The Fly Fishing Collections

Western Libraries holds one of the largest collections in the United States on the history and literature of fly fishing. Numbering more than 2,500 titles and dating back to the origin of the genre in seventeenth-century England, these books provide material for studying not only the development of this sport, but also its relationship to nature writing, art, ecology, conservation, and even the history of printing and publishing. 

The Paul and Mary Ann Ford Fly Fishing Collection

The Fly Fishing Collections originated with a generous donation from Paul Ford, Ed.D., Western Washington University Professor Emeritus of Educational Administration and Foundations, and Mary Ann Ford, M.Ed. The Ford gift is ongoing and comprises books, realia, and art focused on American fly fishing.

Dr. Paul Ford joined Western as Professor of Education in 1970, served as his department's chair and later as the university's Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost. He is a passionate fly fisher. Mary Ann Ford received her master's degree and principal's certificate from Western and has been a public school teacher of mathematics, curriculum director, and principal. 

The Fly Fishing Collection

In addition to the Ford Collection, a general collection of books, periodicals, manuscripts, photographs, artworks, oral histories, and artifacts supporting the study of fly fishing is available. It is the result of donations from numerous collectors including Paul and Mary Ann Ford, David Ishii, Walter and Jean Walkinshaw, Jack C. Hutchinson, Lory Watkins, Danny Beatty, Abe Lillard, and Patrick O'Hearn. The library has also purchased works specifically for the collection. Its scope includes fly fishing history and literature (starting with its European roots) as well as works on art, landscape, ecology, and technical aspects of the sport such as rod-building and fly-tying.

Digital Collections

Fly Fishing Objects and Images - This collection features non-print treasures from the Fly Fishing Collection, including: rods, reels, flies, and more, showcasing the evolution of the sport, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Highlights include a Stimson & Lambuth dry fly fishing rod (#19), flies tied by George McLeod, Al Knudson, and Warren Erholm, and a creel (fish basket) made by the George Lawrence Company of Portland, Oregon.

Fly Fishing Oral Histories - This collection comprises transcripts of interviews with fly fishers in the Pacific Northwest. Persons interviewed discuss fly-tying, favorite locations, and memorable experiences.

Related Materials

Ralph E. Wahl Photographs and Papers - The Center for Pacific Northwest Studies (another unit of Western Libraries Heritage Resources) houses a large collection of photographs and other materials by and about Ralph E. Wahl, a prominent Bellingham fly fisher, photographer, and author.


LIBR 320: Fly Fishing in American Literature (Spring 2015)

LIBR 320: Fly Fishing in American Literature and Culture (Spring 2016, 2017)

ESCI 315: Art, Science, & Ethics of Flyfishing. Award-winning course offered every summer through the Huxley College of the Environment. Contact for more information.