The Little Things
by: Len Harris
My buddy Bob is 74 years old. Bob and I have fished together for about 15 years. On almost every outing he talks about his neighbor. Bob talks about the "Old Timer" that lives right next to him. I usually crack a smile when Bob calls someone an old timer. How old must someone be.... to be called an old timer by a 74 year old guy? I asked Bob this exact question. Bob told me that he has lived by the same family for 40 years. His neighbor and he have swapped fishing stories for the entire time.
During my 15 years of fishing with Bob I had heard many stories of his old timer neighbor. The stories seemed magical. Bob had a neighbor story to share each time we fished.For a couple years I thought that Bob's neighbor was a character in a book that Bob read and shared a chapter with me each time we fished. Bob reassured me that his neighbor was real and that some day I would have the privilege to fish with him.The stories were all trout or salmon related. They varied from the brule for steelhead to the upper peninsula for tiny brook trout.
About 6 years ago the "oldtimer" stories weren't part of our fishing outing. I waited the entire trip for Bob to tell me one of the magical stories. Bob told me that his neighbor was really busy nowadays and didn't have time to share his tales from the past. The neighbor's wife had developed Alzheimer's Disease and he was taking care of her at home. She was "not" going to a nursing home.
Two weeks ago Bob and I fished. At the beginning of our outing Bob told me that I was finally going get to meet his elderly neighbor. I was looking forward to meeting this Patriarch of the fishing world. I would get to put a face with the many tales I had heard about in the last 15 years. Bob said that his neighbor finally had time to go fishing with us. His bride of 66 years had passed away 2 weeks prior. He had taken care of her by himself for the last 6 years at home.
Bob rolled up in his big silver suburban. The passenger door came open and Don slowly exited the vehicle. Bob introduces me to "Donnie" ...This is what Bob called him. I decided I would call him Don to show respect.......He stands about 5 feet 6 inches. Father Time has caused him to actually stand about 5 foot 3. He has osteoporosis and he has a humped over posture. There are small tufts of white hair on each temple. . He told me that he lost most of his hair in his early 40s. He chuckled and said he had lost most of his hair before I was born. He has the classic frame round gold wire rim spectacles They sit on the end of his nose and he looks over them more than through them. His face is road map of many years of smiling. His forehead is engraved with deep furrows from the long journey of life. At the beginning of our fishing adventure Don asked me "not" to take any photos of him, so my description of him will have to suffice. We all got back in the vehicle and we were on our way to the "Best" brook trout stream I knew.
We got out and geared up. I told Don we were going after brookies. He asked if there were any obvious hatches lately and told him no. He smiled and said: "Good, I can hardly see those little flies anymore ...let alone tie one on.:" Don took out his 5 weight and strung it up. I watched him struggle when gearing up. His vision was quite poor and he looked over his glasses the entire time. Don finally allowed me to set-up his rod. I put a size 12 beadheaded Biot Bug on for him and blaze orange strike indicator about 4 feet up. Don asked me what that the orange thing was. I told him a strike indicator. He had me take it off and put a dry on instead as an indicator. It only took five minutes to walk across the open pasture and get Don on the water. Don's casting abilities were still there and he had a couple hits quite quickly. He missed the hits. Don told me he didn't even see the hits. I started alerting him to bites by saying "Bite...bite..." After about two more misses, Don asked for the blaze orange strike indicator to be put back on.
18 brookies and one brown later and Don with a huge smile allowed me to take a photo of him. Don said: " I haven't fished for at least seven years." "It is amazing how much you can really miss "The Little Things" in life. Bob and I had decided that a short outing was the best idea for an old timer. ....... On the way home Don told me that he had an excellent time and when we went again that he preferred if I would call him "Donnie". I told him absolutely. Donnie said all of his friends called him Donnie and that he really wasn't that old......
Donnie is only 89 years old.
Photo by: Len Harris