12 minute read

Interview: The Hemingway Fly Fishing Legacy Lives On


The Hemingway Fly Fishing Legacy Lives On

As you will probably know, Ernest Hemingway was an avid fly fisherman. His portrayal – in the short story Big Two-Hearted River - of war veteran and fly fisherman, Nick Adams, and how fly fishing becomes this transformative and regenerative escape, is among the best writings in fly fishing literature.

BY the Editorial Staff

Hemingway’s literary and cultural impact is massive, and it provides inspiration to multitudes of people (and fly fishermen) to this day. We recently sat down with owner of the Ernest Hemingway Collection, Anthony Toro, and Patrick Hemingway, the Great grand son of Ernest Hemingway.

How did the idea about Hemingway Inshore come about?

ANTHONY TORO: That’s a great question. Have you ever heard about Hemingway’s lost steamer trunk? If you have, you’ve had to imagine what could have been inside? Could you imagine what it would be like to find that trunk today? That’s really the motivation behind the Hemingway Inshore collection.

The Hemingway Inshore Collection was an idea I had while I was thinking about the possible contents of the writer’s famous, lost steamer trunk. The thought of bringing updated versions of Hemingway favorite fishing gear into the modern world was irresistible.

What’s the mission and philosophy behind the brand and product line?

ANTHONY TORO: The mission behind the brand really is to create fishing gear that Ernest Hemingway himself would have approved of. And allow fellow anglers to experience that adventurous spirt, that Hemingway exposed in each of us.

How does the tackle collection tie up with Ernest Hemingway’s legacy?

ANTHONY TORO: Well, everything we make has a connection with Ernest Hemingway or the Hemingway family in one way or another. It’s been amazing how, once we started, things fell into place regarding most of the equipment. A good example is our Hemingway Matador Saltwater reel.

When we started showing protypes designs to the Hemingway family, the reel maker that we just happened to be working with, is the same company in Northern Italy that members of the Hemingway family have been getting reels from since the 1950’s. Another example is our new 1932 Hemingway Classic fly reel, it’s an old style click and pawl reels with a modern advance. The reel is made in US, and close to where Hemingway wrote Big Two-Hearted River.

Not only are we creating equipment as any normal fishing equipment company would, but we are also creating equipment with Ernest Hemingway’s name on it. So really, everything must hold up to the Hemingway standard.

Hemingway was really known to be very particular about his gear, so you could imagine, when it comes to Ernest Hemingway fishing equipment, the bar is set high. Another thing that makes the process interesting is that Hemingway was an angler that wanted his gear to work under the most extreme conditions.

Everything we create must be at the highest of standard, over engineered, and really look like a piece of art before it becomes a Hemingway signature piece of equipment.

Where have you sought inspiration for the product line?

ANTHONY TORO: Oh, that’s an easy one… Our inspiration come from Ernest Hemingway.

What sets the Hemingway Inshore collection apart from other fly-fishing tackle out there?

ANTHONY TORO: Wow, that’s another good question. There are hundreds of great companies, rod builders, boat builders, and fly tyers out there that make great equipment.

I guess the thing that really separates us from other companies is that we don’t just make fly fishing equipment. Our company is based on Hemingway saltwater fishing. So not only do we create and design fly fishing equipment, we also create saltwater conventional fishing gear reels and rods, inshore boats, fishing clothing, fishing tackle, and coolers all to our design and to the Hemingway specifications.

What’s the idea behind the Hemingway Inshore Brand?

ANTHONY TORO: The Ernest Hemingway Inshore Collection is a brand that is not limited to geographical locations. The sole purpose of the collection is to create the best fishing equipment available in the World.

If the best Monofilament/ Fluorocarbon fishing line in the world is created in France, we team up with that company in France. If the best fishing reels are made in Italy, we go to Italy. If the world’s best two handed spey, click and pawl style reel is made in a small machine shop in the woods of northern Michigan, we’re headed to a small shop in northern Michigan with a case of beer and a copy of - Old man and the Sea.

This philosophy really is the magic and strength of the Hemingway Inshore Collection brand. Hemingway fans are international, and so is the Hemingway Inshore Collection... My goal is to offer the Hemingway experience to anglers worldwide.

Just Imagine what it would it feel like to find just a small piece of Hemingway’s lost fishing steamer trunk for yourself?

A Family Business

And then there’s Patrick Hemingway – the great grand son of Papa Hemingway – who is also involved in the Ernest Hemingway Inshore Collection.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your relation to Ernest Hemingway?

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: I am the oldest great grandson of Ernest Hemingway. I work for several different family-owned businesses that steward and curate the intellectual property associated with Hemingway. I also write articles and stories for hunting magazines. I live in western Montana where I like to fish, hunt, and spend time outdoors with my family.

How has your life been affected by being a Hemingway?

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: It’s a hard fact to escape these days, as most of my professional life revolves around the family name. I like to say that half of my literature or writing professors loved me and the other half resented me. Hemingway can be very polarizing, but the majority of people I meet are fans. The name has opened many doors and created opportunities around the world, but it’s not enough to just be named Hemingway- you have to be a cool enough guy to take advantage of it or you won’t be invited back.

What does Ernest Hemingway’s work and legacy mean to you?

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: Hemingway’s work is interesting in that it can grow with you. There’s something for everyone of every age in his work. I gravitate most towards his hunting and fishing writing, of course, because that’s where my interests are; but his writings span all sorts of genres and themes that are still relevant today. I think that helps to explain his long-term success and popularity still.

His legacy is more complicated. He certainly changed the way that novels are written. He also directly affected how sportfishing laws were drafted and implemented in the US. He popularized the big white beard, drinking cold drinks on a hot boat, and inspired generations of young men to be bold.

More recently, following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris, the French people latched onto A Moveable Feast as a symbol of national pride and resilience in the face of terrorism. People all over the world started buying copies of the book in solidarity, to give as gifts or even just to leave on park benches for someone to find and enjoy.

Hemingway’s legacy is timeless and as powerful as ever.

We’re particularly fond of Big Two-Hearted River and The Old Man and the Sea. What’s your favourite Hemingway book – and why?

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: I struggle to pick a favorite, but the short stories have always been the most interesting to me. There’s such a wide breadth of subject matter that I keep revisiting. As I get older, I find new secrets or revelations in stories I’ve read a dozen times or more.

I particularly love the African stories. Green Hills of Africa would be a strong contender for my favorite Hemingway book, if I had to choose. My lineage after Ernest all lived or grew up in Africa, so that connection is meaningful.

Last year, I went on my first African safari, and there was no question what book I would bring with me. I even read it with my headlamp in the dark when the camp’s generators shut off- just like I did as a little kid reading Green Hills for the first time on a camping trip.

To your knowledge, what are the biggest misconceptions about Ernest Hemingway?

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: In some ways, everything about Hemingway is a misconception. He was a meticulous writer, who held himself to a rigorous writing schedule that started early in the morning.

He wrote longhand with a pencil while standing at a shelf. He never had a drink until he was done writing for the day.

He had many wives, but he was a romantic, not a womanizer. Some of his strongest literary characters were women. In his short story, Hills Like White Elephants, he writes sympathetically about a couple discussing having an abortionin a time when no one was writing about such things- and certainly not with a sympathy.

Ernest seemed a righteous man willing to put himself on the frontline for causes he believed in. If he had been alive today, what do you think he would have been involved in?

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: Hemingway always rooted for the underdog. He strongly believed in personal freedoms, holding politicians fierce- ly accountable, and enthusiastically advocating for the rights of soldiers and veterans.

I think he would have quite a lot to say about how the world’s governments have run roughshod over their people in the name of progress and safety.

He was also one of the first real conservationists and utilized his knowledge of fishing and hunting to help create some of the first laws governing the ethical and responsible taking of game fish. He was Vice President of the International Game Fish Association until his death.

I suspect that today he would be a strong proponent for science-based regulation of wild game throughout the world, and a beloved figure in the outdoor sporting world- who’s shining example of adventure could be aspired to.

How did you get into fly fishing? (Was it simply “in the family”?)

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: My Dad was a professional fly-fishing guide for most of my childhood.

He taught me everything I know about fishing, and his rough-aroundthe-edges fellow guides taught me everything else I needed to know about life- like how to spit properly or sight in a rifle.

What is it about fly fishing that fascinates you?

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: I think that I enjoy how difficult fly fishing is. It’s so different from one river to the next, or from one continent to another. There’s always new water to learn, new flies to try- it never gets old. It sometimes feels like it can’t be mastered. I respect anything that refuses to be tamed.

What’s your role in Hemingway Inshore?

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: My role is that of a liaison between Anthony Toro and the Hemingway family. I do my best to act as a spiritual consultant for ideas and input, and to interpret these back to my relatives so we can best support and help to promote Hemingway Inshore in any way we can.

Anthony Toro is one of the rare people in our business that really “get it” as far as what Hemingway means to his particular demographic.

I like to think that he and I learn from each other how to find success and proliferate the Hemingway legacy to both new and old fans.

What are your ambitions for the future – as a businessman and fly fisherman?

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: As a businessman, I hope to continue to see our family businesses grow. Success for us means that we may continue to protect and carefully steward this legacy that is so important to so many.

As a fly fisherman, there are a million places around the world that I’d like to fish for the first time.

Hopefully, I’ll find a way to visit a few.

What’s your favourite fishery and why?

PATRICK HEMINGWAY: I live near the small creek that my dad taught me to fly fish on as a kid. Lewis and Clark traveled down the same waterway in their exploration of the American west. It still produces fine rainbow trout on a good year, with the occasional brown trout- and it will always be my favorite. Soon, my sons will be old enough to learn to throw a fly and I plan to teach them on the same water that started it all for me.

Anthony Toro: Is the owner of Matador Rod Company which creates Ernest Hemingway fishing products worldwide. He is a Product Designer, Businessman, Bamboo rod maker, saltwater fisherman, which lives in Naples, Florida with his wife Mary a Marine Biologist, and son AJ. He enjoys all types of fishing worldwide but refers to tarpon and permit in the Ten thousand Islands/Everglades his true fishing passion.