When I was a wee laddie of about 12 years of age, a fellow married my Mother’s cousin….That fellow was a fisherman and he changed my life for the better. His name was Fred Ladd, an American from New Jersey, although originally from Maine.
Fred loved to fish, particularly salmon fish, among other things, and he and his wife, Mom’s cousin, Mary, made the journey to Nova Scotia each summer to spend some time salmon fishing.
As a young fella who grew up with a fishing rod in my hand, he was heaven sent. He always arrived with some new fishing gear for my Dad and I.
A new fly rod, the latest thing from Kmart in the States, or a new Air Cell fly line. Much of what he brought to fish with himself he left behind for me. That included many fly rods, but also a 6 horsepower Johnson outboard, an aluminum boat, and later, even a camp on a salmon river. Yes, he was good to me.
Fred and my Dad became close friends, like brothers really. Fred was an only child himself, and my Dad had lost his only brother years ago at a young age. The two of them were tight, but I managed to squeeze in, because I was a keener when it came to fishing, and Fred and Dad both realized that early on.
Fred took me under his wing, showed me how to cast a fly rod, tie on a fly, how to drift a dry fly over the pool and what to do when a salmon rose to take a swipe at my fly.
He taught me the fundamentals of fly fishing, boating and all things outdoors. I looked forward to his trips to Nova Scotia each summer for many years.
July mornings would see the two of us up at 5:30 and getting into the aluminum boat for the run across the lake to our salmon pool.
Dad used to say that Fred and I were the noisiest two fellows he ever met, always asking how many times we could manage to bang the screen door at 5:30 in the morning.
I can still smell the smoke from Fred’s unfiltered Camel cigarettes in the cool morning air when I make that run across the lake myself.
The exhaust from the 2 cycle outboard motor, the Camels, Off fly repellant and the surrounding mixed wilderness of spruce and hardwood mingled with the early morning vapors that shrouded the lake as the sun rose above the trees, chasing away the fog.
We got lost a few mornings, but not too many, usually the mornings when he let me drive the boat. He would always ask if I had my compass.
Fred also taught me how to tie flies. Flies that would catch fish. He was a talented fly tier in his own right, and under his tutaledge I learned the joy of creating my own flies for fishing. I still tie my own and wouldn’t have it any other way, (unless it’s flies Margo ties for me.) Fred’s salmon flies weren’t necessarily pretty, but they were effective.
One winter Fred sat down at his fly tying bench and worked out a nice little step by step fly tying pamplet which he mailed to me from New Jersey. I came across that pamphlet this week in my fly tying gear, relieved to find it still intact.
Sadly, Fred passed away a few years ago, but I still have the memories, this little pamphlet and a love of fishing and the outdoors that has lasted since those early mornings some 40 years ago.
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