Hooked on fly fishing

Dave Kuntzelman; profile

Dave Kuntzelman, an instrument maker for UIC science departments, is an avid fisherman who prefers fly to spin fishing. “Fly fishing is more fun, you’re more connected to what you’re doing,” he says. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

You’ve seen the “I’d rather be fishing” bumper stickers. That’s how Dave Kuntzelman feels.

“It’s when I’m at my happiest,” he says. “It’s just a hell of a lot of fun.”

Kuntzelman (pronounced KOONT-z’l-m’n) is exclusively a fly fisherman.

“Spin fishing doesn’t do it for me — I haven’t picked up a spin rod in five or six years,” he said.

“Fly fishing is more fun, you’re more connected to what you’re doing. The cast is kind of calm, you kind of get into a rhythm.”

Kuntzelman, who makes instruments for UIC’s science departments, is such
a fly guy that he founded the Chi-Tie club three years ago.

For a meeting this week, he blogged, “We’ll be doing a trout fly swap. This is a good way to get a quick little variety and see what everyone else is tying. Any trout fly is in — from micro-midges to streamers for big browns.”

Chi-Tie’s 25 members meet, about 6 to 10 at a time, at Galway Bay, a bar at 500 W. Diversey St.

“You can sit home in front of a TV and tie flies,” he said. “It’s mainly an excuse to get out of the house and hang out with other people.”

Anglers in the other clubs tend to be in their 50s and 60s; Chi-Tie is more like 30s.

Kuntzelman has tied thousands of
flies and hangs onto hundreds. He crafts them from the fur and feathers of various critters, including deer, rabbits, pheasants and chickens, and from synthetic materials such as fake fur and metallic “flash”

The desired effects for drawing fish, he said, are “looks, movement in the water, presentation and depth in the water.”

“Flies can either be natural imitations of something the fish would eat, such as an insect or smaller fish, or can just be something in neon colors to attract or provoke some sort of reaction, or anything in between,” he said.

“A lot of thought is put into getting it to look and act in a way you want it to, and on the reactions of the fish that you see.”

He’s been fishing for as long as he can remember. “As soon as I could hold a rod.”

He flicks his flies on Lake Michigan, the Cook County Forest Preserve lakes and the Chicago, Des Plaines, Fox and Kankakee rivers, with an occasional foray into Wisconsin.

And on the famously filthy Bubbly Creek. “There’s almost no current, and
it’s stagnant, too,” Kuntzelman said. “It’s pretty gross, but the carp seem to love it. They’re the slimiest fish I’ve ever touched, though.”

Biking home to Edgewater — a good name for a place where an angler lives — he’ll “harbor hop,” stopping off at Belmont or Diversey harbors.

Sometimes he fishes from a canoe, during “float trips” on the Fox or Des Plaines.

“You float downstream, leave a car at the end,” he said. “You can float five to eight miles without doing that much work, much better than paddling upstream and floating back.”

Kuntzelman, who grew up in Durand near Rockford, came to UIC two years ago. The previous 15 years he was a machinist and mechanic in repair and job shops.

At the university he makes things such as sample holders, sprayers and parts for lasers and vacuum systems.

“Half the time I don’t know what it is,” he said. “They tell me what they need and I make it.”

His wife, Christa, is a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University in political science, specializing in refugees and forced migration. They met in junior high and dated in high school and beyond before getting married.

Kuntzelman’s flies lure bass, pike, carp, drum, salmon, trout and muskies.

“Pretty much anything,” he said. “If it swims, I’ll go after it.”

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