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Apr. 28—Brad Dunkle has about 1,000 square feet of space in his Wildwood Anglers shop in downtown Sylvania.
He has about 1,000 square miles of enthusiasm, energy, and excitement when his favorite topic comes up — fly fishing.
Dunkle, a Southview grad who worked as a fly fishing guide in the Rockies for a dozen years or so after earning a degree in natural resources from Colorado State, would prefer to have enough room to carry every rod, reel, wader, vest, and any other fly fishing accoutrements on the market.
He'd also like to have a trout stream running right down Main Street where he could demo the latest gear and let his customers experience the mystical awakening that takes place when a fly hits the water and a fish rises to take that humble offering.
But, short of the 100 grand square foot megastore and the spring-fed waterway outside the front door, Dunkle plans to do the next best thing for his clientele and anyone else interested in fly fishing or even curious about this ergonomic melding of zen, tippets, and some dude called Parachute Adams (it is a fishing fly).
Wildwood Anglers will host a fly fishing palooza on May 14 at the shop, but the fun, the displays, the raffles, the entertainment, the education, and the eats will be spread out from the storefront through the building to the back lot and down the hill to the open area at nearby Northview High School, where the fly casting demonstrations will take place.
"We're throwing everything and the kitchen sink into this," Dunkle said. "There will be tons of gear on display — a bunch of things we just don't have the room to carry — plus heavy discounts on some things we do carry. And people can bring their fly rods in and match them up with any fly line that's available."
Ben Hunting, who is a sales rep for iconic fly rod and reel manufacturers Sage and Redington along with many other fly fishing-centric brands, will be on hand to conduct casting classes, and he is bringing along a wide range of gear for people to view up close.
"He is the best fly caster I have ever seen, as well as being the best instructor around, so it was important to have someone of Ben's caliber here for this event," Dunkle said. "He is relatable and has the ability to make things easy to understand."
There is a $30 charge for the casting class with Hunting, but Dunkle said that fee is redeemable as a store credit at the shop for any purchase that day. He hopes to see people take advantage of the rare opportunity to try out new rods with a master fly fishing educator on hand to provide tips. Wayne Samson will also be there to conduct fly tying demonstrations in the store, and there will be items from the Simms and Patagonia lines on sale.
Dunkle, who opened the fly shop in 2018 and later added a guide service to a wide range of holy waters, said the strength and breadth of the fly fishing community in the Toledo area has enabled him to survive and avoid the damage that the pandemic did to many other retail businesses. He sees this May 14 event as a combination customer appreciation/customer education extravaganza.
"It's nice to be able to give our customers exposure to a lot of gear that we can't carry in the store, just due to space limitations," he said. "Plus, I want to give back to our customers who have been super supportive of us since this place opened."
The back parking lot will be fenced off and tents put up to house some of the displays, and smoked pork shoulder and bison sliders will be on the menu with the barbecue operation Dunkle has booked for the day.
He said the event is open to everyone and all skill levels. Dunkle encourages kids, women, and any first-time or novice fly anglers to attend and take part in the casting sessions.
"It will be material that any skill set can benefit from," he said. "There are little tricks of the trade that make such a big difference when you are out on the water, and even veteran experienced fly fishermen will get something valuable out of this."
Dunkle said he has been encouraged by the growth and enthusiasm of the fly fishing crowd in the region. He mentioned the legacy of Toledo native and fly-tying legend the late Chris Helms, the trout fishing clubs in the area, and the numbers of fly fishing anglers he sees on area waterways.
"I'm definitely proud of this community and the way people have come out and embraced fly fishing," he said. "The fly fishing demographic is changing, and that is a very encouraging thing to experience right here in the heart of the Midwest."
First Published April 27, 2021, 2:56pm