Chicken Feathers and More

Fly fishing is full of characters. These people stand out in the crowd and you remember them. Bill Keough, the owner of Keough Hackle, of Mendon, Michigan, is one hell of a character.

Many years ago, I sold advertising space for this magazine, and Bill was one of my clients. I’d bump into him at the annual fly fishing industry trade show, and we’d talk about chickens, feathers, hunting, college football, our favorite brands of bourbon, and then eventually business. “I don’t know,” he’d say in his gruff why-don’t-you-get-away-from-me voice. “What’s this going to cost me?” We would haggle some more, and he’d eventually spit out, “I don’t know—I’m just a chicken farmer.” Then Bill would hold out his hand, we’d shake, and he would walk away. The deal was made.

It was recently announced that Bob and Nelda Borden, the founders of Hareline Dubbin, of Monroe, Oregon, have retired, and Bill has acquired their business. Now Bill Keough is more than just a chicken farmer. Bill and dairy farmer/businessman Ale Riedstra will head the new company, which will be known as Hareline Dubbin LLC.

Bill Keough, who has been a member of the fly fishing industry for almost 40 years, developed a genetic strain of hackle used by fly tiers around the world. Hareline Dubbin, which was founded in 1981 as a home-based business offering just 12 colors of rabbit dubbing, operates an 18,000-square foot facility producing thousands of fly tying products including threads, dubbing materials, chenille, feathers, hair, tinsel, beads, eyes, hooks, and tools. The merger of the two companies seemed natural: they already shared many of the same customers, and now they are planning to expand their dealer base.

“The transition has been seamless and the entire Oregon-based staff is staying on board,” Bill said about the new business. “Marcos Vergara continues as operations manager while Darian Hyde and Tracy Peterson will man the order-desk phones. Everyone, from the people in the warehouse to those packaging the orders, have worked to keep the day-to-day operations on task and the orders flowing out the door as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

It’s great to see Hareline Dubbin continue and its fine staff working. It’s also a wonderful sign that someone with Bill’s vast experience sees the potential for opportunity and growth in the fly tying industry. We wish all of them good luck for a long and profitable future.

(Personal note to Bill: Don’t let this attention go to your head. In my heart, you’re still just a chicken farmer.)