Monday, March 25, 2013

The Passing of a Mentor and Friend

This is not an entry I want to make but I can't think of a better way to pay my respects to one of my Trout Unlimited mentors and a good friend.

I received an email yesterday informing me that my TU mentor and fishing friend Ernie Nester passed away after a short battle with cancer. Ernie was one of the founding fathers of West Virginia Trout Unlimited, he was the first state chairman and the first chapter president of the Kanawha Valley chapter. The Kanawha Valley Chapter was recently changed to the Ernie Nester Chapter of Trout Unlimited and he was affectionately referred to by many as "Johny Troutseed".

I referred to him as friend and mentor. If it were not for mentors like Ernie, I never would have accepted the position of state chairman or even NLC representative. I knew I could always count on Ernie to answer any concerns.

What I think I enjoyed even more than his support in TU were his fishing reports. I was lucky enough to be on Ernie's distribution list for his fishing reports. This was (to my knowledge) his last report from his beloved Middle Fork of the Williams:

On Sept. 7, 2012 I fished the very lower section of the Middle Fork of the Williams from 12:50 until 3:10. The water was very low and the Williams at Dyer was running about 70 cfs. The water temperature was 64 degrees at 1:15 and 66 degrees at 3:10. I moved 22 brook trout, hooked 5 of them, but only landed 1.

I will miss these reports and I will miss his leadership and direction at two TU events I attend every year. If you go back through my blog entries, you can find multiple entries for both the Elkhorn Cleanup and the Middle Fork of the Williams Bucket Brigade - both of which he coordinated. I don't fish Elkhorn except following the clean-up. I don't assist with the clean-up to give back to a resource that provides enjoyment for me, I do it purely out of respect for Ernie.

The stream I fished a couple of weeks ago, and my last blog entry, was the first stream I fished with Ernie in 2005. I thought of Ernie several times as I fished that day, remembering taking turns fishing holes - several of which remain unchanged.

I also had the pleasure to complete the Wyoming Cuttslam with him and Josh Parks in 2007. One of the memories of that trip was when we were fishing a brook trout stream in the Colorado River drainage. Josh and I were catching 6"-8" brookies for dinner when Ernie landed this 18" Snake River cutthroat.

A couple of days later we were fishing another stream in the Colorado River drainage. Again, while Josh and I were landing 6"-8" Colorado River cutthroat, Ernie landed another 18" fish!

I appreciated the lessons and Ernie even gave me a couple of his "gray" nymphs that he landed both fish on.

During the same trip, Ernie led us to a lake in Yellowstone (not Grebe) where I caught my first grayling.

I was eventually able to return the favor, putting Ernie on one of my favorite western streams on his last trip out west in August of 2012. He made the hike into Big Meadows on Tonahutu Creek in RMNP and he agreed that was indeed "brook trout heaven".

Also on his final trip west, I was able to direct him to greenbacks and Colorado River cutts in RMNP. He had caught greenbacks on a trip to RMNP in 2007 but it appears as though he caught his first greenback again.

Greenback Cutthroat

Colorado River Cutthroat

Ernie and his fishing partner put in 48 miles of hiking on that trip, hard to believe he was diagnosed with cancer a little over a month after that trip.

After receiving 12 reports from that trip, I suggested Ernie and I coordinate another trip out west together - I had a few more streams and species I wanted to share with him. His response to me was: "That is a nice thought, but I cannot keep up with you". I don't need to worry about him keeping up with me on my adventures now, HE WILL BE WITH ME EVERY STEP AND HE WILL BE WITH ME WITH EVERY NATIVE SALMONID I LAND.

Not knowing Ernie was early in his battle, I sent Ernie a report from my last trip of the year for 2012. He responded by requesting higher resolution photos of my brookies - which he did often when I sent him reports.

Trout Unlimited has lost a great advocate and I have lost a great friend/mentor. I look forward to the day when I can again join Ernie on brook trout heaven as I'm sure he is already there waiting.

I will miss you Ernie!


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