‘Field and Stream’ has been the preeminent American outdoors publication for over a century with a current monthly circulation exceeding 1,000,000. It was the outgrowth of a periodical entitled ‘Northwestern Field and Stream’ which was first published in St Paul Minnesota in 1895. A year later, John P Burkhard acquired this publication, renamed it, and dubbed it “A Journal for the True Sportsman”. As his first editor, Burkhard hired Charles Hallock, stealing him away from ‘Forest and Stream’, the leading outdoor magazine of the time which had been published regularly since 1873 but was eventually absorbed in 1930 by the increasingly popular ‘Field and Stream’.

‘Field and Stream’ was created at a time of great change in America. The industrial revolution had resulted in rapid growth and great prosperity, largely at the expense of our tremendous natural resources, decimating our forests, polluting the waters, and killing off major elements of the wildlife. Conservation became an early and consistent theme of the magazine which resonated well with its readers. There were featured articles on game laws, regulating hunting and fishing seasons, and fees, such as those generated by duck stamps, to be used to preserve and restore our depleted natural resources.

Hunting, fishing and camping were, and continue to be, the strongest focuses of the magazine. There have been more than 150 covers depicting the various forms of fishing, and many are specifically about fly fishing. During the early decades and until the 1970’s, the preferred style of cover art, for all subjects, was a commissioned work by an accomplished artist or illustrator. (Since 1972 photography has predominated as the medium of choice.) Over that 75-year span, ‘Field and Stream’ presented the work of many accomplished artists, almost all of whom were experienced outdoorsmen as well. As they were painting for knowledgeable hunters and fishermen, detail and accuracy were of paramount concern, and the covers almost always reflect this attention to detail. (One exception is the cover from April 1965 by Dick Amundsen showing a cowboy in hat and boots astride hid horse in midstream casting a fly rod. There is no way to know what he would do, should he be lucky enough to hook a fish!).

The artists’ styles, while their own, were at the same time a clear reflection of the times. Henry (Hy) S Watson (1868-1933) not only illustrated many covers, but in addition served as Editor from 1918 through 1924. He consistently depicted serious fishermen in aggressive pursuit of trout, usually in mountain streams (see the covers from April 1923 and April 1926).

Probably the most famous, as well as most successful, cover artist for ‘Field and Stream’ was Lynn Bogue Hunt (1878-1960). He was an avid hunter and fisherman and these experiences brought true realism to his works which were typically done first in watercolor, submitted for editorial approval, and then finalized in oils. One of his best covers is from May 1924 depicting an angler standing (!) in a guide boat working a very large trout.

1930's - 1940's

Arthur Davenport Fuller

In the 1930’s and early 1940’s Arthur Davenport Fuller (1889-1966) painted many covers focusing on the very serious (and very handsome) young angler (May 1931 and April 1932) as well as the older and more seasoned (April 1937 and May 1941) or less adept (August 1942) fly fisherman.


Tom Rost

In the early 1950’s Tom Rost (1909-2004) captured the spirit of opening day in his April 1952 cover, displayed the joy of the youngster who caught “the big one” using a less than traditional fly (April 1956), and the dejection felt by the man who was “outfished” by his wife in the August 1951 cover.

In Closing

A wide variety of other artists occasionally contributed interesting work as well. The earliest covers from the first decade of the 20th century were often woodcut prints by unknown artists (May 1903 and April 1904). The cover by Magnus Colcord Heurlin (1895-1986) from August 1926 captured the intense focus of the pipe smoking angler. In April 1943, J. Karl tangibly portrayed the joy of catching a prize rainbow, while Evert Stautenberg Ward in April 1944 depicted the fear of losing the prize because of a tangled line, and John Clymer on the March 1956 cover presented another tangled line challenge. Finally, idyllic fly fishing settings were highlighted by several artists over the years. Two from the 1960’s were Eric Sloane’s covered bridge (July 1961) and Dick Pfahl’s spring stream beside the birch tree (March 1965).

We hope that this small selection of ‘Field and Stream’ covers will be of interest to those who flyfish as well as to those who don’t but wonder what it is all about. As David Petzel astutely observed in 2005 regarding the fly fishing covers of ‘Field and Stream’:

“There is no denying that people who flyfish for trout are quite different from other anglers. Those who go after bass or pike or muskies do not assail us with endless, wearisome books about their angst and their alienation. They just want to catch a big fish and read no metaphysics into the process. So it must be that if you want to appeal to the piscatorial aesthetes of the world, you must publish artful covers.”

‘Field and Stream’ has been the preeminent American outdoors publication for over a century with a current monthly circulation exceeding 1,000,000. It was the outgrowth of a periodical entitled ‘Northwestern Field and Stream’ which was first published in St Paul Minnesota in 1895.