Storied Waters, published by Stackpole Books in 2019, is part travelogue, part literary history, part natural history and part fishing porn. The book recounts my epic six-week odyssey to visit fabled fly fishing destinations mentioned in literature, from Maine to Wisconsin and Michigan and back, with quotes and excerpts from dozens of writers and over 80 beautiful color photos. You can buy the book, in paperback or digital format, from your favorite bookstore or on-line retailer. Better yet, you can buy a signed copy directly from me by clicking here.
Here's what they are saying about Storied Waters:
This book reminds me of George Tapply's "invisible writing" in that when reading the book you don't feel as if you are at home sitting in your favorite chair in your library or den. Instead you are having a conversation with the author as you travel together toward the next destination. The narrative created clear images in my mind of the waters and surroundings as well as the people he encountered. I felt I was sharing his adventure with him and felt the relief of finally arriving back home to familiar scenes and surroundings and of course loved ones whom were greatly missed over the previous six weeks. You feel richer for the experience.
"Storied Waters" has the added attraction of the "Where and How" side bars in nearly chapter which gives the readers an inside edge on what to expect and where to go for reliable information. This book is more than worth the price of admission. It's on my annual reading list. - Steven Becker, Goodreads Review, March 2020
A rich and entertaining account of the author's fly fishing odyssey across the northeast into the midwest, Storied Waters brings the history of many famous streams alive, transporting the reader to historical times and linking back to the present. Outstanding photography and illustrations of the famous authors capture the essence of the experience. The book will be of interest not only to fly fishers but also conservationists and fans of good travel writing.
- Kevin McJunkin, Amazon review
Storied Waters hits the mark! Van Wie's detailed itinerary is the driving force to make this book work over his long, 6-week travel/meet/photograph/fish adventure. His visits to hallowed fishing spots of the likes of Robert Traver, Louise Dickinson Rich, Henry Thoreau and Dud Dean bring you right to their shorelines with fly rod in hand. It's historical, sometimes humorous, filled with fishing advice and a fun read for any fly angler.
- HLW, Amazon review
Tracking the spirits of great US writers in the outdoor settings they wrote about, while casting a fly on the waters that they fished – now that’s my idea of a fine excuse to travel. This is a great read that captures the feel of such a trip, as the author recounts his 5,000 miles of tracing the legacy of American writers like Thoreau and Hemingway. His writing is friendly and intelligent, and his love of fly fishing and deep respect for nature shows through in every chapter. I enjoyed learning about the history and geology of places I had read about in stories like Hemingway’s Big Two-Hearted River, and felt like I got to know the current residents (human and fish) of those locations with a great guide.
- Pamela, Amazon review
The Valley News, Sarah Earle, October 3, 2019:
The act of teasing a fish from the water and of teasing a tale from the pen are linked in ways that date back to Biblical times. Along with a body of “fish literature,” there’s a long list of writers who drew inspiration from fishing or from waters fabled for their fish. In Storied Waters, Lyme writer and outdoorsman David A. Van Wie ties these two contemplative pastimes together by visiting fly-fishing destinations around the United States where famous writers and artists cast lines or gleaned material.
The thematic destinations give structure to a narrative that meanders from Walden Pond to the Poconos to the Limestone Creeks of southern Wisconsin, luxuriating in the sensory details of the settings and the author’s catch in each body of water. Largely a chatty travel narrative, the book is also a literary tour of the settings, from the waters of the Catskill mountains, where Washington Irving set the first American fly-fishing story, The Angler, to the possible inspiration for John Irving’s fictional “twisted river,” where he set his novel, Last Night in Twisted River. The latter is “by no means a fishing story,” Van Wie writes. “And yet, Irving’s novel captures much of what I have sensed while fishing the Swift Diamond and Dead Diamond Rivers over the decades.”
The book, which explores several Vermont and New Hampshire locations and at least one Upper Valley body of water, Lake Mitchell in Norwich, is well stocked with glossy photos. Many of the chapters contain info boxes with background on the bodies of water and tips for fishing there.
Bangor Daily News, George Smith, September 22, 2019
I enjoy David Van Wie’s columns in The Maine Sportsman, so I’ve been looking forward to reading his new book, Storied Waters, published by Stackpole Books.
Storied Waters is the story of David’s six week adventure fishing from Maine to Wisconsin. He actually traveled 5000 miles and fished in many famous waters.
David started his adventure on Walden Pond, the home of Henry David Thoreau, and finished his adventure back in Maine on the Rapid River and the East and West branches of the Penobscot River. All three are long time favorites of mine.
On the Rapid River, David stays with Aldro French, in the summer camp and winter house that once belonged to Louise Dickinson Rich. Louise wrote a book about her life there, titled We Took to the Woods. I stayed with Aldro once, and slept in the summer house. After Louise’s husband died, she sold the house and camp, but she left a lot of things there. I had my picture taken sitting at Louise’s manual typewriter that is now in the Oquossic Museum. And yes, on that visit, I caught a lot of beautiful native brook trout.
David fishes in many famous waters, often with people who know those waters very well. He also tells us the history of those waters and about famous angler/authors who fished in and wrote about those waters. I enjoyed the quotes that David included from those famous angler/authors. And he provides all the details you need to fish those waters yourself.
What I most enjoyed about the book are David’s stories about his own experiences on those waters. Yes, he caught lots of fish, but not always. The book includes many beautiful photos of those famous waters.
David has had an interesting career, serving as Director of the Bureau of Land and Water Quality for Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection, and as a state representative in the 124th legislature. He writes a blog about fly fishing and environmental issues at watchyourbackcast.com. Check it out!
The point of fly fishing is to become reverent in the presence of art and nature.
- Howell Raines, Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis
In mid-May of 2017, I embarked on an epic six-week, 5700 mile trip that combined several of my passions: fly fishing, literature, writing and photography. The adventure is recorded in my blog, and is now available as a beautiful paperback book from Stackpole Books (an imprint of Globe Pequot/Rowman & Littlefield)
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The literature of fishing is an impressive body of work. Hundreds of writers have written thousands of books about fishing, and countless more essays and stories in magazines. For reasons elegantly explained by Holly Morris in her 1997 essay in The New York Times, fishing, especially fly fishing, is perhaps our most literary sport.
As a reader, I love to lose myself in evocative writing about fly fishing. As a fisherman, I often dream of casting a fly in the same places where my literary heroes fished, imagining what it was like when they were there, perhaps 25 or 50 or 100 years ago.
In many of our best-loved stories, it is the fishing and the fish that provide the focus. In others, it’s the friendships or the place. In the hands of a master, the rivers and streams are not just the settings for great adventures, but they are often characters unto themselves. The finest writers immortalize these places by capturing the sensory and the emotional details for generations of readers.
The Storied Waters idea was inspired by one of my literary and piscatorial heroes: John Voelker, who wrote under the pen name Robert Traver. One of my co-authors, Bob Chamberlin, had included Voelker’s classic passage “Testament of a Fisherman” in a chapter of our book, The Confluence. So, we had to seek permission from his family, who owns the copyright.
I contacted Voelker’s daughter, Grace V. Wood, who graciously allowed us to reprint the passage. A delightful woman, Grace also invited me to fish at Frenchman’s Pond, her father’s favorite – and famously secret – fishing spot near his (and her) home on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that appears in many of his stories from the 1950s and 60s.
This was an invitation I couldn’t turn down! But how to get there? Should I fly in just to fish on a not-so-secret-anymore pond. Or should I turn the trip into a longer adventure?
In the fall of 2016, I started teaching Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac in my classes at the University of New England. Leopold, another hero, wrote and fished in Wisconsin in the 1940s, where he was instrumental in restoring watersheds and the landscape devastated by the Dust Bowl. Maybe I could do a combined trip and fish in the places referenced in Leopold’s writing, I thought.
I had also enjoyed reading stories by Corey Ford about fly fishing, including several about the Beaverkill in the 1930s. What if I were to include the Beaverkill, and other famous rivers and authors and make a big loop around the Great Lakes in one epic adventure? An idle dream, you might think, for that moment when I put my book down and close my eyes, drifting into slumber. Perhaps.
But the tour idea kept growing. I started mapping out my route and researching more authors and locations along the way. I decided to embark on the Storied Waters journey in May and June of 2017.
My itinerary included places that appear in stories by famous writers, like Thoreau and Hemingway, Mosher and Traver, as well as other fly-fishing icons like Sparse Grey Hackle. I included rivers where the legends of fly-fishing history – such as Lee & Joan Wulff, Vince Marinaro and Ray Bergman - revealed the secrets of various techniques while providing instruction and inspiration to generations of fly-fishers. I would visit several fly fishing museums, the Aldo Leopold Center, and other points of interest in the lore of fly fishing and nature writing.
On Friday, May 12, I launched the Storied Waters journey with a visit to Walden Pond in recognition of Thoreau’s notable place as the first American nature writer and his legacy of writing about travel, the landscape, and the rivers, lakes and streams he visited on his many excursions. And on I went to Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and beyond.
You can read more about my trip on my blog. One episode called "I Took To The Woods" was published in the Spring 2018 issue of The American Fly Fisher- Journal of the American Musuem of Fly Fishing about my unforgettable visit with Aldro French at Forest Lodge on the Rapid River in Maine where Louise Dickinson Rich lived and wrote her famous memoir We Took To The Woods.
Storied Waters - the book - was released in September 2019 by Stackpole Books. I'm now scheduling presentations, complete with photos and video. If your group is interested, you can contact me at dvanwie.79@ att.net
David Van Wie
P.S. And thanks to my darling wife, Cheryl, for putting up with all my shenanigans!