You probably haven't heard of him. And he hasn't been inducted into
any fly fishing halls of fame to my knowledge.
The question is: Why not?
One of my heroes and a personal guiding star is Robert H. Smith. You might presume Smith was a fly-fisherman, and you'd be correct to, but he was far more than that.
Basic biography: Born in 1908 Smith graduated from Dartmouth College in 1932 where he studied zoology, botany and geology, three areas of interest that would resurface again and again in his adventures and writings. That same year Smith took work with the old Biological Survey, later to become the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. His work was waterfowl research and for 35 years he surveyed their breeding grounds and flyways on foot, canoe, horseback and airplane documenting almost the entirety of the U. S. down through Mexico and up through Arctic Canada.
Now this is when things get interesting. In 1967 he retired from USFWS and changed his focus entirely from ducks and geese to fish. With the help of fisheries biologist Dr. Robert J. Behnke, Smith set out on an epic quest to catch (on fly gear), photograph and document ALL 34 of the then recognized species and sub-species of trout and charr on the North American continent. He had no interest in stocked, hatchery raised "rubber trout" as he called them - Smith was after native fish in their ancestral habitat. It was a pursuit almost impossible, but after many years of stalking these endemic fish, usually in isolated mountain brooks and hard-to-reach headwaters, and often alone and on horseback, he was finally successful. He even caught trout new to science.
He had no interest in stocked, hatchery "rubber trout" as he called them.
As fortune would have it, he was convinced to write a book about the native trout and charr he sought and his struggles to find them. But what a book! The title of Smith's book is Native Trout of North America first published by Frank Amato Publications in 1984. The book, you could probably say, is my bible – I've read it cover-to-cover at least six times and I've spot-read it hundreds of more times.
Native Trout is also a prophetic work. The final paragraph of his book goes like this, "If enough of us choose to be heard, future generations will have the opportunity to fish for beautiful, wild native trout in their ancestral streams, high in the alpine meadows amidst the grandeur of the mountains and among the rimrocks of the high desert."
Choose to be heard.
This is fly fishing hall of fame stuff, folks. Saint?...probably not.
Hero?...absolutely. - WES:::