…or, even better, spend a day on the water with. Honestly, this was a very difficult list to come up with. Not because there are few, but because there are so many accomplished anglers both past and present. One could easily list their top 25, or even top 50, and still feel like important people are being left out. That all being said, my list is a little skewed (as yours will be too) based on my current angling pursuits. Here are mine, in no specific order:
Lefty Kreh – What hasn’t Lefty done? He is a pioneer in just about every aspect of fly fishing techniques, but especially in saltwater. He developed the fly “Lefty’s Deceiver” and it was featured on a US Postal Service Stamp. Lefty has become synonymous with fly casting instruction. http://www.leftykreh.com
Lee Wulff – Of course we all know Lee Wulff as the father of catch and release and his famous quote “game fish are too valuable to be only caught once.” The other aspect about Lee Wulff was his constant pushing of the envelope with equipment. He led the charge of fishing for Atlantic Salmon with a single hand rod, bucking the English trend of using two-handers. He was also rumored to be able to tie size a size 28 fly WITHOUT the use of a vise.
Brian O’Keefe – Brian has traveled the world fishing all of the places and for all the fish that we all dream of. If there is an angler we should live through vicariously, it is Brian. And, just when we are in complete awe of his accomplishments, he will make a beautiful cast just to prove he is completely untouchable. Photography is also a big part of Brian’s repertoire and it would be great to pick his brain about all of the above. http://www.brianokeefephotos.com/
Andy Mill – All I can say is Tarpon. Andy, literally wrote the modern day book on fishing for Tarpon with a fly rod (A Passion For Tarpon). He was a world class downhill ski racer before turning his focus on the Silver King. His dedication to the art and preservation of these great fish is a wonderful thing to see in these modern times. If nothing else, Andy will teach you a reverence for Tarpon.
Dec Hogan – Dec has written the bible for Steelhead (A Passion For Steelhead). If you consider yourself a steelheader and have not read this book, shame on you. Dec has immersed his life in the art of two-handed casting, tying steelhead flies, understanding the species and their preservation. I would love to sit on a bank and watch him dissect and work a steelhead run.
Billy Pate – Another legend in Tarpon fishing, Billy was a very accomplished saltwater angler. In addition to his world record tarpon, he is the first to ever catch a Black Marlin on a fly and the first to catch all six species of billfish on a fly. An accomplishment that likely required an awful lot of patience and persistence.
Bob Clouser – Can you say Clouser Minnow?!? I am such a fan of this fly, that I think I could fish an entire year with nothing but variations of it. From Trout to Muskie to Saltwater, everything eats Clouser Minnows. http://www.clouserflyfishing.com/
Scott Sanchez – If ever there is a mad-scientist of fly tying, Scott would definitely be in the running for the title. A master innovator at the vise, his flies are different and effective. One of my favorite quotes from Scott reads something like this: “Most of my flies are illegal in California from all the lead and chemicals that are used in tying them.” Many of his flies are effective on multiple species as Scott likes to chase just about anything that swims and will eat a fly.
Barry Reynolds – Another authority on his respective subject, Barry has become an expert on catching pike and muskie with a fly rod. His book “Mastering Pike on the Fly” is loaded with so much information, it is really a testament to the time and effort that he has put into pursuing his quarry. Barry has travelled extensively to chase the long fish and it shows in his knowledge and effectiveness. http://www.barryreynoldsflyfishing.com/
Tom Bie – Here is an angler that has done it all (if not all, most of it), but his real accomplishment is his network within the fly fishing industry and creating THE magazine for the soul of fly fishing. There are lots of fly fishing magazines out there, but none capture the essence like the Drake. Others have popped up, but the Drake is still the benchmark…imitation is the purest form of flattery. http://www.drakemag.com/
I must close by saying that there are many people that I currently have the honor to spend time on the water with that could very easily be on this list. I have also fished with some amazing guides that, regardless of how good the fishing was, are the kind of people that I want to call friends. To those that I am constantly learning from, comparing notes and just plain having a good time with… Thank you!
Now, who would be on your list? Comment below…