When Bob Boyle answered the phone at 10 the other morning, he sounded like a man of leisure. "Hang on while I get my toast and coffee," he said. Boyle, whose story on Lyme disease begins on page 38, retired as an SI senior writer in 1986 after 32 years on the staff, so a midmorning breakfast seemed appropriate. Right? "No, no," said Boyle, his voice booming over the wire at a decibel level staffers here remember well. "I'm usually up by seven, but last night I worked late on material for a book I may be writing."
At 59, Boyle is one of the most noted environmentalists in the country. Best known as a watchdog for the Hudson River, he lives on a ridge in Cold Spring, N.Y., from where he can see 20 miles of the river in both directions. Using binoculars, he can spot ospreys, red-tailed hawks, ducks, snow geese and an occasional bald eagle.
But Boyle is also on the lookout for those who would commit transgressions against his beloved Hudson. In 1969 he wrote the definitive book on the subject, The Hudson River: A Natural and Unnatural History. He co-founded and is president of the Hudson River Fishermen's Association. It was part of a movement that in 1985 blocked an Army Corps of Engineers plan to fill in part of the Hudson to build Westway, a highway-real estate project. In 1980 the association withdrew a series of suits it had filed against Con Ed, the New York area utilities company, and other utilities after they agreed, at Boyle's insistence, to contribute $12 million to start and endow the Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research. In a current suit against Westchester County, the association is seeking $10,000 in fines for each of 9,367 violations of the federal Clean Water Act at the county's Croton Point dump.
Next fall, Boyle will give a seminar on the Hudson at Vassar College. At the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in upper Manhattan he recently delivered a sermon on the river. Not surprisingly, he is an ardent fisherman, and he tries to get a line in the water every day. He has caught striped bass, bluefish and shad in the river.
"I've had some great flytying binges since I retired," says Boyle. "There's a book coming out in the fall—The Art of the Trout Fly—that says it includes 'informative and captivating anecdotes by 43 talented international flytyers.' One of mine—about a Grass Shrimp—is in it."