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Lithograph by Currier and Ives

Lithograph by Currier and Ives


Nothing, and I do mean nothing, is more fun, joyful and relaxing the fishing for Brook Trout.

I remember several days fishing with an Indian companion named John Leaf. He claimed he was all Indian. I knew I was only half Indian and so did he. John could get pretty rough with his language when he described my heritage. We were the same in two ways but very different in other ways.

I may have mentioned John Leaf to you before. He came to an untimely death. His lifestyle predicted that he would end up that way.

John and I would fish together but separate. I guess that needs explaining. You see, both John and I liked our solitude. This was especially true when fishing for Brookies. But the long walk from our cabins to the stream required companionship. So we would walk and talk as we went down the trail together, until we reached the stream. Then we would agree where to meet and each of us would go our separate ways.

I suppose it was because of the contest. You see, John and I always had a fishing contest going on. It never stopped. And it was more fun to fish separately and show off the biggest fish we had caught. It always happened that one of us thought we had the biggest fish. Then the other fellow would pull out of his creel, a larger fish.

Grimaces, groans and laughter would fill the woods for a minute or two.

One time my fish was a half inch longer than John Leaf’s fish. We had them laid side-by-side on a big log. I had won the contest; or so I thought. While I was loading a pipe full of tobacco John took out his knife and cut an inch off the tail of my fish.

It didn’t matter to John that I knew I had the larger fish. John knew that I could no longer prove it. That was John Leaf at his best.

John Leaf, my odd partner in our enjoyable hours – – – apart.


A Tribute to a fishing companion, “RWJ”:

If there ever was any one setting that God made for all people it was the woodland stream, the brook that is nestled between steep slopes, jutting rock wall and, sometimes, sapling studded flats. The dark tannic water that flows silver over broken stone, amber in the pool below and mixed with shades of gold as it flows from the shade into a sunbathed meadow.

It makes no difference whether there is one or one hundred trout within its pools; the sounds are there, the solitude is there, and sometimes, a cherished companion, with whom you have spent the day – – – – is there.

To the busy person, it is an opportunity to relax,

to the relaxed person, it is an opportunity to be busy,

To the poor person, fantasies – – – if only he were rich,

to the rich person, fantasies – – – if only his responsibilities vanished,

To the child, his dreams, if only he were an adult,

to the adult, his dreams, if only he were a child again,

To the old, memories of past trips and companions,

to the young, plans of future trips and companions,

To the troubled, answers to problems appear,

to the placid, questions about life arise – – – unexpectedly,

To the agnostic, a “thank you” to an unknown creator,

to the religious, a “thank you” to the same being,

To good leaders, fond thoughts of loyal followers,

to loyal followers, faithful trust in good leaders,

To me, the many things I wonder if you ever dream of,

to you, the same things that you wonder if I ever dream of.

No one pastime and its surroundings can evoke such commonality and instantaneous understanding between two opposite personalities and backgrounds as the stream.

Enjoy it now. Saturate your memory with each detail, every venture, every stream, every pool and run. For, the sad part is, your grandchildren will beg you to tell them of things that they may never have the opportunity to experience.

John Leaf is now buried in a small cemetery along NY State Route 8 above Utica. It is on the north side of the road about three miles before Nobleboro. His stone rests in the back of the cemetery where he can hear the West Canada Creek. Be sure to stop by and say hello for me.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: RWJ’s ashes rest in the river of the next story.)

Tahawas and Tomosky c