Sunday, June 12, 2016

Farewell to a gentleman, and angler, a friend

It was my honor to have known The Senator - as I always called George V. Voinovich, who died in his sleep June 11 at his Cleveland home, just on the other side of the road from the Neff Road marina/boat launch and Euclid Creek fishing complex now run by Cleveland Metroparks.

It also was my privilege to have served as his volunteer steelhead fishing guide on more than a few occasions over the years. As far as I know the last steelhead The Senator caught was on a trip I had arranged with him for a day of angling at my honey hole on Big Creek.

Joining me was frequent Ohio Outdoor News contributor Paul Liikala, who was the net man and whose duty it was to scoop up a pair of nice trout out from what we have henceforth referred to as "The Senator's Hole."

The Senator also dearly loved it whenever I handed along a packet or fly box of my hand-tied steelhead flies. These weren't just little tokens that he pocketed and never used; no sir. He thought they were right-fine trout-busters.

Yes, The Senator's love was his wife, Janet, and his delight were his kids and grandchildren. But The Senator also had an amazing passion for fly fishing. The Senator would chuckle whenever he would say that when he went somewhere to a gathering of fellow governors or senators they'd always bring their sets of golf clubs while he packed a fishing outfit or two.

His belief in the sanctity of life was never far from him, either - and that spilled over to his efforts to ensure the protection of Lake Erie and the entire Great Lakes, for that matter.

He also was a champion of Ohio's sport fisheries and the economic and recreational value that this billion-dollar industry provides. A favorite story we liked to chat about was the time he was governor and the Ohio Division of Wildlife had begun making plans to scrap its Fish Ohio program. The Senator was taking no prisoners on that one; he offering to dip into his political war chest if necessary to keep the popular program afloat.

Similarly, The Senator was instrumental is seeing to it that the Wildlife Division acquire the Castalia trout hatchery, which wasn't the most popular idea, even among some agency officials. Can anyone picture where Ohio's steelhead program be today if it wasn't for that hatchery?

A time or two on the stream and before he died I mentioned to The Senator that we ought to name the hatchery after him. "Oh, no," The Senator said, "There's enough things now that's name after me."

Was The Senator the best angler I ever attended to? No. Neither did he listen to every suggestion I passed along. Even so, The Senator was always a delight to fish with.

He never complained, even when the fishing was less than fruitful and the trout exceeded his skill level. Didn't matter to him and didn't matter to me.  I surely shall miss him.

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