Well-known fly-fishing expert dies at 73
Friday, June 02, 2006 By Howard Meyerson Press Outdoors Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
He was a dentist, a father, a husband and a fisherman, but anyone who came to know Carl Richards realized his true passion was bugs. Stream bugs in particular -- the kind that trout eat.
Richards, 73, died Monday in Breton Manor Hospice from cancer. He is touted as one of the nation's preeminent experts on trout-stream insects.
"He was really as much an entomologist as a fisherman," said his wife, Alecia, who married him 1955. The two lived in Rockford until he moved into hospice a week ago. Besides his wife, he is survived by three daughters.
"He got interested in fishing at a very young age," she said. "In fact, in our basement I found his old notebooks, where he wrote as a 12- to 15-year-old, what bugs he found on what streams."
It was Richards' fascination with trout-stream insects that led him to co-write a book with Doug Swisher, a Montana author, called "Selective Trout."
The groundbreaking book was published in 1971. It has since been heralded as a defining moment for fly fishing in the U.S.
"That book revolutionized fly fishing," said Dick Pobst of Ada, a fly-fishing author and founder of the Thornapple Orvis fly-fishing store. Pobst and Richards were fishing buddies.
"Fly fishing wasn't even popular back then," Pobst said. "What Carl got us to do was pay attention to the superhatches; to realize that fly hatches occur at the pleasant time of day and to tie lifelike imitations."
"Selective Trout" was one of 14 books Richards wrote on assorted and related topics during his life. Friends who knew him describe him as a quiet, often solitary man, someone who would just as soon spend his time buried in entomology. But if he shared an interest, he would be generous, too.
"If Carl got interested in something, he tried to learn everything there was to know about it," said George Germain of Stanton, a fishing buddy of Richard's for 15 years. Germain described Richards, 30 years his senior, as taking him under his wing.
"His knowledge of insects was amazing and he was the best all-around flytier who ever lived. His flies could go for over $400 to a collector."
Alecia Richards said her husband benefited from many older mentors early in his fishing career and returned the favor fishing with many younger men in his later years.
A visitation is scheduled at the Pederson Funeral Home in Rockford between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday. Family and friends plan to scatter Richards' ashes on the AuSable River later this summer. It was one of his favorite places to fish.