Monday, July 21, 2008

These Memories Won’t Fade Away

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I spent a good bit of time today remembering many of the fishing trips my late twin brother George and I shared. There isn’t a day I don’t think of him on several occasions, and today (the day before our birthday) brought back many fine and pleasant memories.

Thinking of George is a distinct pleasure. We shared so much as twins, and our mutual love of fishing and my thoughts about him, keeps his memory alive and fresh in my mind. Some of today’s memories included:

*A day many years ago when we were fishing the Sturgeon River. I hooked a nice steelhead, and followed the fish downstream to the upstream end of a deep hole. I tip-toed out as far as I could, and battled that fish to a standstill.

Suddenly I could feel the sand washing out from around my wader-clad feet, and knew I was going for a swim. I tried to back up but the current was too strong, and there I went, trying to swim with my rod hand. I hollered at George as I washed through the hole, telling him to grab me at the next shallow riffle.

He ran ahead while I foundered, and I hit the shallow gravel upside-down, and he grabbed my wader straps and hauled me upright. I was thoroughly soaked on a very cold day, and five minutes later I landed the fish and headed for the car for dry clothes and a warm towel. If any one cares, the steelhead weighed 5 1/2 pounds.

*Another time he was wading a soft place on the Platte River. I’d warned him against it because of the soft marl bottom, but he got out and into the current, and then both feet got stuck. He was in waist-deep water, and if he fell over, he’d drown because the current would hold him down.

I dropped my rod, grabbed a long and limber tag alder limb, and waded out toward him. He wasn’t panicking, but knew the consequences if he lost his balance. I was right on the edge of firm footing and soft, and still 10 feet from him. My branch was about nine feet long. I knew I could stretch out two more feet, and his arms would reach two feet without having to move his body, but I wanted him to get a firm grip.

“All I can do is pull,” I told him. “No sense in both of us being stuck in midstream. Grab hold tight, and I’ll push slightly, and hopefully it will give you enough leverage so you can keep your balance while pulling one foot clear of the muck. Take off your wader belt and shoulder straps, because if you lose your balance I’ll try to pull you out of your waders.”

He got a death grip on the limb, as did I, and I pushed slightly to help him maintain his balance. He worked feverishly on the foot closest to me, and got it free and took a two-foot step. That foot went a foot down in the muck but landed on a submerged limb. He worked on freeing the other foot, and even though it took a half-hour, we got him up onto firm footing and to safety.

*One night we were fishing Manistee Lake at Manistee in August for big walleyes. Back then some big freighters would move up the lake, and throw a huge wake. I hooked a big walleye, and got it close to the boat, and this was bigger than any of the 12 and 13-pounders we had landed over the years.

“He’s huge,” George said in an understatement. “I’ll put the flashlight in my mouth, and try to net him.” He did, and just as the net went under the fish, the wake from a passing freighter hit us. The lure hooks tangled in the net, and the fish lay delicately balanced across the net rim.

He did the only thing he could, and tried to keep the walleye balanced on the net frame. He got the net and fish over the gunwale before the walleye flipped once, tore the hooks free, bounced once off the gunwale, and I grabbed for the fish. It slid through my hands like a greased pig, and got away. We estimated his weight at 15-16 pounds.

*George loved fly fishing and tying flies, and I remember one of the last brown trout he caught was with the late Frank Love of Frederic. They were fishing the upper Manistee River near the 612 bridge from Frank’s riverboat, and George hooked the fish just after dark.

It jumped and splashed, and George was making the woods ring with his whoops and hollers. He fought that fish well, giving line when needed and taking line when he could, and several minutes later George landed a 22-inch brown.

He admired it briefly, leaned over the edge of the longboat, held the noble brown trout into the current until it pulled away and swam back to his home under a log jam.

That was just a part of what George Richey was. He loved life, loved trout fishing, detested crowds of people, and thought kindly of many people. He loved trout and trout fishing enough to release the larger fish, and many people should emulate his actions. He fished for fun, not for food, and that makes me miss him even more.

Posted by Dave Richey on 07/21 at 05:36 PM
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