Fishing Legends: Hal Lyman

Many fisher folk like to think saltwater fly fishing was born in the 1990s, but pioneers such as Hal Lyman were practicing it long before it became fashionable.

In the above photo, circa 1970, Lyman casts a fly for striped bass from a Buzzards Bay marsh bank, showcasing one of his many angling talents. Henry “Hal” Lyman was born in Boston in 1915, graduated cum laude from Harvard in 1937, and served in the Navy aboard destroyers during World War II. An ardent fisherman since childhood, he became editor of Salt Water Sportsman magazine (then a modest, seven-year-old publication dedicated primarily to surf fishing in the Northeast) in 1946, and purchased it shortly thereafter. After returning from a stint in the Korean War, he teamed up with newly appointed editor Frank Woolner, also a WW II vet, in 1953 to expand the magazine’s coverage.

But if there was one thing Lyman was most noted for during his nearly 60-year tenure with Salt Water Sportsman, it was his relentless and tireless advocacy for marine conservation. Way back in the August 17, 1945, edition, he espoused the budding concept of catch-and-release in an editorial entitled “Let Us Be Sportsmen.” He would go on to champion clean water, responsible fisheries management, and ethical angling behavior through the pages of SWS and active participation in dozens of state, federal, and international fisheries boards and commissions. And, he recognized early on that anglers must unite and organize if they were to protect their chosen avocation. Lyman passed in 2004. He will be remembered as a great conservationist and a man who embodied the true essence of saltwater sport fishing. — Barry Gibson