Tautari River (Tahiti)

Tautari River, Tahiti (Credit: BYU, L. Tom Perry Collections, MSS 8710 Box 101 File 6 Item 6486)

Zane Grey's story from his travelogue, Tales of Tahitian Waters, tells of his 1928 adventure fly fishing for an unusual fish, the nato, in the Tahiti's Tautari River.  This story is the last in this exhibit, but is a fitting close.  Why?  Because Grey talks of the experience as one that brought him full circle back to his earliest fishing days as a boy in Zaneville, Ohio.  As Grey talks of catching these small fish, many of us will naustalically look back on our own earliest fishing day. We are sure you will enjoy the following enchanting tale:

Zane Grey (near) and Englsh artist Allister Macdonald, fishing for nato in the Tautari River, Tahiti (BYU, L. Tom Perry Collections, MSS 8710 Box 96 File 41 Item 1931)

Tautari River is one of the largest streams on Tahiti, and perhaps the best for nato.  We were indebted to Mr. Allister Macdonald, an English artist residing in Papeete, for knowledge about nato and that it affords capital sport on very light tackle.  I went fishing one evening with Romer and Mr. Macdonald, and liked it so well that I spent the next day on the Tautari.

I had a two-and-a-half ounce Leonard rod and some fine line, very light leaders, and tiny flies--- a delicate rig aptly suited to a delicate but game little fish.  I raised several before I hooked my first one.  Then I was treated to a surprise.  For a fish only a few inches long this nato certainly did put up a battle.  He had the shape of a bass, in fact, he was a bass, a brilliant mother-of-pearl, dotted with black spots.  I caught two more, then fastened to a good one, which took an extraordinary lot of skill and work to land.  Six inches long and as wide as my hand!

Next day we went again, and I had time to see the wonderful scenery, as well as enjoy the fishing.  Tautari comes down out of a magnificent canyon, and is a wide swift stream of crystal water with a slight greenish tinge.  Palms and breadfruit, hibiscus and water hyacinth, lined the green banks.  Just below the long riffle where I fished the whole day, the sea broke with boom and roar on the sandy beach. 

It rained on and off.  Soon we were soaking wet.  But you do not mind rain at Tahiti.  The dark sky and fine mist brought the nato up in schools.  I could see them turn and shine like silver.  I was several hours in learning how to fish for them.  Eventually, I got the hang of it, and had such sport as I had not had for many a day.  It brought back Dillon’s Falls and Joe’s Run--- where we used to fish with long, slim, light, stiff reed poles.  Here on Tahiti it came back to me--- absolutely for the first time since I was a boy.

I fished with a short line and trolled my fly with success, and then cast a long line quartering down stream in deep water, with like result.  After some heavy rains, the water grew dark in colors, and the the nato shone gold instead of silver.  If anything, they bit better in the roily water than the clear.  In all, I caught about forty nato, the largest being about six inches. But I had hold of a couple of whales.  The little rod wagged like a buggy whip.  Both these nato pulled loose, when I imagined I was  handling them very deftly.  They were amazing strong and quick.  As always for me, the big ones got away!

There is no telling the fascination of fishing.  I loved it as a boy, and now no less as a man.  And to tell what I owe to fishing would take a better book than I have written.

Romer Grey, Zane Grey's son, with nato fish caught in Tahiti's Tautari River (BYU, L. Tom Perry Collections MSS 8710 Box 91 File 1 Item 3389)