Jack Gartside - Fished His Inner Flow...

-- Last Updated: Dec-09-09 7:15 AM EST --

When I took up flyfishing/flytying after college, this guy was a source of knowledge as his fly patterns and exploits were often shared at Stoddards in Downtown Boston - a place where the local flyfishers gathered to get the latest dope on hot flies and hot spots. His simple sparrow feather nymph patterns are easy to tied and have hooked me many small colorful brookies to 18" plus Brown trout and landlock salmon in streams and rivers throughout new england.

Gartside also was a pioneer of flyfishing in the salt for stripers. I have several of his (signed) books describing fishing spots over greater Boston Harbor and islands. These aren't collectors' items but well worn as I often thumb through in search of new spots to kayak fish from.

While I could never see myself be a "trout bum" like him, I often admired Gartside's courage to thumb his nose at society's expectations and to go with his own inner flow. The hatch is on! Tight line, Jack.

Jack Gartside, 66; fly-fisher lived simply to pursue goal
By Bryan Marquard, Globe Staff | December 9, 2009

Jack Gartside invented some of his much-prized fishing flies while using a vise clasped to the steering wheel of his cab as he sat in Logan Airport’s taxi queue, waiting for a fare. Even behind the wheel, Mr. Gartside kept one wader-clad leg planted in the trout streams of Montana, a secluded nook in New Zealand, or a neglected fishing hot spot in Boston Harbor.

“In my high school yearbook, other people listed doctor or lawyer in the space provided for their future job,’’ he told Field & Stream magazine in 1999. “I put fishing.’’

More than 30 years ago, Mr. Gartside quit teaching high school English to fish more or less full time, living simply and supplementing his fly-tying income by driving a cab or grabbing a temporary job near a fishing destination. Once he helped make caskets; another time, he degreased snowmobile runners.

Mr. Gartside, who was as well known internationally for his devil-may-care lifestyle as he was for his expertise fly-fishing and fly-tying, died of lung cancer Saturday in the Bear Hill Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Stoneham. He was 66 and had lived in Winthrop after many years in a Mission Hill apartment crammed with books and tools of the fly-tying trade.

A devotee of trout fishing, Mr. Gartside spent so much time fishing in and near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming that for a while his car was registered in Montana.

Then, he logged so many hours in the salt water around Boston that his writings about the best locations became indispensable to those who want to fish the harbor.

“I’ve fished with some of the greats, and Jack was as good, if not better, than anyone I’ve fished with,’’ said Dave Skok, a Winthrop neighbor and fly-fishing ambassador for the Patagonia clothing and gear company. “The same goes for his fly-tying. His flies were exquisite, and his casting and fishing style was precise and graceful. And he was tall and lanky, so he kind of looked like a heron. He didn’t just act like one.’’

The way Mr. Gartside lived drew as much envy as the graceful arc and whip of his casts or the creativity and precision of his flies.

“He’s who we’d all like to be if we all had more guts,’’ said Mike Quigley of Nahant, a friend and fishing buddy.

Said Skok: “Jack Gartside was a trout bum before the term had even been coined. He was the real deal, man.’’

He drove a cab part time so he could leave on a whim, and his fishing travels included California, Minnesota, Mexico, Denmark, Japan, France, Germany, and Norway.

Mr. Gartside liked to tell the story of the day, nearly 30 years ago, when an airline said it would give a round trip ticket to anywhere in the world for $1, plus tax, to 225 people who dressed in clothes depicting a destination. He showed up at Logan in a New Zealand bush jacket and an Australian campaign hat.

Chosen from the crowd, he hustled back to his Mission Hill apartment to grab his fishing gear and soon landed in New Zealand with a couple of hundred dollars in his pocket. He stretched the money out for a month, hitchhiking around the country while holding up borrowed waders and a fishing rod.

“I frankly don’t make much of a living, but I make a hell of a life,’’ he told the Globe Sunday Magazine in 2001. “I really don’t look too far down the road, and I imagine I’ll do what I’m doing now until the day I die.’’

Growing up in Revere, Mr. Gartside was the son and grandson of machinists.

As a boy, he began fishing on a breakwater at Revere Beach, but only started embracing his future in fishing after going to a sportsman’s show in Boston to see his baseball idol, Ted Williams.

“He was tying a fishing fly, and I’d never seen one tied before,’’ Mr. Gartside told the Globe Sunday Magazine. “That Ted Williams was doing it made it even more magical. . . . He showed me how to tie a woolly worm, a very simple fly, and from that moment on, I was hooked.’’

Working his way through college, Mr. Gartside graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and became a high school English teacher in Boston. As student shenanigans escalated, he decided to seek work elsewhere.

“It’s safer driving a cab at night in Boston than it is teaching in a Boston school during the day,’’ he told Sports Illustrated.

Mr. Gartside also eked out a living from speaking engagements, the sales of self-published books, and selling the fruits of his fly-tying.

He never married, and his sister, the last of his immediate family, died several years ago. His friends and admirers, however, can be found from the North Shore to New Zealand.

“He was a fantastic model for someone who wants to go out and explore the world and isn’t necessarily interested in the more commonly tread path in life,’’ Skok said.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Winthrop. Burial will be in Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett.

“Perhaps I do resist financial success,’’ Mr. Gartside told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1994. “My grandfather always said, ‘There are no luggage racks on hearses, no pockets in shrouds.’ All we have is this life, and it’s up to us to make the most of it.’’

Jack’s Online Blog
Don’t know how long this site will stay up. Some interesting readings, even up to the point of his getting sick. More or less, the notes and observations from the life of an Boston urban angler. Some fun stuff. For locals, it’s like comparing fishing notes on the various fishing spots and holes in the Greater Boston area:



An interesting Man
It takes guts and dedication to lead this mans lifestyle. I am sure he would have been a great time around a campfire.

Thanks for posting this.


i have
this huge desire to buy a winnebago and drive forever, fishing everyplace along the way. if i were independently wealthy i would do it. i keep in the back of my mind that when i retire i could begin to live that life. maybe even be a national park sitter over winters.

A true patriot of flyfishing…