I have been lucky to know and learn from a few guys who’s name you probably never heard before. Truly talented anglers that simply have what it takes to catch more fish than you and I, everytime they were on the water. Humble, secretive and unassuming, traits that now get described as “old school”. They learned by watching and listening, and expect you and I to do the same. Puff your chest out and tell the story of the best day of fishing in your life, and you’ll be welcomed with a half smile and skeptical eyes, not one of the hundreds of stories they have that would make your’s sound like a terrible day on the water.
We lost one of these unsung heroes last Sunday, and the only ones not sad to see him go are the fish that have a much better chance at survival because of it. Way too fast, too soon, nobody was ready. Multiple lifetimes worth of fishing stories now legend, only to be passed on by the few that saw what he could do first hand. Imagine catching a marlin just to chunk it up for bait, big tuna bait, and making it work. Just a sample of what was a common occurrence in this mans time on the water.
“That guy”, who’s pile of fish at the end of a long range trip was astonishingly WAY bigger than everyone else’s, yet he never boasted, bragged or belittled you. No super fancy gear, sponsorship jerseys or matched set of custom rods, the guy you’d think might need your help at the beginning of a trip. First guy up, first guy bit and last one to bed, always without a single complaint. Rusty hook goes into a perfect bait cast further than you with older gear and he’s bit again. He looks at you and you are hooked up, and you might get a smile, or a wink. With that new fancy this, and state of the art that, you land that fish. What you may never know is that he landed 3 while you were hooked up. They’re laying on the deck, bleeding, and he’ll get them later when the bite slows down.
These guys may go to a seminar, because its about fishing and they love fishing. They might read a book for the same reason. They do not write books, give seminars or have websites. No phone calls to get GPS #’s of where someone else found fish, or visits to pay per view websites, they just go and get it done quietly. As operators they have a secret fish finding sense that I cannot identify, they will not talk. The angler we just lost had enough work for the crew to do at any time that it was tough to look, listen and learn. Maybe it was on purpose, maybe he just ran a tight ship.
I attended the funeral services today along with enough others as to overflow the mortuary out into the hall, standing room only. In that room I saw many of the men I describe above, all sad to see this one gone. Guys I have fished with side by side and been humbled time and time again. I opened my ears, and closed my mouth. There is not a story I could make up that these guys have not actually lived, and there was not a single fishing industry logo to be found. We all stood in shock, listening to words being spoken of a great fisherman no longer with us, together, alone, sad. The man in the casket was not just one of the few, he might have been the end of an era.