregon August 11th-15th 2015. This will be the golden anniversary event for the IFFF. It is absolutely appropriate that the event will be held in Oregon, where it all started.

In April 1964 The McKenzie Flyfishers was formed in Eugene. A group of fly fishermen in Eugene set about establishing a local group to share their interest and love of fly fishing. The founding member of the McKenzie club was Bill Nelson who had moved to town from Washington, where he had enjoyed being part of the Evergreen club. He brought with him the format of the club, style of meetings and bylaws as a template to form the new club. The club was really launched when officers were chosen. Bill shocked the membership when he announced his grand idea of forming a national organization to promote flyfishing.

Because of the daunting challenge, the local group thinned out to a hearty group who set about establishing a first meeting to be hosted by the McKenzie Fly Fishers. The audacity of that concept would probably occur to anyone, but they pulled it off. Bill had contacts all over the country that answered his invitation. When Lee Wulff, Ed Zern and a few others with national reputations committed to the event, others fell in line and committed to the “Conclave” to be held in June 1965 in Eugene. The basic format for the annual event was established by the initial organizing committee and continues to be used today.

The original meetings in Eugene encouraged the assembled fly fishers (and others who were quickly recruited) to form the FFF. The basic framework of a federation of affiliated clubs across the country was adopted. Working committees were appointed, including one to prepare bylaws. The success of the first conclave suggested strongly that an annual meeting of Flyfishers to exchange their expertise with others was a viable goal.

The initial organizing committee for the conclave was made up of members of the McKenzie Fly Fishers. The conclave chair was Stan Walters. Skip Hosfield served as program chair. And of course, Bill Nelson provided inspiration and guidance to all the committees. During this time, Bill worked tirelessly with his contacts all over the country to maintain enthusiasm for this gathering.

The McKenzie Fly Fishers have provided inspiration and leadership to the FFF throughout the 50-year history of the FFF. The highest annual award to clubs with the FFF is named The McKenzie Cup, inspired by the efforts with the first conclave (the McKenzie club also hosted regional conclaves in 1975 and 1985, then they hosted the international event for the 25th anniversary in 1990). The McKenzie club boasts three winners of the highest individual FFF award, The Lapis Lazuli. It has a past president of the FFF and three winners of the FFF man of the year award and Buz Buszek winner for fly tying.

Oregon and the McKenzie Flyfishers have a storied history with the IFFF. We welcome the annual show back to its roots in Oregon. Come join us in Bend during August and meet new and old friends from around the world.