Mr. Russell Blessing with one of his many Woolly Buggers

Imagine my recent surprise when I was quietly sitting at my desk, playing Farmville working on my next Weekly Drivel topic when a new email message popped into my in-box from a name I did not recognize: Fred Blessing.  The message subject was “Woolly Bugger”, so obviously I opened it with great curiosity. [Commence humbling experience now]

Fred Blessing began by saying that he had recently come across my kids’ books about Olive the Woolly Bugger. He then introduced himself as the son of the late Russell Blessing, creator of the woolly bugger fly. I was familiar with who Russ Blessing was, for obvious reasons (you don’t launch a series of books based on a woolly bugger without first doing a little research). I was also aware that unfortunately Russ had passed away in October 2009. While news of his death spread through the fly fishing news wires, Russ Blessing wasn’t what most would consider a household name. I was about to learn that his relative anonymity was no accident. Fred went on to tell me that his father was a very humble man and not in any way was he ever interested in claiming fame for the fly that had gained such notoriety in the fly fishing world:  “He would never tell anyone about it, and if they would mention it while coming across a fellow fisherman he would simply play it off and would never take claim to it being his fly.”  The mark of a truly humble man indeed.

Fred had written a heartfelt tribute to his father, hoping to have it published in Russ’s honor before he died. Sadly that didn’t happen and Russ passed away after a long battle with cancer.  According to Fred, his wife “graciously read my tribute to my father the night he passed away, so for that I’m grateful that he at least got to hear it. I would however like to share it with the world, letting fellow fly fishers know what kind of person my father really was.”  Fred then added, “I do think you will enjoy the tribute and I would appreciate anything you can do to help my tribute to go public.” Fred also sent me this photo of he and Russ and Russ’s best friend and fishing companion, Werner “Dutch” Fetter. It’s always nice to be able to put a face with a name in this day of often impersonal electronic correspondence.

"Dutch" Fetter, Fred Blessing, Russ Blessing, 2006

I read Fred’s tribute to his father and I was instantly touched.  I decided immediately that I could blog about it, and reach out to other bloggers and ask that they also blog about it, but let’s be honest:  How many people actually read all the fly fishing blogs out there?  Not to detract from the many excellent blogs, but the Unaccomplished Angler has a limited readership. While I value the 6 of you to regularly read my blog and wouldn’t trade you for all the blog groupies in the world, I felt that Fred’s tribute to his father deserved a more traditional place of honor. So I fired off an email to Joe Healy, a contact I had recently established at Fly Rod & Reel, and explained my correspondence with Fred.  Joe was very receptive and it was decided that I would write a brief intro to Fred Blessing’s tribute and it would be featured on the website for Fly Rod & Reel. Furthermore Joe agreed to let me conduct a short Q&A interview with Fred to talk about his father and the creation of the woolly bugger.

My role in all this was really nothing more than that of intermediary, but it was a real honor. Usually I like to eliminate the middle man, but in this case I’m glad to have had the opportunity to facilitate a union between a man wishing to honor his father, and the publishing editor of a national fly fishing magazine. And as that middle man I would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to Fred Blessing for reaching out to me with your story and for sharing so many nice memories of your father. Thank you to Joe Healy for your willingness to honor Russ’s legacy with some widespread coverage. And thank you to Russ Blessing for the woolly bugger: the value of your creation reaches far beyond my little series of books, but without the woolly bugger, there would be no Olive.

To read the Q&A with Fred Blessing and his tribute to his father on the website of Fly Rod & Reel, please click HERE.

A few days after all this transpired a package arrived in the mail from Fred Blessing. What a great surprise to receive a collection of Woolly Buggers tied by his late father. While I am sure Russ would prefer that I fish these, I’m not going to risk losing them. These are keepsakes.

Woolly Buggers tied by Russ Blessing