December 20th, 2004

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

My Time With David

By BC Nick

Even though ten years have passed, I remember the phone ringing as if it were yesterday, and the cycle of events that followed.

It was my friend Peter. "Nicholas can you do me a favor? My best friends son David is coming from Ontario to visit him. He is only twelve he has leukemia and has gone through several rounds of chemotherapy."

Peter told me that David had phoned his Father asking him if he knew anyone who could teach him how to fly-fish. Like many young kids he had watched fishing shows on television, and had gone spin fishing with his step-dad most weekends, but what he really wanted to do was to fly-fish. His Dad, knowing no fly-fishers, phoned my friend; who knowing my love of fly-fishing asked me if it was possible for me to take some time of from my schedule. Of course - I said yes.

I went into the living room and was discussing this turn of events with my wife and daughter, when the phone rang it was the high soprano of a young boy almost breathless with excitement. "Hi! I'm David, and my Dad just phoned to tell me that you are going to take me fly-fishing!"

We talked for over an hour, as he told me about fishing for walleye, and perch, and pike. In that hour, my half of the conversation was a mix of - "uh huh yup - I never caught one that big!" - I could tell right away, that the fishing part would be easy.

Several weeks later the phone rang, and the now familiar voice announced his arrival on the West Coast. We arranged to meet when he came to Saltspring, and I met David and his Dad at Peters house. My immediate impression was one of just another kid, but it was early September and a toque, (to cover his bald head ), and the pale translucence of his skin, were obvious signs that something was wrong with this little boy. The two of us went for a walk, and I was barraged with question after question about fly-fishing. David had the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the young; blessed with a quirky smile and a politeness that spoke of good parenting. Back at the house the atmosphere was a little strained, as everyone was overcompensating in their cheerfulness, so David and I changed the subject to fishing stories, (I'm good at this part, just ask my wife). Between the two of us we soon had everyone laughing and relaxed, and over supper we arranged our itinerary. His Father had to clean up his business affairs, so it was going to be just the two of us for a week of camping and fishing.

The first order of business was losing Davids toque, so when I arrived home I put my old fishing hat, (the one covered in fishing flies and pins from my years of fishing adventures) into the washing machine using hot water, and then into the drier to shrink it. Next I found my old aviator sunglasses from my Indiana Jones period. It was my daughter, constantly laughing at me that convinced me that no matter how I tried, I would never look like Harrison Ford. I stashed my fly-fishing tackle and camping gear in the car, and I was ready.

The sunglasses and the hat were an immediate hit with David. He put them on and off we went. With some kids the art of casting can be very difficult to teach, but David was a natural. It didn't take him long to learn to throw a decent line. Fortunately it was September and the creeks and rivers were low, so short casts with mostly dry flies brought enough fish to the net to satisfy us both. We camped and fished, cooking the odd one up at night over our campfire, and never once talked of his illness. I think he had had enough of being "the patient, and if he didn't want to talk about his rounds of chemo, and his (at times) obvious pain, then neither would I. Sometimes he got tired, so being an old guy I would collapse at the edge of the creek complaining that he was wearing me out. We talked long after dark about life and girls - and of course fishing, and first I, and then we, tied flies. Looking back I can say it was one of the best weeks of my life. I am blessed with a lovely daughter. But for that week, I felt I had a son...Too soon it was over, and back we went to the real world.

I didn't see him much after we got home, as his Father having sorted out his affairs spent all of his time with him. A couple of times we went lake fishing. David and I, and my daughter, and the two of them being close to the same age got along famously. But too soon his holiday with his Dad was over, and he had to go home, to submit to the rounds of constant blood tests and anxiety. On the day he was leaving, both father and son came by to say goodbye, and I hugged David close, promising that next year we would go for an even a longer holiday. I insisted he keep my hat and aviator glasses, and I presented him with a handmade wooden fly box, full of flies I had tied. We promised to keep in touch...and then he went home.

Over the next few months we did keep in touch, through phone calls and email. He sent me a letter containing a picture of him fishing in Florida in my old fishing hat, minus the shades, as he had sat on them. He sent me a package of flies he had tied, and he was getting pretty good. He was in remission - but it was not to last.

His Mom phoned me the day he passed away to tell me how much David had enjoyed our time together. How much just going fishing had meant to him. She asked me if I wanted my old fishing hat and flies back - I declined - told her to find a good home for them. My British reserve didn't help much - we both cried.

Peter went out for the funeral, and dropped by on his way home. He told me how beautiful and touching the service was, and how the church overflowed with friends and family. He told me that the casket was covered in flowers. In the middle of the casket - was an old fishing hat - and a box of flies. He told me that the hat and flies were buried with him.

I'm just a regular guy who goes fishing, just like all of you. Sometimes, we are given a chance to do something special, not even really realizing it at the time. My time with David haunts me; in a positive way. I don't tell this tale around the campfire at the end of a days fishing, even with my closest fishing friends. I don't have the right words to express how I feel about it, and even the writing down of the 'facts' I have found very difficult. What I can say, is that my time with this little boy was a defining moment in my life - a moment I treasure. ~ B.C.Nick

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