Fly Fishing Gear photo

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As some of you may remember, I wrote a piece last January about the two years I spent refinishing a wooden dory, which I named after my little sister—who had recently passed away—and which was then promptly destroyed the day I finished it. You can find the whole sordid tale here. Eventually, I wrote a fleshed-out version of the story for Trout magazine called “Restoration,” and to this day, it is one of the pieces I’m proudest to have written. As most of you know, I’m more of a photographer than I am a writer.

Not long after that piece was published last summer, I was contacted, out of the blue, by a gentleman named Gary Welch from Wisconsin. It turns out that he’s a TU member, had received the magazine, and was touched by the piece I had written. Not only did Gary pay me a compliment, but he also wanted to know if I would send him some pieces from the destroyed dory, as he wanted to build me a net from it. Now, I don’t know about you folks, but I’m not accustomed to random acts of generosity like this from complete strangers, and I was just blown away by the offer. Gary told me that he was a retired nurse (as was my younger sister) and that his hobby was woodworking and building custom fishing nets. He then went on to write: “Your piece reminded me of those keepsakes I have in my home and my workshop that I use on a routine basis. Their connections to the important people in our lives help us keep their memory alive and to fuel conversations about who they were and what they meant to us. Each time I touch that kitchen utensil my mother used or the tools from the workshops of my father and grandfather (now in my shop) I am reminded of who they were and what they meant to me.”

I, of course, accepted his offer. The net arrived yesterday and I cried after I opened it.

It is an amazing piece of handiwork that I will treasure forever. I know that I’ll be a little hesitant to fish with it, but I know that, eventually, I will. As Gary said, that’s the point—to remember those connections to the important people in our lives. I can think of no better way to remember my little sister’s laugh while on a boat or walking a stream than to grasp the handle of this net.

Thank you, Gary.