Question & Answer
With Henry Winkler—actor, producer, director and trout-fishing enthusiast
Henry Winkler, “The Fonz,” recently released a memoir on fly fishing, family and photography, “I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River,” published by Insight Editions. An avid fly fisherman, Henry sat down to answer a few questions for Trout on his favorite spots to fish, why the sport means so much to him and his affinity for rivers.
How did you get interested in fly fishing?
At first, it was just a vacation to try it. Being on the river, sleeping next to the river, standing in the river, completely hooked me.
What are the things you have learned while casting in a river?
I’ve learned not to put off till tomorrow what can give you so much joy today.
Most people know you as The Fonz. Many don’t know that you were diagnosed with dyslexia when you were 31, after you received a Masters in Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama. Your childhood was tough—people thought you were lazy and an underachiever. Even throughout your adult life, you say you have had moments of low self-esteem. How does fly fishing boost your self-image?
As I got better at fly fishing, I realized that the anticipatory fear of something is worse than the actual doing. I find that to be one of the most important lessons, not only that I learned from fly fishing, but that I learned to apply it to my life.
How does fly fishing serve as a metaphor for your life?
It is a washing machine for your brain. I know for a fact that 80 decibels of rushing water is one of the most pleasing sounds to mankind. The river, as it rushes along its bed, helps you get rid of whatever tension you might have brought with you to the stream.
You say in your book, “I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River,” that your heart lives in New York, where you were raised, that your body lives in Los Angeles and your soul is in Montana. Why is Montana such an important place for you?
Montana is spacious, gorgeous, friendly, inviting and where my favorite trout live.
What are your favorite rivers?
The Ruby, the Beaverhead, the Madison and the Henry’s Fork.
You are meticulous about recording information about fishing. What information do you document?
The weather, the water conditions, the fly, my lunch and the size, number and species of trout I am lucky enough to catch.
You are dedicated to catch and release fishing. Why?
I find trout to be beautiful, majestic, well-educated in avoiding my fly and very photogenic. If we put them back, they get larger and more fun the next year.
Do you fish for other species besides trout?
I’ve tried deep-sea fishing on the high seas and spend most of my time vomiting. During the filming of Waterboy, the late Jerry Reed, the extraordinary country-western musician, took me bass fishing for the very first time. I have also been lucky enough to catch a salmon, which was the size of a small child. But nothing satisfies the way netting a beautiful brown or a colorful rainbow does.
Is fly fishing cool enough for the Fonz?
As a matter of fact, the Fonz feels the same way I do. And usually he takes his own boat and guide down the Madison. He tried attaching a renovated motorcycle engine to the back of the guide’s row boat, but fortunately he was voted down.
You’ve hooked yourself in the cheek with a fly and you say you fall into the river once a day while you’re fishing. What’s the worst injury you’ve incurred on a fishing trip?
I would have to say that the worst injury is to my soul when I have to get back on the plane and fly out of Montana.
Best Fishing Spot: Wouldn’t you like to know.
Favorite Fly: I’ve done pretty well on the Flying Ant.
Favorite Fly Rod: My very first Winston, which is a 9 foot, 6 weight.
Most Memorable Fish: the largest trout I ever caught in August 2010 a brown trout, about 24 inches long and over 6 lbs.
Dream Destination: Any stream where the fish are friendly.