Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Is it really possible to come up with the consummate list of the greatest fishermen of all time? Probably not, but these legendary anglers all met our most important criterion: They have helped all of us become better fishermen. It's their achievements and unselfish contributions that have universally enriched the world of salt water fishing. The brief profiles of these late fishermen do not do justice to their accomplishments, but we've tried to shed some light on their careers. Whittling the list down to this selection was no simple task, and some readers will disagree, but here are our picks for the most influential salt water fishermen of all time. Ted Williams (1918 - 2002)
Theodore s. Williams, one of the greatest hitters in baseball, was also one of the best salt water fishermen in the history of angling. A fighter pilot during World War II and Korea, Williams was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. He pursued his passion for fishing with same intensity with which he played baseball. A master of fly tying and casting, he studied the habits of fish. As in baseball, he wanted to be the best. When Williams retired, he devoted much of his spare time to fishing. In the fall, he targeted Atlantic salmon on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick, Canada. But it was the Florida Keys that really intrigued him. With his fishing buddies Jimmie Albright and George Hommel, Williams caught almost every species, though his favorite targets were tarpon and bonefish. This is evident in his book, Fishing the Big Three: Tarpon, Bonefish, Atlantic Salmon. Over his lifetime Williams caught thousands of fish and let the vast majority go. "Releasing a great fish,"¿ he said, "is about the greatest thrill I get from fishing."¿
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Jimmie Albright (1916 - 1998)
Albright came to the Florida Keys in 1942 and became one of the first commercial guides in Islamorada. He bought a charter boat and two skiffs, becoming the first captain to offer charters on both sides of the highway. Prior to 1942, Albright worked as a mate on Miami charter boats and earned his captain's license at the age of 21, but it wasn't offshore fishing that captured his heart. He developed a love of the Florida Keys and backcountry fishing. When Ted Williams heard about Albright, he signed on as one of his first customers and became a long-time fishing buddy. Together, Albright and Williams pushed existing fly tackle to the limit. They literally destroyed fresh water fly reels and rods, but still managed to catch tarpon bigger than 100 pounds. This was a time when fly tackle was flimsy and bulky knots would jam in the rod guides. Albright solved the problem with his famous Albright special knot, used to join lines of dissimilar diameter, such as a fly line to a leader or a heavy shock leader to a tippet. Albright became the godfather of backcountry fishing, listing President Herbert Hoover as one of his clients. But it is the Albright knot, first tied on the docks of Bud 'N Mary's Marina in Islamorada, that secures Albright's place in the history of salt water fishing. Joe Brooks (1901 "" 1972)
Joseph W. Brooks was perhaps the most humble legend. During his lifetime, he became one of the best all-around anglers in America. He pioneered salt water flyfishing, making the first documented permit catch on a fly in 1950. He also created the Joe Brooks popping bug, one of the first flies designed to catch salt water fish. Brooks's teaching ability quickly led to his success in publishing and television. He became the Fishing Editor at Outdoor Life in 1951, a position he held until his death in 1972. Brooks held many IGFA salt water records over the years and wrote several books, including Complete Book of Fly Fishing and the classic, Salt Water Fly Fishing, printed in 1950 and still considered by many experts in the sport as one of the most instructive salt water flyfishing volumes ever published. Many consider Brooks to have been unmatched as an instructional fishing writer.
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Ernest Hemingway (1898 - 1961)
Hemingway's introduction to salt water fishing can be traced back to 1921. While on a ship in the harbor of Vigo, Spain, Hemingway witnessed a six-foot tuna which "leaped clear of the water and fell again with a noise like horses jumping off a dock."¿ Anyone good enough to boat one of these great fish, he decided, should "enter unabashed into the presence of the very elder gods."¿ In 1928, his literary career already established, Hemingway visited Key West, Florida, and spent the next three decades fishing the Gulf Stream waters, living first in Key West and later in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. He absorbed knowledge and lore about the ways of salt water fish and the people who stalked them. He understood the complexity of the sport and pioneered new techniques. Hemingway was among the best of his day and knew how to share the experience. In deceptively simple prose he touched, taught and inspired an audience far beyond the angling public, and this stands as Hemingway's greatest contribution to the sport. In August 1940, Hemingway was named a vice president of the IGFA, a title held until his death in 1961.
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

A.J. McClane (1922 - 1991)
As an expert angler and writer, Albert J. McClane's fishing legacy remains a benchmark. There isn't an angler who hasn't heard of McClane's New Standard Fishing Encyclopedia. This 1,200-page tome has been a desk reference since publication in 1965. McClane was the Fishing Editor at Field & Stream for more than 40 years. Every month, he would relay his encyclopedic knowledge of fishing to generations of anglers. But he didn't stop with just catching fish-he became an authority on cooking fish and trained at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. McClane wrote more than 20 books, including The Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery. McClane fished with royalty and heads of state, as well as the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Curt Gowdy. But through it all, he never lost sight of his lifetime goal of teaching generations of future anglers the fine art of fishing.
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

S. Kip Farrington (1904 - 1983)
Big-game pioneer and record holder Selwyn Kip Farrington, jr., started out as a stockbroker, but his love for fishing led him to the ocean. Farrington was the first man to land a 1,100-pound fish and to take three species over 800 pounds. He founded the International Tuna Cup Match in Wedgeport, Nova Scotia, in 1937 and managed it for many years. Farrington may be best known as a prolific writer, serving as Fishing Editor for Field & Stream from 1937 to 1972 and publishing 21 books, including Atlantic Game Fishing. He was inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame posthumously in 1998.
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Van Campen Heilner (1889 - 1970)
If salt water fishing seems overrun with huge billfish and tuna, it may be refreshing to learn about Van Campen Heilner, who was devoted to surf fishing. Heir to a Pennsylvania mining fortune, Heilner discovered the surf at the Jersey Shore, a summer playground for wealthy Philadelphians. He began his writing career while still in his teens, selling stories about surf fishing to Field & Stream, American Angler and Sports Afield. At 21, Heilner published his first book, The Call of the Surf. He became an associate editor at Field & Stream and an ichthyology field representative for the American Museum of Natural History, taking expeditions to Peru, Ecuador, Cuba and Bimini. His extensive field work led to a definitive book, Salt Water Fishing, published in 1937.
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

George Farnsworth (1883 - 1959)
"Tuna"¿ George Farnsworth was a fishing pioneer, most noted for his kite-trolling technique and developing the internal star-drag reel with William Boschen. In fact, it was a Farnsworth-rigged kite bait that caught the first broadbill swordfish on rod and reel for Boschen. Farns-worth made record catches off Catalina Island, California, and was also instrumental in the formation of the Catalina Tuna Club. When the U.S. entered World War II, the Navy closed all ports to sportfishing, but allowed some supervised commercial fishing. Farnsworth switched over and never returned to sportfishing.
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Zane Grey (1872 - 1939)
Zane Grey's life changed forever in 1910 with the publication of Riders of the Purple Sage. After a rather humble childhood, he was suddenly wealthy and he went from catfishing to being the first man to catch a 1,000-pound fish on rod and reel. Grey went on to develop techniques for catching broadbill swordfish, and he was one of the early pioneers to experiment and promote the use of light tackle for heavy fish. Grey will always be recognized for his big-game exploits, but he also caught snook before many other fishermen even discovered them. He was also one of the very first fishermen to catch bonefish and permit. Grey's boasting sometimes got him in trouble with his contemporaries, but his love for salt water fishing and his accomplishments at sea have earned him distinction as a legendary angler and in the literary world.
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Frank Woolner (1916 - 1994)
Frank Middleton Woolner has to rank as the master of surf fishing. A former tank commander in World War II and veteran of the Normandy invasion, Woolner eventually came home to become the editor of Salt Water Sportsman in 1950. He was on the masthead as Editor Emeritus until he died in 1994. Woolner observed and participated in the booming growth of surf fishing following the war. Always with a pipe between his teeth, he helped introduce his readers to the continuous developments in surf tackle and techniques. Woolner's favorite target was the striped bass. "When I started surf fishing, I caught stripers almost immediately, which was probably a misfortune,"¿ he recalled years later. "It took me some time to accept the proposition that the striped bass is a damned unpredictable fish."¿ Over the years, Woolner collaborated with Hal Lyman to publish three books: The Complete Book of Striped Bass Fishing, The Complete Book of Weakfishing and Tackle Talk. On his own, he also wrote Modern Salt Water Sport Fishing.
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Lee Wulff (1905 - 1991)
Lee Wulff started out as a civil engineer, but his love of fishing won out. He taught fly tying as far back as 1931, and designed the first flyfishing vest, a wearable tackle box. Wulff enjoyed catching big fish on inexpensive tackle and proved it by landing a 148-pound striped marlin on a $12 Garcia fly outfit with no drag and a 12-pound tippet. He fought the fish for 4 1/2 hours, and set an IGFA record in 1967 that stood nearly 40 years. He later boated a 600-pound bluefin from a 15-foot Boston Whaler. Wulff wrote magazine features and books and appeared on television. Up until his death, he taught at the Wulff School of Flyfishing in the Catskills. He will be remembered for his catch-and-release philosophy: "Gamefish are too valuable to be caught only once."¿
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Hal Lyman (1915 - 2004)
Hal Lyman introduced the sport of salt water fishing to millions of anglers in the U.S. through the pages of Salt Water Sportsman. After spending six years aboard Navy destroyers, Lyman returned home in 1946 and bought the magazine from Ollie Rodman, Tap Tapply and Hugh Grey. At that time, SWS was a weekly New England regional that cost five cents. As the years passed, the magazine became a monthly with increased coverage on the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific. Lyman authored nine books on salt water fishing and hundreds of editorials on both commercial and recreational fishing practices. He served on many private and government boards, including the Coalition for Marine Conservation, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Commerce. In 1996, the Billfish Foundation awarded Lyman the John Rybovich Lifetime Achievement award for his dedication to marine-resource conservation. The team of Woolner and Lyman will always be remembered for creating and preserving a treasury of salt water fishing history.
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Tommy Gifford (1896 - 1970)
Thomas M. Gifford may well be the most colorful skipper to ever hunt big fish on light tackle. His controversial light-tackle techniques for big game are still in practice. In Anglers and Muscleheads, Gifford wrote, "I've watched anglers fight five-pound bass on tackle that some of my clients would consider a bit heavy for 75-pound sailfish or wahoo."¿ Gifford is credited with bringing outriggers to big-game fishing, first using 45-foot bamboo poles, and helping to introduce kite fishing to the Atlantic.
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Legends of the Salt

Legends of the Salt

Michael Lerner (1891 - 1978)
In some social circles, Michael Lerner was widely known for his successful chain of clothing stores. Among sportsmen, it's a different story. Lerner was a giant among the pioneers of big-game fishing. A legendary photograph, dated 1935, captures Lerner battling a 601-pound swordfish in Nova Scotia from an 18-foot wood dory with a makeshift fighting chair screwed to a seat amidships. He caught another swordfish the same day that weighed 535 pounds. Lerner returned to Nova Scotia in 1936 and landed 26 tuna weighing up to 500 pounds within one week. His lust for big-game fishing may be overshadowed only by his dedication to marine science. In the 1930s and '40s, Lerner organized and financed expeditions to foreign waters for the American Museum of Natural History. These unprecedented opportunities led to a new and greater understanding of salt water gamefish. Lerner was decorated for his contributions by the governments of Canada, the United States, Chile and France. He received an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Miami. One of Lerner's greatest and lasting achievements came in 1939 when he founded the IGFA. Acknowledgments
Writing the profiles of these anglers required a great deal of research. I want to thank Gail Morchower, the librarian at the IGFA, for her help with this project. The photographs are from the IGFA's priceless and remarkable collection. Other sources included George Reiger's Profiles in Salt Water Angling, Tommy Gifford's Anglers and Muscleheads and S. Kip Farrington's Fishing the Atlantic. All three titles are excellent volumes on the history of the sport. - V.T.S.
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