Fly Fishing Saved My Life

Guest Blogger: Leroy Dickey, Manchester NH

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, Bonnie, 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, but also 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 decompress…fly 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, I began to think of the people that touch our lives. A quick internet search for Bob Cavanagh, Bonnie’s dad, returned the following article at Fly Anglers Online.

Trout Fin photo from Forgotten Flies published by Complete Sportsman.

Trout Fin photo from Forgotten Flies published by Complete Sportsman.

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.

As I sat in the driver’s seat of my car, a pearl white Chevy Malibu, the next 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. (Published in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Feb. 15, 2015.)

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 good 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 boulder against my back that blocked nearly every bit of the chilly gusts, enough so that the sun warmed 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.

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