The Good Guys

The Good Guys

When I first read Nick Lyons' profile of Craig Mathews, our 2005 Angler of the Year, I almost laughed out loud at the part where Nick praised Craig for

  • By: Paul Guernsey
When I first read Nick Lyons' profile of Craig Mathews, our 2005 Angler of the Year, I almost laughed out loud at the part where Nick praised Craig for his refreshing modesty in a field "known for bloating egos to the size of the Titanic." Among all the fly-fishing "personalities" I've become acquainted with over the past decade, I've certainly met my share of guys with self-images the size of ocean liners-and I'm sure that Nick, as the Dean Emeritus of the angling-book business, has met them all.

Fortunately there are, and have always been, quite a few good guys in the angling world as well-people like Craig, who manage to keep everything in perspective. One of my favorites was Gary LaFontaine. I used to see Gary wandering around the fly-fishing shows, so many scraps of feathers and tufts of dubbing stuck to his clothes that he looked like some strange species of bird, not caring a bit about his less-than-dapper appearance and more than willing to talk to anyone who had a question for him, or who just wanted to stand next to him for a minute.

Much more recently, I was fishing in Colorado with John Gierach and A.K. Best when we realized we were being followed. Turned out to be a couple of young guys who had recognized my two companions when we stopped for gas, and had then tailed us until we reached our trout stream. John and A.K. spent 20 minutes talking to those kids-mostly about the rivers they had been fishing and the places they planned to go.

Gary LaFontaine was a nationally prominent "good guy," as are Gierach, A.K., Craig Mathews and Nick Lyons. In addition, except for A.K. (yet), all of them have been FR&R Anglers of the Year.

But, as I've said before on this page, there are also plenty of good guys around the country who are known locally not only for their fishing prowess but also for their dedication to fish conservation, education and/or the well-being of their fellow anglers. These people are heroes in the eyes of their friends and neighbors-and that's at least as important as being recognized by strangers. I am reminded, as I write this, of Jimmy Thibodeau, a former president of my Trout Unlimited chapter in central Maine. Jimmy lives to fish and to guide-but he also teaches kids to tie flies, and he took a leading role in the long, and eventually successful, effort to remove the Edwards Dam from the Kennebec River in Augusta. Jimmy's actually led quite an accomplished life.

FR&R honors only one Angler of the Year, so a lot of angling heroes like my friend Jimmy will never receive that award, even though they are as deserving of the attention as anyone. That's why we recently started our Ford Presents: River Keepers column, which now appears in every issue. In fact, I'd like to remind you that, if you know a good candidate for our River Keepers spotlight, you should be sure to tell us about him or her. We'll help you write-and publish-that person's story as a way of giving them a well-deserved and very public pat on the back. For details, e-mail assistant editor Jim Reilly at [email protected].

Thanks, and I hope your enjoy our special 2005 Awards issue.