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Mahtowa native rises to the top in world of fly tying

In September, Dave Asproth, a native son of Mahtowa, tied trout flies at the 2013 International Fly Fishing Fair. Sponsored by the Federation of Fly Fishers and held in West Yellowstone, Mont., this conclave was the 23rd international conclave at which Asproth has done exhibition tying.

He demonstrated to visitors to the show his own fly patterns for the emerging "Hexagenia limbata." This "Hex" is the largest of the May fly species. It is seen usually in late June in Carlton County. This hatch brings to the surface the biggest trout and smallmouth bass in the area.

Asproth started dressing flies when he was 15 years old. He visited Charlie Hayes' little fly shop at Lake Nebagamon, Wis., to learn this craft. He then joined the United Fly Tyers group. After the better part of two decades, he started exhibition tying for the public, who were eager to learn his patterns and see his techniques and materials.

Asproth usually develops his patterns by looking at the insect to be copied in nature, then assembling the materials and trigger mechanisms on a hook that will make a credible deceiver.

He has also done demonstration tying of flies at the Sow Bug Round Up in Mountain Home, Ark., for 12 years as well as at numerous gun shows, county fairs and at the Great River Expo in the Twin Cities.

Over the years, Asproth has tied and counted as his friends fly-fishing notables such as Emily and Dave Whitlock, Royce Dam, Bill Heckel, the late Gary LaFontaine and Bernard "Lefty" Kreh. He was also a friend to the late, famed Catskill tyer and author Art Flick.

When Flick first saw Asproth's large May fly patterns he exclaimed, "Those flies are 747s!" To which Dave returned, "We don't have guppies up here in Northern Minnesota!"

Later, Flick asked Asproth if he could get him some raven feathers. As it turned out, the day before Asproth had picked up a dead raven off a back road and stuck it upon a fence post. He went back and retrieved it, put it into a shoe box and mailed it to Flick on the Schoharie River in upstate New York. Flick decided to check his post office box one more time before taking a month-long, fishing trip. "Good thing," he said, "that old raven could have gotten pretty ripe sitting in the post office for a month!"

Asproth lives in a newly-remodeled house in Croftville, two miles east of Grand Marais. There he continues to do production tying for fly shops and individual orders. Recently he retired from the North House Folk School in Grand Marais where for the last 16 years he taught fly-tying and fly-fishing courses as well as casting instruction with a fly rod.

For several decades Asproth was active in Cook County Search and Rescue. He was known to engage in hikes to find missing canoeists and trekkers as well as recovery operations to help bereaved families. He has been a hunting and fishing guide in Cook County (he guided actor Chuck Norris one fall); was the float tube pioneer of Superior Forest lakes as well as the BWCAW areas. He has trapped for many years and collects his limit of Pine Marten every year.

Asproth has many relatives in Carlton County, including brothers and many nieces, cousins and friends.

Incidentally, Asproth invites you to stop by at his fly-tying studio in Croftville in the very tip of Minnesota's Arrowhead Country. He would like to show you his "Dynamite Caddis" fly pattern -- which sounds like a winne