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Fly Fish Authors > Sylvester Nemes: An Appreciation

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message 1: by ron (last edited Feb 09, 2011 08:58AM) (new)

ron swegman (ronpiscator) | 154 comments Mod

“The memory can be pulled out of the mind or heart whenever wanted.” *

An Appreciation of Sylvester Nemes

I was stunned into sadness this morning after learning of the passing of Sylvester Nemes. He left us on February 3, 2011. No obituary has been written as of yet, just a simple listing at The Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Sylvester Nemes
"Sylvester Nemes of Bozeman passed away at his home with his wife, Hazel Nemes, at his side at 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011."


I would be less than half the fly fisher I am if not for Sylvester Nemes. The guidance received from his books has proven to be essential and ongoing. The art of fly tying, no simple knot and twist, I first learned by following his step series of clear, close up photographs, which are informed by his trade as a professional commercial photographer. The sport of fly fishing, no simple cast and retrieve, I learned through his advocacy of soft hackles and line mending technique, which has served me well along the small trout, bass, and sunfish streams and ponds where I pursue the sport.

I must also admit I would probably not be a published author today had I never encountered his wonderful, lyrical, living writing a decade ago. Sylvester Nemes directed me into the rich and satisfying world of the literary fishing essay. As John Gierach has written, I did not set out to become a fishing writer. I viewed my literary options in circumscribed boxes labeled "poet" and "novelist" and "short story writer" for over ten years before I realized, from Nemes, that I could fuse the craft of journalism with the techniques of creative writing and use my life experience as an outdoorsman to compose a personal writing process and writing style that was as literary as any rhymed sonnet or plotted prose narrative I could imagine.

A coworker I knew who sold books on eBay brought a fishing title to my desk one day in 2001: The Soft-Hackled Fly: A Trout Fisherman's Guide by Sylvester Nemes (The 1975 Chatham Press edition).

"You’re a fisherman. Maybe you'll like this," he said.

What an understatement that turned out to be. I found the book to be revolutionary. The pages flowed so well and the practical was woven within the anecdotal. There were serious angling lessons present, all culled from experience, and illuminated by the lyrical fishing life of Nemes: his early days in Cleveland, youthful bus trips to northwestern Pennsylvania trout waters, British chalk stream adventures during WWII, and finally his meeting the great rivers of Michigan and the Rocky Mountains during his assignments as a professional photographer.

The vivid, yet quiet, reality of this life well lived is to me rendered best in the final chapter (XII). He describes an experience on the Madison River, beginning with the description of a distinctive mark on his fly rod and how it came to be there. The following scenes: photographing tractors for an assignment, enjoying a few hours attending retriever field trials, returning alone to the motel room to dress a line before a rematch with a crafty bull of a trout, all convey a personal fishing life in that rarest of ways, the kind that opens the mind’s eye to one’s own parallel experience. There is a tone to this extended passage, a soft kind of river music, which resonates on the universal plane where the spiritual component of the sport resides. No wonder Nemes has influenced an entire generation of fly fishers and writers, me among them.

I never had the pleasure and honor to meet Sylvester Nemes, although I did once mail him one of my line drawings of a Partridge and Orange. I hope he is mending a line attached to one now . . .

Thanks, Syl.

* pg. 123, The Soft-Hackled Fly: A Trout Fisherman's Guide by Sylvester Nemes, The Chatham Press, Old Greenwich Connecticut, 1975.


message 2: by Mike (new)

Mike (fly_guy_brodie) | 4 comments Sorry to hear of his passing. He sat down with me at the fly fishing expo in Michigan 2 or 3 years ago. Signed his book, tied me a soft hackle, and invited me to stop in whenever I was in Bozeman. I have his book open on my table right now. Just tied a dozen soft hackles last week. He changed my fly fishing and tying technique in a positive way. I love swinging soft hackles! R.I.P., Syl

message 3: by ron (new)

ron swegman (ronpiscator) | 154 comments Mod

Hello. Here is the link to a reflection on the life of Sylvester Nemes by Ben Pierce, OutThere Editor of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

"Remembering Sylvester Nemes"

Good Reading . . .

-- ron P. swegman
-- founder & moderator
-- Fly Fish Literati


message 4: by ron (last edited Feb 28, 2013 06:58PM) (new)

ron swegman (ronpiscator) | 154 comments Mod

A new review of Nemes' classic by Graham Moran . . .

GOOD reading!


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