The fly fishing community was stunned earlier this week as tragic news came out of Iceland, reports that announced the untimely deaths of two well-known La Crescent, Minn. anglers and guides, Brian Schumacher and his wife Janet Veit.
While there are some conflicting details about exactly how the tragedy unfolded, the couple is reported to have perished when the combination of swift current and frigid water temperatures took them under.
Veteran Wisconsin smallmouth guide Tim Landwehr, owner of Tight Lines Fly Fishing Co. in DePere, Wis. and co-author with Dave Karczynski of the recent book Smallmouth: Modern Fly-Fishing Methods, Tactics, and Techniques, made the sad announcement on his Facebook page:
“It is with a truly heavy heart that I post this message. May 20th we lost friends Brian Schumacher and Janet Veit to a most unfortunate accident while fishing in Iceland. From what I understand Janet fell out of a boat and Brian jumped in swiftly to save her from the cold waters. When recovered they could not resuscitate either of them.
I had the privilege of meeting both of them and sharing time at fly fishing trade shows. We are all an incredibly close-knit group in the Midwest because our industry is so small. The loss of these two leaves a hole in the Midwest fly fishing culture. I will miss you both.”
Brian holds up a beautiful brown trout while fishing in the winter. (Photo courtesy of Tim Landwehr)
Landwehr later posted another Facebook post that gave additional details:
“This is the post on Brian Schumacher Facebook page.
With tremendous sadness, the families of Brian Schumacher and Janet Veit are reporting the information that we received from the US Embassy in Iceland yesterday. Janet and Brian both died yesterday, May 20. We have received conflicting reports, but the Embassy representative reported that Janet fell into the water while fishing. She was in distress and Brian entered the water to assist her. The water was very cold. Both of them were pulled from the water but could not be resuscitated.
There are no arrangements for any services yet as it will take the officials of Iceland and of the U.S some time to process this terrible accident. Our family members have now all been notified. If you are able to contact any of their many, many friends to let them know of this tragedy, please feel free to do so. Funeral arrangements will be announced as soon as possible.
In a world of wonderful people, Janet and Brian were pretty near the top. They loved their families, their friends, their colleagues, their dogs and cats, and most importantly, each other. Please keep them in your hearts today and in the future. Be kind to those you meet, as they would. Peace to you all.”
When contacted, Landwehr stated that the horrible news about the loss of his friends was … “truly a terrible shock.” He later added that “The Midwest industry is so small and this really is tough for all of us to deal with.”
An online story by Pat Pheifer on the Star Tribune newspaper indicated that Veit, 48, was a veterinarian at Hillside Animal Hospital in La Crosse, Wis., while Schumacher, 48, was a histologist at Gundersen Health Clinic in the same community.
Pheifer’s story also notes that Veit led a Becoming an Outdoor Woman fly-fishing class at Whitewater State Park in southern Minnesota. She and her husband also reportedly taught wounded veterans how to fly fish as well.
Janet was a passionate angler, teaching a women’s fly-fishing class at Whitewater State Park in Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of Tim Landwehr)
The Star-Tribune story by Pheifer indicates that the couple was fishing in near Villingavatn and Lake Pingvallavatn in southwestern Iceland. Pingvallavatn is reportedly Iceland’s largest lake, with deep and cold water that has temps in the mid-30s.
Pheifer reported that the couple died on Sunday night, May 20, while on their Iceland vacation and fishing trip. In that account, the tragedy is said to have unfolded when Schumacher stepped into deep, moving water and Veit jumped in to try and save her husband. Swept into the frigid lake, the couple were not able to be rescued in time.
The couple, which met when Schumacher reportedly brought his Vizsla dog in for veterinarian care, were passionate fly fishers and had traveled to several locations for fly fishing vacations. That includes Iceland, where Veit reportedly caught a 6-pound brown trout a few days ago, the largest fish of her career.
Schumacher was a guide at Driftless Fly Fishing Co. in Preston, Minn. while Veit, who came to the sport a few years ago, had also just been hired as a guide.
Reports indicate that Schumacher’s and Veit’s bodies will be flown back to the U.S. with services pending in La Crescent.
The Minnesota couple’s untimely passing this week is the second deadly tragedy to grip the fly fishing community in recent months. In early March, Seattle resident Jon Luke, 50, a well-known fly fishing photographer, co-owning partner, and creative director of Northwest Fly Fishing and its family of magazines, died after a boating mishap while he was on assignment in Texas.