Art & Angling

In 1653, Izaak Walton declared angling to be an art form and further commented that “no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler.”1 Because there are artists with a passion for angling, we are able to stand in the middle of an impressive stream of artistic endeavors focused on the sport. Starting with the early writers and artists who gave us a large body of illustrated literature and the painters with their magnificent landscapes and wildlife paintings, the art of angling has flowed into almost every aspect of our lives. Robert Redford captured our imagination with wonderful angling scenes in his film A River Runs through It.2 Photographers take breathtaking pictures of our sport in action, creating that almost-better-than-natural experience. Classic fly tyers have created artificial flies so beautiful you cannot fish with them, just lovingly preserve and display them. Sculptors are working in wood and bronze to capture the spirit of our prey. Sporting artists are continually striving to define the essence of angling. They have combined their artistic skills with a passion for angling so that we can further enjoy the sport.3 As the art of angling moves forward, a relatively new form is emerging through the medium of the wine label. Passionate winemakers, who are also genuinely enthusiastic anglers, have begun using art depicting tranquil fishing scenes, fish of various types, and the artificial fly on their wine labels.

Lange Winery

In 1996, John Olchewsky of Enumclaw, Washington, was asked by Lange Winery to tie a classic salmon fly for use on one of their wine labels. John started as a steelhead fly tyer and made the transition to classic salmon flies in 1986. He chose the Dawson, a mixed-wing fly by Kenneth Dawson that was introduced at the end of the nineteenth century.4 George W. Kelson’s interpretation of the original pattern was followed for John’s creation. John Ricco photographed the fly, and the label was then printed to give the appearance of a mounted photograph.

Hells Canyon Winery

Steve Robertson, winemaker and owner of Hells Canyon Winery in Caldwell, Idaho, produces an artist conservation series wine label. Since 1998, ten percent of net profits have been donated to wildlife conservation. In addition to fishing scenes, the conservation series also includes wildlife and hunting scenes.
Fred W. Thomas is a painter and illustrator living in Shoreline, Washington. Thomas has been a lifelong hunter and fisherman. He has a national reputation for his paintings and illustrations, which have been commissioned by the National Geographic Society and McMillan Publishing, among others. The smiling Eskimo on the tail of Alaska Airlines’ aircraft is his most visible illustration. He has been chosen three times (1987, 1989, and 1992) as artist for the Washington State salmon stamp. Thomas has produced three angling paintings especially for Hells Canyon Winery that have been used on their wine labels. Catch and Release was used on the 1998 Idaho Chardonnay, After the Hatch for the 1999 Idaho Chardonnay Reserve, and Summer Rise for the 2000 Idaho Chardonnay. After the Hatch depicts a rainbow trout with its tail in the water engulfing a mayfly. Catch and Release depicts a brook trout laying in the grass with an artificial dry fly in its mouth by Thomas’s Sage fly rod and Scientific Angler System 2 reel. Summer Rise shows a brown trout in clear water about to eat an artificial dry fly. Each painting is a 12-by-16-inch oil on canvas using traditional oil techniques. “Doing research for my fish and fishing paintings is the best excuse I know of to go fishing,” says Thomas.5 Thomas’s paintings express the realistic detail of the trout in its natural environment and capture those moments that live in the minds of every angler.

StoneFly Vinyard

Rob Hampton and Thom Arcadi purchased a cabernet franc vineyard and bottled their first StoneFly label in 1996. The vineyard is 20 acres located east of the city of Napa, California. Tom Arcadi says the StoneFly Cabernet Franc is like an “old world– style Loire Valley wine.”6 Rob Hampton designed the StoneFly label to look like an etching. 7 A fly fisherman is standing in a river with the vineyards greatly sloping toward the water. The fisherman’s rod is moving forward, and the fly line is taut across the top of the label. To follow the fly line, you must turn the bottle to the back label, which shows the fisherman’s dry fly has been caught on a vine. Hampton and Arcadi were inspired to use the StoneFly for their label name because “the stonefly is our favorite fly. In June the trout go crazy over the stonefly, and we want fisherman to go crazy over our wine.”8


1. Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 8.
2. The authenticity of the movie is attributable in part to the assistance of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, which provided the production company with period flies, reels, creels, and other equipment from the Museum’s collection. See “Museum Goes to Hollywood” in Museum News, The American Fly Fisher, vol. 17, no. 2 (summer 1991), 28.
3. The American Museum of Fly Fishing, a nonprofit organization, has been a strong supporter of sporting artists. The Museum trustees and staff have always recognized the importance sporting artists have played in the presentation, development, and enjoyment of the sport of angling.
4. Mikael Frodin, Classic Salmon Flies, History and Patterns (Gothenburg, Sweden: AB Nordbok, 1991), 61.
5. Fred W. Thomas, 23 May 2003, letter to the author.
6. Thom Arcadi, 11 September 2003, telephone interview with the author.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.

Passionate winemakers, who are also genuinely enthusiastic anglers, have begun using art depicting tranquil fishing scenes, fish of various types, and the artificial fly on their wine labels.