As that first frost hit the other day and the leaves started to race each other to the ground I realized just how close we are to the wind down of the season. Once again I reflected on how many trips I had promised to make and didn't take. That's life, and like the 50th birthday card one of my fishing buddies gave me now 15 years ago, it said "Don' t think of 50 as over the hill, just think of it as picking up speed." Time moves much too fast and the fall moves fastest of all.
For some reason it made me think of the fishing partners over the years. The good, the bad and the ugly. What made some trips so good and others entirely forgettable? Success in fishing often is not measured in amount of fish or size, but experiences shared. I often forget how I started to fish with a certain partner to share the water but I sure do remember why I stopped fishing with others.
One of my main trout fishing buddies had been a customer for a number of years. We mutually discussed our love for an Interior Plateau river west of Prince George. We eventually got around to arranging a trip there in Mid July. Upon picking him up some bills landed on the dash for gas and he said he had some extra lunch. We have fished together now for 30 years. He fishes faster than I do, I'm too thorough, but he will always wait at the next pool so we can rotate on fresh water. You know sometimes you can have a great conversation with a fishing buddy without saying a word.
Another fishing partner is as fish crazy as anyone I know. A master with all types of tackle he has like myself chose the fly rod as the weapon of choice. Fishing for him is the experience, the river, the wildlife, the lunch break, the stillness. No competition, enjoying your fish as much as his own and always ready to go. A guy that really cares about the fish and has put in many volunteer hours to make sure the resource stays strong as possible. I have shared many great trips with others. Herb, Jack ,Denis, Alex, Dave. Rick, Gene, Mike, Rod, Steve, Gary and Mark to name a few. A pleasure to fish with.
Many other partners although not frequent but were very enjoyable companions. Guys and gals that love to fish, accept adversity with a smile or joke, carry their own weight, that have made trips memorable one way or another. Sometimes the outdoors bring out the real person.
Of course there also is the inevitable bad. Like the time one of my regular partners asked to invite a fellow worker along. We asked a few questions and they said he seemed like a good guy. Well okay we will let him come along. We cut across country for two miles to hit this bend on one of our favourite rivers. We would take all day to fish down to our vehicles. We saw the newcomer when we came out at the river and did not see him again until nightfall. He raced ahead of us hitting all the pools and then proceeded to tell us how good the fishing was. Best he had ever had. Couldn't wait to come with us again. Guess what, we didn't call.
Another incident taught me a very good lesson. The last Steelhead I took for the table was close to 40 years ago. About 30 years ago I made a trip out from Prince George with a fellow who had yet to catch a Steelhead. Most anglers will take the time to help the newcomer to land his first Steelhead. We had a great weekend and released several nice fish. We told him this was a special fish from a special place and to treat it as such. The next weekend I returned and there he was with four friends with limits of dead Steelhead. When I asked him what the hell was he doing, he replied "He didn't swear to secrecy and besides it was legal at the time to take Steelhead." Misplaced trust.
Other fishing companions were very brief for one reason or another. Too competitive, not paying their share, carrying their load, no ethics, interested only in the numbers, no respect etc. There are many reasons, just say like the divorce courts, irreconcilable differences or incompatibility.
I have had a few dogs over the years that were very good fishing companions. My German Shorthairs were for the most part great on the river. They stayed contentedly on shore, warned me of other wildlife, shared lunch and would happily curl up beside you if you took an afternoon break. More than once they alerted me to a possible bear scare. Often their presence told you that at least your sense of smell was still working. My last dog a German Longhaired Pointer was not a good fishing dog. His instincts were so strong that anyone standing in a river waving a stick was obviously going to throw it and he was right there in the water ready to do the job. His name was Sage. He never did hear me say "Sage, go fetch my Sage" but he was always waiting. He also did not grasp the concept of catch and release. For him, catch and retrieve was the name of the game. I guess that training him to point with a fly rod and a grouse wing was not the most enlightened thing to do. Each cast meant he was to creep up on that fly. It wasn't his fault that he took his lessons seriously. I miss him.