Al­though some of Gary Kem­s­ley’s fish­ing he­roes have passed on, their writ­ings re­main, al­low­ing mod­ern an­glers to ben­e­fit from their ex­pe­ri­ences.

NZ Fishing News - - Casting About -

Zane Grey was such a writer and fish­er­man. Not liked by all, envied by many and revered by many more, he was a writer of fic­tion – cow­boy and In­dian sto­ries – but he re­searched and stud­ied his sub­jects well, and to read his sto­ries was like tak­ing a his­tory les­son in the nicest pos­si­ble way.

His story of his trip to the Rain­bow Bridge (Na­tional Mon­u­ment) in 1922 is the tale of an epic jour­ney. To­day you can get there by boat on the flooded Colorado River; back then it re­quired days in the sad­dle on treach­er­ous trails. And that just to back­ground a cow­boy story! It says a lot about him.

He prac­ticed as a den­tist at first and later made a for­tune from the sales of his books, spend­ing it on trav­el­ling and fish­ing. He fol­lowed all codes of fish­ing, from sur­face trolling for the mighty broad­bill sword­fish, though to bass and warm-wa­ter fish­ing, as well as ply­ing his fly for the noble steel­head trout that run up the rivers of the USA’S western seaboard rivers.

He was happy fish­ing for bone­fish in Florida or wad­ing the Ton­gariro River in New Zealand. He caught bluefin tuna off Catalina Is­land and mar­lin in Tahiti, as well as sharks and mar­lin in north­ern New Zealand and Aus­tralian wa­ters, and broad­bill sword­fish world­wide. He was a true fish­ing pioneer.

Read his stuff and you will no­tice a hint of ar­ro­gance, but you will mainly pick up on the fact that he had an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for fish­ing knowl­edge. A lo­cal sit­ting on a rock with a cane pole was as in­ter­est­ing to Zane Grey as a mil­lion­aire with a big game boat. He couldn’t get enough in­for­ma­tion. When he de­cided that he and his son Romer were go­ing to sort out the bone­fish in Florida while they were down there, he had no idea that his life would be changed by this mys­te­ri­ous fish. He didn’t even catch one on the first trip, and left vow­ing to change that on his next visit.

It was a slow learn­ing curve be­fore either of them hooked a bone­fish. Only a pa­tient man would have per­sisted. He went on to catch one over ten pounds and hold a record for a pe­riod. Later, in Tahiti, he found more of them, and his Florida ex­pe­ri­ence was of great use. In a short story he wrote called The Bone­fish Brigade, he tells of watch­ing other bone-fish­ers for hours, try­ing to work out what they were do­ing.

We should re­mem­ber that all this was in the days when travel was dif­fi­cult and in­for­ma­tion hard to gather. No in­stan­ta­neous bone­fish reports from top lodges and guides around the world. It was a time when most fish­ers didn’t even know that bone­fish ex­isted.

A fish­er­man needs some­one to look up to, some­one who has achieved. That will give them a goal or a point to as­pire to. My fish­ing ad­dic­tion came from writ­ings such as Zane Grey’s and hav­ing the con­fi­dence to have a go. I well re­mem­ber one fish­er­man I looked up to at the time telling me I was a fool for think­ing I

could catch king­fish and other game­fish from the rocks. That was back in the early 1970s. There were few even try­ing, but I was pre­pared to give it a go, and over the next 30 years or more I caught more king­fish over 20kg and huge sharks off the rocks than he’d had hot din­ners. It was a mat­ter of re­search, prepa­ra­tion, ap­pli­ca­tion and per­se­ver­ance. I gath­ered such strength from Zane Grey’s sto­ries when he had been in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion and knew he could be suc­cess­ful if he tried hard enough. It was the 1970s again. “You will never catch any­thing on those soft-plas­tic lures,” some­one said. “You’ll never catch a snap­per on a lure,” said some­one else. To­day an­glers are spend­ing a mil­lion dol­lars a year on soft­plas­tics and their pri­mary tar­get is snap­per.

Other writ­ers through the years have had sim­i­lar in­flu­ences – Lefty Kreh, Steve Star­ling, Budge Hintz, Ron Cal­cutt and Steve Cooper, to name a few. Each one has his own style, and writes in his own man­ner. Some are older and some are younger than me. If you find a writer you like, then look for more of his work.

Zane Grey only wrote 18 books on fish­ing, but he did write a lot of other ma­te­rial for mag­a­zines and jour­nals. Some of his short sto­ries, such as The Bone­fish Brigade, are amongst the best sto­ries he has writ­ten. In that par­tic­u­lar story he ex­plained how he spent hours study­ing the suc­cess­ful fish­er­men wher­ever he went. He was not afraid of fronting up and ask­ing ques­tions if he saw a fish­ing sit­u­a­tion he didn’t un­der­stand, either. A lit­tle of this con­tent can be seen in his ear­lier book Tales of Fishes. His books are easy to find, al­though quite ex­pen­sive, but jour­nal and mag­a­zine writ­ings are re­ally scarce. They haven’t been reprinted in cheaper for­mats like most of his books.

There is so much to learn from early fish­ers such as Grey. They didn’t have the tackle we have to­day, they couldn’t fly around the world in a day, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with other fish­ers was dif­fi­cult – im­pos­si­ble in many places. Yet these early pi­o­neers worked out many of the se­crets of the sport fish­ing scene at the time. We have plenty to be thank­ful for.

It is very in­ter­est­ing read­ing be­tween the lines. Our knowl­edge to­day means that we can gain even more from early writ­ings. While the writer might have men­tioned some­thing in pass­ing, we may be able to delve deeper into his sub­ject and tie in present in­for­ma­tion with their mus­ings.

This is one of the rea­sons I have put pen to pa­per over the years. We need to doc­u­ment and re­port on the fish­ing scene. Changes in fish stocks and the use of fish­eries, as well as the health, size and pop­u­la­tion base of species to­day, will pro­vide valu­able in­for­ma­tion for oth­ers to use in the fu­ture.

I have a medium-sized fish­ing li­brary. My col­lec­tion is a mix of his­toric and in­struc­tional fish­ing books, with a few text-book-style books and jour­nals on New Zealand fish and fish­ing. I am for­ever re­fer­ring to my books to clar­ify thoughts while I am writ­ing, as well as read­ing and reread­ing for pure en­ter­tain­ment. My books also of­fer ideas and talk of fish­ing in­no­va­tion. That in­spi­ra­tion keeps me writ­ing and fish­ing.

I’m no fish­ing his­to­rian, but it is in­ter­est­ing to look back. Just re­cently some­one asked where salt­wa­ter fly fish­ing started in New Zealand. What I do know is that there are plenty of us still fish­ing that go back a lot fur­ther than the time Auck­land ‘dis­cov­ered’ it! Look­ing through my books, the ear­li­est ref­er­ence I can find is in Guy Man­ner­ing’s book Eighty Years in New Zealand, pub­lished in 1943. He talks of ka­hawai fish­ing with the fly in the Tuk­i­tuki River in Hawkes Bay around 1910 (pages 179-180).

My mes­sage here is to use our en­quir­ing minds in con­junc­tion with the words of our past he­roes to en­hance the fish­ing fu­ture.


• • • • • • 5.

En­joy with a fresh gar­den salad or sim­ply on its own. 45g but­ter 1 clove gar­lic, crushed 2½ tbsp flour 1½-2 cups milk, warmed 1 cup grated cheese Salt and pep­per to taste.

Zane Grey

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