The Androscoggin River was the place I went to fish. It was the first river I fished, where I took my first float trip, and where I learned a whole lot from some great people.
There was one particular evening that stands out more than others. It was summer, and it was that kind of warm and muggy night that falls on New Hamsphire in July. I rode in the back of Dave's van as we made our way to the Andro. Stephen was up front with Dave. There was the usual bullshit banter that always took place on a trip with those guys. For me, it was a pleasure to be in the company of two amazing anglers. These were the two guys that had more impact on my angling than anyone else.
We arrived at one of our usual spots. I figured that Dave would hang out with me and give his usual advice / critique of my shitty casting habits. He would make it look so easy while I flailed the water and watched as landed fish after fish. He would eventually leave me alone, disappear around the bend and come back holding up four crooked fingers as I asked him how he did. But that didn't happen. Instead, I walked in the opposite direction with Stephen. We made our way into some great water. I hooked into a monster bow that had scars left by some kind of predatory bird. She was a beauty, with full colors that I had never seen before. Stephen and I fished until the sun started dipping down behind the hills.
We made our way towards the spot we knew we would find Dave. There he was.
"How'd you do?"
He held up four crooked fingers.
We fished together into darkness. I had on a hopper dropper combo and he just sat back with Stephen while I worked the riffle. No fish. Dave stepped in and hooked fish in the same spot. He was fishing his go to fly - a splittail.
There was no critique that night, just a smile that let me know that I did ok. It was a good night.
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Almost two weeks ago, on Easter, Dave was back at that same spot. They say he never got home that night, and the next morning his wife called the police to file a report. They found Dave 50 yards from the river.
We called him Old Man Dave. He was an amazing angler. He could tie better flies than anyone else I knew. His teaching methods were a combination of kindness, concern and pure brutality. He would rip my hook from the vise, peel off the material and throw it back at me. He told me I was wasting the hook. Then we would slide a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup across the table and laugh. I'm lucky to have a few of his creations in my fly boxes, and more fortunate to have learned many tricks from him.
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We all used to take a trip to upstate New York right after Thansksgiving. Dave was at home with his splittails, always finding himself in the right place to land some fish.
He stood on the bank, tucked into the combat fishing crowd. There were baitchuckers all around, and Dave was in the middle of them with his 9wt, landing all the fish.
He had this one particularly annoying baitchucker next to him that couldn't keep his line off of Dave's fly line. Dave would kindly untangle the guys gear and toss it back. Time after time, he did this. Chucker eventually wore out Dave's patience. Dave pulled out a blade and hacked the guys line, leaving that sack of eggs to sink into the depths of the Salmon River. Well, as you can guess, our bait hurtling friend was not so happy. He charged at Dave, who just stepped aside and sent that guy stumbling into the drink. A very soaking wet and soon to hypothermic dude went in search of the F&G warden who only laughed in his face. Dave was back to fishing within seconds.
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I'll miss the old man. For all of us who learned from Dave, we should make an attempt to pass on what he taught us, and hopefully do it half as well as he did.