Club History

Historical Sketch of Winter Hatches Fly Fishing Club

The Club’s genesis derives from a couple of influences.

During the late 1980’s, Phil Kettle and Tom Adamchick had discussed the need for a Toronto-based club. Even then, heavy road traffic and increasing job-related demands were making it too difficult to get to meetings of the Izaak Walton Fly Fishing Club, which at that time met in Burlington. At about the same time, Jack Simpson had been talking to John Flack, Phil Kettle, Alan Yaffe and Bob Moore about setting up a club in Toronto.

On July 17, 1990, Jack hosted a day of fishing and discussion at the Franklin Club. The assembled company agreed to form a new fly fishing club. It was then that Jack Simpson announced that he’d already paid the rent for a basement room in the North York Public Library (corner of Covington and Bathurst), a very short amble from where the Club now meets. The basement room had been used before by Trout Unlimited and a few other groups, so it already had a tradition established. Jack also donated $500 to start a bank account.

The club initially operated under the name Fly Fishing Canada -Toronto Chapter and had a temporary executive committee formed until the future members could elect a full-fledged executive. They were:

Tom Adamchick & Alan Yaffe – Co-chairs
John Flack – Treasurer
Bob Moore-Secretary
Jack Bramm – Conservation
Phil Kettle – Newsletter

The purpose of the Club then was “to promote Fly Fishing and Tying and Conservation aimed at families.”

Most members of the fledgling Club weren’t crazy about its name. One evening, after a fishing trip, several members were in Salvatore’s restaurant in Buffalo. Judy Sprott, Alan Yaffe’s wife, suggested a new name: “Winter Hatches.” What could be more appropriate for a club that spent the winter months “hatching” out insect imitations made of bits of fur and feathers?

Bob Moore suggested the Club’s symbol should be the “Capnia.” This tiny dark brown stonefly is one of the so-called winter stoneflies. Since this insect increases its activity during the winter, everyone agreed it would be an apt mascot. David Sharpe, an early club member and longtime supporter, designed the Club’s logo with the Capnia stonefly and it quickly was adopted as the club’s crest.

As time went on, the club’s Board of Directors began to discuss the idea of an event focusing on fly tying to be held at the beginning of the tying season. On November 13, 1994, the Club launched its first very successful Symposium under the chairmanship of Bob Moore. This became an annual event. Many leading fly tyers of southern Ontario and countless club members have wholeheartedly volunteered their time to the success and ongoing promotion of this unique event dedicated to the art and skill of fly tying — the only one of its kind in Ontario.

Although the Symposium continually sought out and offered new fly tying instructors each year, including many from other provinces as well as the US, Ian Colin James was a regularly featured instructor for 19 of those 20 years. In fact, it can be said that Ian was an anchor for the Symposium. Ian’s classes were always popular. People kept coming back to his sessions year after year because Ian always had something new to offer – new observations, advice, patterns, or techniques.

The other anchor for the Symposium was the Beginner’s class. Hundreds of people got their start in fly tying through this class. Tom Adamchick ran the class for the first ten years and William Gerrard led it for the last ten years, supported by capable assistant instructors.  Notably, Club members Garry Croucher, Roger Harwood, and Ron Massie were among the fly-tying coaches who offered one-on-one instruction throughout the day.

The Symposium ran for 20 years. William Gerrard chaired the Symposium from 2012 until when it ended, in 2014. Organizing and running this event for 20 years required the volunteer efforts of many Club members – it would not have been possible without the support of many members. But the overall effort was made light by many hands, only two people did the heavy lifting required for administration and registration: Lynn Savin, who held that role for the first seven years, and Jean Brand, who did the job for thirteen years.

The Symposium is not the only means through which the Club has promoted fly-tying. For years the Club has organized a once-a-month tying evening. Many have honed their skills as a result.

Until he moved away from Toronto, Wally Nowak was a tireless teacher and mentor who gave freely of his time and knowledge. Wally and Tom (Adamchick) made a mean fly-tying tag-team: tyers had to show up for class with last month’s homework completed — usually, that meant tying six examples of the pattern tied in the previous class — or else! Despite this old-school emphasis on homework, the classes were full of people eager to learn.

The Club has reinvented the format for fly tying evenings over the years. Today, a different fly tyer leads each class, and many of them are graduates of Wally and Tom’s class. Tom and Wally’s legacy is evident in a contingent of fly tyers with solid technical skills.

As the Club grew and became more sophisticated, the Board began to realize that it needed a charter to guide its affairs. Club member Tony Whittingham, who until his retirement earned his living as a corporate lawyer, was a major contributor to the drafting of the Winter Hatches Constitution. This document was enacted at the February 1, 1996, meeting of the Club during Tom Adamchick’s term as President.

The Club has also enjoyed support from local fly fishing retailers. Notably, Daniel Pikelin, owner of the now-defunct Pollack’s Fly Fishing shop on Queen Street East was also a Club member. For many years, Pollack’s donated sets of flies that were raffled-off at Club meetings. The Club has also received support from WithaFly (sadly, also closed now) and from Angling Specialties. Most recently, Drift Outfitters has shown support for the Club by offering a discount to members.

The Club has also been fortunate to count as members a number of people who have contributed their talent in the area of visual arts. David Sharpe’s logo design set the tone for high-quality graphics in the Club’s printed materials.

Gildo Martino, a graphic designer, produced a number of printed products for the Club. He and Joseph Teschl, photographer, collaborated on the now classic Symposium poster. Scott Wagner found a low-cost way to print colour photographs of flies for the Symposium handbook, an enhancement that was very well received by attendees. Mick Coulas, a talented graphic artist, took on the colour photography for a number of years.

For many years of the club’s existence, David Sharpe donated an oil painting to be used as a fund-raiser to support any efforts the club executive deems appropriate. David’s paintings were always a popular raffle item. Brisk ticket sales for his paintings have yielded sizable contributions that, in the past, have helped bear the costs of activities like the Symposium.

By 1997, the Club had a “nest egg” of money that exceeded the original $500 seed money donated by Jack Simpson. The Board of Directors began to consider how to dispose of the excess revenue.

Given that the Constitution states that the Club will “promote conservation and development of fisheries and fish habitat by supporting existing organizations in their conservation projects,” it was a logical step to direct the money to conservation work. In 1999, the Executive established a Conservation committee tasked with the drafting of criteria to judge the merits of funding specific conservation projects.

Based on the committee’s research and recommendations, Winter Hatches members agreed to adopt the Humber River as the Club’s conservation focus. The Club has helped fund significant projects for the upper Humber through Trout Unlimited. Some excess revenue was donated to the Friends of the Grand River for the maintenance of a garbage collection kiosk.

Like the lines of descent in the biblical book of Genesis, there is a lineage of Club leaders. Co-chairs Alan Yaffe and Tom Adamchick paved the way for Bob Moore as President. At the end of Bob Moore’s term, Gord Lindsay was elected President. When Gord’s term was up, Tom Adamchick was pressed into service. After Tom, William Gerrard was elected into the President’s role, followed most recently by Greg Herring.

Each President built on what came before. However, none of their achievements would have been possible without the willing, cooperative participation of all the members. It was their efforts – that of individual members acting together – that have built the Club.

You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.
– North American proverb