About the Honoree

by Paul Schullery

The breadth and depth of Tom Rosenbauer’s contributions to the sport are, in all the ways honored by the Izaak Walton Award, nearly unparalleled among today’s fly-fishing leaders. I’ve watched his career for forty years, starting back when Perk recruited the two of us to serve on the Battenkill TU Chapter board (this was Perk’s heroic and largely successful attempt to drag that then-stodgy little club kicking and screaming into the late 20th century). I also recall that I just happened to be standing next to Tom at a TGF annual meeting at the Rye Town Hilton in about 1979 when Leonard Wright (author of Fishing the Dry Fly as a Living Insect, and other then-popular books) sought him out just to congratulate him on the great work he was doing with the Orvis News, of which Tom was editor for some years. Wright was right; I was lucky enough to be in Manchester those years and watch Tom take the Orvis News (which had a circulation most magazine editors would kill for) and convert it from a nice if conventional house organ into a publication that anglers looked forward to receiving with the same enthusiasm they awaited the next issue of Fly Fisherman.

So it isn’t just that his enviably large bunch of books have sold hundreds of thousands (half a million? I really don’t know) of copies, or that he has thus had an immense reach with commensurate effect on the fly-tying and fly-fishing skills of countless anglers during the past two generations. It’s also that in his writings, which are voluminous even beyond all his books, he has been unfailing in his promotion of conservation and good sportsmanship (years ago, long before the current ”Feather Thief" ruckus over rare feathers, his Audubon article on rare feathers in the fly-tying trade was path breaking). From the beginning of his career he has put his training in fisheries biology to work for the sport and its resources. He’s been tying professionally since his mid-teens. And now that I mention tying, I should probably point out that among other things, he is credited with inventing the tungsten bead-eye for fly tying.

In rambling on about all of the above I’ve said nothing about his exemplary roles with Orvis all these years, where I know he’s been a key force in many of their most forward-looking resource-conservation issues. In short, he has had an extraordinarily important life-long career with the sport, its development, and its good causes.

Highlights of the Night

There was a hint of spring in downtown New York City on March 12 as the American Museum of Fly Fishing was kindly welcomed to the Anglers’ Club, where we presented the 2019 Izaak Walton Award to the extraordinary Tom Rosenbauer, marketing director for Orvis rod and tackle, author, and host of the Orvis Fly Fishing Guide podcast.

The museum established the Izaak Walton Award in 2014 to honor and celebrate individuals who live by the Compleat Angler philosophy. Their passion for the sport of fly fishing and involvement in their angling community provides inspiration for others and promotes the legacy of leadership for future generations.

Guests were treated to a myriad of enticing auction items on display during the cocktail hour. To honor Tom Rosenbauer and support the museum, many Orvis-endorsed guides and lodges had donated days of fishing and overnight stays. Orvis history was reflected in a Wes Jordan–era Superfine rod and a light-as-air Helios 3 outfit, both on offer to the evening’s bidders. Nick Dawes of Heritage Auctions once again successfully helmed our live auction, the highlight of which was a day of fishing with Tom.

Author and longtime Orvis colleague Paul Fersen was on hand with some wonderful stories, concluding that Tom’s legacy at Orvis and in the industry will live forever. “There is an interesting, but not surprising, symmetry in the trajectory of Tom’s career and Orvis’s growth,” notes Fersen. “As the company grew through the wild A River Runs Through It growth spurt of the mid-nineties and into the twenty-first century, so too did Tom’s stature in the industry.” AMFF Trustee Gary Grant presented the award to Tom, “honoring his passion for the sport of fly fishing as a guide, teacher, writer, and innovator.” The honoree then treated the audience to some gracious, wise, and hopeful words. He considers the sport to be in great hands and is encouraged by the passion and knowledge of the latest generation of anglers, including the museum’s ambassadors.

AMFF would like to thank all of the evening’s guests for attending. We greatly appreciate the following sponsors, auction contributors, and those who made donations in honor of Tom: Allenberry Resort, Ray Berumen, Tony Biski, Robert Cochrane, Rachel Finn, E. & J. Gallo, Jim Heckman, Art Kaemmer, Joan Kelleher, Norton Kennedy, Rene Letourneau, Carmine Lisella, Joe Mattioli, Barry Meinerth, Orvis, Christian Pedersen, Leigh and Annie Perkins, Restigouche River Lodge, Alberto Rey, Mike Rice, Tom Rosenbauer, Fran Sargent, Paul Schullery, Rich Strolls, Ted Tafaro, Tailwater Lodge, Steve Woit, and Jamie Woods. Finally, AMFF would like to thank the Anglers’ Club for their wonderful hospitality.

Event Committee

  • Paul Fersen
  • Karen Kaplan
  • Jim Lepage
  • Phil Monahan
  • Paul Schullery