Without Zane Grey we might not have sport fishing in Oregon. You might remember Grey as an avid pulp western storyteller and writer or as an amazing big game fisher.
Pearl Zane Grey (1872-1939) made his fortune as a prolific writer and produced 89 novels, novelettes, short stories, etc. most of which were focused on westerns. His stories hit it big in 1910 with his third Western “Riders of the Purple Sage” which was wildly popular.
Novels to Film
Grey became one of the best-selling writers in the twentieth century with nearly 50 novels turned into films, and many stories translated into different languages. His many films earned him the title of “Father of the American West.”
In addition to western topics, he also produced eight books on fishing (including “Zane Grey on Fishing”, “Tales of Fishes”, “The Great Trek”, and more). For years, Grey’s total sales fell behind only the Holy Bible and McGuffey Readers.
At his death in 1939, his novels had sold more than 15 million copies in the U.S. alone. Grey used his eventual wealth, generated by his writing, to enjoy sport fishing as many as 300 days a year.
His many worldwide sport fishing travels were captured in his books (such as “An American Angler in Australia”, “Tales of Florida Fishes”, etc.). This skilled fisher also had some favorite haunts here in Oregon.
Grey visited Oregon in 1919 to fish the Rogue River and Crater Lake. He returned to Oregon throughout the 1920s to fish the Rogue and write about it (“Tales of Fresh Water Fishing”). In freshwater, he enjoyed fishing for bass, trout, steelhead, and salmon.
One of the places he escaped to in Oregon was a rickety log cabin near Winkle Bar in a remote lower Rogue River canyon. He built the cabin in 1926 and used it as a personal getaway for fishing, hunting, and writing.
Visit the Cabin
Today, the cabin is a favorite stopping point for boaters and hikers and is owned/maintained by the USDI Bureau of Land Management. It was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.
By the mid-1930s Grey become ‘less enchanted’ with the Rogue due to increased fishing competition. He turned his rod toward the North Umpqua River. His writings helped give both the Rogue and Umpqua Rivers a national reputation of preeminent steelhead-trout streams.
Big Game Fishing
Grey was also into big game fishing and loved to fish for broadbill swordfish, giant tuna, and marlin. He caught the first 1,000-pound-plus marlin using rod and reel. What a thrill that had to be!
At one time, he held over a dozen records for big game fishing (all have since been broken) which included a 464-pound marlin, 758-pound tuna, a 1036-pound Tiger shark, and more. He also held three records for Pacific sailfish which was named for him (Istiophorus greyi).
Grey was one of the first to explore and document sport fishing in New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Central and South America, Nova Scotia, Galapagos, and the South Pacific. In New Zealand he perfected using ‘teasers’ to lure fish closer to the boat. He also developed a special reel, bass bug, and steelhead fly.
The legend of Zane Grey’s fishing passion lives on through the Zane Grey Invitational fishing tournament and other tournaments/events held worldwide. One recent event (September 2021) in Bethel, New York combined painting and fishing (Zane Grey in Plein Air Workshop and Competition — https://www.zanegreypleinair.com/).
To the Last Man
One has to ask if Oregon would ever have become a sports fishing mecca without Zane Grey’s help and insight. His stories and love for the west inspired many a person to take the fishing challenge.
He sums up his love for the wild west in a forward in his book “To the Last Man”
“I have loved the West for its vastness, its contrasts, its beauty and color and life,
for its wildness and violence, and for the fact that I have seen how
it developed great men and women who died unknown and unsung.
Romance is only another name for idealism; and
I contend that life without ideals is not worth living.”
–BD Outdoors, Inc., Zane Grey (https://www.bdoutdoors.com/zane-grey-fisherman-angler/_
–Zane Grey’s All Tackle Deep-Sea Fishing Records (https://www.zgws.org/zgfishre.php)
–USDI National Park Service, Zane Grey (https://www.nps.gov/upde/learn/historyculture/zanegrey.htm)
–The Man Who Lived two lives in one (https://vault.si.com/vault/1968/04/29/the-man-who-lived-two-lives-in-one)
–Oregon Encyclopedia, Zane Grey (https://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/zane_grey_1872_1939_/#.X2zaJj-SmUk)
All photos royalty free Unsplash.com