When Lefty Kreh passed away in March, his life was rightly celebrated. Tributes overwhelmed Instagram and Facebook feeds for days. The heartwarming stories of chance encounters and old tales of epic fishing trips with the fly fishing legend, perfectly framed a life well lived and a life dedicated to the outdoors.
Lefty was lucky. Most anglers will leave this world without much recognition or admiration from their cohorts. These are the men who maintained a job or career while providing for their family and then on the rare occasion when they did get free time for themselves, they spent it doing rad things like hiking through thorny brush and unruly wetland grasses to spend a morning on their favorite stretch of their home river. Or maybe they spent their Saturday walking 10 miles barefoot down the beach in the middle of a steamy Florida July, with jagged shells stabbing at their feet with every step. All so they could get to that remote beach snook spot that they believed no one else knew about. Still other unknown anglers left more of an impression through the people they touched with their actions and the nurturing they gave to those as they first entered the sport of fishing.
The adventures and good deeds of the unknown angler vary depending on region, but all stories share one commonality. Not many people learn about their adventures or deeds and the few friends and family who care enough to know, haven’t been given the full scope of the story for a variety of reasons. Despite their life and passion for the outdoors, these unknown anglers will die with only their closest friends and family knowing their fishing stories and understanding the rich experiences that the departed collected on their journey through life.
Unknown anglers pass every day. I’m sure you can think of two or three right off the top of your head. Maybe your father, a brother, or a friend of a friend with a cantankerous personality that you only fished with once, but their stories and skills left a lasting impression on you. It may have simply been the person who introduced you to fishing; the one who planted that seed and opened your eyes to the vast treasures awaiting those who pursue the great sport. That person, in your eyes, is as great or greater than Kreh could ever be (sorry Lefty). That person to me is Don Dye, who recently passed.
Some anglers will never be known and others would prefer to remain unknown, except to those people for whom they care about most. I’m blessed to have mostly unknown anglers on my skiff when they join me on charter trips. Usually, over the course of a trip, through their stories of past experiences and the inevitable fishing memories we make together on that trip, they become known anglers to me and that is special. And so, to all the unknown anglers that have passed out of your life and to my Grandpa Dye, I say rest in peace and tight lines.