All things river – Rockford welcomes the Hex Shop

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

Kevin Groothuis, at a fly-tying vise, creates yet another of his signature trout flys.

Rockford native Kevin Groothuis (47) has recently opened his second Hex Shop Fly Fishing Outfitters. Both stores are named after the second largest mayfly (Hexagenia) in the United States.

For the uninitiated, dramatic hatches of mayflies have become legendary over the last 30 years during the month long period from mid-June to mid-July in Michigan. During that period trout, especially Browns, gorge themselves as the mayflies hatch from river bottoms and rise to the surface. If you are a dry fly fisherman presenting Hex fly patterns, you are in hog heaven! Anglers who only fly fish once a year have been known to drive hundreds of miles to play their part in the drama of a Hex fly hatch.

No one has a better handle on this than Kevin Groothuis who over the years has become a well-known fly tier and fisherman. After opening his first Hex Shop on East Paris near 28th St. in East Grand Rapids some three years ago, Kevin then began to pursue a dream of operating a fly-fishing outfitters shop in his childhood hometown, Rockford.

The opportunity presented itself when Mrs. O’s Bait and Tackle closed up shop last October 2011. Kevin seized the moment and signed a lease for the space and has been renovating the interior of the shop for the past few months culminating with a soft opening some two weeks ago.

White Pine Trailside finds (L to R) Jack (11) and Lucy (10) Groothuis along with Hex Shop “girl Friday” Amie Post holding a hand painted 48” Steelhead Trout sign. Jack, a budding worm entrepreneur, plans on making summer pocket money by digging up and selling worms.

Kevin’s love of fishing and fly tying began when he was a fifth grader. “When I was 10 years old, my mother took me to the Meijer on Plainfield so that I could spent the $20 I had saved up to buy a skateboard,” said Kevin. “While walking through the Sporting Goods Dept. I passed a display of fly tying kits and thought I’d love to learn the art of fly tying. Just like that the skateboard was put on the back burner. I asked Mom to loan me the extra six bucks the kit would cost and the rest was history.” (Kevin adds he did eventually buy a skateboard.)

Kevin, a Hope College graduate with degrees in Biology and Natural Resources Mgt., tells us he is ever so proud to be the very first fly-fishing outfitter located within downtown Rockford. In stock will be all manner of fly-fishing equipment from top-line name brand manufacturers. From rods, to reels, to lines, to nets, to a fully stocked fly tying section and much, much more, there will be something for every aficionado of the noble sport of fly-fishing.

The shop will also offer live bait such as spawn, wax worms, earthworms, and night crawlers. However, no live minnows will be available. Kevin will offer up fly tying demonstrations and classes, along with fly casting classes that will at times be conducted in the waters of the Rogue River.

Stay tuned for The Hex Shop’s Grand Opening in a few weeks. In the meantime, stop in, say hello, and get to know Kevin and the cast of characters that will surely become regulars on a daily basis in the beautifully outfitted store.

The Hex Shop is located at 30 E. Bridge St., right behind J. T. Stitchery & Frame Shop. The store is adjacent to the White Pine Trail and also has a trailside entrance directly across the trail from Rockford’s premier gourmet deli, Poindexter’s Specialty Market Place. Groothuis tells us he is especially pleased that the shop is also just a short few steps across the trail from what will soon become Rockford’s very first microbrewery, The Rockford Brewing Co.

Fishermen love a great sandwich and a cold brew! “Dontcha know?”

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