September 14, 2022
By Paul Weamer
On October 8, 2022, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor, N.Y. will celebrate the induction of three new members to their Hall of Fame. The festivities include the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the museum’s Wulff Gallery from 3 to 5 P.M. followed by a dinner reception at the Rockland House in nearby Roscoe, N.Y. from 6 to 9 P.M. This year’s inductees will be Steve Raymond, Charles Jardine, and Charles R. Meck.
Raymond is a well-known angler from the Pacific Northwest whose contributions to fly fishing as a gifted author and magazine editor are expansive, including many articles for Fly Fisherman magazine. Charles Jardine is a British fly-fishing legend who’s been a prolific writer, author, conservationist, and fly-fishing instructor. The final angler to be enshrined is my friend, Charles Meck, known to most simply as “Charlie.”
I was thrilled to learn of Charlie’s Hall of Fame inclusion and quickly posted the news to social media. All of the responses were wonderful with anglers describing their own encounters with Charlie or how they valued his writing, flies, or skill with a fly rod. But one angler didn’t seem to know who Charlie was or why he should be included, so he asked. It wasn’t a question with ill-intent; the person did not mean to diminish Charlie by asking it. But it made me ponder how our society swiftly forgets people who were once considered vital, including those within our own fly-fishing culture.
Since Charlie passed on September 18, 2018, he won’t be able to give an acceptance speech at the museum. So let me tell you a little bit about who Charlie was and why he should be remembered.
Charlie Meck was humble and kind. He would have loved to be in attendance at his Hall of Fame induction. But his reasons for being there wouldn’t have included an inflated ego or the seemingly endless need for adulation which is so pervasive in fly fishing. Charlie just loved people, and he would be surprised and humbled by those who attend his enshrinement. A few years before Charlie died, I drove him to an event held by a small fly-fishing club who wanted to honor him. The whole ride home he kept saying, “That was so nice. I really can’t believe they did that.” He often included “non-famous” anglers in his books instead of listing his many well-known fly-fishing friends in an attempt to elevate himself through their connection. He told me that people really like to see their names in books; it makes them happy. Charlie wrote for those people rather than writing to advance himself.
Charlie was funny and often laughed without being able to hold back from snorting, which always made me laugh. I have dozens of funny Charlie Meck stories. Some of my favorites are the time he and Lefty Kreh got together for a round-table fly fishing discussion and the first thing Lefty said to Charlie was, “Meck? I didn’t know you were still alive.” Charlie belly-laughed and snorted as he stood there shaking his head. Charlie spent his winters with his wife Shirley in Arizona. He took a walk each morning, and he would usually write in a notebook while he did it; until the day he walked into a tree with an audience watching. He called me that night, laughing enthusiastically over the debacle. Charlie and I shared many hotel rooms over the years in various destinations, often at fly-fishing shows or somewhere fishing. Charlie would occasionally talk in his sleep, saying the most hilarious things I could never imagine him uttering while he was awake. I’d tell him about it in the morning, and he’d snort and laugh the whole time. Then there was the time Charlie thought he was having a stroke on a fishing trip. His vision blurred, he tripped and fell down some steps. He then realized he had inadvertently put on bamboo rod builder Walt Carpenter’s glasses instead of his own. That story will make anybody snort.
Charlie was giving. I have no idea how many of his Patriot dry flies he gave away over the years, but the number would fill a bin at your local fly shop. He gave away books. He paid for flies he didn’t need to help tiers who were down on their luck. He gave his time, volunteering for Wounded Warriors Project and talking with kids in schools. He was also giving with his advice. When I was a young, aspiring writer, Charlie told me that Fly Fisherman magazine was the only national fly-fishing magazine for which he’d write. He said, “If you’re going to write for the magazines, you might as well try to get published in the one that the most people read. And when you do, be loyal to them, and they’ll be loyal to you.” Charlie was a longtime Fly Fisherman Contributing Editor, writing 15 features for the magazine from 1984 to 1998. Perhaps I never would have written for Fly Fisherman, or had the opportunity to write my own books, had Charlie not brought John Randolph, Ross Purnell, and Jay Nichols to watch me tie my Truform Flies at a fly-fishing show many years ago. When Charlie’s writing days were over, Ross Purnell (now Fly Fisherman’s editor and publisher) asked him who he thought should replace him as a Contributing Editor. Charlie told Ross to ask me, and he did.
Charlie was a fly-fishing legend. He wrote or filmed over a dozen books, VHS tapes, and DVDs. He designed iconic flies. He developed and popularized fly-fishing techniques and methods which advanced our sport. He experimented with and popularized new fly-tying materials. Charlie was an expert fly-fishing entomologist. He was the first fly-fishing author to write in-depth about the Hexagenia atrocaudata hatch. He used microscopes to dissect mayflies to determine their species. He built wooden traps to hold mayflies while they transformed from duns into spinners. He graduated second in his Penn State class with a biology degree. He told me many times that he never forgave the professor that gave him a B, causing him to finish second rather than first. But he laughed and snorted every time he said that. He had a brilliant mind and was always thinking about knots, fly tying, aquatic insects and trout. Yet he made entomology approachable for every angler in his book, The Hatches Made Easy.
Our sport doesn’t have a universal hall of fame like Cooperstown has for Major League Baseball or Canton for the National Football League. There are several fly-fishing halls of fame: The Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Hall of Fame (to which Charlie has already been enshrined), the Southern Appalachian Fly Fishing Hall of Fame, the Utah Fly Fishing Hall of Fame, and others. But the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum includes one of the only international fly-fishing halls of fame. Recognition here is reserved only for the very best of the best from around the world. But Charlie’s inclusion does not elevate him to revered fly-fishing status or validate who he was as a person. The entirety of his life has already done that.
Please join the celebration at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor, N.Y. on October 8.
Paul Weamer is the author of Fly-fishing Guide to the Upper Delaware River (Stackpole Books, 2011) and The Bug Book: A Fly Fisher’s Guide to Trout Stream Insects (Headwater Books, 2016). He is the Volunteer Coordinator for Yellowstone National Park's Volunteer Fly Fishing Program and lives in Livingston, Montana, with his wife Ruthann and his English mastiff Olive.