I was very proud to work this past year with the John D. Voelker Foundation and the American Museum of Fly Fishing (AMFF) in administering the 2019 Robert Traver Fly-Fishing Writing Award. We had 156 entries at the May 31 deadline for submissions. In September, after three rounds of anonymous judging by panels of volunteer readers, writers and editors, the Foundation and AMFF jointly announced the 2019 Traver Award winner:
“A Wet World That Burns” by Jimmy Watts of Bellingham, Washington, tells the heartbreaking true story of the 1999 Whatcom Creek explosion and connects the author’s life of fire and water as a professional fireman and bamboo fly-rod builder with Liam Wood, an 18-year-old angler who was killed while fly fishing in the creek.
The winning writer received a $2500 prize and the story will be published in the Spring 2020 edition of the American Fly Fisher, the journal of the American Museum of Fly Fishing. The story was previously published in the Summer 2018 edition of the Drake.
It was my privilege to contact Jimmy Watts to give him the good news. His reply: "Endless thanks. I'm happy to share the news with Liam's family...and I know they'll be very happy with the news! I'm darn near speechless (or typewritten-wordless in this context). Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!!"
I was even more nervous talking to him on the phone.
The Traver Award judges also bestowed honorable mention recognition on two humorous short stories: “The Honeymooners” by Richard Chiappone of Homer, Alaska, and “Les Poissons Toxiques” by Michael Doherty of Seattle, Washington.
The other seven finalists are all excellent stories:
“Osprey, the Fisherman” by Colten Braybrooks of Seattle, Washington
“Some Fish Make Rivers” by Frank Sargeant of Union Grove, Alabama
“The Last Brook Trout” by Bob Linsenmen of Rose City, Michigan
“The Wading Game” by Kristin Millgate of Idaho Falls, Idaho
“At the Heart of Hollows” by Ben Moyer of Farmington, Pennsylvania
“The Manistee River Waltz” by Tim Schulz of Houghton, Michigan
“Learning to Mend” by S. Paige Wallace of Portland, Oregon
The Traver Award is named after Robert Traver, pen name for the late John
Voelker, author of Trout Madness, Trout Magic, Anatomy of a Fisherman, the 1958 best seller Anatomy of a Murder, and his important historical novel, Laughing Whitefish.
The Traver Award was created in 1994 to encourage and recognize “distinguished original stories or essays that embody the implicit love of fly-fishing, respect for the sport, and the natural world in which it takes place.” The Traver stories and essays must demonstrate high literary values in one or more of these three categories:
The joy of fly-fishing: personal and philosophic
Ecological knowledge and protection of the natural world
Humor: piscatorial friendships and fun on the water
Since 1994, twenty Traver awards have been given for winning entries. Two anthologies of the Traver Award–winning stories have been published: In Hemingway’s Meadow (2009) and Love Story of the Trout (2010).
Beginning in 2018, the Voelker Foundation and the AMFF joined forces to administer the Traver Award. For more information, see www.voelkerfoundation.com and www.amff.org.
The Voelker Foundation welcomes memberships and donations to support the Traver Award and also a scholarship fund for Native Americans attending law school.
A membership with AMFF supports the amazing museum in Manchester, Vermont and its excellent programming.