March 12, 2020
By Lynn Burkhead
For a state that is landlocked and often thought of as one of the opening scenes from John Steinbeck’s "Grapes of Wrath" detailing the hardships of the Dust Bowl era, Oklahoma has a surprising amount of fishing water and angling excellence.
From world-class paddlefish angling to double-digit largemouth bass fishing to ample waters offering up big slab crappie, there’s certainly more to the Sooner State’s angling resume than many might think.
And that includes the sport of fly fishing, a pastime that now boasts of Oklahoma’s newest member elected to the International Game Fish Association’s Hall of Fame, none other than Tahlequah’s Dave Whitlock.
Described by Tulsa World outdoor writer Kelly Bostian as Oklahoma’s least-known internationally acclaimed angler , Whitlock becomes the Sooner State’s third IGFA Hall of Fame member. He joins Cookson’s Jimmy Houston (Class of 2003) and Tulsa’s late Darrel J. Lowrance (Class of 2012).
Not bad for a state better known for Oklahoma Sooner college football and springtime twisters than it is for places to wet a line.
Whitlock, now 85, joins pelagic game fish researcher Dr. Barbara Block; famed billfish angler and conservationist Jose Campos; marine conservationist Ken Hinman; and game fish advocate Patrick Gay as the IGFA HOF’s newest inductees.
The 2020 class of five inductees—elected unanimously by the IGFA Board of Trustees—will be enshrined at the IGFA Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sept. 12, 2020 in Springfield, Mo. at Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium.
A longtime contributor to Fly Fisherman magazine, a member of Outdoor Sportsman Group’s family of industry-leading outdoors publications, Whitlock was named to the magazine’s "50 Most Influential Fly Fishers in the Last 5 Decades." That list was announced in the fall of 2018 when the 50th Anniversary edition of Fly Fisherman was published.
An active angler, fly tier, writer, photographer, lecturer, and artist, Whitlock lives on a ranch near Tahlequah, Okla. with his wife Emily. He still routinely fishes the Illinois River and other waters in the Ozark Mountains region near his Sooner State home.
Born in Muskogee, Okla., Whitlock’s rise to international fly fishing renown started many years ago when he was introduced to the sport as a child with a bamboo fly rod and the bass-, panfish-, and crappie-filled waters at Greenleaf State Park.
Growing up with a love for fish and the water, Whitlock was educated at Tahlequah’s Northeastern State University, an institution that provided him with a science degree that he turned into a chemistry research position in the oil industry.
But at the age of 35, Whitlock’s love for fly fishing and the outdoors world spurred him to make the leap into a career devoted to angling. He's never looked back, becoming a multi-talented communicator who writes, lectures, photographs and paints the fly fishing world.
Along with countless magazine stories and Internet articles, Whitlock is the author of several books including the L.L. Bean Fly Fishing Handbook; the L.L. Bean Bass Fly Fishing Handbook; and his recent Artful Profiles of Trout, Char, and Salmon and the Classic Flies That Catch Them.
Whitlock, a member of four other angling Hall of Fames including the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, is one of North America’s most innovative fly tiers as well, coming up with dozens of patterns that have filled fly shop bins and fly fishing catalogs over the years.
A renowned artist, Whitlock is a talented painter who creates fly fishing images for fly tying vise bases, coffee mugs, and limited-edition prints. He has been a prolific illustrator too, creating art for his own books and some 20 others.
On the conservation side of things, Whitlock has been a key contributor to the propagation and management of wild trout with the Whitlock-Vibert Box System that he helped to create. An in-stream salmonid egg incubator and nursery device, the system—which Whitlock wrote a book about—has helped to develop northern Arkansas’ trout fisheries into renowned rivers and streams that have produced world record size brown trout.
To learn more about Dave Whitlock and his wife Emily, please visit their website at www.DaveWhitlock.com. To learn more about the IGFA Hall of Fame, please visit here.