Fishing Music: Ben Winship & David Thompson

Fishing Music: Ben Winship & David Thompson

  • By: Bob White
Fishing Music 2

“The important part of fishing ain’t the fish but the fishing, the important part of loving is the love. The important part of doing most anything you’re doing is doing it with all of your heart.”
~ Tim Bays, The Important Part of Fishing, from the CD, Fishing Music

Like “the important part of fishing” says, the process is often more important than the product, and this is particularly true when it comes to fly-fishing. Perhaps, that’s why I enjoy road-trips so much. Whether it’s watching the sun come up while I pull a boat to the river, or the long quiet on drives home, time on the road has become an integral part of my fishing experience, and the music I listen to while driving is fundamental to the experience.

I have a rather eclectic taste in tunes, so it’s no surprise that I find the music of Ben Winship and David Thompson attractive and appealing, even infectious. Within their two collections of fishing songs I found compositions and arrangements (in addition to many of their own) by Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Doc Watson, Hoagy Carmichael, Earle Hagen, A.P. Carter, Henry Thomas and Taj Mahal.

Winship and Thompson describe their music as loosely based on Appalachian string band traditions, and add that their Fishing Music projects draw widely from swing, blues, bluegrass, folk, Celtic and Americana. “Our goal was to keep the tracks fun, but not frivolous,” Winship said, “and the music evocative without being contrived.” Because fishermen come from all walks of life, the two musicians wanted to make their work dynamic enough for young listeners, with a certain amount of sentimentality that older folks might also enjoy.

Winship and Thompson’s musical roots run deep; both agreed that music discovered them.

Winship grew up in a musical family, and says that from very early on, music was tied to almost every aspect of his life. “It’s not like I chose song writing and performance because I liked them,” he said. “I had no choice in the matter. The good news is that I love the life that music has given me, how it makes me feel, and the memories that are bound to the music I make.”

“I began playing piano at age six,” Thompson added. “And then, for one very unfortunate year, I played the clarinet before picking up electric bass guitar, which became my main instrument at (age) 11. I began to play guitar at 18 and upright base in my 20s.”

When asked about the influences that resonate in their music, Winship replied, “There are just too many to mention. I listen to and absorb almost everything I can get my hands on. If I had to list the top five influences on the Fishing Music CDs I’d say: Louis Armstrong, Tim O’Brien, Taj Mahal, Django Reinhardt and Solas.”

Thompson agreed. “The list is endless,” he said. “From early on, there was the Beatles, then James Taylor, The Who, The Jackson Five, Joe Jackson, Dire Straits, David Wilcox, and just about everyone else.”

Both draw inspiration from strange weather, great art, and untrammeled wilderness with free-flowing rivers and, especially, from fly-fishing, which is more than just a sport to these two musicians. “It’s the way we connect with nature,” Winship said. “And, like any good subject for a song, it’s important to write about something you know and love.”

“Writing fishing songs does get tricky at times,” Thompson adds. “We try hard not to take the easy route by writing songs that are either cheesy, or too literal. Yes, Little Ms. Cutthroat is definitely meant to be cheesy, but it does ring true with that horrible feeling of losing that big trout at the boat—that’s a very real feeling!”

If you’d like some samples of Fishing Music, go to For more information about CDs, a tour schedule, videos and a free download, visit

Contributing editor Bob White is a writer and artist; see his work at