Bob Hunt- Conservationist, Biologist, Fisherman and Friend.
Bob Hunt was known to many of his friends as "The Human Otter", and I can testify from first-hand experience that he was an exceptional fisherman. He was so much more than that, however. The many friends he had through a shared passion for the outdoors may not have fully appreciated Bob's incredible faith. On fishing trips together we would usually share a motel room; every morning and evening without fail Bob would take delight in getting on his knees to pray. Just hearing his words made my spirt fuller and lighter, and I feel more grateful to have known him as a man of strength of faith and character, than to have also known him as a great conservationist, biologist, and fisherman. However, our gentle readers are fisherfolk, so, here's a fishing tale.
On one trip a number of years ago to Knapp and Ash Creeks, Bob and I fished upstream through a July thunderstorm. As the storm clouds were gathering, the fish seemed to go crazy for any fly I offered them. Bob, ever the gentleman, allowed me to fish through first, and came behind me. I had the impression that for about 45 minutes my fishing was as spectacularly productive as seemed possible. Every hole had numbers of good fish. The rain and thunder became imminent, and I turned around to watch Bob fish right behind where I had just waded and fished. He was catching fish on virtually every cast, and I counted his catch. In a few short minutes, without moving, he caught 4 times as many fish as I had just caught - right out of the very same spot I had just waded through! It was unbelievable.
Later, after we had taken shelter, and the rain had finally passed over, we started up again but the fishing had slowed down. Bob snipped off the fly with which he'd enjoyed success fishing behind me (his improved "Huntberg" pattern), and suggested I tie it on and try it. "Why not pitch it up tight to that undercut bank?" he offered, and I did so, to no avail. Knowing that Bob was keenly watching, I concentrated on landing the fly right where the grass met the water, for about 20 feet of habitat-rich bank. No fish came out to inspect the offering. Not one. "Why", called Bob from below me, "did you throw half of your casts so the fly landed a couple of inches from the bank, instead of tight to it, like I suggested?" What could I say. He'd tied a duplicate Huntberg on his leader, and as he fished up the same section of bank...well you know the story. His fly lightly kissed the grass before touching the water on every cast, and he reaped the rewards. It was a great education in the value of precisely accurate presentation.
Go and fish Lawrence Creek this year; fish up from the snowmobile bridge accessed by walking in from the Eagle Avenue parking lot, and understand that Bob's technical bulletin on that very special jewel of creek was instrumental in advancing habitat improvement and C&R in Wisconsin. Bob did his Master's work on the Brule, and every summer he would take a trip up there, canoeing down from Stone's bridge. We talked every spring about taking that trip together ''this year", and sometimes we'd talk about driving out to "Wild Trout' together - but to my deep regret we never made either trip. If you've been thinking about a trip like that, with someone special, I encourage you do it this year rather than lament in the future not having done so. I will honor Bob's memory on an adventure to the Brule this summer with Tom Poulette, a great friend of Bob's.
Always thinking of the resource and its future, Bob's vision in the last four or five years was to maintain the value of investments made in decades of trout stream therapy, and not allow inadequate maintenance today to result in the loss of previously completed restoration. Bob articulated the Central Sand Hills Ecoregion Trout Stream Restoration Initiative as an outline of what a back yard pilot should look like. We owe it to Bob to help make that vision a reality.