In Memory of David Scholes (1923-2005) – ANZAC Day

It seems fitting that on ANZAC day we remember one of our fly fishing war veterans, David Scholes (1923-2005). Many of you will know David for his writing and artwork regarding all things fly fishing. Fly fishing is just one part of David’s story.

David was born in Melbourne in 1923 and attended school at Scotch College. An avid fly fisherman from a young age, David taught himself to fly fish when he was 10 years old on the waters around Melbourne and then further afield including the Eildon Weir, and the Upper Yarra. David went on to study medicine at the University of Melbourne before interrupting his studies to go and fight in the RAAF. He began his pilot training at Western Junction in Tasmania where he met his future wife, Patricia Nelson.  In 1944 he was posted to England as part of the RAF and began a tour of operation in 61 Squadron in 5 Group Bomber Command in July 1944.

David kept a diary whilst serving his country:

Wednesday 26 July [1944]: War. Target Givores Baden, a marshalling yard 12 miles south of Lyons in France…Attack at night. It’s an awful long way on paper. Off we go. Soon after crossing the French coast I see an A / C shot down. Poor chaps. We have to fly in atrocious weather to reach the target with lightning, hail, rain and terrific bumpiness. We have to orbit in this weather. The boys put on their nav lights. I see two collide and another hits a mountain. As we cannot see the TIs we turn for home planning to bring our load home again. Eventually after what seems an age of ups and downs cloud, lightning and odd flak we cross the enemy coast at dawn. We find it necessary to jettison our load to reach England, where we land, through fuel shortage, at an American airfield called Merryfield. After a meal and refueling we fly back to base. This has been a dreadful day and I never wish to do another like it.”


One of the 61 Squadron’s Lancasters. | Photo: Legacy of the Lancasters (2013)

David returned from World War II and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for “an act or acts of valour and courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy.” Only 1,513 of these medals have been awarded to Australian servicemen. To give an idea of scale, the Department of Defence awards approximately 35,000 medals a year in Australia (both current and posthumously).

David’s original crew: L to R: Bill Jackman (mid-upper gunner), Des Muray (navigator), Ron ‘Darkie’ Mayall (bomb aimer), Jock Gardner (radio operator) and Geoff Allen (rear gunner).  | Photo: David Scholes and Legacy of Lancasters (2013).

In 1946 David married Patricia and four years later moved with his young family to Launceston, Tasmania. Now that the war was over, David became a freelance artist, before publishing his first book Fly Fisher in Tasmania in 1961 by Melbourne University Press, quickly followed by The Way of an Angler (1962) and Trout Quest (1969). “There is something other than fishing which draws you back; perhaps the remoteness and feeling of treading unknown paths like that of the explorer, or maybe the weird landscape which, notwithstanding its desolation, seems to whisper a soft message of beauty.”
Through his writing and connections with a range of influential fly fishers, David played an important role in the introduction and development of the Muddler Minnow, and later the Nobby Hopper in Australia. These are but two examples of the influence David had in the fly fishing world. Indeed, the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser wrote the Foreword to David’s Trout Days.



Rob Sloane encapsulates David’s contribution to fly fishing in ‘The Schole’s Legacy’ #41 Spring. One of his favourite book covers is David’s watercolour of a rainbow trout on the slipcase of Trout Quest.


Photo: David Scholes, and the Australian Fly Fishing Museum

Of the thousands who have had angling works published in Australia it is hard to think of one more loved and respected than David Scholes.” Australian Fly Fishing Museum

A keen writer and lover of trout, David continued to write so that by 2003 he had published fourteen books. One of these, the Air War Diary (1997) recounted his time in the war including excerpts from his diaries, which also feature in a number of other literary works written by war historians, such as Martin Bowman and Richard Aldrich.
David began writing his own column ‘Sidelines’ for FlyLife #5, Spring 1996. As Rob Sloane remembers, “Scholes to me was an iconic, almost intimidating figure – a real writer belonging to a different generation with a superior knowledge of rivers and literature – not someone you’d argue with…He produced some wonderful illustrations for his early books…his watercolour landscapes, especially those depicting local trout streams, sold out within hours whenever exhibited.”

David’s den. | Photo by son-in-law Peter Whyte


For many a trout fisherman there is no describing the call of the river – which has been a siren call to trout and salmon men for centuries. High hang the bank and swift slow the run and many a Scotsman and Australian know exactly what a man is talking about when he says the water sounds like bells. David Scholes is lucky in that he can write it.” Field & Stream, March 1972.


Sadly, David’s health was declining. Once an active fisherman in the 50s and 60s, multiple sclerosis slowed David’s fishing days. Yet his writing continued. In 2005, David at the grand age of 82 wrote his final Flylife column, FlyLife #40. “He will be remembered as a gifted Australian writer, artist, naturalist and angler who carried memories of glorious fly fishing in the 50s and 60s through a writing career that spanned nearly 45 years.”


So on this day of memorial, we pause to remember David; a war veteran, a fly fisher, artist, author, friend, husband, and father.

Lest we forget.


Photo by son-in-law Peter Whyte





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Commonwealth of Australia, D. (2016). Home : Defence Medals : Department of Defence. Retrieved 24 April 2016, from

D.W.S. Scholes | Australian Fly Fishing Museum. (2016). Retrieved 24 April 2016, from

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Scholes, D. (1961). Fly-fisher in Tasmania. Sydney: Melbourne University Press.

Sloane, R. (2005). The Scholes legacy. Flylife, 41, 50-53.