May 22, 2018
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Kenney has his hands full with flies

By John Holyoke, BDN Staff

David Klausmeyer knows his fishing flies. He has written books about them. He edits a popular international magazine — Fly Tyer — that focuses on the craft. And he regularly interviews top-notch fly tiers that are featured in his publication.

Earlier this year, however, the Steuben man experienced a professional first.

“I took some photos [of a fly tier he’d met at a Maine show] and then gave him a call,” Klausmeyer explained. “That is the first time I’ve ever had to call someone who I interviewed where I first had to call the mother, to ask permission.”

The interview subject: Sam Kenney, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Dixmont. And when Klausmeyer made contact with him, the veteran editor wasn’t particularly surprised to learn what his subject had been up to.

“When I called him I asked him what he was doing, and he said, ‘Tying flies,’” Klausmeyer recounted. “He just spends a tremendous amount of time doing it.”

Kenney’s efforts have paid dividends.

During last weekend’s Cabin Fever Reliever show at the Brewer Auditorium, Kenney was among a small group of young tiers who impressed the crowd with their advanced skills.

Klausmeyer, a member of the Penobscot Fly Fishers, which staged the Cabin Fever Reliever, published his feature on Kenney in the Spring 2010 edition of Fly Tyer, which has a paid circulation of 43,000.

Nearby, 7-year-old Jax McKay and his 10-year-old brother, Tait, tied and sold their own flies.

The McKays haven’t been featured in Fly Tyer (yet), but have been featured in two fly fishing films produced by Gray Ghost Productions.

All three kept busy over the weekend as youngsters and veterans alike stopped at their booths, asked questions and bought flies.

Klausmeyer said when he met Kenney at an earlier show put on by the Penobscot Fly Fishers, he was impressed with the youngster’s talent and composure.

“He was an extremely well-mannered young man, and he was an extremely good tier,” Klausmeyer said.

And on Sunday, Kenney smiled and chatted with visitors like a fly show veteran.

“He’s had a bevy of people over there the whole time,” Klausmeyer said, glancing over his shoulder from a nearby table. “Watch him with grown men. He’s talking with them. He’s not put off at all. They’re over there and he’s showing them how to tie some of those flies.”

Those who stopped for a chat with Kenney quickly learned that the young tier knew what he was talking about.

If they were looking for more proof, Kenney could have told them that he recently finished second in the open class — professional adult tiers welcome — in the Pennsylvania State Fly Tying Championship.

He could have … but he didn’t. Kenney’s just too modest to do that.

Kenney actually entered the youth division, as well as the amateur and open classes. Judges then placed him in the class they thought he belonged.

“I thought I might as well compete in the youth [class],” Kenney said. “I think they thought my flies were good enough to be in [the open class].”

On Sunday, Kenney admitted that he’d had a profitable two days in Brewer, having earned about $160 selling flies.

But in keeping with the show’s stated focus, Kenney wasn’t just selling. He was also educating, and chatting, and entertaining.

In fact, even when he had a sure sale staring him in the face, Kenney was apt to forgo the money and do the right thing.

“I was just looking around and thought it would be neat if someone came up with a red, white and blue fly,” said Navy veteran Tina Richard of Clinton. “I said [to Kenney], if you make one, I’ll pay you.’ He said, ‘No, no. I’ll give it to you.’”

Kenney sat down at his vise and began tying a large, elaborate fly for Richard. She stood nearby and watched the process, appreciative.

“I have a name for it already,” she said. “I’ll call it ‘Freedom.’”

An aisle away from Kenney’s booth, the McKay brothers manned their tying vises and continued a family tradition.

Father Kevin McKay is a guide and fly tier who has been working sporting expos for several years. His sons began tying young, and are now seasoned veterans, despite being only 7 and 10 years old.

The brothers are also avid fly fishermen, and their prowess is a reason they’ve been featured in two films — last year’s “North by North East” and this year’s “The Good Life, Tall Tales from the East.”

“[The producer] heard through the grapevine, through the [fly-fishing] industry, that there were two little kids that could actually fly fish, they could cast a fly rod and fish,” Kevin McKay explained. “He came up to see them and was quite impressed and wanted them in the first film. Now they kind of have their own segment in each film he has out, it’s great.”

Jax McKay said that by Sunday afternoon, he’d already sold more than $60 worth of flies … though he had precise plans on how to spend some of his newfound loot.

“One pocket knife,” Jax said, tugging his dad toward a knife vendor who had set up shop on the other side of the Brewer Auditorium floor.

Tait McKay said he took in about $37 on Saturday, though he and his dad had differing ideas on how that money would be spent.

“They’re buying me lunch today,” Kevin McKay said, within earshot of Tait and Jax.

“No we’re not. We’re buying a Lego set,” Tait explained.

Eventually, Tait agreed to take his father to McDonald’s for lunch.

And Kevin McKay had a pretty good guess why his money-savvy son chose the burger joint.

It wasn’t the Happy Meals. It wasn’t the tasty fries.

“Why? For the dollar value meals?” Kevin McKay asked.

“Yup,” Tait McKay admitted.

More on ‘The Good Life’

If you’re interested in seeing the new Gray Ghost Productions film “The Good Life,” you’re welcome to attend a screening session that will be held at the Sea Dog Brewing Co. in Bangor on April 8.

The screening will run from 6 p.m. until shortly after 8 p.m., and proceeds from the event will be donated to the Penobscot River Restoration Project.

The evening will actually be a double feature, as “North by North East” will run in the background during a social hour from 6-7 p.m. “The Good Life” begins at 7 p.m.

Beverages and food will be available.

Tickets cost $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Tickets are available at Striking Gold Jewelers in Ellsworth, Van Raymond Outfitters in Brewer or by calling Kevin McKay at 944-1691.

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