For those of you living under a rock, waiting to be washed out by the current and eaten alive; Dave Whitlock is a world-famous fly fisherman, fly tyer artist and author. He has written and illustrated five books himself and contributed to numerous others.
I recently had the unique opportunity to interview Dave at the Fly Fishing Brew Fest in Plano Texas. When I was first met Dave I could tell right away that he was a passionate individual that held his fans in high regard. This was apparent through the care and reverence he displayed while signing his books and art. Dave would write a personal message in each book and finish it with an original drawing of a trout or bass. Each signature took ten to twelve minutes. He had a line of people waiting to have their book signed and it was his wife Emily who streamlined the entire process. Emily is an extremely sweet woman who, in between sales, would talk to you about Dave, or fishing. Then she’d ask your name, write it on a sticky note, affix it to your book, and ask, “Would you like to wait to have your book signed, or come back later?” At first I wasn’t sure why she was asking this. Then I looked over and was captivated at how Dave seemed to tune out the world and methodically sign each book. I waited to chat with Dave while he signed my book, and we talked about the Devils River. Dave’s eyes unexpectedly lit up when I told him that I was a guide on the Devils. It turns out that the Devils is one of his all time favorite places to fish. That says a lot coming from a man who has been all over the world and who has fished in so many beautiful places. Besides the Caribbean like blue water, the small, the large and Guadalupe bass, the Devils also offers Dave’s favorite fish, the golden carp or “golden ghosts” as he calls them. You may recall a show called The Walkers Cay hosted by Flip Pallot. Dave has been in several episodes but one in particular comes to mind, Dave takes Flip to Michigan to hunt for the golden ghost. You can tell as he explains these beasts to Flip that they hold a special place in his heart.
Dave signing a book for my son.
Dave grew up in Oklahoma, which, as he puts it, “may as well been the Sahara of fly fishing.” Turns out Dave had a hard childhood because of some serious ailments, including polio. He was unable to participate in regular sports with the other kids, but still had the urge to get outside and be active. That’s when he picked up fly fishing. It was an activity he was able to do on his own and still achieve a satisfaction unparalleled by his limited efforts to play football.
Dave grew up, graduated from high school and was going to be the first in his family to go to college. He really wanted to go to college to study art and journalism but his parents had a some reservations about his plans, and rightfully so. After seeing firsthand what the Great Depression did to people in art and journalism, they told Dave that he needed to pursue a degree in a more stable field of work. So, he did. He received three degrees in chemistry, physics and biology but on the side Dave still fished, drew and wrote. He says that it was probably better that he didn’t go to school for art or journalism, because this way he focused on them that much more, out of passion, rather than as a course of study for a grade.
Dave went on to be a research chemist in the petroleum industry but when he turned 35, he decided he was going to pursue his dreams of being an artist and writer. Dave told me that there is a point in every mans life when he asks himself, “Is this where I want to be?” and that usually that age is around 35. I could not help but relate to his acknowledgment, as I am now 36 and recently asked myself a similar question.
Dave’s flies are very well known amongst the fly tying community and his designs have fooled many a fish of both fresh and salt water. Some of his more famous flies include.
Dave’s Hopper,Near Nuff CrawfishDave’s Sheep’s Minnowand Dave’s Diving Frog.
You can purchase Dave’s flies, books and art from his website at Dave and Emily Whitlock Fly Fishing.
Until next time, may your whiskey and your tying desk always be neat.