Fishing Lines: Reeling in the Grey legend

WHEN Zane Grey caught a 418lb broadbill swordfish in 1920 off the Californian coast, he should have let the capture alone do the talking for him. As I wrote last week, he was the world's best-selling author and an excellent angler. Though the fish was not a world record, it was still the largest of the year and a notable catch. Grey, however, failed to consider that others might not be quite as enthusiastic, especially in the fiercely competitive Catalina Island Tuna Club.

Members were regaled tiresomely with how he had rowed all winter to keep in condition, how he had soaked his hands in salt water against the possible challenge of a record fish, and how hooking the big swordfish in the mouth, rather than in the stomach, had enabled it to give a more sporting account.

The next year, Grey got his come-uppance. Mrs Keith Spalding, one of the club's best anglers though less than 5ft tall, captured a 426lb broadbill. That evening nearly every Tuna Club member phoned Grey's house. They recounted how far she had rowed the previous winter, how she had used hand lotion to keep her palms supple and other remarks that turned Grey's boastful tale back on himself.

Petulantly, he claimed that Mrs Spalding couldn't possibly have landed such a big fish herself. His unwarranted remarks prompted a club letter stating that Grey must apologise or resign. He did both.

Behaviour like this resulted in a decreasing circle of friends at a time when he was at the height of his fame from cowboy books such as The Heritage of the Desert and Riders of the Purple Sage. He had negotiated a contract giving him an unprecedented 20 per cent royalties on all sales over 10,000 copies printed, which produced a great deal of money for the world's best-selling author.

His sad personal life, however, should not overshadow his achievements as a tremendously exciting writer on all outdoor matters, especially fishing, and a pioneering angler.

He caught a world record bluefin tuna off Nova Scotia, then travelled to New Zealand and landed the first swordfish ever caught on rod and line there, along with a record 450lb striped marlin and a 111lb yellowfin tuna. It was the start of big-game fishing in New Zealand, now one of the leading spots in the world.

Grey's adventures resulted in some of the greatest books on big-game fishing: Tales of Fishing Virgin Seas; Tales of Tahitian Waters; Tales of Swordfish and Tuna, but once again, things went wrong. He took a British ex-army captain, Laurie Mitchell, to New Zealand as his companion but he never forgave Mitchell for capturing a 976lb black marlin, then the largest fish ever taken on rod and line. Their relationship ended in a legal battle, which forced Grey to sell his beloved boat, Fisherman II, at a huge loss.

When he returned to the US, things had changed. It was the Depression. The public had tired of hearing about Zane Grey and he died in 1939 in relative obscurity, ignominiously having had to pay people to go fishing with him.

Ironically, his fishing books are now hugely sought after, and cost upwards of pounds 100. And on Wednesday a big-game reel named after him is expected to make between pounds 1,500 and pounds 2,500 at Sotheby's in Billingshurst, Sussex. For Grey, this would have been the respect he sought but never found during his life.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific