My everlasting thanks, Paul, for noticing
After several years of coaxing from my angling pal Rand, I finally decided to lay it all out.
Of course when I thought about it, I was a bit reluctant to talk about me instead of someone else who deserves the applause. So I sat down at the keyboard so I could share the following with you.
We were just walking up to the truck after a very exhausting grouse hunt when Paul looked over at me and said, "You're something else pal, you always dive in to life every single day."
We got in, pulled out the thermos bottles and drank some hot coffee while reassessing the afternoon hunt. It was another of our many celebrations for just being alive and accepting what the woods and waters offered us.
I was very moved by Paul's statement.
My late friend is no longer with me since his death in 2011. His absence was just as powerful to me as the death of Buck Squancho. Two outdoor compadres whose cups always ran over with the juice of the wild.
In Paul's lifetime, he was one of those individuals who could accomplish most tasks placed before him. In fact, he reminded me of broadcast sidekick A.J., who prides himself as a problem solver and innovative carpenter.
Paul, on the other hand, could spot a grouse on a tree branch 50 feet away, and then nail it before the dog could sound the alarm.
His casting ability improved every season, and he displayed his prowess by tossing a small Mepps spinner to a smallmouth bass that was hiding behind a tiny chunk of partially submerged boulder.
His generations-old shotguns glistened from constant cleaning and top-coating applications of fine gun oil.
And his kitchen skills earned him nods from some of Chicago's finest haute-cuisine chefs.
But one aspect of his life that drove me nuts was his refusal to pick up a fly rod and learn the simple and easy lessons necessary to add to his outdoor repertoire. He always claimed fly fishing was far too complicated for a simple-minded bloke like himself. He ridiculed fly fishing as "something snobs did with their money."
Once we were on a trout expedition that didn't allow an angler to use anything except a fly. I refused to alert him to this "travesty" so as not to scare him off and keep him sequestered in his apartment.
He was livid when he saw the streamside signs, "Fly fishing only."
"Why didn't you tell me about this restriction?" he bellowed.
I refused to answer him as I stepped into the water and started stripping fly line off the reel so I could make casts.
So he sat there on the bank on this cloudy afternoon, mumbling and groaning while I went about the business of casting a dry fly to some rising fish.
My third cast resulted in a "take" and the fish went nuts trying to escape.
Once I had the 14-inch trout in my net I looked over to Paul to see if he had been watching me.
As long as I had my head pointed in his direction, he refused to look up and acknowledge my presence.
He was engrossed with writing things in a small notebook.
I changed to a larger dry fly in order to find out if the trout were in an aggressive mood. The rule of thumb for me is that the larger the fly, the bigger and hungrier the fish. They were that and more, and I subsequently caught a half-dozen more fish, half of them exceeding the length of the first one.
Paul kept his nose in the notebook.
I worked my way back to him and climbed out of the water. He spoke first.
"You are a real treasure Jackson," he whispered. "You and I go back a lot of years and I've always known you're good with a rod and shotgun. Not an expert, mind you, but a great student of the sport. And because you've invested your career sharing the outdoors with your readers and listeners, you deserve to be in the National Fishing Hall of Fame."
And so it came to pass that Paul was highly prophetic in his statements. I was inducted into the Hall in 2011.
And I finally acknowledge Paul's observation that "I dive into life every single day."
Thank you, Paul.
•Contact Mike Jackson at email@example.com, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.
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