|George Richey (both photos) landing and holding a big king salmon
photo c. Dave Richey Outdoors ©2012
September 10 is a day I won’t likely forget. It’s the first day of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula black bear season, but that’s not why I remember it even though I’ve shot a bear on that day on several occasions.
Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of my twin brother George’s death. It happened nine years ago. He was taken ill and learned he had seven different kinds of cancer, and four days later died in Traverse City’s Munson Hospital.
He faced his impending death bravely, didn’t quibble about the outcome he knew was coming, and greeted death on an optimistic note. I lay in his hospital bed, clinging to him while staring at the heart monitor. The flat line seemed meaningless because of the gravity of his various cancers. It simply spelled an end to a great life.
He didn’t fear death but embraced it
You see, George and I began steelhead fishing many years ago in the early 1950s, and we traipsed all over the Upper and Lower peninsulas in search of steelhead once we became old enough to drive. We were always together in the early years, and we could read each other’s mind. He could start a sentence and I could finish it. Twins often have such gifts.
We both loved the same things. First it was steelhead, and then jumbo brown trout in numerous locations, and then salmon came along in the mid-1960s. George jumped on the lure bandwagon by manufacturing a wide variety of Michigan Squids, Michigan Sparkle Flies and other trolling flies for salmon.
George’s son – Casey Richey of Frankfort – has taken over the fly business, and has expanded on many of his father’s ideas. Casey held the brown trout state record for a short time before it was beat by a larger fish caught in the Manistee River.
George had a long run with his lure business, and lived to age 63. He died just five months after I retired from The Detroit News as their staff outdoor writer-photographer, We made plans for countless fishing and hunting trips, and we both looked forward to retracing our earlier study of Lake Superior tributaries for steelhead.
We’d planned a more leisurely assault on such rivers as the Big Two Hearted, Huron, Middle Branch of the Ontonagon, Mosquito, and many others that we’d fished in the late 1960s. We’d planned a pilgrimage to the Rock River for pink salmon as we’d done in the early 1970s.
He had caught more than his share of Chinook and coho salmon during our 1967-1976 guiding career on Lake Michigan tributaries, and during his lengthy career in the lure business. He also tied fishing flies for added income, and came up with several flies that he formulated to work on clear and dark-watered streams.
George had a great deal of fun with big salmonids but he and I shared a secret love for back-of-beyond jump-across creeks and silt-laden beaver ponds for brook trout, and wee little ponds and lakes for bluegills.
He loved small fish as well, and loved bluegills and brook trout
He didn’t share in my love of big game hunting, but he would go on such trips just so we could share another memorable event together. He shot mule deer and whitetails in Texas, was on a one-shot big whitetail hunt in Quebec where we saw only one whitetail over a four-day hunt. He shot two caribou in northern Quebec, and one was a cow caribou, which he proclaimed, as “having a bigger spread than any whitetail he ever shot. That netted him a good razzing from others in camp, but George didn’t care.
“If they are picking on me,” George said, “they are leaving someone else alone.”
That was George. Many people knew him, everyone liked him, and those who knew him through his lure collecting, admired the depth of his research for his books Made In Michigan Lures and Made In Michigan Lures II. Both editions are available from me, and the first edition is rare and very collectible.
He was a picker. He could look through a mountain of old lures, often a pile that had been picked by another collector, and find the proverbial diamond in a coal mine. His skill at uncovering old Michigan-made fishing lures was legendary. His skill at identifying old Michigan-made lures was an enviable one.
In many respects, George was a legend in his own time. Not only as a fly tier, fishing lure maker, fishing guide, angling and lure historian as well as an outdoor writer.
George Richey had many loves and most of all were his old lures
Brother George and I grew up in a little town north of Flint (Clio) and moved north after years of barbering in Clio and Flint. He was a well-known hunter and angler, and many people came to pick his brain on a variety of topics.
He liked people, people cared for him, and he made a lasting impression on others. Readers often write me to ask if George and I were related, and when they learned we were twins, they didn’t know how there really could be two of us.
We were proud of being twins, and we each praised the other when such praise was needed. He’s gone now, but will never be forgotten by me or those who knew him, and I guess I may now have to do the steelhead assault on the Upper Peninsula streams alone. It just won’t be the same without him but it will give us something new to talk about when I meet him again up yonder.
I still miss him and that empty hole in my heart is where he lives.