A Little About Badger Creek Fly Tying & Mike Hogue.......
I am not sure my vanity really should allow me to write this story. About me, really. That guy must have a very large ego if he stamps out a giant sized logo like the one above. I mean come on, I am just a small retailer, a some times author and fly fisher. Famous? Not really?!! More like notorious. Recently, I read a few stories on Global Fly Fisher and also in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Journal about Dave Whitlock's desk, so I thought this might be of interest to you.
Picture Right: That's me demonstrating a fly at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center, in the fall of 2004.
I grew up in a rural town in Northeast Iowa. My family had a small Ag-Chemical-Business. As a kid I spent a lot of time in and around farms and the rural country side. I loved to canoe, camp and swim. For as long as I can remember I have always been around the water. I scuba dived, was on the swim team, finished the mile swim and was a scout life guard. Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed anyone if they ever told me that I was going to own a computer based internet fly fishing/tying company.
In a prior life, I was a banker and stock broker for the likes of EF Hutton. ( As if this REALLY matters). I also attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa and hold a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Business ( Marketing & Finance). Many of my business ideas come from very sound businesses I studied many moons ago and are reflected into the way I do things. Some of the values my Father taught me about business, selling and customers are also things I still do today. If you see traits of Sam Walton, rural farm values, several grocery icons or Peters & Waterman, you might now understand why.
I started tying flies about 20 so years ago ( somewhere around 1986). By chance I happened to meet Ed Powell. Ed's family founded and owned the Powell rod company in Chico, CA. Ed was a professor at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. At the time I was living in Des Moines and I got interested in fly tying and fly fishing and took an adult education class with Ed. Ed was a member of the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association and also the Federation of Fly Fishers. Ed also introduced me to members of the Central Iowa Fly Fishers in Des Moines, a small local group that meet to tie flies and talk about fly fishing. I have teased Ed over the years that he was to blame for all my bad craziness about fly fishing. Ed has also told me his family holds him personally accountable for "ruining them" ( i.e. the family members/friends) by introducing people to fly fishing. I suspect that Ed has taught hundreds and hundreds of people how to fly fish, cast and tie flies.
Picture Left: That's me sitting in Lee Wulff's actual chair, at his fly tying desk holding a Royal Wulff tied by Thunder Creek Inventor, Keith Fulsher. How's that for tradition?
Around 1994 I decided to start my own business, Badger Creek Fly Tying. Ironically, the company is named for a place that neither has a fly shop or any trout. Badger Creek was a lake near Des Moines that I fished on a regular basis for many years. I needed a name for the tax certificate, so I choose that name on a whim.
Originally, I was just a demonstration tier. For many years I showed folks how to tie flies at sport shows, club meetings and various events. Every time I demonstrated how to make my patterns, I kept getting folks asking if they could buy my flies. So I started tying and selling flies. I 'd tie a bunch of flies, go to a show and sell them. Often I'd tell stories, show how I made them and why this fly was so good. I still tie and sell flies, although I make many less than I did a several years ago. I doubt if I will quit telling stories though.
People would ask me for the patterns and how to make them so I started writing down some of the stuff I made. I started the web site in the fall of 1996. I became frustrated that I couldn't get many of my articles published so I started the web site to publish my ideas and sell items I had extra of. The selling was an after thought used mostly to pay for the computer and the internet time & space. As I added more items, the site grew and as I added more things, people asked me for more things.
In the 1998 I was profiled by Apple Computer Company as an Apple Design Site of the Month. Apple was looking for folks that used their products and wanted to tell the Apple story. They also wanted to show how their products were changing our world. At the time that was very heady stuff for me as now I was in the same group as folks like Author Tom Clancy and the Rock Group Supertramp. Wow! I was like a rock star and glitterotti ( one of my wife's words for famous folks) all in one shot. That one might have gone to my head for awhile since I was in such famous company........imagine, me being included in such an exclusive group! I think it was also about that time I was also selected as one of the top 100 fly fishing sites in the world. Some fellow was writing a book about fly fishing sites and choose me and my tiny little company to be included in his book. Things just started to take off from there.
My business couldn't have had more a shaky foundation. I took half of my income tax refund and used that to buy some materials and inventory. I figured if it didn't work out, I would keep the other half and take a fishing trip. When I first started my business, I lived in a security apartment building with no door bell and had an unlisted phone. I worked nights at a warehouse that supplied grocery products for many years and often left my phone unlisted so I could get some sleep. Eventually, I had folks over all the time. Sleep, not happening, people would call, come over or just show up and most of the time I had no clue where they came from. Several of my original customers I still have so I must have done something right.
One of the main things that motivated me was that I was frustrated because I couldn't find nice materials at reasonable prices. I searched high and low for interesting, unique, new or reasonable priced things. My main interest was in quality materials and fair prices. Since I tie flies and I select the items for sale, I always try to choose items of the best quality at the best price. Where I can I try to buy in bulk and package things myself to save my customers money. I am really tuned in to prices and I will adjust prices or add items much more quickly than many other companies. This one reason you find that my prices reasonable. If I get deals, I try to pass them on to my customers. I also try to treat people like I like to be treated: fair and honest. I try my best to take care of all my customers as well as I can.
Picture Below: My Booth at the 2005 Fly Fishing Show in Charlotte, NC. That good looking older guy on the left is my Dad, 81 at the time of the photo.
I went to my first shows in 1996 and 1997. My Mom was my original show partner. On a hunch, I decided to try and sell some of my stuff at the North East Arkansas Craft Fairs. Each October there are some 200,000 people that come to attend these arts and crafts fairs in and around Bella Vista, AR. I wasn't sure how well this would go, I started selling shadow boxes of flies and loose flies that I tied. My Mom was there to help ring up the sales and also to give me breaks and such. I was amazed at how well that went. My original investment more than covered itself many times over!
I was profiled in a local paper, on local TV news and all the rest. I must have talked to every trout fisherman in 4 states. I also was somewhat on an anomaly at these shows since most of the stuff being sold was," women's cute stuff" as my Dad said. A lady would spend $200 for a new night stand and feel guilty about dragging the thing home, so she would stop and buy a few flies. Okay, I'll take that sale.
With new confidence I started looking for other shows to go to. I sold stuff at boat shows, sport shows, fly fishing fairs, swap meets, outdoor shows and about any other place I could think of. One of my early partners was a school teacher I meet from Waterloo, Iowa, Ron Uhlenhop. Ron was an incredible fly fisher and fly tier. For many years Ron sold and tied flies and at one time had a contract with LL Bean to tie large black stoneflies commercially. Ron taught me an amazing amount of stuff about the tackle business, fly fishing and fly tying. Ron and I fished together, travelled and chased trout. We could talk for hours about dubbing, hackle, tools, rods, rod building, leaders and of course fish. Ron is by far one of the greatest fly fishers I have ever known. Ron taught me how to sell stuff and gave me a solid piece of advice...buy stuff till it hurts. If you see an item you want buy, sell or trade for it. Over the years that "friendly advice" has helped me and cost me a small fortune.
Through my clubs I also happened to meet Larry Young from Hawaii. Larry and I developed a deep friendship and had loads of fun tying flies, fishing, going to sport shows and also inventing new things. Larry and I developed such things as the flip flop/beach shoe bass bugs and I also showed Larry how to destroy a kitchen rug in search of antron for trout fly shucks. My kitchen table still has ring marks from where Larry and I beat out a beach shoe with a brass punch. Fun? Larry and I had an incredible time together. We had some wonderful days like "ugly fly day" where the other guy picks out a super ugly fly out of your box and you have to fish with it until you bust it off or catch something. Opps, hit that tree, sorry bud. That was one way to thin out some of those nasty butt ugly looking flies.
Picture Right: That's Me on the Green River, UT Holding a Western Cutthroat Trout
Picture Left: My wife Laura Donaldson fishing on the East Branch of the Delaware in New York.
I have fly fished all over the US for pretty much anything that swims. Over the years I have been to all kinds of wonderful places and meet wonderful people along the way. By far my greatest catch was meeting my wife Laura Donaldson on the banks of Pierre Marquette River in Michigan. Yes, I actually meet my wife on a fly fishing trip!
In 1997 I was attending the FFF National Conclave in Grand Rapids, MI. I decided to do some fishing after the show and went to the Muskegoen River and after some rain headed up to the PM. I pulled into one landing and I saw a car with Iowa tags, I thought it might have been one of my friends from Iowa, so I got around the car and saw Laura. We visited a bit and decided to fish together.
While Laura was wading she dropped her new landing net. When she got back to the car, she was found it was missing so I went back to look for it for her. I found her net on the bank and brought it back. We later decided to have dinner together and we have been together ever since then. ( So eat your heart out Jason Borger, this is a REAL fly fishing love story.) If I would have never come to the PM, been late or never would have attended that show, I would never have meet my wife. How is that for fisherman's luck?
Laura and I have travelled many places fishing, camping and being in the outdoors. About a year after we got married, Laura got a recruiting call from a major Northeastern University. We packed up and headed to the Northeast and today we live just outside of Ithaca, NY.
After living around Ithaca for about 2 years we found a house with a small acreage and an old barn that needed lots of love and attention. Having grown up in a Victorian house that was in bad repair, this was an ideal place for us. We spent about 2 years working on the house and barn, remodeling, building, digging. When I first started this project I had no idea the barn was in such bad shape. I sort of figured I'd just frame in the walls.
I eventually had to dig out the foundation, install six 6' pillars and stabilize the base to keep it from falling over. Originally the barn was leaning to one side and it was falling over in the front. I jacked up the base and we straightened the sides as much as possible. I eventually installed 12 tons of gravel and poured 14 tons of cement. More than once I was about ready to toss in the towel. I later added 24 tons more gravel and dirt around the base of the barn outside to help stabilize the bottom. I had a whole host of drywallers, plasters, carpenters, masons, trim carpenters help out and of course I did the electrical work and painting.
I live in a rural area with exactly 4 houses in my neighborhood. Our home is a 200 year old farm house with lots of charm. We have ( at last count) 2 dogs, a cat and a flower garden that is almost always full of humming birds in the summer. I have mostly completed the building and I have a small office and store which is about a 45 second commute from my house. The siding on the barn is made of native rough cut woods harvested in this area. Original parts of the barn I discovered were made in the1800's and came from the old Smith Corona Type Writer Factory outside of Groton, NY. ( How's that for irony? A mid 1800's type writer factory supplying parts for an internet based fly shop? )
Right: My fly tying desk. This is an old oak lab table I got at an Iowa State University Sale for $10.00, the storage Box on the top was designed by me and built by my friend Don Feiple.
Our store has slat walls to display products, an 8 drawer oak fly box with about 400 dozen flies, books, waders, packs, rods, flylines and reels. Our main counter is made out of some recycled board and bat siding pieces with a top made of thick rough cut planks. Attached to the walls ( as a border ) are a collection of fishing stickers I found at shows, while travelling on the road and some were given to me by friends that stop by.
I also have an assorted collection of stuff, I have accumulated over the years including such finds as a 1 million year old fossilized fresco of minnows from WY's Green River, an ant made of spoons, a dragon fly made of bolts, a 12" Gumby ( to remind me to always be flexible) and a giant plastic hopper guards my door. Usually, if I am working you are bound to hear a mishmash of old 70-80's tunes on the CD, since I can't stand frickin rap or any music made after 1989. Since we've been open, we've had classes, open houses and several really famous folks have been our guests as instructors for seminars and classes.
Left: These are some of the vises I have collected: My first HMH vise ( late 1970's), a Regal stand for my old Regal, an AK's Vise, a new Regal Prototype, a Dyna King Pro and in the corner is a Marc Petitjean MP and an Original Gold Head Regal vise from the 70's. The framed fly is a Black Ghost tied by Dick Talleur. The stick is from Fall Creek and holds some of my experiments plus a few wet flies. BTW I actually thinned down the number of vises I have and use.
Lucky? Gees, I don't know.............Over time I have been fortunate to have fished lots of places and have known so many wonderful people. I have developed a deep appreciation of the outdoors and also learned how connected we are. Each piece relates to another piece. Everything is inter-connected. So in effect the internet and the web shows how important small things really are, how much we have in common and alike we are. Even the smallest of things is important and a necessary part of life. I believe that nature, art, science and technology are all linked together and are reflections of who and what we are as a culture.
None of this would have been possible without the love, support and understanding of my wife, family and friends. I would have never gotten this far without you, my customers. Just imagine taking a class, meeting a professor, going to a fishing show all created events which changed who and what I am today.
What a long strange trip it's been.........I wonder what's next?
For more Info Contact:
Mike Hogue / Badger Creek Fly Tying / 622 West Dryden Road, Freeville, NY 13068