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FISHING WITH GHOSTS
I suppose that if God grants us to live long enough we all end up realizing that there are people that are no longer living. Now that I have lived more than my three score and ten the list of people that I have known over the years and especially those that I have fished with have gotten progressively shorter. Increasingly I find myself fishing with ghosts. This emphatically came to my mind on this Christmas Eve when I got word that one of my oldest fishing companions and special friends had died from cancer.
Back when I started seriously fly fishing there were three guys that made up my inner circle of fly fishing friends. There was Jim, Tom and Dean. We were a diverse group with not much in common except for our love of fly fishing for trout. We met on Michigan's Au Sable River and for several years we rallied there each year to fish, share campfires and develop friendships that ultimately came to extend beyond fly fishing.
Over time we drifted away from the Au Sable; three went west, two to Montana and one to Washington State, and one remained in Michigan. Despite the distance and the years we stayed in contact. Occasionally we would visit each other and sporadically we even got together to fish together again, just for old times' sake.
Swept along by time and circumstance one by one the grim reaper began to thin the group of friends. Tom, my friend that went to Washington State built a 40 foot sailboat from scratch but never got to sail it before he developed Parkinson's disease. He was the first one to have a visit from the grim reaper.
Jim lived in Montana for several years before he followed Tom to Washington. With the Ladyfisher he taught casting classes, etched glass, and ultimately assisted the Ladyfisher with the production of Fly Angler's Online. On a fishing trip to the Bahamas he died from a heart attack.
When I got the news a few days ago that Dean had been diagnosed with advanced stage 4 cancer and was currently in hospice care I was stunned. Then, on Christmas Eve I got the news that I had lost the last of my original group of angling buddies.
In the years when we all were fishing the Au Sable the evening hatch was always a special time. Later we would sit around a campfire enjoying the ambience that accompanies old friends and crackling logs turning to coals. This coming season, when I'm alone and standing knee deep in my favorite trout stream as shadows are lengthening at the end of day; I will find myself fishing with ghosts.