Paul Kukonen



I’ve mentioned my mentor, Paul Kukonen, several times in previous Fins & Feather articles. Paul ran a small fishing shop on Green Street in Worcester, MA, selling fishing equipment and bait. He was very generous with his time to young fly-fishers and fly-tiers (myself included) and was always ready to share hot spots and how-to-methods for catching fish as well as any new hot flies. His shop was halfway between my house and high school so I got to visit often (best class of the day).

         Paul was a confirmed bachelor living in the back of his shop with his beloved hunting dogs, Lizzie and Sally (setters), and "Hey, You," (Labrador). He shopped for his tub-butter and black bread on Water Street and would fry up a brook trout or two (catch and release had yet to become popular) for lunch. As a bachelor Paul’s cleanup was a little unconventional, he would simple put the dishes in the live-bait tank and let the minnows clean up.

Kukonen was a great distance-flycaster and would amaze audiences at the casting pool by emptying a fly reel of all its line. Surprisingly, he was also an excellent musician, capable of playing all the reed instruments, but excelling on the saxophone.

         Paul pioneered filming movies of fishing and hunting expeditions that filled sportsman clubs with huge audiences who wanted to see them. His movies covered New England and Canada; places the average local fisherman could afford to drive (guides were uncommon back then). The movies usually ended in someone catching a fish-of-a-lifetime. He was New England’s Gaddaout Gaddis. Some well-known fisherman like Ted Williams (who I was told played some baseball) often visited his shop for equipment and tips. 

I owe so much to Paul for my fly-tying and flyfishing knowledge. Paul awarded some of his young student fly-tiers a small patch of polar bear hide (now a protected species). I think it was his idea of a graduating sheepskin, so to speak. I still have that patch of Polar Bear hair 

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