As the editor of The Fishing Gazette in London from 1878 through 1927, R.B. Marston published the insights, experiences and expertise of the leading anglers of the day, chronicling such developments as the rise of the dry fly in Great Britain and the United States. His journalism was vastly influential. During his lifetime, he was regarded as one of the most important scholars in the world of fly-fishing, and certainly the most authoritative on the literature connected with Izaak Walton and The Compleat Angler.
Robert Bright Marston once said he had been born a lover of fishing. The schoolteacher who caught Marston reading The Compleat Angler in class must have thought so as well, though as an angler himself, he went easy on the lad. As Marston’s education progressed, so did his angling experiences, as he fished his way through England, Scotland, Ireland and Germany.
R.B. was the son of Edward Marston, a partner in the publishing firm of Samson Low, Marston & Co. The firm published some of the best-known books of the age, including Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and How I Found Livingstone by Henry M. Stanley. In 1878, while working at his father’s firm, Marston purchased The Fishing Gazette. R.B.’s son and successor at the helm of the Gazette, R.W. Marston, reports his father “revamped the paper and used his company’s publishing clout to distribute the magazine on a national basis. Gradually through his editorship, it gained renown and the paper became known internationally, allowing great interchange of fishing and allied interests.”
In 1884, Marston founded The Flyfisher’s Club in London, and in 1912, launched its biannual publication, the Flyfisher’s Journal. Also in 1884, Marston was involved in one of the earliest efforts to introduce brown trout to American waters; he made a gift of 10,000 eggs of Salmo trutta to the newly opened Cold Spring Harbor Hatchery in New York.
In 1890, Marston began publishing letters from a young American angler named Theodore Gordon. Gordon’s eloquent but plainspoken observations on the nature of trout fishing, especially dry-fly fishing, on American waters would grace the pages of the Gazette until his death in 1915. Historian Gordon M. Wickstrom reports that his writing in the Gazette made Gordon more famous in England than in his own country during his lifetime. By publishing Gordon for a quarter-century, Marston kept the world appraised of the uniquely American style of fly-fishing coming into existence on the rivers of the Catskills.