Shark River (The Everglades)

Entrance to Shark River, Florida. (Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Memories, Photographer Charles Lee Barron, August 1957) Public Domain

Zane Grey's fly fishing adventures weren't limited to northern waters.  In 1924, Harper & Brothers published his adventure book, Tales of Southern Rivers. In the section entitled "River of the Everglades", Grey shared a story involving his brother, R.C. Grey, and him fishing in the Everglades on Shark River.  The star of the story... the Zane Grey fly!

The Wilder-Dilg "Zane Grey Fly"

It was hot summer weather, even though the date said March. No sea breeze penetrated to these inland waters. The air was drowsy, still, humid. In a shady narrow creek, where the current glided perceptibly and the water looked deep, we took to the skiff and, rowing along under the lee of one shelving bank of green, we cast for black bass.  They did not run large and were of the big-mouthed bass, yet they afforded welcome cange and sport.

First we used spinners, and then a hideous red contraption with spinner and pork rind, both of which were quite fetching. R.C. was casting with a bait rod and I was using a fly rod. He handled the situation better than I, and very cheerfully acquainted me with the fact.  Presently he hung his spinner over a mangrove branch and, pulling hard, broke his leader, which fact was productive of language.

Presently, it occurred to me that I had in my box one of the Wilder-Dilg black bass flies which bore my name. The genial inventors of these flies had assured me that all of them were wonderful, and particularly the one named after me.  Now it chanced that I knew these gentlemen had made precisely the same claim to several other anglers who, like me, had been honored by having flies named after them.  Anyway, I had never tried the Zane Grey bug, and here was my opportunity.  So I put in on.

With immense doubt and something of thrill and a smattering of conscious pride, I made an elaborate cast.  For the first time that day I cast where I had aimed.  This was a shady nook with golden depths where a little eddy swirled.  As the fly hit on the water there came a flash, a boil, and a plop.  Something heavy went down and appropriated my treasured fly for himself, also part of my leader.

“Big Snook!” exclaimed R.c., who had watched with interest.  “Gimme one of the Z.G. bugs.”

“It was the only one I had,” I replied, in distress.

“Say, if I had a great fly like that named after me, I’d pack of lot of them around,” said R.C.

When we quit fishing for black bass, which was owing to a sense of guilt at catching so many, we turned back on the long way to the launch.