THIS SIDE UP

A lesson in patience from a man who loved life

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 11/19/20

Some people love to share life. Pete Buckley was one of them. Pete was a member of the community. He was a member of the Rotary Club, involved in non-profits, ran his own insurance business, had his ring of friends and with his wife, Muriel, raised a

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THIS SIDE UP

A lesson in patience from a man who loved life

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Some people love to share life.

Pete Buckley was one of them.

Pete was a member of the community. He was a member of the Rotary Club, involved in non-profits, ran his own insurance business, had his ring of friends and with his wife, Muriel, raised a family who attended Warwick schools and have stayed on to have families of their own.

Pete had a passion for fishing and especially fly-fishing and that’s what introduced me to his spirit of adventure.

As fishermen are renowned for, Pete was adept at telling a good tale. The circumstances surrounding a catch would come to life as he described reading a stream’s flow, watching the hatch, selecting a size 18 royal coachman from his fly box and tying it to hairline tippet before deftly casting between the overhanging branches to have it drift freely downstream.

That would be the moment in his story when he’d pause. He had you hooked.

What happened then? Did the fly, sucked in by a feeding leviathan just below the surface, disappear to commence a test of skill that ended with the fish in the net or the big one that got away?

Pete was not one to brag about the number or the size of the fish he caught. He was good at it and surely he had the fish stories.

Rather, the account of the perfect fly and the perfect cast offered another lesson. Not all fish are fooled on the first, the second or the third cast. Pete was relating that even when everything is perfect, or at least you think it is, you still need patience. Moreover, you have to be prepared to change. Maybe it’s a different fly; maybe it’s another place in the stream; maybe it’s just that the fish aren’t biting.

Soon after we learned we shared a love for fly fishing, Pete told me of Weatherby’s on Grand Lakes Stream not all that far from the Canadian border in Maine. He would be making the trip in mid-May.

Would I like to join the group?

I pointed out that I usually didn’t get the paper “to bed” until after 8 p.m. on Wednesday. That didn’t bother Pete. We could leave then and be up at Great Lakes Stream in time to make a few casts before breakfast was served in the camp lodge. Drive all night and then fish for landlocked salmon – that seemed perfect for me.

The group had made the trip before. They came fortified with some liquid spirits and bulky sweaters that made for perfect pillows once they dozed off. I was too revved up to sleep and traded stories with Pete. Our conversation wasn’t limited to fishing although it invariably circled back to that. It wasn’t until that afternoon when quite by accident it seemed that I caught my first landlocked salmon. Pete was excited, as I was when after putting up a fight including several jumps, the silvery fish was in the net.

I had joined the club.

Then Pete invited me to the hunting camp he and a group of guys had in Nova Scotia, not all that far from the St. Mary’s River.

Landlocked salmon are extraordinary fish, but the St. Mary’s had a run of Atlantic salmon. From my perspective, Atlantics are the holy grail of East Coast fly-fishing. They can be 20 pounds and more, hard to locate and exceedingly temperamental to taking a fly. It was another Buckley adventure, a cabin at the end of a dirt road, a wood stove, an outhouse with a crescent window cut in the door. The river offered a variety of holes, the perfect holding place for salmon swimming upstream to spawn.

“You’ll cast a thousand times and maybe then you’ll get one to rise,” Pete said. He was giving me the patience lesson. We made the hunting camp pilgrimage for three years, even bringing along my son Jack one rainy spring weekend. I never got as much as a hit from a salmon nor did anyone else in the group, but I did see one of the locals land an Atlantic. The fish existed although I was beginning to wonder.

That was it for Pete, the St. Mary’s had lost its charm for Atlantics and it was time to head north to Newfoundland. If an eight-hour drive to Weatherby’s seemed like a hike, this was an excursion that involved an overnight ferry ride followed by a four-hour drive, where we were met by a guide who took us by open boat to a stream with a camp house on its banks.

The locals protested the fishing was bad which sent shivers through us, until we heard their complaint. Only four fish had been landed that day. Over three days of fishing we all caught at least one salmon. Pete was high rod with three or four fish. We had endured. We hadn’t given up hope in pursuit of salmon.

Pete was the binding force, the one who brought us together and reminded us that the trip – like life – was the adventure and catching a salmon was a bonus. Just be patient.

Pete died last week at the age of 89. His son, Todd told me he had thought of placing one of the salmon flies Pete had tied on his jacket as he lay in the casket, but he couldn’t find one. Knowing Pete, he had probably given them all away.

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