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Catskill Fly Fishing Center’s Hall of Fame

Judy Van Put
Posted 10/3/23

Mark your calendar for this Saturday, October 7, 2023. The Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum will hold its annual Fly Fishing Hall of Fame Induction from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the Wulff Gallery, …

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Catskill Fly Fishing Center’s Hall of Fame


Mark your calendar for this Saturday, October 7, 2023. The Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum will hold its annual Fly Fishing Hall of Fame Induction from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the Wulff Gallery, followed by the Hall of Fame Dinner held this year at the Beaverkill Mountain Club, Roscoe, New York.

The Fly Fishing Hall of Fame has been an important part of the CFFCM since 1985; in the 38 years since its inception, more than 70 individuals have been inducted. The Hall of Fame nominating committee receives nominations each year of potential inductees accompanied by a written review detailing the candidates’ most important contributions that “significantly enhanced the culture of fly fishing” by either furthering the understanding or care of the aquatic habitat; making innovations of fly fishing techniques, tackle, flies or other elements of the sport; or having furthered an appreciation for or knowledge of the practice of the sport. 

This year’s class of Hall of Fame inductees include John Atherton, Arnold Gingrich, Will Godfrey, Frank Mele and Samuel Phillippe (who was inducted in 2022 but being honored this year) John Atherton (1900-1952) born in Minnesota, was an American painter, magazine illustrator, writer and designer. He was considered legendary for his skills in fly fishing and pioneering fly-tying techniques, combining his passion for painting with fly fishing, and was known for his impressionism in his fishing flies. 

His classic book Fly and the Fish describes his fishing experiences in Vermont, along with fly-tying instruction and beautiful sketches. His innovative Atherton series of flies were created with life-like colors and tones, that replicate the natural insects. His dry flies were numbered rather than named, from 1 to 7, corresponding with lighter to darker shades of mayflies; and his wet flies and nymphs followed the same innovation, using impressionistic characteristics to name them, such as the Atherton Light and Atherton Medium nymphs.

Arnold Gingrich (1903-1976) born in Grand Rapids Michigan, was editor and cofounder of Esquire, the ‘gentleman’s magazine.’ He was successful in persuading Ernest Hemingway to write for the first edition of Esquire, then encouraged other famous writers to contribute - such as William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, and Truman Capote. 

Known for his passion for fishing, he was considered one of the greatest living fly fishermen until the end of his life; rising each day at 4:00 a.m. to fish for an hour in his backyard in New Jersey, then return home to change and head to work. He authored a number of books about fishing including The Well Tempered Angler; American Trout Fishing; The Joys of Trout and The Fishing In Print - A Guided Tour Through Five Centuries of Angling Literature.

Will Godfrey, of Lewiston, Idaho, will be attending the ceremony and dinner with his family. He has fly-fished on western streams since he was a youngster, and during his college years guided for Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop in West Yellowstone, Montana concentrating on Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho. 

His guiding career blossomed into three fly shops and an outfitting business that catered to fishermen across the globe. A member and officer in a number of fly fishing organizations, he was appointed by Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus in the 1970s to the Idaho Fish and Game commission and pushed for wild fish sanctuaries. Today he is still active in efforts to restore salmon and steelhead in the Snake River basin.

Anyone who appreciates the terrific fishing in the Tailwater streams - mainly the East and West Branches of the Delaware River, which provide cool water in the heat of summer, can thank Frank Mele. Frank, a professional musician (cellist), author and fly fishing aficionado who passed away in 1996, spearheaded the efforts for regulated coldwater releases from the NYC Catskill Reservoirs in the early 1970s by his tireless involvement, letters and lobbying, and was responsible for fighting City Hall - the largest City Hall in the country - bringing support from DEC Commissioner Ogden Reid, Ed Koch, the Mayor of New York City, Congressman Matt McHugh, Jean Amatucci, and Albany’s Senate Leader Warren Anderson.

And finally, Samuel Phillippe (who was inducted in 2022 but being honored this year) of Pennsylvania, was recognized for perfecting the split bamboo fly-rod in the United States in the 1840s. Far surpassing the relatively heavy English rods of three sections of bamboo, Phillippe’s technique of gluing six strips of bamboo together provided the ideal combination of lighter weight and casting action, revolutionizing the science and sport of angling.

Following the Hall of Fame Induction will be the presentation of the Lee Wulff Conservation Award, this year honoring former President Jimmy Carter, our 39th President, who in 1984 traveled with his wife, Rosalynn, to Sullivan County in response to an invitation from the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum to become a major fundraiser for the fledgling non-profit grass-roots organization, and enjoy five days fishing on the Beaverkill and Delaware rivers. 

Carter has protected more than 150 million acres of public land, creating 39 National Park units, and protecting more than 5,300 miles of wild and scenic rivers, including designating more than 73 miles of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River from Hancock to Sparrowbush as part of the National Parks System. The CFFCM will invite folks to share memories of his historic visit to the Catskills at that time.

For more information on the CFFCM and the Hall of Fame Ceremony, please contact the Center at (845) 439-4810 or Email: office@cffcm.com.


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