Yesterday afternoon I made a trip to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum to attend the induction ceremony for the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame. My visit was made to honor the memory of a friend, a man who became a friend to many fly fishers through the pages of his angling books, Charlie Meck. Charlie was enshrined yesterday with his entire family attending, an honor in recognition of a gentleman who dedicated many years of his life to his love of fly fishing and sharing that love with others.
I first met Charlie at Falling Spring Outfitters, my little fly shop in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley in the 1990’s. When his friend Ken Rictor told him there was a new fly shop in the valley, Charlie simply had to stop by when he was in town. I liked him immediately. Charlie was one of those anglers who held a great passion for the wonders of trout and fly. He understood the magic that was there, out on bright waters, and how fortunate we are to share some part in it; and Charlie had a mission to share that wonderful realization, to teach others to witness it too.
Charlie certainly succeeded in his mission, writing some fifteen books that eloquently spread his knowledge and appreciation for the wonders of fly fishing. I remember one rather cold, bleak April day when I needed badly to get out on the water, to see a trout rise to a dry fly after a long winter. The streams that might have filled that need were all high, cold and roily, so I took out Charlie’s Meeting and Fishing The Hatches, finding a tale of a relatively unknown mayfly called the Great Olive Speckled Dun. As usual, Charlie told us where to find them and when, and gave a dressing for a hatch matching dry fly. The where included Clark’s Creek north of Harrisburg, a small tailwater I had never visited, and the when was squarely fixed in that week in April.
I tied a handful of size 12 imitations early that morning and headed north. I found a quiet stretch of water, found the hatch emerging at the appropriate time that afternoon, and got my much needed first dry fly fix of the season! The little tailwater was in perfect condition, insulated from the cold, dirty runoff that made the other regional trout waters unfishable, sheltered there in it’s lovely forested little valley below the Harrisburg Reservoir. Charlie Meck had come through again, as he had for thousands of his readers!
One of my fondest memories of Charlie and his kindness centered around a weekend in late June of 2005. Charlie was a long-time member of the prestigious Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club and invited Mike Saylor and I to join him for a weekend of fishing that most famous limestone spring creek. We had fished with Charlie and provided him some local info on our home waters while he was writing his volume entitled Fishing Limestone Streams, and he made his most generous offer in friendship and gratitude.
We had a wonderful weekend including great fishing, great meals and tales of the history of the club. I recall sitting in the great room in the evening watching Charlie tying flies for the morning campaign. I was in a wistful mood, having had an absolutely huge rainbow escape by pulling so hard he stripped the braided loop connector right off the end of my fly line, taking loop, leader and fly back underneath his favorite log! Charlie’s company and his anecdotes about the Club and its history eased my anguish.
I was pleased to be able to attend the ceremony yesterday afternoon to see my late friend honored for a lifetime’s work on behalf of fly fishing, Nature and sportsmanship. Charlie loved to teach and share, bringing many joyful hours to thousands of anglers. He was always humble, never one to capture the limelight in his writings, always touting the skill and accomplishments of the many friends who fished with him.
I got the chance to meet Charlie’s son Bryan who gave some heartfelt remarks about his Dad. We had a nice conversation and I hope we get the chance to fish together one day. I would enjoy the opportunity to become friends with the son of my late friend and show him some of our best Catskill waters. I can tell that Charlie’s great love of fly fishing and the magic of trout and fly lives on in his son.