Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Long Walk Home

I have written about our trips the camp many times. I usually keep them light and focused on fishing but the truth is the camp was and is always about more than that. My wife calls it the he Man Woman Haters Club and while that is not true, the sentiment that it is a sanctuary where us, as friends take a week and do what we like to do best, May Fly fishing. We have done it for a lot of years now. 25 maybe as a group.

I met my friend Derrick Gage, oddly enough, fishing. The first time was at a meadow stream in Stewiacke. He was friends with another friend of mine and we hit it off right away. Derrick and I fished on a regular basis from that point on. Many trips yearly, leading into the time we decided, along with Steven and Stephen to build a camp.

In May of 2010, at the camp Derrick informed us he had cancer. He told us, and to this day I think it was for us, it was skin cancer. He would take drugs for it, some Chemo and all would be good. It was treated by him as minor and we fished, drank, told our stories and moved on from it. Over the course of the next two years though, things got worse. We rarely spoke of it, respecting his space and how he wanted to deal with it.

In May of 2012, we brought Derrick back to the camp. His health had deteriorated, so we wanted to make sure that he made this trip. Unlike the other trips in the past, this one was not about the rum, and the laughs, and the stories. This one felt necessary. It was about making sure that our friend got to spend May Fly at his favorite place in the world.

Sadly, Derrick never fished there. The walk to the camp was hard for him. A 10 minute walk for a healthy man, took us over 30 minutes. Derrick sat and caught his breath, got some sleep, but never really got his legs under him. Over the next 24 hours, fishing was not important. We ate, we talked, we kept our friend in good spirits. We talked past trips, the best catches, the funniest stories.

The next morning all went fishing except for me and of course Derrick. He slept, and was clearly uncomfortable. When he woke, I offered to drive him home. We agreed that the next morning we would make our way out.

The next day we all walked Derrick out. The trip took longer than the way in. Frequent rests, many stops, slow movements and a lot of pain. Once we reached the car, things got difficult. Long time friends, all saying goodbye. It was a difficult time. Everyone tried to keep a brave face. When Derrick and I got in the truck, he turned to me and said " I am never going to be back here again." I bit down hard and patted him on the shoulder. Sadly, he was right.

Derricks last fish was caught on the Bonaventure River, in September of 2011. It was his bucket list trip and he got the fish on the last full day of fishing. A large Hen Salmon that any fly fisherman would have been proud of. He passed away on August 18th, 2012 at the age of 48.


Christopher Sinclair said...

A great read David,, a tear jerker for sure... What a special place you have there.... Good vibes to you guys...

David Phillips said...

Thanks Chris. Sad yes but a lot of happy times. We fished a lot of water together.