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 surprisingly 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.”
Nelson Steele Bryant was born in Red Bank, N.J., on April 22, 1923, to Nelson and Olga (Griffin) Bryant. His father lost a stake in a Jersey Shore hotel and later his Depression-era job as an accountant in Boston, and the family moved to West Tisbury in 1932.
The boy found himself in paradise. He attended island schools, went hunting and fishing with his father and grew up amid the idyllic beauty of the dunes and salt ponds, the marshes chattering with wildlife and the Atlantic pounding the pristine barrier-island beaches from Chappaquiddick to Gay Head. He would return to the island repeatedly over the years before taking up residence there again.
He enrolled at Dartmouth after graduating from Vineyard Haven High School in 1941, but when the United States entered World War II before the year was out, he enlisted in the Army, volunteered for parachute duty and on D-Day dropped into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne Division as the Allies invaded Europe. Behind enemy lines, he was shot in the chest; the slug hit a lung but no major artery. After recovering in Wales, he returned to the war and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
After the war he was a deckhand on a schooner, working for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
He married Jean Morgan in 1946, and they had two sons and two daughters. The marriage ended in divorce in 1989, and Jean Bryant died in 2012. Besides Ms. Kirchmeier, Mr. Bryant is survived by his sons, Stephen and Jeffrey; his daughter Mary Bryant Bailey; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His daughter Alison died in 2009.
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