Nelson Bryant RIP: “Every sport has a supreme chronicler.”

Author and columnist Nelson Bryant. Photo by The Vineyard Gazette.

From a New York Times obit, by Robert D. McFadden, on “Nelson Bryant, ‘Supreme Chronicler’ of Outdoor Life”:

Nelson Bryant, whose lyrical columns in The New York Times for nearly four decades chronicled his love affair with fishing, hunting and outdoor life, and made him the dean of outdoor writers in America, died on Saturday in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on Martha’s Vineyard. He was 96. . . .

From the mangroves of the Yucatán watching for green-winged teals to the grand ballet of fly-fishing on the Salmon River in Nova Scotia, Mr. Bryant’s often-poetic, first-person accounts took readers to many places, but perhaps none more so than the mythical past, when boys went fishing with their fathers, watched rainbow trout hover above the pebbles in a brook and learned that patience, cultivated during hours in a duck blind, was more than a needlepoint virtue. His insights appealed to many readers who had never set foot in woods or a stream.

Raised on Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Bryant was a seaman, a carpenter, a ditch digger, a logger, a cook and a dock builder. He was also a Dartmouth College graduate and a reporter and the managing editor of The Claremont Daily Eagle in west-central New Hampshire for more than a decade in the 1950s and ’60s. . . .

With his white beard and weather-beaten face, an old pipe clenched in his teeth, he looked like a 19th-century seafarer: a big, sturdy outdoorsman who climbed mountains, portaged canoes and carried his load of guns and tents. But he was remarkably graceful in a trout stream, and his cast was delicate and precise — plop, into the distant pool where the rainbows lurked.

“Every sport has a supreme chronicler,” The Philadelphia Inquirer said in 1994. “Nobody has written about baseball like Roger Angell. Nobody has written about golf like Bernard Darwin. Nobody has written about boxing like A.J. Liebling. Nobody has written about the outdoors like Nelson Bryant.”. . .

He began his newspaper career as a reporter for The Claremont Daily Eagle (now The Eagle Times) and from 1954 to 1966 was its managing editor. He also occasionally wrote outdoors columns.

Unable to make ends meet, Mr. Bryant quit the paper, returned to Martha’s Vineyard and was building docks to support a growing family when he learned that the author of The Times’s “Wood, Field and Stream” column, Oscar Godbout, had died. He applied for the job and was hired. . . .

Mr. Bryant was the author of “Fresh Air, Bright Water: Adventures in Wood, Field and Stream” (1971); “The Wildfowler’s World” (1973, with Hanson Carroll); “Outdoors,” a 1990 collection of his columns; and a memoir, “Mill Pond Joe: Naturalist, Writer, Journalist and New York Times Columnist” (2014).


  1. Barnard Collier says

    Mr. McFadden knows his way round an obit.

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