Art Lee, Renowned Author and Fly Fisher, Passes

August 4, 2018 By: Marshall Cutchin

Art Lee died on July 25 at a hospital in Middletown, N.Y. He was 76.  His long-time friend artist Galen Mercer sent us this tribute:

Angling author, sportsman and acclaimed conservationist Art Lee has died. He was 76. The cause of death was a heart attack.

For nearly half a century, from his home overlooking the famous Junction Pool, at the confluence of New York’s Beaverkill and Willowemoc rivers, Lee built an international reputation as a writer who chronicled the sport of fly fishing. Possessing an incisive, informative and highly personal style, Lee wrote four angling books (including the influential ‘Fishing Dry Flies For Trout On Rivers and Streams’) and hundreds of articles and essays for such magazines as National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Yankee Magazine, Field & Stream and Sports Afield. Additionally, he held the title of ‘Editor at Large’ and was a long time contributor to both Fly Fisherman Magazine and the Atlantic Salmon Journal.

Beginning as a journalist, after stints with the Schenectady Gazette and the Albany Times Union, Lee spent time in Washington, raising funds for the newly formed American League of Anglers. Leaving this job, Art and his wife Kris, a talented outdoor photographer (who pre-deceased Art in 2016), headed to Roscoe, NY, in the Catskill Mountains, where he established himself as a freelance writer, joining a long tradition of angling authors who’d lived upon and written of those waters. Lee regularly detailed his life and fishing there and an ability to cover the subject with both technical mastery and an open, inviting manner garnered a large and loyal readership. Lee wrote a number of stories detailing threats to the region’s rivers and was a staunch supporter of the watersheds. When not wading home waters, something he regularly did as much as 200 days a season, Art & Kris travelled the world as sporting consultants. His popularity abroad was such that Lee’s articles were frequently reprinted and carried by magazines in Japan, Scandinavia and Europe. It was through these travels that Art met and began working with Orri Vigfusson, founder of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, which engaged him in a life-long battle to save the world’s dwindling stocks of wild Atlantic Salmon. In addition to his writing, Lee also did television work, and once appeared on ABC’s ‘The American Sportsman’, where he hosted President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn on a salmon fishing trip to Quebec.

A private memorial will be held for immediate family. Art’s passion was the Catskills and watershed preservation and donations in his memory can be made to The Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum.