Friday, October 30, 2015

People that touch our lives

I entered my doctor’s office this morning,with not a single thought of people that touch our lives, feeling that I didn't have time to worry about my health because everyone in my life was depending upon my me for their success; with absolutely, no regard for my physical and mental health.  Deadlines to meet, careers at stake and customers facing shutdowns...several million dollars at stake if I did not come through.
Thanks to one special Physician’s Assistant, whose father is surely looking upon from heaven, with more joy than we are capable of imagining, my perception quickly changed as I began to think how people touch our lives.  First, she not only read the chart from my last visit, nut recalled personal conversations that I had long since put behind me.   Most importantly, she listened.  Not simply to the words projecting from my mouth, but truly listened with an open heart, which enabled her to see the whole [entire] message that I was conveying.  A message that I, myself did not realize was there.

As I went through the motions of trying to convince her that I understand the things that cause me stress and began explaining how I fishing and tying my own flies caught her attention.  Bonnie nonchalantly shared with me that her father, who had passed earlier this year at the age of 91, had tied flies for Ted Williams and remembered him teaching her to tie when she was child and all of the all of the beautiful feathers that he used.  She also mentioned how he had worked for a fly tying company in Boston [Stoddard as I recall] that she thought was most likely, no longer in existence.

Before I had made my way to the parking lot, in search of my car, began to think of the people that touch our lives, a quick internet search for Bob Cavanagh, returned the following article.

Trout Fin
Compiled by Deanna Birkholm
While most streamers and wet flies represent some insect or baitfish, here is one which imitates bait.

One of the best baits for brook trout in eastern Canada and the lakes of the northeast is the pectoral fin of a brook trout. (No one mentions what happened if you didn't catch the first brookie to use the fin). However, assuming the inventors of this fly were fly fisherman, they may have been aware of the success of the fin as bait, and specifically created it for that use.
It appears the Trout Fin fly was developed entirely independently by Robert H. Cavanagh, Jr., of Woburn, Massachusetts, and by the Gulline Brothers, Montreal, Canada. The time seems to be the 1920s.
Trout Fin
Hook:   Mustad #3906, sizes 8 to 16.
Thread:   Pre-waxed black nylon.
Tail:   Red duck quill.
Body:   Flat silver tinsel with a very fine oval silver rib.
Hackle:   Light ginger, tied back collar style.
Wing:   Three layers, married matched duck, goose, or swan, Top to bottom - white, black (thin) and red.
Credits: Information from Trout and Salmon Fly Index by Dick Surette, published by Stackpole Books. Photo from Forgotten Flies published by Complete Sportsman. ~ DLB

As I sat in the driver’s seat of my car pearl white Chevy Malibu, the nest bit of information I found was an obituary reminding us of an incredible man.
Robert H. "Bob" Cavanagh Jr., 91, of Goffstown, NH died peacefully on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, after a brief illness.

Born in Plymouth, Mass., he lived in Woburn, Mass., for 75 years where he raised a family with his childhood sweetheart, Jean Claire (nee Phelan) Cavanagh, his wife of 67 years. He served gallantly in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and saw combat on Iwo Jima, where he earned the Purple Heart. A man of many talents, he was an avid craftsman, sportsman and conservationist. An accomplished jazz guitarist, he is perhaps best known as past president of music retailer E.U. Wurlitzer of Boston, where he worked for 28 years. His love of music continued as he enjoyed playing often with friends Rick Mathews and Dave Hallinan. In a final act of kindness, he bequeathed his remains to Harvard Medical School. A loving husband and father, he is survived by his wife, Jean; daughters Bonnie J. Cavanagh, Kim E. Sowers and husband John; Laurie A. Cavanagh; and sons Robert V. Cavanagh and wife Rhoda, and Scott S. Cavanagh and wife Bonne; as well as eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Private services will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please perform an act of kindness in Bob's memory.

As I organized my thoughts and prepared for the ride home, I was reminded how insignificant my problems were in comparison to others in the world and that I remained in control of my life, while millions of others had no idea of where their next meal would come. Or how they would feed their child that day. How selfish was I, to walk into the doctor’s office that morning, thinking that I had no reason to live and wished for a horrific accident that would end my suffering.
Rather than making the 70 minute ride to work, I sent an e-mail telling them I would not be in for the afternoon.  To my surprise, I received a reply from my manager, just 5 minutes later saying, “Thank you for the update. Hope all is well.”  Relieved of the stress that I would be in trouble for not showing up to work, I drove to a local lake to gather my thoughts.

A gentle wind blew across the dark blue water, creating gentle waves along the shore. I sat on the rocks with a large flat bolder against my back, that blocked nearly every bit of the chilly gusts, enough so, that the sun warned me to the point I had to remove my jacket.  For the next hour I sat, meditating on the moment and success of the summer’s fishing trips.  It didn’t take long to remember that I had caught several trout on a red size #12 - #14 Trout Fin, not only this year, but years past.  Not only did Bonnie saved my life today, her father had brought me great joy on many occasions. 

Remember…the next time you say hello or simply smile at a stranger in passing, you could truly be saving a life…No matter how insignificant you may feel at the time, you matter to many more people than you could ever imagine.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How Great He Was

            There are few days that pass without thoughts or memories of my father who entered heaven on July 27, 2011; two short months after I married the woman that one year earlier, I believed did not exist.  I always knew my Dad was a great man…true to God, family and friends.  Today, a gentleman named Frank Callahan, reminded me how great of a man he truly was.
            A little over a year ago Frank joined the company that I work for [800 plus employees at the site], noticed my name in an email and took the time to reach out to ask if I was I was Leroy Dickey Jr.  Puzzled, I answered, “No, that was my father.”  The response I received is one I will never forget.
            “I worked at St. Gobain with your dad and BASF prior to that.  I am so sorry for your loss, I did not know.”
            Forcing back the tears, I assured him that I understood he was not aware.  In the few short months prior to Franks transfer to another location within the company, he and I talked about my father, Leroy Jr., a few times and it became obvious that he had touched Frank’s life as much as many others who had come to know him. 
            Throughout my life, countless people told me what a great man my father was. Being an incredulous child, I shrugged the sentiments off as unpretentious words, spoken to make me feel good.  As I grew in age, I came to appreciate my father for the selfless man that he was…not truly understanding the magnitude of his graciousness until today when it struck me that, one does not simply recall the name of a colleague from 20 years ago, without that person having made a lasting impression upon them. 
            This afternoon, as I sat at my desk overwhelmed with by the multitude of tasks that I needed to somehow complete on time, I received an instant message from Frank, telling me that he had found a photo of my dad that he would like to share with me.  Let me remind you that this is a man that I have conversed with for less than an hour, more than a year ago. More unpretentious words, right?  Not for a second, Frank woke me up today.  
What would have appeared as a grainy, black and white scanned copy of a Polaroid photograph, grabbed Frank’s attention so much that his memory of the man standing in the photo made him think of me. The insignificant guy that he has seen on less than a handful of occasions for less than 60 minutes of trivial conversation.  In my mind, there are only two explanations; each dependent on the other. First, my father was truly an extraordinary man that touch the lives of people that he came to know. Second, Frank is also an amazing, selfless man that considers others as important, if not more, than himself.
I cannot possibly combine enough words, however eloquent, to express my gratitude to Frank.  With tears welling in my eyes, I can only say, “Thank you for sharing this simple, yet life changing photo.” 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mend Left, No Your Other Left: The Elusive Trout

Mend Left, No Your Other Left: 
The Elusive Trout                       By Leroy Dickey

            By Thursday morning I was quite excited about the upcoming Trout Unlimited trip to the Deerfield River in Charlemont Massachusetts.  Our plans began six months early, shortly after our spring outing at the same location; now it was October 30th, I was sitting at my desk unable to stop myself from looking at the clock every 30 minutes, willing it to speed up.  I already knew that I was going to use my six weight with a “ham and egg” nymph setup, with a [pink?] San Juan worm with a peach egg dropped 18 inches below, considering that the browns finished spawning about a week earlier.
            Mark showed up at 10 minutes early, which was perfect because I could not take it anymore and left work 15 minutes early. A quick transfer of gear from his stripped Ford Ranger to my plush Chevy Equinox [I make the payments at least, while my wife gets to drive it 99% of the time], and we were off.  We talked a little about everything on the 90 minute drive, both of us looking forward to meeting up with the remainder of our group at the Mohawk Trail Campground just as much as the three days of fishing we had ahead of us.  And considering the weather forecast with high temps ranging from 50 degrees on Friday to 37 degrees with chance of snow and wind gust to 30 MPH on Sunday, the fireside stories of past trips, coupled with one too many alcoholic beverages was sounding a much better than wading the river.
            Our 6:00AM wake-up call Friday morning, after a wonderful night’s sleep listening to Grumpy Ed talk in his sleep, “Getting to damn old for this fishing shit”, Mark snoring on the bunk below me  and the rock hard bed that creaked causing me to fear falling through and unexpectedly crush poor Mark in his sleep with every breath I took .  We rubbed the crusties from our eyes, grabbed a quick coffee and brushed the cob webs off our teeth before heading off to meet the Harrison’s for those that were taking the guided float trip, amazed by the clear sky and 47 degree temperature.  I paused for a moment to thank God for the beautiful day as Richard walked by saying, “what a wonderful morning.”
            “The best morning ever,” I replied.
            The Tom Harrison confirmed that the “Ham and Eggs” would be the setup of choice and we set off for our preplanned sections of river, hoping that someone was not already there.  Come to find out, we were the only ones on this 6 mile section of river Friday morning. BONUS!!!


            Mark and I headed off to wade, followed by Brad and Lou, while the others set off for a day of drift boat fishing. 
            After making conquering the steep 100 foot drop, we distanced ourselves about 75 yards apart on opposite sides of the river, fishing the slack water below the runs.  On my third cast, an insane rainbow took a swipe at my 1” Thingamabobber.  As usual for this section of river it was, “go big or go home.”  Not having any large egg patterns in my box, I dropped the two biggest Pheasant Tail nymphs that I could find [#12’s with a fatter than normal thorax], made two more casts and “Viol La”.  Fish On!
            After a wonderful attempt at escape, the 1-2 pound rainbow was in my net.  I now more than touched the fly, perfectly lodged its upper lip and the barbless hook gently slipped out making for a perfect release.  As the fat, darkly colored rainbow, zipped back into its holding spot catching its breath, I thanked God once again for this fine morning.  I looked down river soaking in the beauty of left over foliage, some 4 weeks past peek, as the sun shown over the steep hillside, amplifying every morsel of color in the dying leaves that would soon fall, adding their nutrients back into the soil.
            Two hours later, we moved above the high water mark, knowing Fife Damn was scheduled to increase its flow from 200cfs to 900cfs in five minutes.  In the time it took us to climb back up to our vehicles; the dry rocks I was standing were now three feet below the rushing water.  The large rock I had sat on earlier this morning to re-tie my wading boot, was now most likely providing some fat rainbow, sanctuary from the current while pounds of aquatic insects are helplessly swept directly to its mouth. 
            Taking advantage of the unwadeable water, we drove back to camp where Lou served us another incomparable sausage, egg and English muffin breakfast, cooked on his used, green two-burner grill.  We relaxed for a bit inside the 80 plus year old cabin talking about our experience that morning and shared what we had learned about the new section of river.  With a warm meal and fresh coffee settling in our stomachs, we contemplated on the best area to fish that afternoon, deciding that the area directly below the damn would be perfect. Our thought was that the daily flow would stop just before dusk, allowing the fish to move back into their deep pools, where they could relax until the next flow began around noon the following day. Unfortunately, the flow did not stop until four hours after sunset. 
            We stuck it out and drifted nymphs in the bubble lines along the edges.  Fishing the upper pool, Lou hooked into a gorgeous rainbow within the first 10 minutes, confirming that we had made the right decision. The upper pool was about 150-meters long and 40-meters across with a large granite shelf forcing the water to depart through a 15-meter opening on the near side where it dropped about 2-meters into a larger pool.  I made a cast into the nearest edge of the heaviest current, allowing my double nymph rig to pop out along the edge of the pool as if swept in from the pool above.  I made a downstream mend to keep my line ahead of my float and droppers, managing a nice 15-meter drift.  On the second cast my indicator dove under, I gently lifted the tip of my rod and the fight was on.  On 10 second run downstream and “Viol La,” a not so perfect long distance release of the one strike I had all evening.


            We gathered back at camp, started the fire and poured drinks as Lou prepared yet another divine meal surpassing any $45 a plate, shirt and tie required, restaurant in the northeast.  I challenge anyone to find a finer meal served in a better atmosphere than our folding chairs set up around a campfire, with stars brightly shining above.  Pumpkin whoopee pies, prepared by someone’s loving wife [I think it was Larry’s wife or perhaps Richard, but cannot say for sure], followed for desert.  My taste buds were more than satisfied.
            Ed and Richard began sharing the wonderful day of guided drifting with the Harrison’s.  Apparently Dick managed to out fish Ed [again] despite some confusion about mending his line.  Ed had us in tears explaining how Tom would instruct him to, “Mend left. Mend left!  No, your other left!”
            Considering that Mr. Bickford has 35 years on me, I could not hold it against him to occasionally, confuse his left with his right.  Hell, I will be happy if I am simply, able to crawl out of bed before I take my morning pee, when I am 82 years old.  Let alone spend an eight hour day on the river, fishing.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fishing the Deerfield River

          As I packed the last of my gear into the trunk of my 2013 Malibu on a Friday the 13th with a full moon, it occurred to me that I really need a vehicle better suited toward hunting and fishing, something like the 1990 Toyota Land Cruiser I had passed up in the spring. A full 20 minutes had passed since I last looked at the NOAH weather app on my phone, perhaps they had changed their minds and the rain would stop before I arrived at camp in 2 ½  hours; just as I susphere it is almost 8ected…cloudy with a 50% chance of showers ending around midnight.  On the bright side, tomorrow dropped to 30% chance of showers, windy, gusts to 23 MPH, perfect for making a precision casting with a fly rod.   Two hours later, about 30 minutes behind schedule and at least 20 miles past the nearest town, that would have a place to buy one, it occurred to me that my rain gear was hanging neatly in my closet at home.  Fortunately, the tiny town of Charlemont had enough farmers around to support a local Agway store.  A quick U-turn, legally of course, right after the no U-turn sign.

          Panic set in as I merge of the shoulder and back into traffic with success…looking directly at one of Massachusetts’ finest in the now, oncoming lane.  I found myself praising the sudden down pour of rain that I had been cursing minutes earlier. The state trooper sent me a glaring look that would rival that of my grandmothers when she first witnessed me placing a pinch of Copenhagen in my bottom lip and continued on his way.  Apparently, an illegal U-turn in light traffic is not worthy of causing the trooper to soil his highly polished Calvary boots.  Thank you God almighty.

          After a 10-minute pit stop at Agway, I was back on the road and of course, the rain had let up and the sky was getting brighter, then ten minutes later the rain was falling moderately hard again, as it had all morning.  I pulled into the Mohawk Campground, trudged through the muddy parking lot and stepped inside where I was greeted with all seven patrons looking to see who was coming in; one even gave me a cheekish smile revealing the few remaining brown teeth... Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith’s “Dueling Banjos” playing in my head.  After a short talk with the man behind the bar, I learned that I was at the wrong place; Mohawk National Forest Campground was still a few miles away.

          With a better idea of where our trout Unlimited group was camping, I was headed back a few miles to a rest area that had some promising looking water and ignored the fact that thousands before me have probably had the same thought.  Pulling into the parking area, I spotted a grey Land Cruiser with New Hampshire license plates…that has to be someone from our group.  No more than I had finished getting my gear on and rigging up my 9’0”, 5 weight Temple Fork rod with sink tip line a drift boat made its way to shore with three soaking wet men on board.  Ed and Dick had been floating the river for the past four hours with no success.  Although, I had been to a presentation this guide had given about Deerfield River where he told us he would refund 50% of your cost if no fish where caught, full price was paid, plus tip.  Needless to say, Mr. Henault and Mr. Bickford were not pleased. 

          Despite the rain, I continued to fish for a few hours in the miserable weather without the slightest of strikes then headed to camp where I was greeted with the snoring of five fellow TU members.  An hour later and the younger guys were headed back to the “top,” better known as Fife Brook damn and found themselves in the middle of a Hex hatch, Hexagenia limbata for the nerds out there, no offense intended – I say nerd, only because I can never remember the real names.  Hearing this news when they arrived back at camp, well after dark, made me wish I had sucked it up and went with them. 

          Lou provided us with a tasty, steak tip dinner as we sat around swapping stories about the day and past trips taken throughout North and South America.  After dinner I supplied the Scotch [Glenlivet 18 year old] and cigars [La Flor de Gloria] and more stories were shared on topics ranging from teaching the wife to fly fish to who had the best garden.  My favorite was, “my wife and I have an agreement, she doesn’t have to go fishing and I don’t need to attend the ballet.”  With eight of us ranging from in age from mid-30’s to 80+ telling stories, there was no want for entertainment.

          The dilemma, eight men, four beds and me without a mat to place my sleeping bag on.  I opted for my car with the front seat laid back, which learned in the morning, had been the best sleeping arrangement in the cabin.  According to those under 45, “old men snore horribly.”  Some had even considered refunding me half the price of the cabin for sleeping in the car while others thought I should be charged extra for getting a full 6 hours of sleep.  [TO BE CONTINUED]…

Hereit is, nearly a full year later I sit at home on my couch, feeling loopy from the painkillers that were given to me following my spine surgeries. apparently sleeping in my car that night was not a good idea. I ended up with a herniated  disc in my lower back and nearly a full summer without fishing or at least being in pain while I was out there on the wate. TThankfully the New Hampshire neuro Spine Center found the herniated disc after several months of pain and performed surgery. now I am 3 weeks post op and looking forward to this year's spring trip. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Its All about timing

 I recently had the opportunity to cast an incredible 5wt rod, circa 1913 split cane attached to my fly with a leader from that its owner had been using since the 1972 [not an exaggeration].  Without counting, I estimated a minimum of 10 neatly tied blood knots along its 12 irreplaceable feet of silk braiding.  At first glance I thought back to my first dirt bike, a 1982 Yamaha IT 200 with silver duct tape keeping the padding from falling out of its torn seat and zip ties stitching the front and rear, plastic fenders together; not to mention the foam pipe insulation place on the cross section of my handle bars acting as “protection.”  This rod had unquestionably been fished and held great sentimental value.

As I lifted the rod its weight took me by surprise.  For a second I thought the tip was stuck in one of those infamous unseen objects that grab your feet, in attempt to make you go swimming, while walking along shore line. However, I could see that the rod tip was lifting just fine; all 10 pounds of it. Balance had obviously not been thought of when this rod was built.  It felt as if I had lifted it by the wrong end. 

My first back cast went ok, then as I attempted my forward cast at a pace that would have been perfect with a graphite rod, I thought, “Well, this isn’t going to end well.” I was right.  30 feet of bunched up line and leader splashed heavily on the water only a few feet away from my feet.  And to top it off, Reed chuckled loudly in the back ground.

Knowing I could drive the Sherman tank of a fly rod I was careful to watch my back cast slowly unwind behind and when I say slow, that is an understatement. As Reed so elegantly put it, “You can start your back cast, light up a cigarette, have a sip of coffee and still have to wait before making your forward cast.”

In the 20 years that I have been fly fishing, I had used only one rod until this past fall when a great friend gave me a TFO 9’, 5 wt. graphite rod that was half the weight of my 1990 8’ 6”, 5 wt. fiberglass Fenwick.  The TFO had a noticeable difference in line speed which took some getting used to.  The engineer in me couldn’t simply accept the fact that I felt as if I had to rush my casting in comparison to my Fenwick®, which only lead to more curiosity when I found that there was a thing called Fly Rod Flex Index that measures a rods action.  Casting Reeds circa 1913 split cane rod made the lights come on and suddenly it all made perfect sense.  Some rods are faster or slower than others and this particular rod was slower than a one legged dog on tranquilizers.  

Once getting the timing down and learning to take my time [I mean, really taking your sweet arse time] the antique rod was a pleasure to cast.