Art Kade Flycrafters

On September 19, 1890, Art Kade was born in Chicago. He moved with his family at the age of 6 to Sheboygan, Wis. Taking training in the art of fine furniture making, he became a famous designer of store fixtures. But his heart and passion were in the great outdoors. His interest in plants, fish and biology led him starting a fishing business. He was an early member of the Izaak Walton League and conservation groups too.

We have written several in-depth articles on Helen Shaw, one of the World’s best tyer of flies. She was born in Madison, but moved with her family several times, ending up in Sheboygan. Fishing with her father at a very early age, she demonstrated a real knack for catching fish. While still in high school, Shaw began tying flies and possessed tremendous talent. She found a lot of demand for her lures as word spread of their effectiveness.

Recruiting Helen Shaw at a young age before her graduation from High School, she and Kade formed quite a business partnership, and name the business Art Kade Flycrafters. They only produced one catalog in 1938, which was used throughout their partnership. Art used his skills to build fine bamboo fly rods while Helen produced all of their flies.

Lure manufacturers recruited her to head fly-tying departments in their companies. The Weber Lifelike Fly Company fervently recruited her.

However, she said, “I want no part of it. My meticulously tied flies would not be possible when speed and production volume is contrary to what I do. All of the best materials I require would be gone each week by Tuesday.”

In the early 1950s, Herman Kessler, the art director for Field & Stream met her, and he was smitten.

She said, “I knew he was serious when his letters started arriving by Air Mail!”

It was February 1952 when Art died at the age of 61. Helen then opened a store on the second floor of 816-A N. 8th Street, Sheboygan. In 1953, Herman Kessler’s courting led to marriage with Helen and a move to New York City.

The publicity she received there was unbelievable for someone who loved the solitude of fly making. Herman then took her to the New York Outdoors Sports Show, and she became overwhelmed by the crowds trying to see how she tied flies. Even with an overhead mirror keyed on her hands, people pressed to get a closer look.

Helen became the “Greta Garbo” of fishing, wanting “to be left alone.” With Herman’s skills in publishing, they produced three of the best books ever on fly tying with great photographs of the steps in making the many patterns.

In 1979, they moved to East Chatham, N.Y. Herman was born on March 31, 1904, died on January 28, 1993. Helen Shaw born in 1910 and passed away in 2007.

We are privileged to have many of her flies, books, art and other tyers’ books signed as gifts to her, plus a fly rod made by Art Kade as part of our “Historical Fishing Display.” Their original manuscripts in briefcases, along with original photographs and flies in each step of production and complete boxes of lures made in New York, demonstrate quality.

 

    Dan Basore is a fishing historian and steward of the history of the sport. In his efforts to preserve fishing history, Basore is always on the lookout for information about early lure makers, old lures, pre- level wind reels, manufacturer catalogs, tournament casting items and the like. If you possess information or materials that can help, please contact Dan Basore, Historical Fishing Display, at 630-393-3474 or 800-347-4525 or by email at ollures@aol.com.