Flyfishing with Jack Hemingway

“Time is but the stream I go fishing in. I drink at it, but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. It’s thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”                              -Henry David Thoreau

My brother Don and I are preparing for a flyfishing trip to Belize in August for Tarpon, Permit and Bonefish.  As I mentally get geared up for a coming trip I tend to think back on the highlights of past trips.  One of those which sprang immediately to mind was flyfishing with Jack Hemingway, son of the famous author Ernest Hemingway.

In the spring of 2000 I was invited to go flyfishing for Atlantic Salmon in Iceland by a good friend and outstanding flyfisherman, John Green. John and I had fished together numerous times in Scotland and I was looking forward to his company and his fishing stories. On the plane to Iceland from London John informed me that we were staying at a lodge whose guests that week included Jack Hemingway and his wife, Angela, as well as Orri Vigfusson, the ardent and innovative wild salmon conservationist.  It promised to be a very interesting week and I had never fished the gin-clear water of northern Iceland.

While John Green was an accomplished Iceland salmon fisherman, this was my first experience with the tiny flies and the spooky fish in clear water.  It took several days for me to get in the groove and hook and land a few of these massive, bright, hard fighting creatures.

But Jack was a seasoned vet of Iceland salmon fishing and tended to be high rod for most of the week.  One of the things I remember most about Jack Hemingway is that he was never without a smile and a hearty laugh, and he never boasted about himself.  I imagine it must have been difficult being the son of such a famous author and sportsman, but Jack was definitely his own person, having a myriad of adventures as a OSS officer in WWII and a keen conservationist and sportsman.

At the dinner table each evening we would hear stories that ranged from his famous father to his own adventure of parachuting into occupied France with his fly rod, just in case he came across a trout stream.  Alas, he was captured and spent the remainder of the war in a German POW camp.  Jack wrote two books, Mis-Adventures of a Fly Fisherman and A Life Worth Living, both about his life, family and fishing.

Our other companion for a part of that week was Orri Vigfusson.  Orri was the inspiration behind the innovative approach to reversing the decline of the Atlantic Salmon through a program of buying out the net fisherman who, in their zeal to earn a living, were rapidly depleting the wild salmon stocks before they could enter the rivers to spawn.  The abundance of North Atlantic netting, along with habitat destruction and pollution of the rivers, had over the decades between the 50s and 90s taken its toll on the stock of wild Atlantic Salmon.  In addition, the increase in the number of seals and the spread of infections from salmon farms at the mouths of rivers were also a factor in the depleted numbers of fish. Orri’s efforts to mobilize the government agencies of various countries lead to an international effort to reduce the netting of wild salmon. (You can learn more about Orri Vigfusson and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund here.)

I am always amazed at the special people one meets while flyfishing.  There is definitely something unique in the DNA of those who chase fish with flies and I am humbled to have been able to share that week in Iceland with three very special flyfishermen, Jack Hemingway, Orri Vigfusson and John Green. Sadly, Jack Hemingway passed away just a few months after our fishing trip. I’ll bet he’s still smiling and telling stories.

Jack’s obituary in the Guardian is worth reading as it gives good measure of a good man.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
This entry was posted in flyfishing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Flyfishing with Jack Hemingway

  1. Pingback: Destination Flyfishing: The Good News and the . . . | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s