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Storied Waters

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.

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)

* * * * *

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

Sincerely,

David Van Wie

P.S.  And thanks to my darling wife, Cheryl, for putting up with all my shenanigans!

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