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Ralph Wahl was a founding member of the 4CFF in 1972. He was an avid fly fisher, a published photographer and author, and a strong supporter of fly fishing. He owned and operated the J.B. Wahl Department Store and the Grand Theatre in Bellingham, Washington. Interestingly, he had always considered himself a fisher/photographer with a business, as opposed to a businessman with hobbies.
The Western Washington University Libraries’ Special Fly Fishing Collections and Oral History Program, and The Stilliguamish Steelhead Society both feature Ralph in their collections.
Ralph Wahl had been an obsessed fisherman all of his life, and may have been the first fisherman to cast a fly for Skagit River winter-run steelhead. According to Ralph, "There may have been others but they weren't where I was fishing." Ralph was fishing for summer-run steelhead on the North Fork Stillaguamish whenever he could find the time to break away from working at his family business, Wahl's Department Store in Bellingham.
When the run of Deer Creek natives would begin to stack up in the clear pools of the Stillaguamish below the town of Oso, so would Ralph and hosts of other dedicated steelhead anglers, 4CFF club members among them. Many of them would become life-long friends and, unbeknownst to them at the time, steelhead fishing legends. Besides being a passionate fly fisher Ralph is known as a published photographer, fly tier, author, and businessman.
In 1965 Ralph created one of the best-known local steelhead flies, that he called the Wahlflower.
Ed Ruckey, affectionately known to 4CFF members as Doc Hackle, is at his core a fly tier - an avid, skilled, and prolific fly tier. He has been tying flies since [when?] and has literally tied thousands of them. Ed is profoundly generous with his flies, so much so that at Club meetings, outings, and gatherings of any kind, he gives away flies that he tied for such occasions, often in presentation boxes that are treasured by their recipients. Ed’s flies are sought after by Club members, and are cherished and kept as treasures, such that few of these flies have ever seen the water.
Unlike some fly tiers of old who were secretive in their methods, Ed is eager to pass on his knowledge to others. Ed has been a fixture at Club fly tying sessions and outside educational programs, and he has produced several Youtube videos that provide clear and detailed instructions on how to tie fly patterns that look good and catch fish.
Read an oral interview of Ed linked to Western Washington University Libraries, Special Collection, Fly Fishing Oral History Program.
ED RUCKEY, aka DOC HACKLE
Jack Salstrom is a long time 4CFF club member, having joined the Club in 1975. He is an artist of fly tying. Jack was the subject of an article in the July, 2017 issue of Northwest Fly Fishing Magazine. The article noted that “Jack is an innovative tier. He studies bugs; their size, shape, color, anatomy, behavior and habitat, then captures those traits in his patterns which led to the creation of the 'wiggle bug,' an articulating fly that imitates the real thing.” Scott Willison, the owner of Bellingham's Confluence Fly Shop, posted a YouTube video of Jack tying the wiggle bug. Since then, Jack’s wiggle bug has gone through several metamorphoses. With his artistic talents, Jack will also build on request beautiful shadow boxes that capture and set off his highly artistic flies.
Jack is a keen observer of nature and very accomplished fisherman. His flies have evolved over time to reflect periodic adjustments to the vast stores of his knowledge concerning fish and the aquatic organisms that nourish them.
Jack and his wiggle bug was featured in Northwest Fly Fishing Magazine, (now called American Fly Fishing) in an article written by our own Scott Willison.
Click the link below to view an interview with Jack, the magazine article, and the tying video.
Thank you to John Schewy, Editor and Chief, who has given permission to publish a PDF of the article.
Check out American Fly Fishing magazine at
Ralph is a long time 4CFF club member, having joined the club in 1979. He has spent over sixty years fly fishing in various waters in the Pacific Northwest. It is not uncommon that he could be seen fishing from his cedar strip dinghy on any number of the interior lakes of British Columbia. Ralph has extensive knowledge in the art of stillwater fly fishing, and is an accomplished fly tyer. He is known among club members as the chironomid master. Ralph is always willing to discuss his knowledge of stillwater fly fishing, in fact he provided an excellent fly fishing stillwater presentation at an Annual 4CFF Fishinar. Ralph is a conservation leader who consistently has participated in conservation projects within the club. Ralph was the first acting president for Washington Trout, an organization he and two other club members , Hugh Lewis and Marc Hulbert established. Washington Trout has since evolved into the Northwest Wild Fish Conservancy.
Wayne tells how the fly club began, "In the early 70’s, a group of men realized that Bellingham had enough interested people to start a fly-fishing Club. It was my first month in Bellingham, and I met Dick VanDemark on a hike near Mount Baker. He asked me if I was interested in joining the interested men. Ralph Wahl, Jerry Wells and Dick VanDemark were the nucleus of the first meeting. We met in each other’s homes. The Club was formed in 1972 using the model of the Washington Fly Fishing group out of Seattle."
During his fly fishing journey, Wayne became taken by the introduction of spey casting in the 1960s on local rivers, the Skagit River, North Fork of the Stillaguamish River,, and the Nooksack River fishing for salmon, trout, and steelhead wading deep into a personal study of the spey-researching, note-taking, experimenting, and then sharing his thought with others, some have been published. The interview begins with a written piece summarizing his journey.