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Catching up with Dave Asproth

Brian Larsen


Many people know about Dave Asproth’s fly tying skills, but he also happens to be a talented carver. Dave spent two years whittling a piece of basswood into a brook trout. A talented baker, Dave used an airbrush for cake decorating to paint the fish. 
Staff photo/Brian Larsen Many people know about Dave Asproth’s fly tying skills, but he also happens to be a talented carver. Dave spent two years whittling a piece of basswood into a brook trout. A talented baker, Dave used an airbrush for cake decorating to paint the fish. Staff photo/Brian Larsen Dave Asproth is known as one of the best fly tiers in the country and is a noted fisherman, trapper, and hunter, but Dave hasn’t hunted, fished or trapped for three years, an eternity for this venerable outdoorsman. His only companion is Hilda, a 12-year-old Manx cat. “She’s a champion mouser,” he said as he scratched Hilda’s ear. “She’s also completely spoiled, and she knows it, don’t you Hilda?” he said to her as she scampered from his lap and went to the door. Dave let her out, and another grand mousing adventure began.

Although Dave is mostly confined to a wheelchair—he can walk a bit with a walker— it doesn’t stop him from pursuing his hobbies. He spent two years carving a brook trout from basswood and painted it with an airbrush he used to decorate cakes. The artistry is spectacular.

The carving is mounted like a fish, complete with one of his flies hanging from its lip. “I picked the agates from Lake Superior,” he said of the beautiful stones that sit in the base holding the carved fish.

He has also been busy selling his Browse Berry Poppers. “I am the only one in the world that makes these,” he said.

What is a Browse Berry Popper?

Browse Berry factories have been in shorter supply over the last decade, he noted, but they can be found throughout the year. For Dave’s purposes, he only picks in the spring right after snowfall has ended.

“You can’t pick them in the summer or fall because they fall apart,” he grinned.

The factories are protected and under strict state and federal control. Give or take, there are about 4,000 Browse Berry producers in the Northland, and they are in year-round production in the Superior National Forest.

Berries are produced from mixed selected hardwoods and broad-leafed aquatic flora and are combined by secret and natural processes of freezing and dehydration in this sub-Arctic environment.

If you haven’t guessed by now, Browse Berries are moose poop.

“I sell them at Midway and the Beaver House,” he said of the varnished creations that look like they could catch fish, but are more of a conversation piece than anything.

Dave pointed to a mounted fish on one of his walls. It’s an unofficial state record brook trout weighed in at seven pounds, two ounces.

“I caught it in 1979 at Topper Lake. I never bothered to have it certified as a state record, “ Dave said with a smile.

Retired from Hedstrom Lumber, Dave is also an accomplished baker and cake decorator. When he could find time, he traveled throughout the country to show his flies and fly tying skills at shows and competitions. And always he made time to hunt, fish, and trap.

Over the last three years, Dave has had toes amputated on his left foot and his lower right leg amputated due to complications with diabetes. That has slowed him from his outdoor pursuits, but he has kept busy making and selling flies and now creating his famous Browse Berry Poppers. He also enjoys attending high school football, basketball, and volleyball games and cheering for the kids.

Another pastime is noticing what goes on outside of his cottage in the woods.

“I saw a gray fox go by. She attacked Tilda. They fought. Tilda laid on her back, and the fox jumped way up in the air and down on her. Tilda finally escaped up a tree. The fox had two kits. She moved them after I went out and yelled at her for attacking Tilda. I have also seen bobcat, wolves, deer, all kinds of animals go by my place.”

Even while inside, Dave’s vision is pointed outside to the natural world, and for those who know him best, that comes as no surprise.


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