Remembering Art Lee, Revered Angler and Writer


Written by: Phil Monahan

Art Lee’s books changed the way many anglers approached fly fishing.

The fly-fishing community lost a legendary angler, writer, raconteur, and mentor on July 25, when Catskills fixture Art Lee passed away from a heart attack at the age of 76. Although he had receded from public life for most of the past decade, he was an important figure from the 70s through 90s, authoring three books and for many years writing a column for Fly Fisherman magazine. The New York Times ran a long, interesting obituary of Lee last week, which I highly recommend.

Because he knew Lee well, I asked Tom Rosenbauer to put together a few words of tribute. Here’s what Tom sent me:

Art Lee was one of those eccentric fly-fishing personalities who seem to become less common every year in the age of Instagram fame. He was an absolutely brilliant angler and was the one who first taught me how to fish the giant pools on the lower Delaware. I remember one day when I was fishing to rising rainbows in the middle of the river with size 14 dry flies and 4X tippet, while Art stalked a huge brown trout in shallow water that I would never even have thought of fishing. He caught and landed the beast on a tiny Brassie and 7X. Fishing with Art always involved a preliminary at his house, when he would expound on a topic (or a series of topics) for hours on end. He was always fascinating, even in his long monologues, but the haze of cigarette smoke combined with his dozen cats crawling all over you would make it mandatory to get out of his tiny house and out on the river. And on those outings he would always teach me something valuable.

Click here to read the New York Times obituary by Donald G. McNeil Jr.

5 thoughts on “Remembering Art Lee, Revered Angler and Writer

  1. John F. Carson

    He was truly one of the greats.
    My lifelong obsession with the dry fly grew from reading his still relevant and valuable books.

    Reply
  2. Carey Smith

    I never met this gentleman, but I appreciate his books, which are beneficial for newbies and experienced anglers alike. He leaves a great legacy in Fly Fishing. RIP.

    Reply
  3. Bruce Pencek

    In the mid-1980s I kept running into him in the parking space at Hendrickson’s when I’d make the long drive to fish the Beaverkill. He was always gracious and informative, even though we were essentially strangers. Perhaps my own Richardson chest box (as he wears in the dustjacket pictures above) helped create the bond.

    Reply
  4. John Wilson

    I saved Art’s article on the Usual in Fly Fisherman Magazine entitled ” Oh, the Usual “. His variations of my favorite fly have been an inspiration to me right to this day….

    Reply

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