Testify| A Visual Poem of Fly Fishing
Adapted from the essay "Testament of a Fisherman" published in 1964 by John Voelker. Film by Aaron Peterson Photography.
By G. William Fowler
More than forty years ago, John D. Voelker wrote a story that begins when Art Flick calls and Voelker answers the phone, “Michigan’s Mightiest Piscator.”1 Even though the scene never happened,2 it is an example of the humorous side of Voelker’s imagination. “Michigan’s Mightiest Piscator” is a well-deserved title and a testament both to Voelker’s lifelong passion for fishing the beaver ponds and rivers of the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) searching for Michigan’s wild brook trout (or “mermaids,” as he called them) and to his writings chronicling those adventures. In those writings, names of ponds and rivers are often changed to protect the innocent, especially that body of water he eventually came to own, which he might refer to as Frenchman’s Pond, Uncles, or Uncle Tom’s Pond.
A true believer in wild brook trout and forever loyal to Michigan’s U.P., Voelker, under the pen name Robert Traver, is best known to the world for the novel Anatomy of a Murder, but among anglers his genius is captured in his fishing stories. He maintained a fishing journal for fifty-two fishing seasons (1936–1987)—hundreds of handwritten pages—which he called “Fishing Notes.” This journal contains some of the foundational information Voelker used to compose his yarns.3
In the preface to his first angling book, Trout Madness, Voelker admits that “I will lie a little, but not much.”4 To possibly uncover a glimpse of what he meant by that, I examine Voelker’s “Fishing Notes” (and to some extent his other writings) and search for historical detail. As Voelker’s old fishing friend Louie Bonetti once said, “Sure, sure t’ing—dese people gooda people, dey sometime tella da trut.”5
The Honorable John D. Voelker, Michigan Supreme Court Justice 1956-1960. MSS-39: Photograph Series, Box 6, portraits. Used with permission from Kitchie Hill, Inc.
John Donaldson Voelker was born on 29 June 1903 in Ishpeming, Michigan, to George O. Voelker, a saloon owner with reputably the longest bar in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and Annie Traver Voelker, a private music teacher for thirty-eight years. Voelker attributes being “planted” in the U.P. to his “brewer-grandfather’s long search for a community simply crawling with permanently parched beer guzzlers.”6 The youngest of six brothers, he was a good student, learning music and showing an early interest in writing. His first story, “Lost Alone All Night in a Swamp with a Bear,” was written in grammar school.7 Voelker’s childhood home was only one block from the library, and his mother encouraged his love for books. He graduated from Ishpeming High School in 1922 and Northern State Normal College in 1924.8 Later, he attended the University of Michigan Law School at Ann Arbor, graduating in 1928.9
Grace Taylor of Oak Park, Illinois, and Voelker met while he was in law school and she was an undergraduate. They married in 1930 and raised three daughters, and had a son who died at age eighteen months. After a three-year stint with the law firm of Mayer, Meyer, Austrian & Platt in Chicago, Voelker, finding city life unbearable, returned to the U.P. In a letter to his mother, he explained his desire to leave: “The chief reason I came to Chicago was to give it a fair trial and never in future years succumb to a feeling of thwarted ambition, a common malady I believe, among small-town attorneys.”10 Voelker had just received a raise to $250 a month, but it only strengthened his decision to leave. Although he professed he was not unhappy, he found Chicago “wanting,” explaining that his routine was to work “until 5:45 every night and then walk ½ mile through the soot, ride 10 and walk another ½ mile, and reverse the process in the morning.”11 Grace was reluctantly amenable to moving to a smaller community as long as her babies could be “born in Oak Park with her old family doctor in attendance.”12
Voelker published eleven books, three of which dealt with fishing.13 Trout Madness: Being a Dissertation on the Symptoms and Pathology of This Incurable Disease by One of Its Victims was first published in 1960, Anatomy of a Fisherman in 1964,14 and Trout Magic in 1974.15 Voelker’s stories also appeared in numerous magazines, including Life, Esquire, Field & Stream, Fly Rod & Reel, Fly Fisherman, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and Sports Afield. From 1967 to 1969, he contributed weekly stories to the Detroit News Sunday Magazine under the heading “Traver Treatment.” During his tenure as a Michigan Supreme Court justice, he authored more than one hundred opinions. The most notable was a dissenting opinion in People v. Hildabridle, which became the majority opinion when shared with the other justices.16 Somehow he also had time to keep up extensive and long-term correspondences with friends and business associates.
Voelker’s legal career included fourteen years as the Marquette County prosecutor, running successfully for office seven times. As a public prosecutor, he began writing under the pen name Robert Traver so that the voters would not think he was working only part time. Robert was the name of an older brother who died after World War I, and Traver was his mother’s maiden name. Voelker lost the 1950 reelection campaign by thirty-six votes, and in his own words, “The battered D.A. was now the ex-D.A. Like old Joe Lewis, I had lingered too long; had fought a hard fight; and had finally got knocked out by a younger man. Oddly enough, once it was done, I somehow preferred it that way.”17 He then opened a law office in Ishpeming and quickly established a general law practice handling all types of civil and criminal cases. In 1952, he represented Army Lieutenant Coleman A. Peterson, who was charged with the murder of Maurice Chenoweth (for allegedly raping Peterson’s wife). Voelker’s only comment in “Fishing Notes” about the successful trial that would one day change his life: “Next day, Sept. 15, went into murder defense of Lt. Peterson. After 8 day trial, he was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.”18 An examination of “Fishing Notes” reveals that Voelker fished every day for a month preceding the trial. Several dates carry the notation “PM,” indicating that he was out on the water after a day’s work.
He ran unenthusiastically and unsuccessfully for Congress in the 1954 Democratic primary. His campaign slogan, “Congress needs a transfusion of new blood,” is still considered relevant by many.19 The first mention of the campaign in “Fishing Notes” was on 13 June 1954. When fishing with friends L. P. “Busky” Barrett and Henry “Hank” L. Scarffe, the three discovered a new place on the Big Esky River, later to be named The Glide. “We all agreed there was no more beautiful and lovely spot both to fish and to look at that we knew. We plan to pitch a tent and stay there weekends. A likely place to campaign!”20 This spot is the secret location where his story “The Intruder” unfolds.21 On primary election day, 3 August 1954, Voelker fished Frenchman’s Pond with Busky Barrett and Carroll C. Rushton. His friends caught ten trout, but he didn’t catch a single one. His stoic comment was brief: “Today, I got beat for the Demo. nomination for Congress.”22 Voelker did not let the campaign interfere with his trout fishing—he fished sixty days before the primary, and there is not a single PM notation during that time. He did not enjoy asking for votes and did not have big followings when he spoke. He drew bigger crowds by pulling out his fly rod and giving casting demonstrations. In 1956, Michigan Governor G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams appointed Voelker to fill a vacant seat on the Michigan Supreme Court. He then ran a successful statewide campaign in 1958 and won a four-year term.
Voelker’s most popular book, Anatomy of a Murder, was scheduled for publication in 1957, but was delayed so the Book of the Month Club could publish their version in January 1958. Once released as a full novel, it was on the New York Times best-seller list for almost a year. Otto Preminger acquired the film rights and directed an Academy Award–nominated film starring James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazara, and George C. Scott.23 After acquiring the film rights, Preminger traveled to the U.P. to inspect potential filming locations. When Preminger left town, Voelker took him to the train and went fishing for the rest of the day, catching five 10- to 12-inch brook trout at Weasel’s Pond.24 The crew began filming on 23 March 1959, and the movie was filmed entirely on location in the U.P.25 Voelker was a legal consultant to Preminger on the film, and on 15 May 1959, the last day of filming, he took Life magazine photographer Gjon Mili and Jimmy Stewart’s wife, Gloria, to Top Hawkins Pond. He wrote: “Mostly postured and posed for movies for Mili, roll casting etc., gave Mrs. S. lessons in same, ate lunch and so home.”26
In the beginning, Voelker must have been a challenge for Preminger, primarily because it was difficult for Preminger to understand Voelker’s passion for fishing. Preminger, in his overbearing directorial tone, sent a telegram before filming started: “Tried to telephone you several times, but you were fishing.”27 The following year, after the film was completed, Preminger telegrammed Voelker, surrendering to the Voelker fishing lifestyle. “Dear John, am hanging on phone not able to reach you like old bullfrog who cannot compete with trout.”28
Service on the Michigan Supreme Court was not pleasurable or rewarding for Voelker. The 450-mile one-way trip by car to Lansing was strenuous and even dangerous in winter. He was wanting to start another book but could not; the concentration it took to compose legal opinions left no time. Shortly after the film premier of Anatomy of a Murder, he resigned from the court. On 24 November 1959, he sent a resignation letter (effective 4 January 1960) to Governor Williams to explain that he was “pregnant with book” and “while other lawyers may write my opinions, they cannot write my books.”29 At the age of fifty-six, with newfound wealth and success, Voelker became a full-time writer and angler.30
Voelker's favorite flies for the U.P. from left to right: Slim Jim, small Adams, Nymph, Candy Striper, Jassid, and Betty McNault. Ernie Wood collection. Photo by Larry Crane. Used with permission of Larry Crane.
The Candy Striper. Ernie Wood collection. Photo by Larry Crane.
Opening day of the 1960 trout season found Voelker (along with his wife, Grace; Joseph Welch, who played the court judge in Anatomy of a Murder; and his wife, Agnes) in Israel visiting Otto Preminger during the filming of the movie Exodus. His first fishing day was not until May 24 at Frenchman’s and Hawkins Ponds. He did not catch anything, but commented in “Fishing Notes,” “First time in my life that I missed the trout opener.”31 After this long absence from the U.P. during a fishing season, he began fishing every day to make up for lost time. Fishing was terrible until a cloudy July day at Frenchman’s Pond: “The day I have awaited; I have brushed out the dam, and I long-leadered the hot spot and picked my fish till I had enough.”32 He caught seven brook trout (8–10¾ inches). On July 12 at Frenchman’s Pond (aka Uncles Pond), he “stood in bright sun and long-leadered the dam, taking three nice ones and missing many on the sunken fly bite. One never conquers the problems, but perhaps I am learning a little about Uncles.”33 The following week was exceptional. On July 17, after his daughter’s twenty-fourth-birthday dinner, Voelker went night fishing alone at Biegler’s Pool on the Barnhardt River. “Went to the old spot, I haven’t fished in years. On 3rd cast 5x Paul Young No. 10 Killer [Candy striper] hooked, played and landed this nice treat”; Voelker had caught an 18¼-inch brown trout, his largest brown recorded in “Fishing Notes.”34 Fishing was fair for a few days, but the weather intervened. “Well today I had everything—sunned out, rained out, and then, in evening, blown out.”35 On August 18, Voelker began building a dam to raise the water level a few inches on Frenchman’s lower pond at the old crossed logs above the rocks.36
Voelker enjoyed a drink, particularly sour mash bourbon, preferring Evan Williams, finding quality in the bottle and not needing any advertisements to make the bourbon taste better. At first, he preferred his bourbon served in an old tin cup, but later, after the cabin at Frenchman’s Pond was built, the container of choice was a French jelly jar, and an old-fashioned was the preferred drink. He was also particular with whom he drank. “I hate cocktail parties . . . I can see no utility or pleasure in getting half crocked with people you little know nor will long remember.”37
Classical and jazz music were an important part of Voelker’s life. He played the Italian clavietta and the mandolin. He did not like country western or bluegrass music. He built an FM radio antenna extending well above the trees in the wooded area next to his house to get good reception. “Well at long last I am getting good FM reception. . . . Bach and Haydn till it runs out of my ears. . . . What a joy to get away from TV and crackling commercial radio. . . . I shall sit back with a big beer and bask in Bach.”38
EVOLUTION OF A FLY FISHERMAN
John D. Voelker (pictured) fishing the Yellow Dog River on 23 July 1940. MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Photographic Series. Used with permission from Kitchie Hill, Inc.
Voelker was not raised a fly fisherman. He learned to fish with bait and did so until age thirty-five. “Fishing Notes” reveals that 17 May 1938 was the beginning of his journey to becoming a fly fisherman.39 This was the first day that Carroll C. Rushton, a Michigan circuit judge and fly fisherman, appeared in “Fishing Notes.” Rushton and Voelker fished together fifteen days that season. Rushton caught forty-two trout on flies, whereas Voelker caught only twenty-two using bait. Rushton also caught the largest trout: a 13-inch brook.40 If we assume Voelker’s statistics are reliable, it is obvious that he was outfished and becoming aware that fishing with a fly might have its advantages.
The following year, another fly fisherman, Tommy Cole, began fishing with Voelker; they fished together ten days. “From the very first day, Tommy began a subtle campaign to wean me away from bait fishing and win me over to the fly.”41 Cole showed Voelker that fly fishing was simply a vastly more exciting, artful, and humane way of wooing a trout.42 Rushton and Cole are credited as being the two individuals who taught him to fly fish.
Voelker considered his real start as a fly fisherman to be 1 July 1940 while fishing the Escanaba River. Cole was catching trout, and when Voelker landed a sucker, Cole took the pole and tied a fly on the line. “Tom Cole rigged up a fly on my bait pole and I caught 2 trout on flies, lost a beautiful brown tr[ou]t up at the boat and got 3 other strikes.”43 Cole caught five trout that day, the biggest 13 inches; Voelker also caught five, his biggest 9 inches.44 On reflection, Voelker writes in his story, “Sins My Father Taught Me,” that Cole’s new approach made the difference. “I was not only a fly-fisherman in my head but at last in my heart, the only place I guess it really matters.”45
Although Voelker is gracious in describing Cole’s patience and fly-fishing wisdom, there may be another motive attributable to the conversion. Voelker was a gentle and joyful person, but he was competitive, a man who enjoyed winning; he kept count of the number and size of fish caught as a way to compare himself with others. Because of this competitive nature, it would be fair to conclude that being outfished may have encouraged his willingness to be seduced by the fly and give up his old ways. After the conversion, Voelker may have on rare occasion regressed to using worms or a bait, especially if he needed some small legal-size trout for eating (called “fryers”).46 During the postwar spinning revolution in the late 1940s, Voelker used a spinning rod on opening day in 1949.47 On July 9, he caught his first fish using a bubble with a wet fly.48 He also experimented with spinning tackle by inserting BBs into a plastic float to make a rattling sound in hopes of attracting a trout. “Did not fish seriously. Frittering with spinning bubble filled with BB’s (my invention) and a fly.”49
Fly rods are an essential tool in the pursuit of trout. Voelker had many rods, including two bamboo rods he acquired and used for the first time in July 1958. One was a Thomas originally built in 1928 with the tips replaced in 1945. This rod “has a slow wet fly action going down to the butt joint, but it handles and roll casts beautifully. I’m in love with it.”50 On 6 July 1958, he bought an 8-foot boat rod built by Paul Young. “Paul Y. is breaking up his old rod sets and sold me this for $50.”51 Morris Kushner made several bamboo rods for Voelker based on Voelker’s idea of the perfect fly rod:
I roll cast a lot with long leaders and small flies on lakes, ponds and beaver dams and for this I like a long (8½-foot) limber, supple rod in which the action goes down to the butt. Just the opposite, in other words, of the rigid so-called dry-fly action rods which so many fishermen seem to prefer of late years, but which I do not like, even for dry-fly fishing. I like very much the responsiveness and lazy action of the 8-foot rod you gave Hal Lawin. It is a dream.52
Voelker acted like he could barely tie his own shoes, so he was not ashamed to say he did not tie his own trout flies. Paul Young was one source for flies mentioned in “Fishing Notes.” On 1 May 1962, Voelker caught his longest brook trout: “Stomach virtually empty and beautifully marked,” 15¾ inches long at Top Weasel’s [Pond] with a Paul Young no. 10 red-and-gold bucktail streamer and 5x 12-foot leader.53 Voelker also bought flies from Jim Engler’s Orvis store in Detroit. Frank Cupp of Livonia, Michigan, was the tier.54
After reading Art Flick’s Streamside Guide to Naturals and Their Imitations, Voelker asked Flick for the name of a good fly tier who could replicate his patterns.55 Flick recommended Harry Darbee of Livingston, New York,56 but “Fishing Notes” does not reflect that Voelker purchased any flies from Darbee. Voelker had purchased additional copies of Flick’s book, giving one to Bill Nault and another to John Peterson. Voelker hoped that these local tiers would “catch fire and tie them exactly as you describe.”57 Nault lived in Ishpeming and was a reliable source of well-tied flies. On ordering four dozen of the smallest Adams that Nault could conveniently tie, Voelker wrote to him, “Your Adams is by all odds the best fly in my kit. It works even when prayer fails.”58 Nault was tying sizes 24 and 28 for Voelker.59 He charged $2.50 per dozen, but Voelker was paying him twice that amount,60 as well as sending Nault autographed editions of his books when they became available. Nault also tied the Betty Nault and Jassids for Voelker. One technique that Nault used was tying a smaller-size fly on a larger hook—for example, a no. 18 fly on a no. 16 hook.61 Voelker had Nault tie flies on no. 28 hooks and wanted him to use no. 32, but Nault declined, saying “So dang small I can’t see it.”62
Another Michigan tier who sold flies to Voelker was Lloyd W. Anderson from Negaunee, owner of Lloyd’s Fly Box. Anderson was a humble, quiet man, and an extremely talented tier.63 Voelker and Anderson corresponded for more than twenty-one years working to develop an effective pattern for Frenchman’s Pond.64 Anderson constantly sent different patterns, including a March Brown with short-bodied “mayagomy”-colored pattern with six legs and a fork in the tail, which he tied using an 1806 pattern from a member of the Derwent Fly Fishing Club that had been published in W. H. Aldam’s A Quaint Treatise on Flees, and the Art a Artyfichall Flee Making (1876).65 Anderson also sent Voelker a West Coast steelhead fly pattern known as a Ringold Queen that he had modified for use in Frenchman’s Pond, even though the natural insect is found in streams with swift gravel runs and riffles.66
Among Voelker's favorite flies were, from left to right, the Adams, the Jassid, and the Betty Nault. All flies from the Ernie Wood collection. Photos by Larry Crane.
THE LANGUAGE OF FISHING
Voelker with Louie Bonetti, fisherman and hunter, on the Yellow Dog Plains north of Ishpeming, Michigan. MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Photographic Series, ca. 1951. Used with permission from Kitchie Hill, Inc.
The language of fishing is more than instructional writing about how to fish, how to tie a fly, how to build a rod, or where to go fishing. Voelker’s writings make up an essential contribution to the American library of angling literature. His stories are unique in part because he introduced exotic and romantic names to the sport. Calling wild brook trout mermaids and fishing spots Shangri-la and Frenchman’s moves us out of the ordinary.
All writers have their own time to write, and Voelker had his own time, too. He wrote his books during the fall and winter months, when trout season was closed. It was his way of devoting a lot of time to fishing and balancing it with time to write. Voelker played with words, always trying to express an idea in a new way. He liked the word slob and frequently used it to describe big fish. He also used slob as a strong negative word to express his disdain for loggers who were destroying the landscape, as well as for poachers or tourist fishermen who were destroying the fishing. A common phrase to describe his fishless days was ritualistic fishing. His writings are humorous and straightforward; there is no need to read between the lines. Voelker’s ability to quickly come to a point and articulate it clearly is illustrated in his “Testament of a Fisherman”:
I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don’t want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant—and not nearly so much fun.67
He once told a young student, “Read, learn words. Learn what they mean and how to string them together.”68 He wrote a note to himself in 1942, before ever publishing a book: “Remember always to try to: write down to earth, elemental, simple, direct.”69 He once said, “There isn’t any good writing; only re-writing. Observe, observe, observe. Then, publish your work.”70 According to Voelker, writing is an “attempt to create some sort of picture, scene or lasting impression upon its beholders. While virtually all the other arts try to do this through the universal ‘language’ of the eye or ear, writing alone is confined to painting its pictures only in the mind and this only through the ancient but still artificial medium of words.”71
In his last years, Voelker was working on a fourth book about fishing that might have included a chapter titled “A Short Course about Writing Fishing Stories,” in which he reflected on the difficulties of writing about fishing. “Game fishing, especially with a fly, almost necessarily involves one person in pursuit of one fish at a time. This naturally sharply narrows and limits both the action and cast of characters. Such yarns can be embellished a bit by bits of insect talk, types of water and flies and hatches and the like. But essentially most fishing tales boil down to an account of whether our hero caught the ‘beeg’ one or fell on his butt.”72 Elsewhere, referencing his story “The Intruder,” Voelker called it “perhaps the closest I ever came, or may ever come, to writing a genuine short story about the pursuit of trout.”73
Sparse Grey Hackle described Voelker’s writing and the accuracy of his storytelling. “It’s hard to analyze your work because it’s not just the quality of your English that makes you fascinating—to me anyway. . . . And you have an unerring eye for the vivid, dramatic, incredible and moving situation or person. I think you always exaggerate or touch up what you’re writing about. I don’t believe, for example, that your father is portrayed with objective accuracy, in your piece in the current [Gray’s Sporting] Journal. I don’t believe that Richard Nixon looked like the way the cartoonists drew him, either. But they sure dramatized him, and you do the same.”74 Voelker may have been dramatic at times, but as Arnold Gingrich said, “He gives you that wonderful, relaxed, lazy, unhurried and unflustered, comfortable ‘old shoe’ feeling, page after page.”75 Nick Lyons said that Voelker’s style of writing was “his own unique mix of true or fictional narrative, mingled with wise upcountry wit, home-spun and down-to-earth philosophy.”76
The subject of trout fishing also finds its way into Voelker’s novels. As Art Flick commented to his wife on reading Anatomy of a Murder for the first time, “The fellow who wrote this is really a fisherman and didn’t just put the stuff about fishing in the book to fill up space.”77 The opening scene finds the main character, defense attorney Paul Biegler, returning from a fishing trip.78 Before trial, while researching the legal defense of irresistible impulse to murder, Biegler says, “Our search possessed much of the uncertainty and palpitant quality of stalking an elusive rising trout.”79 Later Biegler says, “I’ve simply got to crawl off somewhere by myself and submit this case to a jury of my peers—the trout.”80 Observing the prosecutor during trial, Biegler thinks, “I longed to peek into his darting otter brain,”81 and when the prosecutor was huddled with his trial team, “I drew what I hoped was a leaping trout on my scratch pad. A psychologist would probably have told me I was obsessed with plump mermaids.”82
Voelker’s other legal trial novels also contain references to angling that reflect his real-life situation, in which the attorney is always burdened by his legal obligations, yet dreaming of mermaids. In Small Town D.A., when asked if he liked to fish, he makes it clear that he does. “‘Like?’ I said slowly. ‘Do I like to fish? Look, my friend, fishing is my secret lust—I am its slave. As a drunkard does not merely like his bottle nor a lecher merely like his mistress, so I do not merely like to fish—I love to fish.’”83 Catchy angling phrases pop up throughout his books, such as “fishy as a rat in Denmark”84 and “like a trout fisherman over a new beaver dam.”85
Voelker’s passion for fly fishing and its rewards for a full life are eloquently stated in Laughing Whitefish, a novel about the legal efforts of a Native American to establish her family’s ownership rights in a company with a U.P. iron ore mine. The main character, William Poe, is a young lawyer who had quit his job with a large law firm and moved to the U.P. While contemplating what he did not tell a friendly journalist from the local newspaper, Poe says:
Of late I had thought I detected a massive tedium and joylessness all about me, a shrinking from life, a kind of snuffling mediocrity and relentless acquisitiveness which I for one regarded as an affront to the spirit, almost a physical violation of the person. But if I was depressed by the growing confusion of making a living with any fullness of living, I was appalled by the withering away of the spirit I thought I detected among the people around me: the deliberate stunting of talent, the smothering of latent abilities, the stifling of sleeping capacities, this slow leaking away of life. Willy Poe was lost among his own people and he had to flee to find himself.
Nor had I told him that one of the minor reasons I had to come to the Upper Peninsula was that I had developed a passion for the new sport of fly casting for trout—new in America, that is. For graduation my father had given me one of the exquisite new split bamboo fly rods made by Hiram Leonard of Bangor, and armed with this fairy wand even in the heavily fished waters around Ann Arbor I was growing quite proficient at the sport. The very act of fishing, I was finding, seemed to bring repose and a sense of kinship with nature. And the trout helped me to eat.86
This autobiographical passage states Voelker’s innermost reasons for leaving a prestigious big city law firm and moving to the U.P. In his novel, as in his life, the big city did not offer adventure.
After 4:00 p.m., opening day, 24 April 1982, with old-fashioned in hand. Voelker (center, in chair, behind last man in first row) described the group as pilgrims because the township plowman was needed to clean up the road so they could get to the cabin at Frenchman's Pond. MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Photographic Series. Used with permission from Kitchie Hill, Inc.
The primary source document supporting Voelker’s fishing stories are his “Fishing Notes,” consisting of hundreds of handwritten pages beginning on 27 April 1936 and continuing through 11 June 1987.87 Each year’s notes start on opening day and conclude on the last day of the season, with the exceptions of 1947, 1951, and 1952, when Voelker made brief notes about fall bird hunting. He once commented that he hunted only to scout out the rivers when the fishing season was over.88 He also kept several other journals that are not primarily concerned with his fishing activities but provide context about both his writing and off-season activities, and that help put his U.P. fishing experiences into perspective with the rest of his life. The other journals include “Log of Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” four volumes archived as “Journals,” and two more volumes archived as “Notebooks.”89
In a Life Magazine feature article, Voelker said, “Part of the allure of fishing is the call of an unknown bird, the sharp cry of a strange animal or the mystery of a flower.”90 “Fishing Notes” confirms that Voelker’s activities in the U.P. woods were not solely focused on catching brook trout. When the fish were not rising, he was in the woods searching for wild berries, morel mushrooms, and flowers for his wife. He was also continuously on the lookout for pine knots to burn in his Franklin stove.91
“Fishing Notes” is almost exclusively about Voelker’s fishing days in the U.P., not detailed entries of all of his fishing experiences. Fishing trips taken away from the U.P. during the off season are found solely in other journals. Canadian trips during trout season are mentioned with the barest of details, as if the purpose was merely to account for his days away. For example, in 1945, a three-day August trip was noted simply: “No fish. Hi or low water. Tried hard. Flies.”92 In 1948, being in Canada for seven days, he noted just that “Fishing was poor, too much H2O.”93 Similarly, a two-day 1950 trip to the River Josephine is void of detail. He caught fifteen 7- to 13-inch brook trout and said only, “Worked for fish, lovely trip.”94
In the early years, Voelker’s “Fishing Notes” is data compilation. He meticulously records the names of friends and places they fished, brief notations on weather conditions, and the number and size of fish caught. At times, when water conditions were intolerable, he started recording more about them. On occasion, the time of day is revealed. He identified fryers with the letter “F.”95
Keeping track of the actual number of fish caught was important to Voelker. He added up his legal catches for the years 1936–1969, which totaled 5,766 trout.96 His best season—with 337 trout—was 1963. Because Voelker recorded the number of fish he caught, as well as those of his fishing companions, it is numerically obvious that he was not the best fisherman of the group. There are several reasons for his lower daily count. First, he rarely fished anything but the fly, whereas some of his companions fished almost exclusively with bait. On 1 and 2 July 1950, at Perch Pond while fishing with four others, Voelker noted: “We took over 37 brook trout, my quota being low because I insisted on fly-fishing while the others made hay with worms.”97 He also remarked that another fishing friend’s interpretation of a legal length was shorter than his. In later years, there are no detailed references to the number of fish caught, just the fish reported as big enough to be called a “money fish.” Voelker and his friends would agree on opening day the amount to wager on the largest fish caught each day. A money fish had to be at least 10 inches and would earn a dollar from each fisherman participating in the wager.98
The first year of “Fishing Notes,” 1936, consists of only three pages. Voelker reveals dates, locations, people with whom he fished, their total catch, and the largest fish. He compiled year-end statistics showing sixty-five days of fishing; seventy-five trout and eight bass were caught; the largest trout was 12¼ inches taken at Deer Creek and the largest bass was 17½ inches from Big Dead River. He concluded that “These fish should run about $0.25 per ounce!”99 By 1964, Voelker revealed that the financial aspect of fishing had increased to 5 dollars an ounce.100 The first descriptive narrative text was recorded on 26 May 1938, noting that John Speck, a conservation officer, told him, “200 7½- to 9-inch trout were planted in Deer Creek at Weasel[’s Pond] last week.”101 With this information, Voelker and friends fished Deer Creek eight days, and by June 18 he reported that they had caught a total of seventy-three trout. Only one fish was recorded being caught on a fly.102
A significant aspect of Voelker’s fishing the backwoods was the numerous locations that were available. For example, the 1956 season was representative of his fishing days: he fished more than twenty different ponds and river pools, sometimes fishing three or four places in a single day.103 After Voelker purchased Frenchman’s Pond in 1963, his travels on the backroads continued, but his primary purpose was searching for berries and mushrooms. Every day that he fished during the 1986 season, he only fished at Frenchman’s Pond, but made numerous foraging “crawls” throughout the backwoods.104
Opening Day at Frenchman's Pond, all fishing from casting platforms, ca. 1986. From nearest angler: Ted Bogdan and his nine-year old grandson, Nicky Bogdan; Tom Bogdan; Voelker; and two unidentified fishermen. MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Photographic Series, used with permission from Kitchie Hill, Inc.
Top: Voelker and his wife, Grace, at the cabin at Frenchman's, ca. 1967. Used with permission from Kitchie Hill, Inc.
Bottom: Voelker back at Frenchman's in 1980, wearing what appears to be the same sweater as in the 1967 photo. From the collection of the American Museum of Fly Fishing.
Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts—probably America’s most famous pond—was formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. Walden Pond’s fame is due not to its reputation as a fishing hole, but rather Thoreau’s writings and ideas. Similarly, John Voelker’s glacial Frenchman’s Pond has arguably become the most famous still-water fishery in America, its fame not because of the fish, but because of Voelker’s writing. Voelker referred to its beaver ponds as “haunting quiet waters.”105
The name Frenchman’s cannot be found on a map. Voelker never intended to reveal its location, but after his death, it became general knowledge that Frenchman’s Pond’s real name was Uncle Tom’s Pond—Uncles for short.106 It consists of two spring-fed beaver ponds in the Escabana River drainage, approximately one-half mile apart. The lower quarter mile of the stream between the lower and upper ponds is gravel, sand, and stone, providing trout-spawning habitat.107 The upper pond is about an acre in size, and the lower pond covers 3½ acres. Depth soundings in 1951 showed the deepest parts in both ponds were only 3 feet near the beaver dams; otherwise, a 2-foot depth prevailed throughout both.108
Frenchman’s Pond was a private refuge where Voelker, friends, and guests fished, spun yarns, drank old-fashioneds from jelly jars, fried trout in a skillet, and otherwise sought the solace of the U.P. backwoods. On 24 June 1963, Voelker and his wife acquired 160 acres of wooded forest, including Frenchman’s Pond, from Merle Yelle.109 On the day he purchased Frenchman’s, Voelker caught two fryers while Busky Barrett was fishing in Voelker’s boat using a parasol for shade. They had a steak dinner, and Voelker recorded that he “Bought Uncles.”110 On June 27, he trimmed tree limbs near the rocks to make it easier to “watch the rise.”111 On June 28, he cut more branches, improved the boat berth by widening it, and built a rock fireplace. He described it as “a lovely summer day.”112 Years later, he added an “old bar room round table with the drink pockets underneath that I used to play cards on and drink home brew and local moonshine off when I was still in law school.”113
The shallowness of the ponds was a major issue for Voelker. On 8 August 1963, he began repairing the dam by gathering old logs and rocks in an attempt to raise the water level.114 Five days later, to his surprise, the water had risen 4 inches or more. Declaring a “new Uncles”—and noting that large fish were feeding—made all the work rewarding.115 The next day, the water had receded a little, and Voelker realized he must sandbag the dams.116
A fish survey was done in 1951 with a seine by the Michigan Conservation Department. It resulted in eight brook trout caught ranging in size from 5.5 to 12.4 inches, with the dominant size being 6.5 inches, in the lower pond, and seven brook trout ranging from 5.6 to 9.6 inches in the upper pond. Four white suckers were caught ranging in size from 6.3 to 8.5 inches.117 The surveyors found vegetation, including Chara, Ranunculas, and Spirogyra algae.118 Frenchman’s had an abundant natural food supply, including aquatic insects, freshwater shrimp, caddisfly larva, and brook sticklebacks.119
Another source document is “Log of Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which begins 23 April 1966 and ends 22 February 1985.120 The cabin log begins a few days before opening day, when Voelker and two friends “bucked drifts of salt snow”121 on the road to ascertain whether the carpenters could get in the following week to start building on the camp. John Pendergrath, the carpenter, and his two helpers, started constructing the small cabin in 1966 on April 27 and completed the work on May 4 amidst cold, snowy conditions—beds were brought in on May 6. Numerous improvements were made, including adding a cement block porch on May 8, shelves on May 13, and drapes on June 4. A major project to stabilize the top dam was begun by adding bags of gravel.122 The goal was to raise the water level 5 inches because the pond was only 2–3 feet deep. The first of many casting platforms was built on July 13 at a favorable location known as the Lower Log.123
Voelker had numerous encounters with trespassers coming to the cabin, even though no trespassing signs had been posted. It became necessary to install a cable across the road and partially fence the property.124 Later, a school bell was given to Voelker to signal guests and announce the cocktail hour.125 At Frenchman’s, it was “Fishing before drinking, see.”126 Fishing with Charles Kuralt one day, Voelker noted, “At 4:00 p.m., we turned from A to B—angling to bourbon.”127
The cabin log also provides some insights into U.P. life during the winter months, when the fishing season was closed. It was common for Voelker to ski or snowshoe into Frenchman’s each month to inspect the cabin and the ice on the ponds, and to check the road conditions. The cabin log shows that at age seventy-three, a month after a major surgery, Voelker and his friend Ted Bogdan made a trip to the cabin in one hour on snowshoes.
The history of Voelker’s experiences at Frenchman’s began long before he purchased the property. He had been fishing there for twenty years, but upon learning that it was about to be sold to a lumber company, he stepped in and purchased it.128 His first recorded entry in “Fishing Notes” about Frenchman’s was on 20 May 1943, stating that it was a “beautiful day, no rise, no fish.”129 On 29 August 1949, with F. Russell, Voelker reported, “Found road into pond: a rare, potential place, very difficult to fish from shore.”130 He caught eight fryers, and Russell did not catch any trout. Voelker returned the next two days, noting “Fantastic! A low barometer, cold rain, high wind and fish rising like crazy—but not to our flies.”131 Voelker continued fishing Frenchman’s Pond, and on 24 April 1954, opening day, standing shoulder to shoulder with his good friend Hank Scarffe, they both filled out with ten brook trout a piece.132 Ten days later, it was so cold the line was freezing in the guides, and he did not catch a single fish.133
Another time, while alone at Frenchman’s, Voelker caught two 10-inch brooks and wrote, “Couldn’t solve regular rise, but at dusk I went up to the calmed dam & scrubbing out a 7x long leader and a #22 dry fly which I made wet (there being no rise) teased on these two nice trout and missed several others. Is this a partial solution to this most baffling fascinating place? I dunno.”134
Frenchman’s Pond was a difficult and sometimes frustrating place to fish. Heavy growth along the shoreline prevented normal casting. If one tried to fish from a boat, trout were put down and disappeared partly because of the shallowness of water and partly because of its clarity. Voelker had to become an expert roll caster, and casting platforms were constructed along the water’s edge. To his delight, large trout could be seen cruising the shallow ponds. To his frustration, they would not take the fly. The bright summer sun could also ruin the fishing. With all these challenges, Voelker fished each day knowing that he would be lucky to catch a brace of brookies. Seduced by the challenges and difficulty of the fishing, it does not appear that he was overly concerned about solving the problems in order to catch more trout. Rather, he was content being a part of the mystery and enjoying the magic of Frenchman’s. He might complain in “Fishing Notes” about water conditions and the weather, but he came back day after day for the pure joy of being on quiet waters.
Another difficulty at Frenchman’s was a greenish algae that would appear in the summer, signaling that catching fish would be even harder as anglers tried to cast their flies. After many years, Voelker sought help. In a 1985 letter to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources seeking advice on how to treat the algae because the trout were not rising, Voelker wrote, “for many years, I have fished for brook trout on an old beaver backwater . . . called on some maps Uncle Tom’s Pond. . . . During all that time the pond has supported native brook trout in abundance, however hard they were to catch, evidenced mostly by a slow but steady course of trout rises.”135 Ten days later, before the state could respond, Voelker wrote back to report that the algae was slackening and the trout had begun reappearing “after the longest ‘drought’ there I’ve ever seen.”136 The state did not respond in writing and the algae problem was never formally addressed.
“Fishing Notes” confirms Voelker’s passion for secrecy. There are no maps or directions to fishing locations. Fishing spots are given fictitious names and even changed at times to make the location more difficult to determine. One place was identified as “ruined dams” in 1941, but by 1953, its real name, Hawkins Pond, was revealed.137 Even his own private place had many names: Uncles, Uncle Tom’s, Frenchman’s Pond, and Voelker Pond.138 One spot in Alger County was called Shangri-La to keep the place secret, and Gingrass Pond was known as the “Puddle.”139
Opening Day Proclamation, "Fishing Notes," 26 April 1975, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 40. Used with permission from Kitchie Hill, Inc.
Opening day for trout in Michigan is the last Saturday in April, which historically has proven to be cold, windy, and miserable. Access to some fishing spots was often difficult because of snowbanks and ice. Even with these hardships, an opening day in the U.P. is warmly welcomed. In “The First Day,” Voelker details opening days from 1936 to 1952, but somewhat differently than in “Fishing Notes.” The dates, number of fish caught, and weather conditions appear to be the same, but the locations where he fished are disguised in the published story, true to his philosophy of never giving away the location of a good fishing spot. The names of those who fished with him are also changed. The narrative portions in “The First Day” are reported from memory and not supported in “Fishing Notes.” For example, the 1950 trip to Alger County became a pub crawl of at least seventeen pubs, during which he was forced to listen to “8 million polka and hillbilly laments sung through the left nostril.”140 This is pure Traver storytelling and falls comfortably within the concept of literary license—which isn’t to say that Voelker never stopped at a bar on his way home, merely that “Fishing Notes” makes no mention of an opening day pub crawl. Voelker did not keep track of pubs like he did his fish.
Opening day at Frenchman’s became a well-attended social event with so many anglers that in later years it was necessary to have a sign-in sheet. When signing in, anglers agreed to the rules for wagering on the biggest fish caught. The atmosphere of the event is best summarized by a 1975 Opening Day Proclamation (see photo below) presented to Voelker by eight fishing friends.
Voelker's Ford Model A fishing car, "Buckshot," in which he crawled through the U.P. backwoods from 1935 to 1957. The rubber boat was first used 9 July 1941. John D. Voelker Papers, Photographic Series, ca. 1941. Used with permission from Kitchie Hill, Inc.
John D. Voelker with his second fishing car, a 1957 Jeep called the "Bush Car." MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Photographic Series, ca. 1957. Used with permission from Kitchie Hill, Inc.
Voelker considered a vehicle equipped with all his fishing gear an essential piece of equipment for every fishing trip because he traveled extensively through the back roads of the U.P. He always carried enough gear in his car to stay a week in the field, including extra tires, winches, and chains to deal with any backwoods situation. His fishing car was fully stocked with rods, reels, flies, waders, bourbon, Italian cigars, food, and camping gear. He would also carry a boat or two and sometimes pulled a teardrop sleeping trailer. Voelker was fully aware of his own obsession with tackle and equipment. In “The Frugal Fisherman,” he describes how anglers are overcome with the need for more and more equipment, yet he justifies that need and removes all doubts about needing a new rod.141
Voelker’s first fishing car was a used 1928 two-door Model A Ford sedan always identified as Model A in “Fishing Notes.” In his story “The Fish Car,” he names the faithful, yet moody and fickle Model A “Buckshot.” Voelker describes Buckshot as a neglected orphan child (though he did his best raising her) and calls her a “lazy daughter,” an “old firehorse,” and a “sulking pouting lover.”142 “Fishing Notes” does not comment on Buckshot’s personality, but it does chronicle Voelker’s adventures and hardships of his many journeys throughout the U.P. Once a newspaper story with the headline “Fishing Car Damaged in Crash” reported that Voelker had been temporarily blinded from the lights of an oncoming car, causing him to veer off the road and hit a tree at 1:30 a.m. The accident was minor, with $35 in damages to the car and no injuries.143 The last “Fishing Notes” entry for the 1955 season adds to this story. Voelker and friends had fished at Frenchman’s and had a good day. Afterward, “We made the blunder of pushing on to Gwinn,” meaning they had a few more drinks before going home.144
In April 1957, Voelker bought a Jeep Wagoneer, which he named “Bush Car,” to replace Buckshot (who quietly passed away when loaned to Voelker’s brother Leo). Although the Jeep was a mechanical improvement—a four-wheel-drive vehicle was more adaptable for use in the backwoods—Bush Car failed to captivate Voelker’s imagination like Buckshot had. Bush Car never acquired a personality or an identity and ceased to become an integral part of Voelker’s written fishing experiences.145
John D. Voelker at Frenchman's Pond with Leonard bamboo rod and 3 1/8 inch Hardy LRH reel reversed to left-handed retrieve. Cover of Sunday Magazine of the Detroit News (Detroit, Michigan, 18 June 1967). Reprinted courtesy of the Detroit News, copyright 1967.
Fishing was a private matter with Voelker, practiced alone or with close friends in secluded, secret, and quiet places. Piscatorial discretion was a matter of honor, and good fishing spots were to be protected at all costs.146 “Never show a favorite spot to any fisherman you wouldn’t trust with your wife,” he advised.147 It was not unusual for him to hide the fishing car in the woods and walk in to the pond, covering his trail as he went. When leaving a paved or well-traveled road, Voelker would sweep away his car tracks so a passerby wouldn’t discover his route. Another strategy he used was to take a different route when leaving a fishing spot. Once he went so far as to create a decoy road to keep others from finding the real road into Frenchman’s Pond.
Another aspect of piscatorial discretion is the obligation to protect a secret spot once revealed to you by a friend. Obviously, the first responsibility is to keep the secret, but just as important is to not overfish a secret spot. When, in “Kiss-and-Tell Fisherman,” a fishing friend shared the hottest brook trout spot in Michigan with Voelker, Voelker only returned with that friend, and fishing time was limited to protect the trout. Even when a good fishing spot is discovered, one has the responsibility of keeping the secret and exercising piscatorial discretion, as illustrated in “The Intruder,” when Voelker comes upon a younger fisherman who says, “If you don’t mind, please keep this little stretch under your hat—it’s been all mine for nearly ten years. It’s really something special.”148 Twenty years later, they meet again, and Voelker, remembering their pact, asks, “How about our having a drink to your glorious trout—and still another to reunion at our old secret fishing spot?”149
Voelker’s concept of piscatorial discretion goes to the heart of sportsmanship. Without honor and conservation, there will only be self-destruction.
In August 1991, Grace Voelker donated many of John Voelker's fishing effects to the museum. They include the fishing vest he wore for the last thirty years of his life, a twenty-five year-old sweater knitted by Grace, his favorite fishing hat, an enamel cup, Italian cigars, his notebooks and green pens, and his Orvis Impregnated Limestone Special. From the collection of the American Museum of Fly Fishing.
Fishing stories written by others reflecting on their experiences with Voelker are a part of the Voelker legacy. Jim Enger was Voelker’s friend for many years, and his stories—including “The Master of Frenchman’s Pond”—tell about his fishing experiences there over twenty years.150 James McCullough’s book, Voelker’s Pond: A Robert Traver Legacy, is about when he fished Frenchman’s Pond in 1976 with his father and Voelker.151 Jerry Dennis’s “Brook Trout in Traver County” tells of a 1989 summer day at Frenchman’s Pond with Voelker, Norris McDowell, Ted Bogdan, Paul Grant, and Jim Washinawatok.152 Paul Grant’s paintings in Portrait of a Peninsula fondly remember and reflect on his times with Voelker.153 Bill Nault’s remembrance of fishing with Art Flick and Voelker recounts another special day.154
Toward the end of his life, Voelker allowed Michigan attorneys Frederick Baker and Rich Vander Veen III to establish the John D. Voelker Foundation with the primary purposes of (1) funding scholarships for Native Americans desiring to attend law school and (2) underwriting the Robert Traver Fly-Fishing Writing Award (an annual endeavor to select the best fishing story; Fly Rod & Reel publishes the winning story each year).155 The scholarship program not only is evidence that Voelker valued a good education, but also shows his respect and love for Native Americans.
Voelker’s last days consisted of a daily trip to the post office for the mail; then to the Rainbow Bar, a local watering hole in Ishpeming, for cribbage with friend Gigs Gagliardi; and then off to Frenchman’s Pond, with numerous side journeys throughout the area in search of nature’s bounties. On 19 March 1991, Voelker was making his way home from the post office when he had a fatal heart attack.
As Jim Harrison said, “Death steals everything except our stories.”156 A remarkable storyteller, Voelker left us with a road map of his personal journey from trout madness to trout magic. Speaking of the woodlands he loved, he said, “This is the land where I was born. This is where I live and fish. This is where I hope to await eternity.”157 John D. Voelker is resting in Ishpeming Cemetery, forever a part of the Upper Peninsula.
The author is grateful to the Voelker family and Kitchie Hill, Inc., for permission to use John D. Voelker’s “Fishing Notes,” his other papers, and photographs. A special thanks is due to Marcus Robyns, archives director, and his staff with the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern University Archives for generously giving of their time and assistance to gather information from the archives.
1. Robert Traver, “A Flick of the Favorite Fly,” Trout Magic (New York: Crown Publishers, 1974), 31.
2. John Voelker to Nick Lyons, 11 February 1973, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 51, Folder 33, Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives, Marquette, Michigan.
3. “Fishing Notes,” 27 April 1936–11 June 1987, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folders 1–51, Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives, Marquette, Michigan. “Fishing Notes” for 1984 is not included in the collection.
4. Robert Traver, preface, Trout Madness: Being a Dissertation on the Symptoms and Pathology of This Incurable Disease by One of Its Victims (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1960), xi.
5. Traver, “The Voyage,” Trout Madness, 168.
6. Traver, “Trout Magic,” Trout Magic, 119.
7. John D. Voelker, “Some Post-Fishing Thoughts on Hemingway and Writing,” reprint in The Hemingway Review (Spring 2012, vol. 31, no. 2), 104.
8. Northern State Normal School was founded in 1899 to educate teachers for the Upper Peninsula. Today it is known as Northern Michigan University.
9. Stephen H. Peters, “John D. Voelker Biography,” http://archives.nmu.edu/voelker /biography.html. Accessed 27 May 2013.
10. John D. Voelker to Annie Traver Voelker, 15 February 1931, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 2, Folder 16, 2.
11. Ibid., 4.
13. Voelker’s eight nonfishing books, by date of publication, include Trouble-Shooter: The Story of a Northwoods Prosecutor (New York: Viking Press, 1943), Danny and the Boys: Being Some Legends of Hungry Hollow (New York: World Publishing Co., 1951), A Small Town D.A. (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1954), Anatomy of a Murder (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1958), Hornstein’s Boy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1962), Laughing Whitefish (New York: McGraw Hill Book Co., 1963), The Jealous Mistress (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1967), and People versus Kirk (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981).
14. Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman (New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1964).
15. John D. Voelker, Trout Magic (West Bloomfield, Mich.: Northmont Publishing Company, Inc., 1992). This edition is a reprint of the first edition and the first book published under the name of John D. Voelker instead of Robert Traver.
16. People v. Hildabridle, 353 Mich. 562 (1958) 92 N.W. 2d 6.
17. Robert Traver, “The Haunted Election,” Small Town D.A. (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1954), 224.
18. “Fishing Notes,” 15 September 1952, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 17.
19. 1954 Congressional Campaign Card, author’s collection.
20. “Fishing Notes,” 13 June 1954, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 19.
21. Traver, “The Intruder,” Trout Madness, 101.
22. “Fishing Notes,” 3 August 1954, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 19.
23. Otto Preminger, An Autobiography (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977), 198.
24. “Fishing Notes,” 26 June 1958, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 23.
25. John D. Voelker, “Notebook No. 3, 1956–1981,” 23 March 1959, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 93, Folder 33.
26. “Fishing Notes,” 15 May 1959, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 24.
27. Otto Preminger to John Voelker, telegram, 24 July 1958, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 56, Folder 34.
28. Otto Preminger to John Voelker, telegram, 20 June 1959, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 56, Folder 34.
29. Quoted in Frederick M. Baker Jr., “An Anatomy of Anatomy of a Murder,” address to National Conference of Chief Justices, Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, 28 June 2007, 15. www.voelkerfdn.org/PDFs/ANANATOMYOFANATOMYOFAMURDernomouse.pdf. Accessed 20 March 2016.
30. Frederick M. Baker Jr. and Rich Vander Veen III, “Michigan Lawyers in History: John D. Voelker, Michigan’s Literary Justice,” Michigan Bar Journal (2000, vol. 79), 530.
31. “Fishing Notes,” 24 May 1960, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 25.
32. “Fishing Notes,” 12 July 1960, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 25.
34. “Fishing Notes,” 17 July 1960, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 25.
35. “Fishing Notes,” 25 July 1960, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 25.
36. “Fishing Notes,” 18 August 1960, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 25.
37. John D. Voelker, “Record Journal,” 29 November 1960, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 55.
38. John D. Voelker, “Notebook No. 3, 1956–1981,” 24 February 1958, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 93, Folder 33.
39. “Fishing Notes,” 17 May 1938, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 3.
40. “Fishing Notes,” 30 April 1938–4 September 1938, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 3.
41. Traver, “Sins My Father Taught Me,” Trout Magic, 9–10.
42. Ibid., 11.
43. “Fishing Notes,” 1 July 1940, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 5.
45. Traver, “Sins My Father Taught Me,” Trout Magic, 17.
46. “Fishing Notes,” 28 June 1942, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 5.
47. “Fishing Notes,” 30 April 1949, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 14.
48. “Fishing Notes,” 9 July 1949, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 14.
49. “Fishing Notes,” 7 June 1956, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 21.
50. “Fishing Notes,” 8 July 1958, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 23.
51. “Fishing Notes,” 6 July 1958, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 23.
52. John D. Voelker to Morris Kushner, 17 January 1968, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 50, Folder 40.
53. “Fishing Notes,” 1 May 1962, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 27.
54. Frank Cupp to John Voelker, 12 June 1978, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 41, Folder 56.
55. John D. Voelker to Arthur B. Flick, 23 March 1961, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 43, Folder 39.
56. Arthur B. Flick to John D. Voelker, 5 April 1961, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 43, Folder 39.
57. John D. Voelker to Arthur B. Flick, 17 April 1961, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 43, Folder 19.
58. John D. Voelker to Bill Nault, 12 March 1958, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 55, Folder 19.
59. John D. Voelker to Bill Nault, 30 November 1962, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 55, Folder 19.
60. Bill Nault to John D. Voelker, handwritten receipt, 9 January 1963, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 55, Folder 19.
61. Bill Nault to John D. Voelker, undated 1969 note, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 55, Folder 19.
63. Mike Stefanac, Michigan fly tier and friend of Voelker, 13 November 2015 telephone conversation with author.
64. Lloyd Anderson, letters from 19 August 1966 to 26 February 1988, MSS-1; Lloyd Anderson Papers. Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives, Marquette, Michigan. See also John D. Voelker letters to Lloyd Anderson, 13 August 1966 to 7 February 1982, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 38, Folder 30.
65. Lloyd Anderson to John D. Voelker, 18 March 1984, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 38, Folder 30. Voelker had sent the book to Anderson.
66. Lloyd Anderson to John D. Voelker, 23 January 1980, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 38, Folder 30.
67. Traver, “Testament of a Fisherman,” Anatomy of a Fisherman, 10.
68. John D. Voelker, in a 1987 interview with Joanna Heliste, Tin Cup Times [the newsletter of John D. Voelker Foundation] (October 2002), 3, www.voelkerfdn.org/PDFs /tincupoct2002.pdf. Accessed 23 February 2016.
69. John D. Voelker, “Notebook No. 2,” 1941–1948, 4 March 1942, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Literary Series, Box 93, Folder 32, Central and Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives, Marquette, Michigan.
70. Quoted in Richard Vander Veen III, foreword, in Joe Healy, ed., In Hemingway’s Meadow: Award-Winning Fly-Fishing Stories (Fly Rod & Reel Books, 2009), v.
71. John D. Voelker, “Some Post-Fishing Thoughts on Hemingway and Writing,” The Hemingway Review, 110.
72. John D. Voelker, “A Short Course About Writing Fishing Stories,” MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Literary Series, Box 93, Folder 31.
73. John D. Voelker, “Writing Fishing Stories—1985,” MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Literary Series, Box 93, Folder 31.
74. Alfred W. Miller (Sparse Grey Hackle) to John D. Voelker, 12 May 1977, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 54, Folder 39.
75. Arnold Gingrich, The Fishing in Print: A Guided Tour through Five Centuries of Angling Literature (New York: Winchester Press, 1974), 330.
76. Nick Lyons, ed., Introduction, Traver on Fishing (Guilford, Conn.: The Lyons Press, 2001), xv.
77. Arthur B. Flick to John D. Voelker, 24 April 1961, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 43, Folder 39.
78. Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Murder (New York: Gramercy Books, Cinema Classic Edition, 2000), 3.
79. Ibid., 200.
80. Ibid., 175.
81. Ibid., 305.
82. Ibid., 215.
83. Robert Traver, “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,” Small Town D.A. (New York: Crest Books, 1958), 149.
84. Ibid., 150.
85. Robert Traver, “The Corner and I,” Small Town D.A. (New York: Crest Books, 1958), 132.
86. Robert Traver, Laughing Whitefish (New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1963), 20.
87. “Fishing Notes,” 27 April 1936–11 June 1987, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folders 1–51. “Fishing Notes” for 1984 is not included in the collection.
88. John D. Voelker, “Record Journal,” 17 October 1964, 1960–1975, 165, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series Box 6, Folder 55.
89. “Log of Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” 23 April 1966–28 April 1988, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 52; “Journal 1948–1950,” MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 53; “Journal 1951–1956,” MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 54; “Journal 1960–1975,” MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 55; “Journal 1976–1978,” MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 56; “Notebook No. 2, 1941–1948,” MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Literary Series, Box 93, Folder 32; “Notebook No. 3, 1956–1981” MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Literary Series, Box 93, Folder 33.
90. Robert Traver, “The Secret Delights of the Quest for Trout,” Life (21 December 1961, vol. 51, no. 25), 100.
91. Pine knots have higher burning temperature than coal and would help clean his Franklin stove.
92. “Fishing Notes,” 6–8 August 1945, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 10.
93. “Fishing Notes,” 12–18 August 1948, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 13.
94. “Fishing Notes,” 17–18 August 1950, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 15.
95. “Fishing Notes,” 28 June 1942, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 7.
96. “Fishing Notes,” 1969 worksheet, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 1.
97. “Fishing Notes,” 2 July 1950, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 15.
98. “Fishing Notes,” 30 May 1953, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 18.
99. “Fishing Notes,” 1936 Season, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 1.
100. Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman, inside front book jacket.
101. “Fishing Notes, 26 May 1938, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 3.
102. “Fishing Notes,” 26 May–18 June 1938, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 3.
103. “Fishing Notes,” 1956 Season, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 21.
104. “Fishing Notes,” 1986 Season, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 50.
105. Traver, “Women Fishermen: Are They for Real?,” Trout Magic, 158.
106. James McCullough, Voelker’s Pond: A Robert Traver Legacy (Chelsea, Mich.: Huron River Press, 2003), 17.
108. I. A. Rodeheffer, Institute for Fisheries Research, Michigan Conservation Department, “Lake Inventory Map: Marginal & Biological, Survey & Soundings, Uncle Tom’s Pond, 16–19 July 1951.”
109. Warranty deed, dated and recorded 24 June 1963, Marquette County, Michigan.
110. “Fishing Notes,” 24 June 1963, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 28.
111. “Fishing Notes,” 27 June 1963, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 28.
112. “Fishing Notes,” 28 June 1963, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 28.
113. John D. Voelker to Sparse Grey Hackle, 6 May 1977, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 54, Folder 39.
114. “Fishing Notes,” 8 August 1963, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 28.
115. “Fishing Notes,” 13 August 1963, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 28.
116. “Fishing Notes,” 14 August 1963, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 28.
117. I. A. Rodeheffer and J. Day, Institute for Fisheries Research, Michigan Conservation Department, “Lake Survey, 19 July 1951.”
120. John D. Voelker, “Log of Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” 23 April 1966–22 February 1985, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 52.
121. John D. Voelker, “Log of Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” 23 April 1966, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 52.
122. “Fishing Notes,” 6 June 1966, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 31.
123. John D. Voelker, “Log of Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” 13 July 1966, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 31.
124. “Fishing Notes,” 10 May 1967, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 32.
125. “Fishing Notes,” 27 April 1971, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 36. “ . . . put the camp bell up and we tolled it.”
126. Robert Traver, “D. McGinnis: Guide,” Danny and the Boys: Being Some Legends of Hungry Hollow (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987), 107.
127. “Fishing Notes,” 30 September 1976, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 41.
128. John D. Voelker to Arthur B. Flick, 12 September 1963, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Correspondence Series, Box 43, Folder 39.
129. “Fishing Notes,” 20 May 1943, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 8.
130. “Fishing Notes,” 29 August 1949, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 14.
131. “Fishing Notes,” 31 August 1949, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 14.
132. “Fishing Notes,” 24 April 1954, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 19.
133. “Fishing Notes,” 4 May 1954, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 19.
134. “Fishing Notes,” 28 June 1954, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 19.
135. John D. Voelker to Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 5 July 1985, Marquette, Michigan, office.
136. John D. Voelker to Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 15 July 1985, Marquette, Michigan, office.
137. “Fishing Notes,” 26 April 1941 and 28 April 1953, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folders 6 and 18.
138. McCullough, Voelker’s Pond, 17.
139. “Fishing Notes,” 28 April 1953, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 18.
140. Traver, “The First Day,” Trout Madness, 7.
141. Traver, “The Frugal Fisherman,” Anatomy of a Fisherman, 54–59.
142. Traver, “The Fish Car,” Trout Madness, 11, 12, 13.
143. “Fishing Car Damaged in Crash,” The Mining Journal (Marquette, Mich.: 13 September 1955).
144. “Fishing Notes,” 11 September 1955, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 20.
145. “Fishing Notes,” 27 April 1957, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 22.
146. John D. Voelker, “Kiss-and-Tell Fisherman,” Trout Magic (West Bloomfield, Mich.: Northmont Publishing, 1992), 96.
147. Ibid., 95.
148. “The Intruder,” Trout Madness (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1960), 104.
149. Ibid., 112.
150. Jim Enger, “The Master of Frenchman’s Pond,” The Incompleat Angler: A Fly-Fishing Odyssey (New Albany, Ohio: Country Sport Press, 1996), 53.
151. McCullough, Voelker’s Pond; “Fishing Notes,” 15 June 1976, MSS-39: John D. Voelker Papers, Personal Series, Box 6, Folder 41.
152. Jerry Dennis, “Brook Trout in Traver Country,” A Place on the Water: An Angler’s Reflection on Home (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996), 99. See also Jerry Dennis, “Brook Trout in Traver Country,” Trout (Summer 1990, vol. 31), 46.
153. Paul Grant, Portrait of a Peninsula, with text by Brian Cabell (Marquette, Mich.: UP North Press, 2010).
154. Bill Nault, “A Day to Remember,” Michigan Out of Doors (March 1990), 66.
155. Winning stories have also been collected and reprinted in two volumes edited by Joe Healy: In Hemingway’s Meadow and Love Story of the Trout (Fly Rod & Reel Books, 2009 and 2010).
156. Jim Harrison, “Larson’s Holstein Bull,” In Search of Small Gods (Port Townsend, Wash.: Copper Canyon Press, 2000), 5.
157. Traver, preface, Anatomy of a Fisherman, 6.
Two more of Voelker's favorite flies: top, a Nymph, and below, a Slim Jim. Flies from the Ernie Wood collection. Photos by Larry Crane.