Fishing Lines: I couldn't afford the creel deal,so I had to settle for a funny hat

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The Independent Online

So much for my dreams of acquiring a piece of Zane Grey memorabilia. Having travelledall the way to Boston, hopingto pick up some knick-knacks from the famous fisherman's estate, I ended up with nothing. Unfortunately, several thousand others with a lot more money turned up to the auction with the same intention.

I didn't really want Zane's leather trousers, which appear in so many of his pictures. Good job: they sold for $8,750 (£4,175). And goodness knows what my wife, Riva, would have said if I had forked out $19,500 for his rather battered personal pennant, sporting the letters ZG.

Nope, not a thing for me. I guess that I could have put up my hand for two empty wooden line spools, which sold for "only" $150. But nothing linked them to the author, except that they were supposedly found in his house at Altadena, California.

I also fancied an inkwell in the shape of a creel, once owned by the former president Grover Cleveland, but at $2,500 that was too much, even with its pedigree. I didn't get near Bing Crosby's reel ($5,200) or Hoagy Carmichael's rod ($4,750).The total sale took more than $2.5 million.

But I did manage to buy something: a hat. It wasn't Zane Grey's panama, which seemed a bit steep at $525, especially as the catalogue said of it: "Many photographs of Grey around the world feature him wearing similar hats..." However, I'm exceptionally pleased with my purchase, a well-used cap decorated with grotesque flies and badges.

That's because its previous owner was Ed Zern, doyen of humorous fishing writers. He died in 1994, and I don't think anyone, before or since, has matched his wit.

Here's a typical Zern Q & A:

Q: When I became engaged, my fiancée said she understood how much I loved to hunt and fish, and promised never to interfere. Now we're married, and she nags me night and day to giveup outdoor sports altogether. She says if I loved her, I'd gladly stay home. If this keeps on, I'm going to blow my brains out. Please give me whatever advice you can.

A: Since trajectory isn't important here, our recommendation would be a .35 Remington with 200-grain soft-nose bullet.

Or how about this book review? "Although written many years ago, 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' has just been reissued by Grove Press, and this fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of considerable interest to outdoorminded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways of controlling vermin, and other choresand duties of the professional gamekeeper.

"Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pagesof extraneous material in order to discover and savour these sidelights on the managementof a Midland shooting estate,and in this reviewer's opinion, this book cannot take theplace of J R Miller's 'Practical Gamekeeping'."

Zern even set up his ownclub, the Madison Avenue Rod, Gun, Bloody Mary and Labrador Retriever Benevolent Association. I'd like to think that owning his hat makes me an honorary member.