JOE BROOKS
AN INSPIRATIONAL
FEATURE DOCUMENTARY
ABOUT A MAN ONCE
ENTANGLED IN THE DARK
DEPTHS OF ADDICTION
UNTIL HE MET THE LOVE
OF HIS LIFE. SHE HELPED
TRANSFORM HIM AND HE
TRANSFORMED AN
ENTIRE SPORT.
 
Joe Brooks Jr (Joseph White Brooks Jr) 1901-1972
Joe was an American Fly Fisherman and popular writer about the sport of fly fishing during the mid-20th century. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1901 and died while fly fishing in Montana in 1972. He wrote for the leading fishing and outdoor magazines of the day and was the outdoor editor for The Baltimore Sun. He also wrote ten books about fly fishing, several of which are still considered leading authorities on the subject. He is listed by a leading online fly fishing publication, Fly Fishing Frenzy, as one of the 10 most influential fishermen ever. And the IGFA and others said he did more to popularize and expand fly fishing than any other individual.

Brooks was born in Baltimore, Maryland, into a family that owned a successful insurance business. Joe worked in the business during his early life but was kicked out due to his alcoholism. Joe decided to become a professional fly fisherman and writer, the two passions he enjoyed most. He first began to write an outdoor column called Pools and Riffles for a small Towson, Maryland community publication. But as his popularity gained he started writing for national publications like Field and Stream, The Fisherman, Outdoor Life, True Fishing Annual, Fishing Waters of the World, Ashaway Sportsman, and The Saltwater Sportsman. It was not long after this that he was hired by The Baltimore Sun as their outdoor editor. In 1953 he began writing for Outdoor Life, one of the most prestigious sporting magazines then and continuing today, and in 1968 he became the publication's fishing editor.

Joe Brooks was a mentor and friend of many of the top fly fishermen of his day as well of those of today like Lefty Kreh. Kreh credits Brooks for introducing him to fly fishing, encouraging him to start writing about the sport and getting him one of his first jobs in the fishing industry. The job was with the Miami Herald running their Metropolitan Miami South Florida Fishing Tournament. Joe was also ran the same tournament for years prior to joining Outdoor Life as outdoor editor.

Lefty had this to say about Joe, “Joe changed our fly fishing world as no one else has,” Lefty, wrote in a foreword to Dan Sedgewick’s book, Joe Brooks on Fly Fishing. “If you are an avid fly-fisherman and under the age of 50, chances are you have never heard of Joe Brooks, but you owe him a debt of gratitude. One of Joe’s greatest gifts to fly fishermen is that he opened up the world to all those who followed. Fly fishermen today jump on airplanes to test the waters of the upper Amazon Basin, the trout streams and lakes of New Zealand, and the distant atolls of the South Pacific. But no one dared or thought of this until Joe opened up the doors.”

Joe Brooks pioneered fly fishing for species that previously were thought impossible to catch with a fly. He is also one of the first to pioneer “adventure fly fishing” by traveling to remote places around the world that had never been fly fished before. He is credited with being the first to catch many saltwater fish on a fly specifically a tailing bonefish and permit. Today this is normal in 1940s’ and 50s’ it was extraordinary and so the birth of a new industry.

In 1964, Curt Gowdy of ABC Sports produced a segment about fly fishing on ABC's Wide World of Sports featuring Joe Brooks. The two fly fished in the Argentinean Patagonia and the segment was so popular that a spinoff show was created to focus on outdoor sports such as hunting and fishing. The show was called The American_Sportsman and the first show aired on January 31, 1965. The show ran for over 20 years and was one of the most popular shows on Sunday afternoon television often beating out other major sports programming carried in the same time slot.[9] Joe Brooks was a regular on the show over the following years. Curt had this to say about Joe, “This past year my happiness has been touched by a deep sense of loss: Loss for a man who was instrumental in the birth of this show [ABC’s - The American Sportsman] and its unprecedented success in bringing the outdoors into the living room of America. He was Joe Brooks.”

Joe Brooks taught or fished with many celebrities and became lasting friends with them, including Bing Crosby, Ted Williams and Jack Nicklaus.

Joe Brooks died of a heart attack on September 20, 1972 while fly fishing in Montana. He is buried in Paradise Valley near Livingston, over looking the Yellowstone River, Montana, one of his favorite places to fish.

Books by Joe Brooks
  • Bass Bug Fishing (1947) A.S. Barnes & Company, New York
  • Salt Water Fly Fishing (1950) Putnam, New York
  • Greatest Fishing (1957) Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA
  • Bermuda Fishing (1957) Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA
  • Complete Book of Fly Fishing (1958) A.S. Barnes & Company, New York
  • The Complete Illustrated Guide to Casting (1963) Doubleday, New York
  • A World of Fishing (1964) D. Van Nostrand, New York
  • Complete Guide to Fishing Across North America (1966) Joanna Cotler Books, New York
  • Salt Water Game Fishing (1968) Harper & Row, New York
  • Trout Fishing (1972) Harper & Row, New York
Joe Brooks on Fly Fishing, Edited by Don Sedgewick with a foreword by Lefty Kreh, 2004, Lyons Press, Guilford, CT (Compilation of selected writings of Joe Brooks published posthumously by his wife Mary Brooks)
Stay in Touch Sign up for our email newsletter to get updates on the film’s progress.