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John Merwin 1946-2013

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February 22, 2013

John Merwin 1946-2013

By Joe Cermele

Blogging is supposed to be fun, but today, with a heavy heart, I have to use this space to inform you that this past Wednesday, John Merwin, fellow blogger, former Field & Stream Fishing Editor, and one of the most well-known voices in outdoor journalism passed away. John and I have shared The Honest Angler every week since August of 2008, but his contributions here are minutia compared to the countless fishing tales and advice he penned during his long career.

John began writing for Field & Stream in 1994, and served as our Fishing Editor from 2003 through 2010. His list of accomplishments is so vast that it’s difficult to touch on all of them, but before working with Field & Stream, John was a newspaperman and photographer, and a frequent contributor to Fly Fisherman in the 1970s. In 1979, feeling there needed to be a flyfishing magazine that catered to those with “a higher level of intelligence,” he launched Rod & Reel (now Fly Rod & Reel) from the basement of his Vermont home. Soon after, John started Fly Tackle Dealer, the first trade magazine for the flyfishing industry.

If you pride yourself on having a solid collection of fishing books in your den or office, it’s likely a few volumes were written or edited by John. In his lifetime, he had the opportunity to fish with legends most of us have only read about, such as Lee Wulff and A.J. McClane. I think it’s fair to say that John’s name will now be spoken with the same reverence as those storied fishermen, as he’s attained that same legendary rank.

John’s passion for fishing was unrivaled and his knowledge about the sport was second to none. I once met a guide on the upper Delaware River who had fished John almost 12 years earlier. “It was a long time ago, but I’ll never forget him,” he told me. “Man, could that guy cast a fly rod.”

John was also a great teacher both on the water and at the editing desk, but he could be a tough critic, never afraid to tell you where there was room for improvement. As I write this, many Field & Stream editors and contributors, past and present, are busy penning stories about times spent with John they’ll never forget. Look for them here next week, as well as a collection of some of Merwin's best work for F&S. In the meantime, we felt it was fitting today to post one of John’s stories that really captured who he was, how he approached a fishing trip, and (most importantly, as he wasn’t afraid to tell you) how to mix the perfect post-fishing cocktail. Click here to read “The Lake” from the June 2011 issue of the magazine.

In these sad times, our thoughts and prayers are with John’s wife Martha, and the entire Merwin family. To read John's full obituary, click here.

Comments (31)

Top Rated
All Comments
from vasportsman wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Many prayers and thoughts to his family and friends, will really miss reading his work, and count myself lucky that I have.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

I always enjoyed his writing and perspective on things. I will miss his work. My thoughts are with his family.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Man I'm gonna miss his technical gear blogs, line testing and such....Joe, you have a link to an obituary? I know his last blog entry was at the end of Jan....

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from hermit crab wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

When people pass away, we oftentimes talk about trying to celebrate the life they lived rather than the fact that they're gone. I hope all of John's loved ones can take some comfort knowing that he lived a life that most of us only dream of. Hopefully his passing will cause all of us to reflect a little more on what's truly important in our own lives. There's no better way to honor his memory than to get out and fish a little more - I imagine that's what he'd want all of us to do.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Double D wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Of all the many great days I had with John and the many lessons he taught me about fishing and life, I'll always remember him at his best - sitting on the bank of a river, fly rod across his lap, smoking a cigarette and watching the water flow by.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

I am shocked and saddened. Have read some of his books three times and had a great amount of respect for the man. This is just horrible news.

I recall the first time I came to fieldandstream.com and the thrill I got being able to interact with a true legend of the industry. I'm not sure he knew how much I appreciated willingness to help with any question. He made me a better fisherman and taught me it does not get any better than catching bluegill on rubber spiders.

I'm gonna strap-on my waders tomorrow and hit the local stream in John's honor. Afterwards I'll slip a little gin into my flask.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Very sad to hear. He wrote about all types of fishing, anytime I read his works I became a better angler. A legend no doubt, he will be missed.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from whitefishpress wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Very, very sad news. John was a fine writer, an (at times) acerbic wit, and one of the great judges of fishing tackle around. He will be very much missed.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Oh no! Sorry to hear... I enjoy reading his posts. My condolences.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

heart-breaking. one of the greats. rest in peace.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Very saddened to hear this news. Our prayers are with the Merwin family. John's articles were always a good read, and I appreciated how he often reminded us that simplicity is important.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jerry A. wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Very sorry to hear of the loss to the Merwin family and all of the fans here at F&S. My thought will be with them all.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bruce E. Matthews wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

THanks for sharing this Joe, and sharing your heart. John's shoes are too big to fill. He was one of the good ones.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

He was one of the best and a nice man. I remember him about 25 years ago taking time to give some pointers to my youngest son (at the time he was sitting with none other than Frank Woolner and Jack Fallon). Today that son is in the Outdoors industry.
That is a little known legacy the great writers and teachers leave behind. They help us afield and on the water to relax and maximize our enjoyment of the bloodsports, so we can get through another week of work, school or retirement.
God Bless you John and your family...Ed Zern, A.J., Joe Brooks, Hilly and all the rest are waiting for you.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

I think Buckhunter's idea is a great one. Next time you head to the water, bring John's spirit with you and say a little prayer for him.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from chidjm wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Shocked. Floored. Amazed.

Great writer, he will be missed.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Woodman wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

A sad day indeed . A monumental writer and activist for our sport.His writing inspired me to be a better fisherman and John Merwin will be missed by us all.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from woodcanoe185 wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Always a good read, like he was talking to you. The twinkle in his eye came through his voice in print. Rest in peace and my prayers are with his family.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim Romberg wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

I am always saddened by the news of the passing of all iconic and literary figures,in most instances they through their simple act of sharing have increased the pleasures that we are then able to enjoy our own life's pursuits. The wit and wisdom that they conveyed through their writings touched any one and every one that would allow them to convene even briefly into the moments that one would take from their own time, by the simple act of sharing theirs. My deepest condolences to John's family at this their time of grief.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Shit4Luck wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Maybe he and Gene Hill are streamside somewhere !

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

That is very sad news. He was a wonderful writer and touched many lives through his work. He will be sorely missed here. My condolences to those who are missing him most.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Shaun King wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

RIP my good man.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Truely sad!
My condolences to his family and friends.

I always enjoyed reading his articles and blogs. He will be missed.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Gees, I just posted something about reading his latest, and I guess last, article in current issue of F&S. Perhaps I happened to start that thread the day he passed. It was great to have been able to share memories of fishing the same piece of water in Alaska. I'll flip a thunder creek pattern in his memory next time I get back up there.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from beckypetro wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

John was my Mom's cousin and family get togethers, though we didn't have them often were often filled with stories of fishing adventures and advice for my husband, a fly fishing novice. Thank you for the great post above, it was a great tribute to him.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Well, I dont have the fixings for a gin and tonic, but I do have a beefeater martini in hand.
Here's to you John Merwin, and thanks for the kind advice and insights!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pray- hunt-work wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Very sorry to hear... My prayers are with his loved ones. In an industry with some awesome writers, he was one of the best. Its a shame the mold was broken. I think I'll have a gin and tonic, but the fishing is going to have to wait until ice out...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 007 wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

RIP John, and our prayers to the Merwin family.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe_Cermele wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Some of you were asking about John's full obituary. There is now a link at the bottom of this post.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from benjaminwc wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Second start to the right, then strait on till morning.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

What sad news. The fish are always biting for him now. He IS a true fishing legend! God I loved reading his stuff. Not only did he obviously know fishing inside and out, but the guy could WRITE about it so well too! My prayers are for his family. You should be honored to have personally known such a true "GREAT" of the outdoors.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from buckhunter wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

I am shocked and saddened. Have read some of his books three times and had a great amount of respect for the man. This is just horrible news.

I recall the first time I came to fieldandstream.com and the thrill I got being able to interact with a true legend of the industry. I'm not sure he knew how much I appreciated willingness to help with any question. He made me a better fisherman and taught me it does not get any better than catching bluegill on rubber spiders.

I'm gonna strap-on my waders tomorrow and hit the local stream in John's honor. Afterwards I'll slip a little gin into my flask.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from Double D wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Of all the many great days I had with John and the many lessons he taught me about fishing and life, I'll always remember him at his best - sitting on the bank of a river, fly rod across his lap, smoking a cigarette and watching the water flow by.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from vasportsman wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Many prayers and thoughts to his family and friends, will really miss reading his work, and count myself lucky that I have.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

He was one of the best and a nice man. I remember him about 25 years ago taking time to give some pointers to my youngest son (at the time he was sitting with none other than Frank Woolner and Jack Fallon). Today that son is in the Outdoors industry.
That is a little known legacy the great writers and teachers leave behind. They help us afield and on the water to relax and maximize our enjoyment of the bloodsports, so we can get through another week of work, school or retirement.
God Bless you John and your family...Ed Zern, A.J., Joe Brooks, Hilly and all the rest are waiting for you.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Very sad to hear. He wrote about all types of fishing, anytime I read his works I became a better angler. A legend no doubt, he will be missed.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

I always enjoyed his writing and perspective on things. I will miss his work. My thoughts are with his family.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from hermit crab wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

When people pass away, we oftentimes talk about trying to celebrate the life they lived rather than the fact that they're gone. I hope all of John's loved ones can take some comfort knowing that he lived a life that most of us only dream of. Hopefully his passing will cause all of us to reflect a little more on what's truly important in our own lives. There's no better way to honor his memory than to get out and fish a little more - I imagine that's what he'd want all of us to do.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from woodcanoe185 wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Always a good read, like he was talking to you. The twinkle in his eye came through his voice in print. Rest in peace and my prayers are with his family.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim Romberg wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

I am always saddened by the news of the passing of all iconic and literary figures,in most instances they through their simple act of sharing have increased the pleasures that we are then able to enjoy our own life's pursuits. The wit and wisdom that they conveyed through their writings touched any one and every one that would allow them to convene even briefly into the moments that one would take from their own time, by the simple act of sharing theirs. My deepest condolences to John's family at this their time of grief.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Shit4Luck wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Maybe he and Gene Hill are streamside somewhere !

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bruce E. Matthews wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

THanks for sharing this Joe, and sharing your heart. John's shoes are too big to fill. He was one of the good ones.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

heart-breaking. one of the greats. rest in peace.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jerry A. wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Very sorry to hear of the loss to the Merwin family and all of the fans here at F&S. My thought will be with them all.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Man I'm gonna miss his technical gear blogs, line testing and such....Joe, you have a link to an obituary? I know his last blog entry was at the end of Jan....

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

That is very sad news. He was a wonderful writer and touched many lives through his work. He will be sorely missed here. My condolences to those who are missing him most.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

I think Buckhunter's idea is a great one. Next time you head to the water, bring John's spirit with you and say a little prayer for him.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from chidjm wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Shocked. Floored. Amazed.

Great writer, he will be missed.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from whitefishpress wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Very, very sad news. John was a fine writer, an (at times) acerbic wit, and one of the great judges of fishing tackle around. He will be very much missed.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Oh no! Sorry to hear... I enjoy reading his posts. My condolences.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Very saddened to hear this news. Our prayers are with the Merwin family. John's articles were always a good read, and I appreciated how he often reminded us that simplicity is important.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Gees, I just posted something about reading his latest, and I guess last, article in current issue of F&S. Perhaps I happened to start that thread the day he passed. It was great to have been able to share memories of fishing the same piece of water in Alaska. I'll flip a thunder creek pattern in his memory next time I get back up there.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Woodman wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

A sad day indeed . A monumental writer and activist for our sport.His writing inspired me to be a better fisherman and John Merwin will be missed by us all.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Shaun King wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

RIP my good man.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Truely sad!
My condolences to his family and friends.

I always enjoyed reading his articles and blogs. He will be missed.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe_Cermele wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Some of you were asking about John's full obituary. There is now a link at the bottom of this post.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Well, I dont have the fixings for a gin and tonic, but I do have a beefeater martini in hand.
Here's to you John Merwin, and thanks for the kind advice and insights!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 007 wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

RIP John, and our prayers to the Merwin family.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from benjaminwc wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Second start to the right, then strait on till morning.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pray- hunt-work wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Very sorry to hear... My prayers are with his loved ones. In an industry with some awesome writers, he was one of the best. Its a shame the mold was broken. I think I'll have a gin and tonic, but the fishing is going to have to wait until ice out...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from beckypetro wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

John was my Mom's cousin and family get togethers, though we didn't have them often were often filled with stories of fishing adventures and advice for my husband, a fly fishing novice. Thank you for the great post above, it was a great tribute to him.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

What sad news. The fish are always biting for him now. He IS a true fishing legend! God I loved reading his stuff. Not only did he obviously know fishing inside and out, but the guy could WRITE about it so well too! My prayers are for his family. You should be honored to have personally known such a true "GREAT" of the outdoors.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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