The McGinty Fly and History of Oregon Casting Champions by Jeff Perin
After WW2, my friend Clyde Keller (Jr) returned to Oregon from serving in the Second Amphibious Brigade in the South Pacific to his post war life as an acoustical engineer. With so much opportunity in the late 1940’s and 50’s, success came to many as our country boomed. Clyde worked hard, and was quite a renaissance man, but he always found time to be a serious angler and fly caster. Clyde grew up in Oregon and fished the Clackamas and Metolius Rivers with his mother since he was a kid in the 30’s. Clyde was the son of a famous Oregon impressionist painter (Clyde Leon Keller) and became quite an accomplished water color artist in his own right.
When I met Clyde, I was a high school kid working in a small fly shop in Bend, Oregon and Clyde was a member of the local Central Oregon Fly Fisher’s club, a known casting guru and instructor and one of the guys I most looked up to as an expert on Crane Prairie Reservoir. He had a nickname of Clyde the Guide. When Clyde retired and moved to Bend, he took a part time job with us at the Fly Box, and ended up coming to Sisters to work with me when I bought The Fly Fisher’s Place from Harry Teel in 1991.
It was always fun to hear Clyde and Harry tell tales of the really good old days of fishing, and occasionally, even mention their services in the war, although those stories were held close to the vest and were not shared easily due to the painful memories all those years later. Both men were like family to me, and each had many stories to share, and I loved soaking them up as a young fly angler and entrepreneur.
One of the stories Clyde shared was about a casting competition that was held here in Oregon before he went off to WW2 at the Portland Casting Club. He recounted exciting stories about casting to targets in shallow ponds using both fly fishing gear and bait casting gear. His expertise was with the fly rod and he won the State of Oregon dry fly and distance casting competition 4 times in Portland. The Casting Club was so impressed with Clyde’s expertise as a caster they funded his trip to Turlock, California for the Western Association of Scientific Anglers & Casters Tournament in 1941.
Clyde described the day of the big competition as 110 degrees (F) with “puffy winds”. Even in the wind, Clyde scored a 97 and beat the great dry expert of the time, Henry Fujita by one point! As with most competitions the winner received a medal, but to Clyde the real prize was a hand tied fly that looked like a bumble bee. Winners would proudly pin the fly to their hat to signify they were the top fly caster of the time. Clyde always had that bee hooked in the brim of his hat. He also bragged about Mr. Fujita having five hooked to his own hat. Clyde loved everyone to have success.
The “bumble bee fly” they won is called a McGinty, and it is an old fashioned fly originally tied way back in 1883 by Charles McGinty. The original McGinty was tied as wet fly with swept back wings and the classic black and yellow striped body that is unmistakably a representation of a bee. Over the years, the fly was tied as both a wet fly and dry fly version.
In modern fly fishing, the McGinty has been passed up by many anglers and tyer’s for more modern fly patterns, but the good olé McGinty dry fly remains an icon of the sport and should also be a reminder of casting champions of the past.
The Oregon Council of Fly Fishers International is reintroducing the Oregon Fly Casting Championship, at the 2020 Northwest Fly Tyer and Fly Fishing Expo in Albany Oregon
We all thought it fitting our new championship should honor our past.
We named the competition The McGinty Cup.