E.M. (Ed) Swift is most familiar to SI readers as a hockey writer: His first assignment for the magazine, in February 1978, was to do a story on a kid named Wayne Gretzky. This year Swift began his seventh NHL season at SI with a piece on Pittsburgh rookie Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Lands A Rare Bird, Oct. 15). "He's the closest in fanfare, expectation and talent to come into the NHL since Gretzky," says Swift.
But, as the picture below and the story on hunting and fishing in Idaho with Jack Hemingway (page 78) attest, Swift is also an enthusiastic, knowledgeable outdoorsman. In the past year he has pursued that interest in Alaska, Belize, Wisconsin and Vermont—where he and his wife, Sally, have a house on the Mettawee River—as well as in Idaho. This photo was taken on American Creek near Iliamna Lake in Alaska. The fish is an arctic char, the gun a .357 magnum. More on that later.
Although his gregarious and boyish manner may seem more appropriate to hanging around hockey teams, Swift claims to love the peace and quiet of outdoor life. "Fishing is like having a brain rinse," he says. "If you're really concentrating on fishing, not one constructive thought goes through your mind. It's great." Swift's son, Nathaniel, didn't agree when Dad tried to introduce him to fishing last summer, on the same Wisconsin lake where Dad started hooking 'em when he was three. "I took him out in the boat, but he hated it. He cried the whole time," says Swift. "Of course, he was only six months old."
As for hunting, Swift does most of his in Vermont and limits himself to birds. "I'm not a serious threat to the grouse population, but I love being out in the country in the fall, traipsing through the land," he says. Sometimes Sally goes, too. "You're talking about very safe birds when she's hunting," says Swift.
November 5, 1984
Now about that revolver. Apparently, when one goes fishing in Alaska, one often encounters fish-loving grizzly bears. The first day out, escorted by a guide packing the .357, Ed and Sally saw five grizzlies. The next day Ed was given the gun to carry when he and Sally went fishing unaccompanied. Says Swift, "I asked the guy what to do with the thing, and he explained, 'First, fire a shot in the air. A loud noise like that—heck, even singing—will often scare the bear away. If that doesn't work, well, you have five shots left. Wait until the bear comes real close and when he's just about to you, raise the gun, carefully stick the barrel in your mouth and fire. You don't want to be taken alive by a grizzly.' "
That same day Swift almost had occasion to take the guide's advice. "We were at the creek, when along came a sow and two cubs," says Swift. "They weren't 25 yards from us. I had the gun out and was ready. Then Sally burst into song—I think it was The Bear Went over the Mountain—and the bears took off."