The roots of the North Coast Fly Fishers Club (NCFF) can be traced back to the waters of the Au Sable River in central Michigan. These are the waters that lured Norm Hyams and Bob Colson from Northeastern Ohio, along with their friends, year after year to fish for the abundant and large trout that inhabited the river. However, the fishing began to change for the worst in the early 1980's.
Stocking of trout in the river ended in 1958, making natural reproduction the only means to maintaining trout populations. The State of Michigan's regulators tried experimenting with various fishing regulations, but to no avail. The fish population was decreasing in numbers and size. This was taking place at a time when "catch and release" fishing made as much sense to the local fishermen as passing up a free lunch.
Those fishermen who saw the river as a great sport fishery approached national fishing organizations seeking help in setting aside a stretch of the river for "catch and release". They would be turned down by some of these organizations because the trout were in no danger of extinction. At the time, this was the only criterion for providing help. They did not appear interested in the quality of fishing, only in the quality of the habitat. They also turned to the "Federation of Fly Fishers", known as the FFF. At that time, they were based in West Yellowstone, Montana. The FFF came through with a great deal of support and the result was that legislation was passed setting aside a stretch of water for "catch and release" only. This stretch is now referred to as the "Holy Water" of the Au Sable. From this experience, these fishermen realized the importance of supporting the good works of the FFF. They decided to form a chartered FFF club called the "Anglers of the Au Sable". Today, this is the largest 100% chartered FFF club in America. However, that is Michigan and this is Ohio.
The Trout Club of the Cleveland Natural History Museum has always been a fine organization. Their monthly dinner meetings are well attended and the speaker's programs have included the greatest names associated with fly fishing.
It is a wonderful experience to socialize with fellow anglers over a good meal and an informative presentation. However, in the mid-1980's, Hyams, Colson, Mark Sudduth, and a few of their fellow anglers thought there was a need for another type of fly fishing club. They envisioned a club that would develop in its members lasting fishing skills through hands-on participation. In short, teach their sport to all who would join the club. Their positive experience with the Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) and their association with the Anglers of the Au Sable greatly influenced the founding fathers of the North Coast Fly Fishers. They decided that, if accepted, the NCFF would become a chapter in the national FFF. And so, sometime in the mid-1980's, the North Coast Fly Fishers came into being. The By-Laws of the club were patterned after those of the Red Cedars chapter of the FFF in Lansing, Michigan.
The earliest correspondence found to date is a 1987 letter from President Norm Hyams to Sandy and Jack Kothera of the Membership Committee. In this letter, Hyams informed Sandy and Jack that the new meetings place for the October 7th meeting. That meeting was held in Chagrin Falls at the old town hall located at 83 N. Main Street. The letter goes on to imply that previous meetings were held at the Western Reserve Anglers and Outfitters run by Jon Witwer in Hudson, Ohio.
The earliest Board of Directors Meeting agenda indicates that the meeting was held 29 October 1987 at the home of Jack and Sandy Kothera. The first order of business was to discuss October's Members Meeting. Those present included Sandy and Jack Kothera, Dick Siciliano, and Jon Witwer.
Although not recorded in early written records, John Truax and Mark Suddith played a very important role in the formation of the North Coast Fly Fishers and it would be remiss not to include their names as founders of the club.
In April 2005, the Membership voted to change its Bylaws from a 100% Club to the premier status as a FFF Charter Club. This change placed the organization in the closest alignment with the Federation and its goals.