Memories of an old friend

The miracle of birth is that it generally happens on time, in the same way and is always awesome; the older I get, the more conscious I am that the debacle of death can come any time in life and in a myriad of ways, most of them awful.

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The miracle of birth is that it generally happens on time, in the same way and is always awesome; the older I get, the more conscious I am that the debacle of death can come any time in life and in a myriad of ways, most of them awful.

Various readers forwarded or referred me to the obituary of a longtime acquaintance, Mike Lamb, which states that he “departed this world on Jan. 24 while exploring his cherished backwoods of the Crowsnest Pass.”

Thousands of fishing Albertans and hundreds from all over the world will remember Mike Lamb as the owner/host of River’s Edge, a fly-fishers’ bed and breakfast along the Crowsnest River just upstream of the bridge over the Crow on the road to the Burmis Lake day use area and angler access point to some of the river’s best water.

It is not well-known, but with other Trout Unlimited people, Mike worked quietly but hard at securing easements and leases for public access to the Crow, including Burmis Lake.

Mike went for a hike/walk recently, as he often did, but this time he did not return.

Pass friends and acquaintances tell me it took the RCMP and local search and rescue several days to find Mike’s earthly remains in a snowdrift under some willows, as so often happens, with searches for the lost, only a few hundred yards from his cabin home.

Cause of death is apparently not known, but Mike had been in bad or failing health recently.

You did not have to know Mike long to realize that he always believed he would die young and he was extreme in his dislike of getting old, hating not being able to do things the way he did when he was a teenager.

Mike was 65, if that is old these days, exactly 12 years younger than I am, we both having been born on Nov. 29.

More important points of affinity are that his stretch of the Crow was also my fishing favourite and that he and I are the only people I know who forever refused to call the Oldman Dam by anything but its original name, “Three Rivers Dam,” in bitter memory of the long stretches of the three rivers — the Castle, the Crowsnest, and the Oldman — it obliterated and inundated.

Mike was a reporter for The Calgary Herald when I was its outdoors columnist, and he ended as the Crowsnest bureau of The Lethbridge Herald when these columns were also appearing there.

The legend has always been that Mike retired suddenly from journalism one day when he hit it big on the stock market.

Soon he had the great good sense to buy his land along one of Alberta’s truly world-class rivers before the prices became world class.

His only writing foray after that was As the Crow Flies, the very useful anglers’ pocket guide/map to his river.

Mike Lamb was a blithe spirit, a somewhat impish character; that can be seen in what has become an Alberta land mark and curiosity, his “Caddis Shack,” a small, spartan cabin up on the steep side of a rock ridge on the right as you near Burmis Lake.

He would frequently walk up there late in the day to see what was going on at the day use area and trade truths with anglers about their day.

He recognized my successive rigs over the years and occasionally would leave a summons on the windshield to drop in on my way back to the family ranch near Pincher Creek.

Late one day Mike’s invitation added that there’d be someone at his cabin he wanted me to meet.

If he’d given the name, I’d have sped straight on by to Happy Hour and dinner at the ranch.

For some time I’d been writing derisively about what I called “Crowsnest Regulars:” tractor store ball hat locals, cigarette glued to the lower lip, spinning rod, bait bucket, hip boots, industrial-size antique wicker creel and landing net.

Mischievous Mike thought it would be amusing to get me and the King of the Crowsnest Regulars into the same room and experience the fireworks, because he knew that this one had as little use for catch and release fly fishermen as I did for Crowsnest Regulars.

The King had no use for bait bans, or limits.

The concept of releasing the biggest and best breeders was a joke to him.

Worse, he knew how to press the buttons: “How do we even know you catch the big ones you write about? Me? I give big ones away to people I owe; they know what I catch.”

Before it got to the point that the next sound you heard was of a jaw breaking, I beat a retreat.

At my rig, Mike said: “Just wanted you to see what we’re up against.”

Now I’ll never have the chance to ask Mike if he agrees with me that we’ve gone too far with zero limits, etc.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at bscam@telusplanet.net.

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