Gone Fishing with Drake's and David Coggins

Gone Fishing with Drake's and David Coggins

Wisconsin is a good place to go fishing. Flanked by two Great Lakes (Michigan and Superior for all of the Great Lakes fans out there) and countless rivers, tributaries and some 13,000 miles of trout streams that spread like cold water veins through the green and pleasant forests and farmlands of the Midwest, it's home to more than 160 different species of fish, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, brook trout, brown trout, Chinook salmon and, if you’re lucky, a few walleyes and northern pike. 

It’s also the summer home of David Coggins  author, angler and friend of Drake’s, whose recent book, The Optimist, serves as both a stream-spanning travelogue and an affecting meditation on the pleasure and pain of casting a line and hoping for the best… or at least a bite. 

Inspired by classic fishing gear, Americana and English country clothing, we've launched a limited edition collection with David. There's the Fly Fishing Coat, made from emulsified Scottish waxed cotton with eyelet drainage and press stud pockets on the chest and hip. A Tropical Fishing Vest that comes in lightweight Japanese military ripstop cotton with a linen lining and internal drawstring waist, plus enough pockets to stash tackle, flies, flare and emergency flask of negroni. A new addition to the Games range, the Fishing Blazer is made from waxed cotton sourced from a historic Dundee mill and is finished with pleated patch-and-flap stud pockets and five horn buttons running up to a throat latch for maximum rainy day on the river proctection. Finally, our Twin-Pocket Work Shirt - made in our Somerset factory from brushed cotton and finished with mother of pearl buttons in olive or tattersall check - is given the tackle box treatment with an elongated collar and extra spacious chest pockets. These are clothes to wear if you’re waist-deep wading for king salmon, or just fishing for compliments. 

We photographed David in the collection, out on the water and around his family’s Wisconsin cabin, and caught up with him to discuss being an American who dresses like an Italian who loves England, the challenges of writing a book and the allure of the “dashing” trout. 

Drake's: What first drew you to fishing? Who showed you how it was done?

Our family has a cabin on a lake in Wisconsin. I learned there from two older men who were friends of my grandfather. They were legendary anglers who I write about in the book. We shared a love for the natural world and the balance between contemplation and action that is inherent in fishing. 

What makes for a successful fishing trip?

Well, they’re all good to me! I like to go to places with a strong sense of culture and a way things are done. So to fish in Patagonia, which is of course beautiful and has wonderful fishing, is great. But to have lunch next to the river with a grilled steak and a bottle of Malbec from Mendoza with charming guides is even better. 

How does the collection with Drake's reflect your sense of style? 

I love the history of fishing, and of dressing, for that matter. Certain country clothes are sadly not made any more. I’ve always wanted a waxed cotton sport coat with big pockets—something stylish but functional. So I talked to Michael Hill and that was the start of this collection. I’ve always responded to clothes that serve a purpose and also look good, and that was the inspiration here.  

What's the most important bit of gear a fisherman can own? Do you need a fancy rod?

You absolutely do not need a fancy rod. Especially if you’re starting out you don’t have to worry about the gear—that comes later. It’s certainly nice to have a rod and reel you enjoy, both functionally and aesthetically. But I’ll take a good Parachute Adams fly and waders that don’t leak. 

What were the biggest challenges in writing The Optimist?

The last chapter of the book takes place in England and I had to travel there. It was a little tricky getting into the country and I had to quarantine for two weeks. All of this just so I could fish for four days. The English countryside is a great place to be in isolation so I’m not complaining. But it was a little dicey there for a moment. 

It's been mentioned that you like fishing for trout. Why does that particular fish appeal to you?

That’s a big question. It’s true I love the brown trout—in a way it’s the first trout fly anglers pursued, and it’s also hard to catch. So that makes it very irresistible in many way. Fly anglers reject anything easy. I think a fish can be dashing, and the brown trout and Atlantic salmon strike me as very charismatic.  

What makes Wisconsin a special place? How important a role does it play in your life?

Our cabin in Wisconsin is an old house (well old by American standards) on a lake. It’s where our family comes together each year to eat and drink and swim and boat, and really share our lives in a good way. It’s an escape from the more hectic pace of life in New York. It’s also where I wrote a lot of the book. I love it there. 

Do you worry about the future of fishing? Have the environments changed since you started?

I do worry about it. I think every angler worries about the changes we’re seen in our lifetimes. Every ecosystem has changed gradually and some quite suddenly. Water temperatures are higher. Migrating fish are struggling. Habitat is being destroyed. There’s no way to ignore that. That’s why there’s no way to fish and not be a committed environmentalist (though I would say that should be true even if you don’t fish).  

What books were on your reading list when you were researching The Optimist

Tom McGuane’s book The Longest Silence is rightly considered a masterclass in modern angling writing, it’s a book I read every year. But I also looked at other books that covered a specific topic in a personal way, like Laughing in the Hills, Bill Barich’s terrific book on horse racing. Bill Buford’s work on food is also very inspiring. 

What's the most important bit of gear a fisherman can own? Do you need a fancy rod?

You absolutely do not need a fancy rod. Especially if you’re starting out you don’t have to worry about the gear—that comes later. It’s certainly nice to have a rod and reel you enjoy, both functionally and aesthetically. But I’ll take a good Parachute Adams fly and waders that don’t leak. 

How would you describe your daily style? Do you have a uniform?

Give me an unstructured sport coat, a shirt with a nice large collar and a knit tie and I’m pretty happy. I’m not sure if I would say I dress like an Italian man who loves England. But probably something like that. I like clothes that reflect the person who wears them, which usually happens over time. So destroyed Belgian shoes, worn out corduroys, patched tweed coats—these are things I like.  

Where is a place that you haven't fished yet, but would like to?

I would love to fish for Atlantic salmon in Norway. And for brown trout in New Zealand. Hopefully for the next book!

What's your dream fish supper?

A sushi dinner in Tokyo with plenty of sake sounds very good to me right now.