Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Remembering a Fisherman

We only have a few really vivid memories we can recall from childhood. For some reason, I can remember walking across our back lawn at our house at St. Paul Street in Denver, my white sneakers leaving temporary indentations on the dew-soaked grass. I was 3.

It's an odd memory, but for some reason it stuck. I have no idea of the significance of that moment (perhaps it was foreshadowing--I walked a lot of lawns putting myself through college with Cub Cadet mower), but when I recall my earliest recollections, it's always right there.

Another early memory is of my grandfather, Ivy Garrett Hunt, who died on Friday at the age of 90. He was my last surviving grandparent. We were fishing.

Years ago, fishing was the center of our relationship. We explored the Colorado Rockies together, creeping up hidden canyons in the family motor home, or camping on the banks of an alpine stream. We discovered places together that one day, if I'm lucky, I'll get to introduce to my own grandchildren.

But one memory, in particular, sticks out. I must have been 4, maybe 5. I was sitting on the edge of a black-bottomed beaver pond at the base of Tincup Pass, a small spinning rod in my hands. I'd dropped a worm in the dark water just as the sun was cresting the Collegiates to the east. My line went tight, and I instinctively lifted the rod, plucking a fresh and gorgeous brook trout from the water. It was the first fish I can honestly remember catching. Ever.

My grandfather was at my side. 

To this day, I can feel the heavy thump of congratulations on my back from a proud grandfather, and I can hear the laughter as he helped me remove the snelled Eagle Claw hook from 10-inch char's jaws. I can remember the fish disappearing into his creel, where it would become breakfast just an hour or so later.

Over the years, there were dozens of those memories. Together, we tromped along the Crystal River above the town of Marble, and we dipped lines in the extreme upper reaches of the Arkansas, with Fremont Pass standing sentry over a man and his grateful grandson. 

We plied the trout waters of Taylor Park together. We fished the hidden creeks in the Eagle River drainage above Vail. We explored. We adventured.

We fished.

Those days are long past, sadly. Grandpa's later years were a struggle with failing health. But we talked of fishing often, and his eyes shone with recognition as I described the latest stretch of new water I'd been blessed to discover.

He instilled in me the angler's desire to roam, to find new water, new fish and new adventure. He gave me the tools to wander ... and wonder. For that, I'll always be grateful. One day, I hope to pay it forward--if I can enrich the lives of my own children and grandchildren the same way Ivy G. Hunt enriched my life, I think there'll be a spot in Heaven for me, too.

For that's certainly where my grandfather is right now.

God rest your soul, Grandpa. There is a Heaven. You're there. And you're fishing.

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