Reflections On The WaterJune 16, 2017 | 2331 Views
With Father’s Day this weekend, it’s a reminder that we all have to take the time to get out and spend time with family, friends and of course, our fishing buddies. We hope you enjoy Deepwater Don’s article on a special Father Son fishing team he met on one of his fishing trips.
For a lot of us whose fathers are no longer here, this time of year evokes warm memories, but it can also awaken a latent desire to hear their voices or to simply see their shoes. For me and my fishing partner Bernie, memories of our fathers frequently play in our minds while we are on the water. Without those good men and their love of the outdoors, we may have never wet a line. So with that in mind, I want to tell you about Paul Schaap and his father, Dirk.
The first time I met Paul was three years ago when he was with his son Colin at The Clubhouse. Colin was on a break from studies in criminal justice and the varsity rowing crew at Northeastern University. And the most recent time I saw Paul was last August at the airport. He was on his way to North Island Lodge, and he was particularly thrilled about it because for the first time his father was going along too. Dirk Schaap was 90-years old on that memorable morning when he firmly shook my hand in the south terminal. It was clear from the big smiles that this was a day they had eagerly awaited.
A fisheries biologist and accomplished environmental consultant, Paul is one of those people with a warm-spirited sincerity that comes as naturally as a yawn, the kind of guy who is more interested in asking people about their lives than to talk a moment about himself. Dirk left the same immediate impression on me, a most pleasant and intelligent man with a lot of energy for getting out there and doing stuff. The apple doesn’t fall far, as the old saying goes. Thinking back to his grandson Colin’s personable interactions with guests at The Clubhouse, it occurred to me that here was a superb example of the enduring effect of generation after generation of good parenting, and of setting an example of hard work and kindness in the every-day matters of life. Dirk had obviously done a very good job of raising his family, and it was wonderful to see him awaiting his just rewards on that day, wide-eyed with excitement about the adventure that lay ahead.
Destined for The Outpost, Bernie and I sat behind Paul and Dirk on the plane to Masset. I couldn’t hear much of their conversation, but I could see Dirk looking through the Flight Lines brochure that detailed what to expect on their fishing trip. I could see him pointing to things in the brochure, commenting and asking questions. It was as if their roles had reversed. It was Dirk’s turn to be the eager offspring, wanting to know everything there was to know about their vacation. “He can’t wait to get there,” I whispered to Bernie, who was likely thinking about how we had made this same journey with his father Stan just two years earlier.
In Masset, I checked with the meet and greet team to see if it might be possible for Dirk to have the co-pilot seat on the helicopter to Langara Island. Debbie, bless her heart, assured me that she could do it. Bernie took it all in with a wistful nod, recalling how I had made the same request for Stan, who we lost just months later.
We watched them walk to the helicopter like a pair of kids headed to an amusement park ride. I could still see Dirk’s grin, and Debbie laughing at a wise crack he had obviously made as she helped him aboard. What a great feeling it was to later find out that their trip was everything they had hoped for.
“He absolutely loved the trip to Langara Island,” Paul told me in an email a couple of days ago. “He was amazed by the stunning views of the snow-capped mountains on the flight up, by the trees and shoreline of the island, and the wildlife that we experienced. Fighting so many Chinook was sensational, the bang-bang of the rod tip, ripping out line just when he had one to the side of the boat, and the excitement and relief of netting and boating his catch – the 90-year-old as a kid again! The staff treated him like a king. They knew his name, his preference of beer and wine, and made him feel super special.”
Friends, if at this point you are thinking that this story is destined for a sad ending, I’m afraid you are correct. Last week I shot a note to Paul to ask how his dad was and if they might be going back to Langara Island this summer. He said they could not. Dirk had received some bad news and is in declining health. In truth, I wasn’t surprised. Their trip last summer was so perfect that it smacked of the grandest of finales, one last altogether amazing journey for a father and a son. It was like the ending of an epic film about real people in real-life circumstances, right down to its poignant final scenes.
I have seen some amazing things on my watch with the Club, and not just the wonders of land and sea that captured Dirk’s imagination. I have also seen hearts meet in ways that rarely happen anywhere else. I have heard guests tell their own stories about these precious occurrences in the most compelling terms. But the sight of Paul and Dirk Schaap walking to the chopper may very well be the most satisfying of all my experiences in Haida Gwaii.
I told Bernie the news, reading aloud to him on the phone the words that Paul had typed in his email about Dirk. After a familiar moment of saying nothing, we discussed if perhaps now might be as good a time as any to get back up to the place where we can connect with the present and the past. And so this Monday, the day after Father’s Day, we will make our way back up north.
We still won’t be able to hear our fathers’ voices or see their shoes. But for now, those mystical waters are as close as we’ll get.