Fly Fishing Treasures

The World of Fly Fishers and Collecting as told by Steve Woit

Flyfishers are, by the nature of their sport, collectors. Whether it’s rods, reels, flies or fishing stories, they are in a near-constant state of aggregation. Then there are those who don’t just collect: they curate. Steve Woit, fly angler of 40 years and collector for 30, took it upon himself to interview these curators and learn the hows, whys and whats of some of the greatest collections in existence. Seven years and hundreds of pages later, Fly Fishing Treasures was complete.

“I have by design not chosen to pen another purely historical treatise on flies, reels, and rods,” Woit explains in his preface. “There are many fine volumes available on these subjects. I have also not applied the most stringent journalistic standards to vet many of the stories that appear here. After all, how much fun would it be if your fellow fishermen questioned every detail of every fish tale? Fish are the only species known to continue growing after death.”

It was death, after all, that first inspired Woit to write this book. Live, in-person auctions, once the only way to find new memorabilia, were dying. Web-auctions were becoming the new norm. While they made it easier to explore the world’s antiques from your home office, Woit noticed a certain curatorial camaraderie being lost. Tackle and ephemera collectors worldwide were seeing each other less and less. What’s more, their collected knowledge and experience no longer had the same venue for sharing. Woit knew these wide-ranging wisdoms needed a new gathering place, one that could be passed from generation to generation, with or without the rise of future technology.

Fly Fishing Treasures is the result. Within its 348 pages is the largest photographic collection of antique and collectible flyfishing items in print. Included among the experts interviewed are Hoagy Carmichael, an expert bamboo fly rod maker; Raymond Humble, a master reel maker and retired Hardy reel manufacturer; John Knott, curator of the Flyfishers’ Club in London; and Ray Clemens, the curator of Ancient Books and Manuscripts at Yale’s Beinecke Museum of Rare Books and Manuscripts. There are 29 total experts interviewed over the course of the book, each of their collections documented with full spreads of color photographs and Woit’s informative, thoughtful text.

There is no other way to experience the preserved history and culture of flyfishing as presented to us in Fly Fishing Treasures. The book is a treasure in itself. Whether it is the luminescence of Paul Schmookler’s antique salmon flies paired next to butterfly wings, or the still-lush leather of Izaak Walton’s creel, this book’s unique and comprehensive overview of the sport’s incunabula (a word we learned because of this book!) is unparalleled. As we continue to venture forward in technology, both in and outside of flyfishing, taking this book along on our travels and fishing trips will remind us how we got there, and what keeps us going.

To learn more about the author and his book, visit their website.


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