Friday, March 13, 2009
Recalling Some “George” Moments
Almost six years ago, my twin brother George passed away after a four-day known bout with multiple forms of cancer. Besides losing a brother, I lost my best friend and my life has changed in the years since his passing.
We were inseparable from our 1939 birth until this untimely separation. We grew up during World War II, and being little kids we had no concept of bombs but we used to stand outside our home in Clio and try to hear them explode. Thank God we never did.
We began fishing in lovely Clio Creek, and caught a few bluegills, carp, suckers and sunfish, but we were anglers at a tender age. We had our first jobs at age six, and have never been out of work. We collected newspapers in the late 1940s, sold them in Flint, and it took all summer to make enough to buy our own bicycles.
Dad was a barber, didn’t make much money, but he provided us with the incentive to work toward buying our own bikes, and they were better than any that the other kids had. Ours were a top-of-the-line Schwinn, and they had a horn, fender-feelers and go-fasters.
We spent summers camping and fishing on the Sturgeon River in Cheboygan County. No one would let their kids fend for themselves as pre-teenagers, but our parents trusted us and we had a wonderful time.
George and I both played baseball, but I quit early because I had eczema, which was aggravated by getting dirty. But I learned how to catch steelhead, and quickly taught him, and again we were inseparable on the water. We could catch more steelhead than almost anyone from the Sturgeon River in the mid-1950s.
We prowled Luzerne Pond for brown trout, made forays for big browns to the upper Rifle River, and were soon fishing most of the major steelhead streams long before the salmon were planted. We pioneered guiding Great Lakes tributaries, and were the first fly-fishing guides.
We developed flies and fly fishing methods back in 1967 that are still in use today. Fishing two flies for steelhead came about in 1967, and there are people today who claimed they invented the system but they are wrong.
We traveled together in the off-season, giving seminars on fly fishing for lake-run brown trout, chinook and coho salmon, and steelhead when most people thought it was in its infancy. Again, they were wrong because we’d been catching browns and steelhead on flies for many years.
George loved fishing more than hunting, but would willingly go hunting with me because he enjoyed my company. For me, George was more than a brother and a great friend, he was my soul mate. We were often together late in his life, and once we learned he had cancer (while at the Wood-n-Water Outdoor Weekend show,) we spent his final four days and nights together.
We played “Remember When.” I’d ask is he remembered catching his first steelhead, as well as when and where the event occurred. He nailed that one. I asked if he remembered making that great long-range shot on a trophy desert whitetail in southwest Texas, and again, even though his body was failing him, he remembered it.
He remembered the night we fished for big browns after dark on the Sturgeon River, and both caught a pair of fish between seven and nine pounds each. He also remembered celebrating at the old Meadows Bar with a beer and a burger.
George was widely loved by all who knew him. He could ferret out lures like a beagle with a cold nose, and he was an expert at tying flies, something he did commercially for many years. He invented several steelhead flies that are still in use today, and invented the Michigan Squid, Laser Squid, Crinkle Fly, Sparkle Fly and others, and for years his squids and trolling flies were the best on the Great Lakes for salmon. They still are.
He was a well-known lure collector and historian. He wrote three books—Made in Michigan Fishing Lures, Made In Michigan Fishing Lures II, and Dodgers & Squids For Larger Salmon & Trout. He co-authored the revised edition of The Royal Frontenac Hotel with Pete Sandman. He wrote countless lure collecting stories for Woods-n-Water News, edited the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club Gazette for many years, and wrote many other magazine articles.
People thought the world of George, and he reciprocated. He was always ready to help a new lure collector get started, and was known far and wide for his vast store of knowledge about lures made in this state and many others.
He was an icon, a person people respected and looked up to. His sense of humor was infectious, and it’s easy to find people all over this state who have their favorite George Richey stories. I’ve shared a few of mine here, and there will be more in the future.
I loved my twin brother, love my memories of him, and today I had to write something about the man who meant so much to me. To pay a tribute to his 64 years of life, and to show people how much I truly miss him. He’s gone but far from being forgotten.
Thank you for reading this small tribute. It means a great deal to me.