I’ve always thought Zane Grey to be a pretty cool name; in
the annals of literature it belongs to the man who is the most read angling
writer of all time. But, in truth, we could easily have never seen a single
word of his in print.
He didn’t exactly have a natural path to literary fame. Born
in Ohio, USA in 1872 he was christened Pearl by his dentist father, with
whom he had a complicated and difficult relationship, most probably due to
their similar character traits of being both irascible and antisocial.
However, they shared some interest in dentistry as Zane was sent out on
behalf of his father at the age of 17 to perform extraction house calls
until the authorities intervened.
Zane was talented. Baseball – he could have turned pro
having won a scholarship to Penn State. He swum for the university.
Obtained a degree in dentistry which he eventually parlayed into a
successful practice in New York City where he alleviated the boredom of his
work by following his passion – writing. But the truth is he wasn’t very
good at writing. He had yet to find what the publishing world like to call
his ‘voice’, it finally finding full throat when he reached his forties
around the time of WWI.
In 1905 Zane had married, the wealth of his new wife Dolly
allowing him to chuck in dentistry and follow what were to be his three
abiding pursuits for the remainder of his life: fishing, writing and
mistresses. His son Romer estimates that he spent on average 300 days a
year fishing, away from home for months on end. Dolly, who seemed to be
unbothered by his chosen lifestyle, became his literary manager, the two
splitting the proceeds of what was to become a considerable fortune 50/50.
For Zane Grey invented what we regard today as the Old Wild
West. Cowboys and Indians. The wagon trains. The destiny of settlers
spreading across a virgin America. Gunslingers. Bawdy saloons with swing
doors. Horse and rider fording clear rivers, fringed with green pines with
snow peaks in the distance. The huge open expanse of a nation barely
discovered. It was largely a mythology of his invention based on his
childhood love of history and mountain-lion hunting trips to the Grand
Canyon with Jesse "Buffalo" Jones, a western hunter and guide.
He was a prodigious writer with prodigious sales. Over 40
million copies of his 90 books were sold. They were made into over a
hundred Hollywood movies, not to mention TV series in later years. Such was
the quantum of his output that writings found in his archive kept the
presses rolling with new work until 1963, more than two decades after his
He was also a prodigious spender, largely on fishing. He
travelled all over the world to fish, mostly for big game keeping the world
abreast of his feats with numerous magazine and newspaper articles as he
ticked off world records (11 in all) for marlin and all manner of billfish
from Australia to Tahiti. He spent $300,000 on a bespoke boat; something
around $5.5m in today’s money. Like Hemingway (they never met) he moved
forward the sport of big game fishing, popularising it and also inventing
the teaser, the hookless bait that attracts fish to the back of a boat.
So, why do I tell you all this? Well, Zane came to mind when
I was fishing in Sunday. I’m a huge believer in using the rod tip as a
disgorger. It takes a bit of practice and a certain insouciance to do
everything you have ever been taught not to do but it works like a dream.
Once you have your fish within rod distance swiftly lower
the tip, retrieve the line until taught at which point you have effectively
pulled the barbless fly almost into the top ring. Then press the rod tip
into the fish mouth. It usually takes a bit of a wiggle but suddenly you’ll
find your rod will pop free. And a nonplussed fish will momentarily hang
immobile in the water until it scoots off realising it is again free.
Now, for this method to work best play the fish hard and
fast before it has much time to think about what is going on. But Zane,
ever the thinker of what fish were thinking, practiced something a bit
different with hammerhead sharks, rarely putting pressure on the fish,
gently leading them to the side of the boat like a poodle on a lead. I
tried this on Sunday and it really did work: instead of being goaded and
furious the fish seemed just generally bemused.
Of course, with trout you don’t have quite the same
post-capture issue. Zane’s unsuspecting sharks were roped at tail and nose
before being hauled into the boat and which point their lack of exhaustion
proved a great danger to those in the boat, with consequent injuries.
Did you rollover?
Did you rollover your booking to 2021? If you did, and now
are going the fishing equivalent of cold turkey, don’t despair as there are
I’m more than happy to try to ‘revive’ your original
booking. Just ping me an email and I’ll lay out the options. Or if you wish to
check out dates first for your particular booking click here
to select your beat, then the red button for dates before
It is strange how phrases evolve into common currency. A
decade ago, the term click & collect was a bright new retailing idea.
Not everyone in the industry thought it viable. Plenty of consumers had no
idea what it meant. Or if they did, they doubted its utility. Today,
boosted by the Covid crisis, it is as much part of our daily shopping life
as a trip into the store and home delivery.
It is even filtering down to the antediluvian fly fishing
world. With our local Stockbridge shops closed, and the Royal Mail delivery
service a bit spotty, you are welcome to collect your Fishing Breaks fly
order from us.
Click & collect is available on request from Nether
Wallop Mill, SO20 8EW. Please call or email prior to placing your order online. Minimum order two packs.
Fishing Cast No. 6
If you didn't catch up with the latest edition of The
Fishing Cast it is still live.
We share the secret of our first post-lockdown fishing
destination. Ponder casting into the Thames from the roof of the Savoy
Hotel. The hackle trick to tying a good wet fly. And start the debate as to
the best ever fishing film.