Fly-Fishing the Ernest Hemingway Way
A new fly-fishing heritage collection inspired by the ‘Old Man and the Sea’ author’s favored gear lets anglers cast lines like the legend
By John ClarkeNov. 26, 2020
WHEN ERNEST Hemingway’s well-worn steamer trunk containing his fly-fishing gear disappeared from a train bound for Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1940, the loss was so crushing that the author never again waded in the shallows. Instead, he concentrated his angling efforts far offshore, catching record-breaking pelagics like sailfish and marlin.
The trunk’s disappearance also “shook” the family, said his great-grandson Patrick Hemingway Adams, who is helping launch the Hemingway Inshore Collection of rods, reels, inshore boats and more designed after the old man’s heart.
Debuting Dec. 1, the handcrafted 9-weight fly reels ($1,200, ernesthemingwayinshore.com)are machined by Everol, an Italian brand favored by the author for their performance and durability. Each comes in a mahogany box packed in freshly planed wood shavings, smelling the way you’d expect anything “Hemingway” to smell: earthy, warm, woodsy.
“The Old Man and the Sea” author often cast with his favored Hardy St. George reel, a trout rig antique by today’s standards. The new Hemingway fly reel, a “ventilated” model made of silver anodized aluminum with a multi-disc drag system to slow speeding fish, bears features of high-end contemporary reels made by Tibor, Nautilus and Abel.
The author’s only surviving fly rods and the Inshore Collection fly rods ($2,700) share similar craftsmanship. Designer Anthony Toro spent 60 hours forming each two-piece, 8-foot stick from tonkin bamboo, including wrapping its nickel-silver ferrules in black kimono Japanese silk thread, and attaching a reel seat built of titanium, and a base and fighting butt made of West Indian mahogany and Spanish cedar.
It’s impossible to compare any boat to the “Pilar,” the author’s 38-footer. But, for those who want a modern skiff fit for the legendary writer, the Hemingway Classic 20 by Willy Roberts Boats ($95,000) finds a balance of new and old, mixing features like mahogany trim with a Kevlar-constructed hull; a poling platform to stand on and sight fish; and a Yamaha F115 outboard engine.
Will all of this heritage-style gear bearing Papa’s name make you a better angler? Stu Apte, a Florida Keys fishing guide who first met Hemingway in Cuba, where the author taught him to make mojitos aboard the “Pilar,” just laughed. “Some fisherman need all the help they can get.”