I’d Rather Be Fly Fishing
That’s exactly what Russell
Hopper of Bowling Green thought
when he was laid up with a broken leg.
Instead he used the time to write a
unique book about 275 champion fly-
fishers and their favorite waters,
flies, and recipes.
On a tree-lined street in Bowling Green, there lives a quiet, unassuming
man with a passion. In the carport of Russell Hopper’s home there is a pair of
waders hanging across a rocking chair, and a fly-fishing hat hanging jauntily
from the back.
“That hat looks a lot different on Brad Pitt,” Russell Hopper jokes
as he opens the front door, a reference to the star in the movie A River Runs
Through It.” Pictures of speckled trout and fishermen casting midstream adorn
the walls of his living room. An I’d-Rather-Be-Fishing cross-stitched pillow
cushions the chair. In the middle of the room there is a table full of fishing
flies, one in midtie stretched across a fly-tying vise. “All flies are handmade,”
Hopper explains. “You just ‘match the hatch’-look at what’s on the river you’re
fishing and tie a fly that matches.” A large gray cat lounges across the top
of the couch and yawns like she’s heard it all before as Hopper talks excitedly
about his fly-fishing passion.
“It’s a spiritual thing, just to be in the moment, to be in the stream.
You don’t worry about work, about headaches. There’s just you and this electricity
on the other end of the line called a fish,” says Hopper.
Before he ever ventured out to a stream, Hopper bought six flies and
a rod. He began casting in the street outside his home for practice, and soon
made his first trip to nearby Trammel Fork. He was literally hooked.
“I’d been casting in the street outside my house for practice, but the
first time I went fishing, I went to Trammel Fork. My wife rode along with me
and stayed in the car, reading. When she looked up from her book, I had a hook
in my neck. We had to go to the emergency room and have it cut out,” says Hopper.
After buying a fly rod for his wife, Susan, for an anniversary present, the
Hoppers fish together, a hobby they both enjoy. “Some of my friends didn’t think
that was such a great gift, but I think it is very romantic. It allows us to
spend time together and we both love it,” Susan says.
Hopper’s passion recently found voice in a self-published book profiling
legendary fly-fishers. “I was home for 10 weeks with a broken leg and I started
rereading my old fly-fishing magazines. I thought about how great it would be
to sit down and talk to some of these folks,” says Hopper. “The choice to include
their favorite waters, rods, and flies was natural. The pattern of tying a fly
is called a recipe, so I just took it a step further, and also asked for their
favorite food recipe.”
Hopper’s convalescent pondering turned into Angler Profiles: A Collection
of Some Legendary Anglers’ Favorite Flies, Foods, Rods & Waters. Through
in-depth research and Herculean perseverance, Hopper interviewed 275 fly-fishers
about their choicest fishing waters, their favorite recipes, and their preferred
flies and rods. The book includes champions in the fly-fishing world such as
Stu Apte, Leon Chandler, Joan Salvato Wulff, Lefty Kreh, and Jack Samson. Kentuckians
Denny Crum and Byron Crawford and former U.S. Presidents George Bush and Jimmy
Carter are included in the list, as well as Hopper’s wife and his fly buddies
of the Sons of the Cumberland, a Kentucky nonprofit fly-fishing fellowship that
practices catch and release fly-fishing.
“I collected names of about 1,000 people from magazines and fly-fishing
publications. I didn’t really know the right people to contact, but I sent out
250 letters in the first mailing and got about 15 back,” says Hopper. According
to Hopper there are approximately six to nine million people worldwide in the
fly-fishing community. However, it wasn’t until Joan Wulff, known to many as
the First Lady of Fly Fishing and wife of fly-fishing great Lee Wulff, responded
that Hopper knew he had a marketable product.
From a few initial responses, Hopper’s mailbox was soon full with replies
from writers, entrepreneurs, doctors, artists, professional fishing guides,
chemists, editors, and engineers-all fishers contributing to Hopper’s dream
of a streamside “conversation” with some of fly-fishing’s legends. “I think
of the book as a conversation with these special guests, and anyone can pull
up a chair and get comfortable. You are dining with your favorite fly-fishers,
anglers whose lives are as storied as the famed waters they ply.”
In a converted bedroom in his home, with a picture of the Cumberland
River, fishing hats, and fly-fishing relics surrounding him, Hopper turned out
the 352-page book with 153 photographs, 58 pen-and-ink drawings, and 270 recipes
from fly-fishers all over the United States in just 20 months.
“I’m the kind of guy who had to take a course just to learn how to turn a computer
on, so this whole thing has been a great experience,” says Hopper.
Arranged alphabetically, each profile includes a favorite quote. Former
President Jimmy Carter says, “The trout don’t give a darn if you’re president
of the United States, or a local farmer, or a high school kid.” There’s also
Jodi Pate’s Peanut Butter Pie and writer Bob Newman’s Rekonovich Mexicali Moose,
which serves one Marine or six sailors.
Just like fly-fishing, publishing has hooked Hopper. In his upcoming
second book, Pet Peeves & Angling Etiquette, Hopper investigates angler
etiquette and fly-fishers’ pet peeves. Meanwhile, Hopper and Susan can be found
at their favorite spot in Trammel Fork, testing recipes-for flies, that is.
Russell Hopper’s Angler Profiles: A Collection of Some Legendary Anglers’
Favorite Flies, Foods, Rods & Waters is 32’available for $28.20 (includes
shipping and handling) from The Hope Group Inc., 510 Fairmont Avenue, P.O. Box
62, Bowling Green, KY 42102-0062.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Angler Profiles is earmarked
for the following nonprofit organizations: The American Museum of Fly Fishing,
Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum, Federation of Fly Fishers, and Trout
Russell Hopper bio
Hometown: Bowling Green
Career Start: Accountant, Ernst & Young-Nashville, Tennessee
Current Job: Certified drug and alcohol counselor, Bowling
Green Medical Center
Years Fly Fishing: Six seasons
Favorite Rod: 5 wt. 8′ 6” graphite
Rods Owned: Five
Wet-G.R. Hare’s Ear
Nymph-B.H. Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail
Streamer-C.H. Olive Woolly Bugger
Favorite U.S. River: Pere-Marquette, Michigan
Favorite Home River: Cumberland River, Kentucky
Favorite Stream: Trammel Fork, Kentucky