Some 15 years ago, Dwayne Schafers happened on Bob Scammell while the two were fly fishing in the same area.
“He was standing on the bridge with a piece of fresh Saskatoon pie and a glass of Irish Whiskey, him and his good friend Robert Short,” said Schafers.
Scammell asked Schafers what he was doing there. Schafers said he was waiting on a hatch in the area and showed the columnist some of the flies he used at the time.
On Thursday, Scammell died at the age of 78, just five days shy of his birthday. He was an Advocate columnist for 50 years (ending this past July), a lawyer practicing in Red Deer for 37 years and a former president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association. He received numerous awards including the Order of Bighorn, the Alberta government’s highest honour for a conservationist.
He wasn’t just a fly fisher, Scammell also had a passion for pheasant hunting.
John Scammell, Bob’s son, said Bob’s love for the outdoors came from Bob’s father and growing up in the outdoors in Brooks.
“I took him on his first float on Prairie Creek near some land he owned,” said Schafers. “He called it the 100-fish float. I lost track of the trout we caught, with him and his son in a 10-hour day.”
Schafers said Bob kept meticulous notes whenever they fished together, right down to what the weather was, what trout were caught and water temperature. That notebook Scammell kept tucked into his shirt pocket was a constant. During the day he’d write down a few words and turn it into a column.
“When the hatch comes around this July, we’ll sit out and crack open a bottle of Irish Whiskey and have some Saskatoon pie,” said Schafers.
Duane Radford, a freelance outdoors writer, first met Bob in the 1970s when he was a regional fisheries biologist in Lethbridge. Scammell had contacted Radford to verify some of the mayflies for help with the book phenological fly. The two grew to know each other through the Alberta Fish and Game Association and the Outdoor Writers of Canada.
“He was as honest as the day is long,” said Radford. “You could take his word to the bank. He was Alberta’s most important advocate of public access to grazing leases.”
John Scammell said in his father’s last few years, he was particularly proud of the work he had done with grazing leases of Crown land. Over the years, Bob wrote about how surface rights compensation that was paid by the energy industry to grazing lease holders. An Auditor General report said the regime allowed for personal financial benefit to leaseholders over and above the benefits of grazing livestock on public land.
“He was really proud of the work he did busting the grazing lease controversy,” said John. “He loved to write.”
Jack Graham, a past president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, hunted and fished with Bob on numerous occasions. Graham said Bob was “one of the boys.”
“We’d be going along the Peace River hunting bears and he’d have a camera with a big, long lens,” said Graham. “He’d spot a bald eagle in a tree and he’d wear out the camera just taking a picture of that eagle. He said to me ‘out of all those pictures, one is going to be the one I want.’”
“Whenever the Alberta Fish and Game Association needed advice, we could always count on Bob to give us some. He didn’t offer his services, but he’d always give us some straight-shooting to what we could and should do.”
Radford said Bob wasn’t one to grandstand, but when he spoke it was because he had something important to say.
“When I look back on what I’m going to miss, it’s not so much the fishing, it’s the sitting by the bank of a nice stream having lunch with him,” said John. “We chatted about everything from politics to our lives to whatever else was going on.”