If you have fished for a long time, you probably have lost one or more “fishing buddies” along the way. It’s traumatic.
As I pondered this life experience, I sadly counted but also thankfully remembered 10 men I considered fishing buddies who have since passed away. Each had their own special and powerful impact on me, lessons and memories I still honor to this day.
I was lucky that even at an early age, I was always going fishing with Dad and his buddies. Since I grew up on a Westside poultry ranch, most of these guys were in ag-related professions – tough men who lived by a code of hard work, honesty and family.
In this first era of my life, these bigger-than-life guys were who I learned to hang with and act like. As anglers, they were all-out, and they expected you to be the same way. We fished very hard and as I grew older some special relationships developed. In some cases, it seemed I was closer to them than I was to my own family. They all had their own special style, flair and energy.
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Every one of those guys I met early in my life left deep, indelible marks. It only takes one of them coming to mind and suddenly they’re alive for me again in every way. Guess that’s what happens when you spend lots of special time with someone you respect and look up to.
I wanted them to accept me as one of the guys. I can even tell you the cologne they used, what kind of pole, their tackle box, how they would instruct and help me and just the general way they handled themselves. I knew them well and vice versa. We were more like brothers.
Each time I lose a friend in this category it always leaves a big hole. They had filled a special niche in my life and I found myself many times thinking about calling them to share my latest fishing success because I knew they cared. Then it would hit me: They were gone, and I felt sad.
Over the past few years I’ve lost more buddies and it’s still painful each time. In every case, a vivid and lasting memory of who they were is buried deep in my mind. They are not people you can replace in your life; you just have to hope to build on the friendships you have and find some new ones, too.
Funny, it’s as if they’re all still here and I’m still working to get their approval. I don’t want to let them down. I know what they would expect. They believed that you did the right thing even if no one was watching.
Referring to someone as a “fishing buddy” remains an endorsement that they are good people. It promises honesty, reliability, trustworthiness and more!. Were you tested and true, did you complain, did you pay your way and were you a honest, tough and good partner? Those were all acid tests to be called a buddy. I’ve been blessed to have known more than a few.
They helped mold a boy into a man in my early years, then became the guys pursuing the same vision of sportsmanship and excellence in which I believed. It’s not easy to find and cultivate friends and fishing partners who meet and live up to those standards. The lesson I’ve learned from losing so many good buddies is that the integrity, friendship, care, passion and love they showed remains part of their legacy.
Each one left behind memories that still drive and challenge me. And if they walked up right now, somehow it wouldn’t seem strange at all because they still live on in my heart. They are always there. Men sharpen men, and that includes fishing buddies! That’s something special, especially when some of these relationships lasted 40 years.
Even though they’re not here, they are! They weren’t confused about who they were or what they stood for; the code they followed was simple and real. I aspire to that standard. I’m proud to call them my “fishing buddies” and I still miss them! Never give up!