Dave Whitlock at the 2022 Sowbug Roundup talking fly fishing. Steve Dally image

FLY Fishing, and particular the fly fishing community of the Ozarks, has lost an icon with the passing of Dave Whitlock on Thursday night.

Dave, and wife Emily, were friends to all fly fishers, a good friend of the fly shop and mentor to our head guide Chad Johnson and Ben Levin.

Emily posted a moving announcement on Facebook and right now I can’t find better words. You can see the Fly Fisherman article she mentions here. Our thoughts and prayer to Emily and the family, and the extended family of fly fishers who Dave touched deeply.

It breaks my heart to let you know that we lost Dave last night to a massive stroke. He was working on his boat next to our casting pond when it hit, and was flown to Tulsa for care. But he broke the tippit and drifted gently back to the deep water, the wild that he loved and spent a lifetime exploring, writing and painting about.

We shared 30 wonderful years together and I was able to see, first hand, the huge mark he made on our sport. He was so honored when Fly Fisherman Magazine recently named him as one of four greats that make up the Mt. Rushmore of fly fishing. But I think he left an even bigger mark on those who knew him and who got to share a river with him. The shimmering leap of a trout, the heavy pull of a largemouth or the feisty dance of a bluegill were things that he dearly loved, made his heart race and brought out his big smile…every time!

I can’t fathom life without him yet. For all these years we have done everything together. But, if I learned one thing from Dave, (and I learned many), it is to take on each day with willingness and curiosity and go out there and keep casting forward.

My kids are here with their arms around me and I’ll reach out when I can. We will come together for a celebration of Dave’s life, but we don’t know when that will be just yet.

Thanks to all of you who have touched our lives so profoundly.

With love,


Dave & Emily Whitlock Fly Fishing