9 Notable Facts About the Late Dave Whitlock, Fly Fishing Icon

Among the most well-known fly anglers in the world, Dave Whitlock could be included in the top five. If you've dabbled in fly fishing instruction, tried your hand at fly tying, marveled at beautiful angling art, or served as a fishing mentor yourself, you've likely come across Whitlock and his multifaceted techniques for helping spread the joy of fly fishing to the masses.

Whitlock passed away on November 23 in Tulsa, Oklahoma after suffering a massive stroke, and news of his death was first shared by his wife Emily on the "Dave & Emily Whitlock Fly Fishing" Facebook page.

To help remember his incredible angling accomplishments, and help those who aren't familiar with Whitlock understand his impact, we've collected 10 significant things to share.

He Almost Didn't Break into Fly Fishing

As legend has it, when Whitlock asked his grandfather about a rod and reel he spotted in an L.L. Bean catalog, the response was: "Dave, that's fly fishing. Not for us, because that's a rich man's sport." Nonetheless, his next birthday brought his a pawnshop-purchased fly rod and reel, and it sparked a lifelong passion.

He Hailed From Oklahoma, Not Exactly a Fly Fishing Hotbed

Though the Rocky Mountain rivers and unique international destinations are better known for producing quality angling, Whitlock loved the small streams of his home state. He also grew an affinity for less popular species in the fly fishing world, like carp and panfish.

He Overcame Significant Health Struggles

Whitlock was born with a spinal condition that led to a polio diagnosis at age 2. That caused his right leg to weaken and become shorter than his left leg. He still started fishing at age 5 despite the condition.

He Published His First Fishing Article for Field & Stream in 1968

The story chronicled his effort fighting a a 21-inch rainbow trout on the White River.

He Wrote the L.L. Bean Fly Fishing Handbook

This book was originally written as the textbook for the L.L. Bean Fly Fishing Schools, which he directed for 10 years. Put simply, it's helped thousands of people learn how to fly fish.

His Fly Tying Innovation Was Nearly Unrivaled

You're likely going to find a Dave Whitlock fly pattern in your local fly shop, maybe even in your own fly box. The Dave's Hoppers, Whit's Hoppers, and numerous nymph and streamer patterns have all helped countless anglers attract and land more fish over the years.

His Artistic Talents Added to His Impact

Not only was Whitlock's writing influential, but his illustrations and paintings are renowned as one of the best ways to depict the stories he was attempting to tell.

He Greatly Impacted Wild Trout Management

Whitlock spearheaded the Whitlock-Vibert Box System, which is a unique in-stream salmonoid egg incubator and nursery devise. The effort, and resulting stocking process, is viewed as the main source of the eventual world record brown trout of the White River system in Arkansas.

He Was an IGFA Hall of Fame Member

Whitlock was inducted into the International Game Fish Association's Hall of Fame in 2021, which recognized his role as an innovative fly tyer, author, artist, and conservationist.