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  • Writer's pictureDavid A. Van Wie

A Reader's Guide To Storied Waters

Fans of the Storied Waters odyssey may want to catch up on some of the books and authors that I featured during my trip. As the weather turns cooler, cozy up to the fireplace, pour yourself a cup of tea or an Old Fashioned, and crack open one of these classics.

Read a bit, snooze, and read some more.

On my trip, I asked folks to tell me their favorite fly fishing books or stories. Some said they like the ‘how to’ books by the many great names in fly-fishing history. Others love the short fishing stories from the glory days of magazine writing from the 1920s through the 1960s. A few prefer novels with a broader scope, but where the characters love to fly-fish.

Take your pick. It’s all good.

No, I haven’t read every page of every book listed, but I’ve read pieces and parts of most.

Many of these titles are out of print, but you can pick them up new or used on-line, at a used bookstore, or even as ebooks on Amazon or other similar outlets.

Recall that my Storied Waters trip was east of the Mississippi, so some of your favorites won’t appear here. I’ll get to those- including A River Runs Through It, The River Why, The Longest Silence, and many others - at a future date.


Dame Juliana Berners, Treatise On Fysshinge Wyth An Angle, 1496 – Anything translated from the Old English has to be entertaining, right? And who doesn’t think it’s appropriate that the first book on fishing was written by a woman?

Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler, 1653 – There is much to be said about ol’ Izaak. The Piscator wasn’t such a fly-fishing purist, but he was one of the world’s first conservationists. And, he must be cool, because he earned a special shrine in Westminster Abbey.

Washington Irving, “The Angler” appeared in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., 1819. This entertaining tale is considered the first American fly fishing story, starting in the Catskills before moving across the pond to jolly old England.


Henry David Thoreau: I’m not certain that Thoreau ever fly-fished, but he certainly caught fish and loved to study and observe fish.

  • Two Weeks on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849. Thoreau worked on this, his first book, during the two years he lived at Walden Pond.

  • Walden, Or Life In The Woods, 1854. Nothing more to add about this one.

  • The Maine Woods, 1864 Thoreau’s chronicle of his three major trips to the Katahdin region contains my favorite scene, when trout were rising all night near Abol Stream at the confluence with the West Branch of the Penobscot.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand Count Almanac, Oxford University Press, 1949 It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this beautifully written book, and Leopold’s work in defining The Land Ethic, which became the foundation for the environmental movement in the 60s, 70s and beyond. As a fly-fisherman, Leopold was also a leader in watershed and fisheries restoration.


Howard Frank Mosher – Mosher’s stories are set in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, where many of his characters fly-fish for trout. Two of my favorites are Stranger In The Kingdom and God’s Kingdom about the fictional Kinneson family during the 1950s in equally fictional Kingdom County, Vermont. A third book in this series is expected in 2018. Mosher’s descriptions of hunting and fishing make you feel like you are right there.

Also – Walking To Gatlinburg, a novel about the Kinneson family during the Civil War with some fly fishing during a climactic scene.

Jim Harrison, True North, 2004 - David Burkett – the anti-hero of this captivating but contemptuous novel set in and around Marquette, Michigan – loves fly-fishing (as did Harrison), thus the book serves as a trout fishing guide to the UP. Harrison loved fly fishing, as well as sex, food and drinking. I guess that's everything.

Keith McCafferty, Cold Hearted River, 2017, The Sean Stranahan mystery series includes several novels starring a part-time fly fishing guide, artist and private detective. Yeah, seems a bit of a stretch but the storytelling is entertaining. McCafferty is a past winner of the Robert Traver Award for Fly Fishing Writing.

COLLECTIONS OF STORIES - Fiction and Non-Fiction

Short fishing stories featured in magazines and newspapers are often published as collections. When the subject is fishing, it is often hard to tell what is non-fiction and what is fiction.

John Voelker (pen name Robert Traver) – Trout Madness, Trout Magic– Voelker began writing under the pen name Robert Traver when he was still a practicing attorney and Michigan Supreme Court judge. With the success of his novel Anatomy of a Murder, both as a bestseller and later a movie starring Jimmy Stewart, Voelker was able to turn to writing and fishing full time. Trout Madness and Trout Magic are two of his master works.

Corey Ford – Ford began writing for The New Yorker in the 1920s, and had a long career writing for all the major publications of his day, as well as dozens of books and screenplays for Hollywood. An avid outdoorsman, his best known gig was writing about a group of friends, based on his own buddies, called the 'Lower Forty Shooting, Angling and Inside Straight Club,' which ran in Field & Stream magazine in the 1950s and 60s. Several collections of Ford's work have been published over the years:

  • Minutes of the Lower Forty, 1962

  • The Best of Corey Ford, 1975

  • The Corey Ford Sporting Treasury, 1987

  • Trout Tales & Other Angling Stories, 1995

Ernest Hemingway – ‘Big Two-Hearted River,’ 1925, The Nick Adams Stories. This classic Hemingway fishing story about a soldier recently returned from war is based on an actual trip Hemingway took with two friends to the Fox River near Seney on the upper peninsula of Michigan in 1919.

Arthur MacDougall, Remembering Dud Dean - (Available on Amazon Kindle and from DownEast Books, 2001) – A wonderful collection of stories from the 1940s and 50s about Dud Dean, a fictional Maine Guide. Dud was so well-wrought that many people believed he was real, sometimes calling Bingham, Maine to try to book trips with him. This collection was edited by MacDougall’s son, Walter.

Gordon MacQuarrie, The Gordon MacQuarrie Sporting Treasury - available on Amazon Kindle and from Willow Creek Press, 1998. A friend of Aldo Leopold's, MacQuarrie wrote over 70 stories for magazines including Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, and Sports Afield. While his best known series featured the 'The Old Duck Hunters' Association, many of MacQuarrie's humorous stories from the 1950s involve fly-fishing in the Midwest. “Now, In June” took place right where I fished on the Namakagon River in northwest Wisconsin. Thanks for taking me there, Ron!

Sparse Gray Hackle (Alfred W. Miller), Fishing Days, Angling Nights, 1971, Fortieth Anniversary Edition 2011, Skyhorse Publishing, Nick Lyons, ed. (Available on Amazon Kindle). Miller was known for his wit and charm, and was a regular visitor to the Beaverkill and surrounding streams. He was a regular contributor to the New York Times and Sports Illustrated in the 1950s.

Edmund Ware Smith, A Treasury of the Maine Woods, Frederick Fell, 1958 and Upriver & Down, 1965. Two great collections of outdoor stories previously published in magazines during the post war years. Includes a story from Sports Illustrated about President Eisenhower’s visit to the Dartmouth Grant in 1955.

Jim Enger, The Incompleat Angler, 1996, The late Jim Enger is a superb writer who was friends with John Voelker and pays tribute to several classic writers in his stories.

John Gierach, A Fly Rod of Your Own; Still Life With Brook Trout (among many other collections of stories). One of today's most loved fishing writers, Gierach has written only a few stories about fishing east of the Mississippi, but he is a gifted and reliable storyteller who speaks for anyone who has cast a fly.


Louise Dickinson Rich, We Took To The Woods, 1942, This Book-Of-The-Month Club classic is still in print (Downeast Books, 2007) and has a strong fan base today because of Rich’s humor, humanity, and vivid detail in relating a sense of place and time living on this remote river that is still a world-class fly-fishing destination.

W.D. Wetherell, Vermont River, 1984 – Described as “an extended love letter to a river, a region, a fish and a sport,” this book never spills the beans on which Vermont river Wetherell so breathlessly admires, but that is not the point. He does a fine job of capturing the sentiments of many who fish for trout in New England and beyond.

Jimmy Carter, An Outdoor Journal, 1988 - One of President Carter’s several memoirs, this one includes captivating stories and reflections about fly-fishing for trout and salmon across the US, Canada, and around the globe. Did you know that Rosalynn was also an accomplished fly-caster?

Howell Raines, Fly Fishing Through The Midlife Crisis, 1993 – A great self-reflection by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from the south who picked up fly fishing late in life.

Fly Rod Crosby, The Woman Who Marketed Maine, by Julia Hunter & Earle Shettleworth, Turner House, 2000 – An informative biography and history of Cornelia T. Crosby and her life in the Rangeley, Maine area.

Carrie G. Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, by Graydon Hillyard, Stackpole Books, 2000


John Merwin, The Battenkill, An Intimate Portrait of a Trout River, 1993. I picked this up thinking I would thumb through it, but ended up reading it cover to cover. As an environmental scientist, I loved the combination of hydrogeology, eco-history, human history, sociology and, well, good ol' fashioned trout fishing wisdom. A wonderful tribute to an iconic river.

Charles K. Fox, This Wonderful World of Trout, 1963. Fox relates the mysteries of fly fishing on the Letort Spring Run and other streams in Pennsylvania, with stories and personalities galore.

J. Parker Huber, The Wildest Country, Exploring Thoreau’s Maine, Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2008. An informative summary of Thoreau’s several journeys to the Katahdin area, with maps and useful commentary.

Josh Greenberg, Rivers of Sand, Lyons Press, 2014. A beautifully-written ‘how to, where to” book focused on Michigan and the Great Lakes, especially the spectacular Au Sable River. Josh operates Gates Au Sable Lodge, and provides some great instruction on catching big brown trout at night, something I have never done.


Winslow Homer (Winslow Homer In The Adirondacks, David Tatham, Syracuse Univ. Press, 1996) – A history of Homer’s trips to the Adirondacks from 1870 through 1910 with many of his iconic paintings in color or black and white.


Tom Rosenbauer, The Orvis Guide To…. (you name it) Tom’s Orvis books provide virtually everything you need to know to become better at fly fishing under almost all conditions.

Lou Zambello, Fly Fishing Northern New England’s Seasons, 2014. Lou makes readers feel like they are getting in on a lifetime of secrets about trout and salmon fishing. Because they are.

Ray Bergman, TROUT, 1938. This is the ultimate handbook for fly fishing for trout. While the flies and materials have evolved considerably since 1938, trout behavior hasn’t changed, so this is still a fabulous resource for someone looking to learn something new.

Vince Marinaro, A Modern Dry Fly Code, 1950, Another detailed exploration of fly fishing theory, methods and paraphernalia.

George Harvey, Techniques of Trout Fishing and Fly Tying, 1990.

Art Flick, New Streamside Guide To Naturals and Their Imitations, 1969/1988.

Fran Betters, Ausable River Guide, 1999 and Fishing The Adirondacks, 1987. Useful how-to and where-to guides by the inventor of the Ausable Wulff dry fly.

Theodore Gordon, “American Trout Fishing”, 1912, appeared in a British publication Fishing Home and Abroad, reprinted in American Trout Fishing, a collection of essays edited by Arthur Gingrich, Alfred A. Knopf, 1966.

Ernest Schweibert, Trout, Volumes 1 and 2, 1978. 1800 pages of everything you ever need to know about trout fishing.

FLY FISHING GUIDE BOOKS – Up to date advice on where to go and what to expect.

Flyfishers Guide To New England (Lou Zambello), Wilderness Adventure Press

Flyfishers Guide to Pennsylvania (Tom Gilmore), Wilderness Adventure Press

Flyfishers Guide to The Big Apple (Tom Gilmore), Wilderness Adventure Press

Happy reading!!

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