A BRITISH angler has been hailed the world's greatest fisherman after spending 18 years travelling 150,000 miles to achieve sport angling's Holy Grail for the first time in history.
See a colourful slideshow from some of Zyg Gregorek's memorable fishing expeditions.
Zyg Gregorek, 65, is the first recreational fisherman anywhere to catch all 27 species in the three so-called "royal slams" set by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) – hooking nine species of shark, including the great white, ten of billfish and eight of tuna.
His journey has taken him to some of the most remote corners of the world: from South Africa to Australia, Mauritius and the Galapagos Islands, and from America, Madeira and Ascension Island to Mozambique.
Mr Gregorek, who caught his first shark, a 40lb blue, off the coast at Padstow in Cornwall, completed his royal slams when he landed a 200lb thresher shark off San Diego – a species he had been trying to catch since 2004.
Rob Kramer, president of Florida-based IGFA, described Mr Gregorek's achievement as "totally unique". He said: "To achieve one royal slam is impressive but to get all three is unheard of. He is the first and maybe the last. These awards are considered the big one – the Holy Grail. They are spectacular – travelling to exotic places and chasing a specific species of fish."
Mr Kramer stressed: "It is not about luck – you have to research, to know exactly where to go and when. Zyg is, by definition, the world's greatest fisherman."
Mr Gregorek, of Halwill in Devon, admitted: "It's cost a bomb but was worth it in the end. To complete all three slams is the culmination of many years' work and the end of a personal journey.
"I've had a fair few scrapes to get there. I've had many a run-in with the authorities. I've had guns pointed at me and had a scrape with a poisonous snake on more than one occasion.
"In Australia, I cracked ribs after an altercation with branches, resulting in an impromptu swim in crocodile-infested waters.
"I caught a black marlin in Mozambique and when I jumped in to celebrate, I cut my leg on the propeller."
The biggest fish he caught was a 1,300lb great white shark off South Africa in 2000. He explained: "Some sharks you catch by accident while fishing for other things but some were more targeted. The great white was a specific target in South Africa."
He added: "It has been very humbling at times. Some of the crews who helped me have been very poor. In Mozambique, the crew asked me if they could keep my catches because they were big enough to feed their entire village."
Barry Scholes, of the Scottish Federation of Sea Anglers, said: "It is a fantastic achievement. Anybody who pursues record fish and dedicates their time to doing that is involved in one of the purest forms of the sport."
The shark royal slam consists of the blue, hammerhead, mako, thresher, tiger, white, tope, whaler and porbeagle. The billfish royal slam consists of the Atlantic and Pacific sailfish, Atlantic and Pacific blue marlin, black marlin, striped marlin, white marlin, swordfish and spearfish.
The tuna royal slam comprises the Atlantic and Pacific bigeye, blackfin, bluefin, dogtooth, longtail, skipjack, southern bluefin and yellowfin.
HE IS well known in angling circles but eccentric "shark hunter" Zyg Gregorek came to national attention last year when he pledged to catch a great white shark that had been pictured off the coast of Cornwall at the height of the tourist season.
"I've been fishing for these monsters off Cornwall for ten years because I know they are there," he told one newspaper.
"It's only a matter of time before I catch this fish."
His enthusiasm may have been dampened when it turned out the picture was a fake – the shark had actually been photographed off the coast of South Africa.
Mr Gregorek, variously described as a Polish fisherman, angling club owner and winemaker, also claims to speak three languages.
Basking shark boom makes waves around Hebrides
THE number of basking sharks around the Hebrides has more than doubled in the past five years, research has shown.
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust's research suggests their numbers have risen from fewer than 100 in 2003 to 250 last year.
Particular hot spots are the west coast of Mull, the sea around the islands of Tiree and Coll and the Small Isles.
The season for spotting basking sharks usually runs from about May until autumn and they have already been spotted this year.
Susannah Calderan, biodiversity officer for the trust, thinks it could be due to an increase in food supply, or due to greater protection afforded the animals in recent years.
"We have a good population of basking sharks that seem to be thriving and this is a really good time to be seeing them.
"We think they are on the increase but it's difficult to say if it's a long-term trend or a blip.
"There is clearly good food around here for them. Also, until recently they were fished for. They are protected now, so some population recovery may be going on."
They are world's second largest fish after the whale shark, growing to 36ft long.