If her husband is not a fisherman, angling offers a woman even broader horizons. It is her entree to new adventures and new alliances. It is a thoroughly aboveboard excuse to get away from home and hubby as frequently as she wishes, to whip off to the islands or the interior or to one of a dozen resorts and spas where, alone, she might be viewed with suspicion, but where as an angler she is never alone. Her travels are always complete with rods, reels, boat and crew—a most respectable and businesslike combination. The fact that the captains and mates on the top sports-fishing boats are frequently young and handsome and that the husbands of women who can afford to fish such boats are more often than not old and faded though rich, is not entirely coincidental.
"Fishing is not all sunshine and soft breezes," explained one woman in defining the multifaceted relationship of crew to female client. "The weather can get so vile on some of the tournaments in the islands that the boats do not get out of the harbor for four, five and even six days at a stretch. If you don't have a pleasant captain or mate, you might just as well fly home. There's nothing to do out there but drink and read, and one can do just so much of either."
"Let's face it," says another, "What other way in this one-sided society can a gal really swing on her own with not one but two paid escorts at her beck and call? Believe me, a woman could do a lot worse with her money."
Within the lush though limited captain market, trading is always brisk. The rules are simple: every gal for herself—and the stakes are high. Everything from swimming pools to sports cars (SI, Sept. 2, 1963) has been used to bribe captains out of one cockpit into another. The most popular captains move from angler to angler, and the loot they pile up along the way can be considerable. Several women, obviously of independent wealth, have even resorted to matrimony as the ultimate bribe. Marrying one's captain or mate was definitely out a few years ago, but it is currently in vogue in the most exclusive angling circles.
A first-class captain can make even a poor angler look good. Nobody knows this better than the first-class female anglers who have been making clean sweeps of the tournaments and record books in recent years. Where these women are concerned, no price is too high for a really top captain, but when they pay they expect more than play. The captains they hire, no matter how agreeable after hours, had better catch them fish or look for other jobs.
Dorothea Dean was particularly renowned for firing crews as fast as she hired them. "Usually she hired a crew for three months at a time," says Jako Marston, one of the many captains who fished her. "But if anyone else caught more fish than she did, or caught fish when she didn't, that was, 'Goodby, boys.' She'd sign up another crew, and sometimes she was paying off four crews at once."
Money, obviously as vital as a good captain to big-time angling, was never a problem to Dorothea. She had more than she could spend, and she spent so much of it on angling that even Palm Beach's Old Guard finally had to admit that she lived there, too. When someone asked her not long before her death two years ago if she ever fished for fun and recreation, her answer was an unhesitating "Good heavens, no! If you mean just to go out and fish, never."
Dorothea fished with a record book in her hand and an all-consuming desire in her heart to become the best-known angler in the world. She came very close. In the brief eight years that her entire fishing career spanned, she set more records, won more tournaments, collected more trophies than any other woman. She was written up in countless newspapers and magazines and was listed in Who's Who of American Women. Such rewards were not easily won. She fished with relentless, punishing dedication, sometimes for weeks without interruption, wearing out her crews, herself and, often, her welcome among other anglers. Fishing seemed to be a compulsion to Dorothea. She seldom sat in the fishing chair unless she had a fish on, and rarely did she watch the baits as a more interested angler would. Most of the time when she was not fighting a fish she reclined in the cabin, doing her nails or touching up her lipstick or reading a magazine.
What fishing really represented to Dorothea is perhaps best indicated by the fact that in the house in which she lived alone, every wall of every room was solidly covered with framed prints, clippings, notices and notations about her fishing feats. Every trophy, plaque and award she had ever won was prominently displayed. The Who's Who—open to her name—lay on a table in the living room.
There is not likely to be another Dorothea Lincoln Dean in angling for some time, but several women since her death have shown flashes of the incredible drive that pushed her to the front of the sport. The late Mrs. Patricia Church of Palm Beach, for a brief two years before illness forced her to stop fishing last winter, seemed destined to rewrite all the records in the book. In her first year of angling she made an unprecedented sweep of the IWFA annual awards, winning not only the Crowninshield Release Trophy but the top-weight trophy as well. Like Dorothea, she fished with a dedication close to fanaticism, trolling from 4 in the morning until after midnight, if necessary, to pile up points. There seemed to be little pleasure in the process.