The Circle of Life ... and Fishing

Last week I told you about losing one of my greatest friends to cancer. This week I've learned a valuable lesson that's helping me put it all in perspective.

Cobby Hayes was a great friend and a wonderful fisherman. When he passed away last week after a short battle with cancer, I lost a part of myself that I thought I'd never get back. Since Cobby was my closest fishing buddy, I thought I might never see the sport the same way I did when we shared a boat. I thought it would be forever different and somehow less than it was.

I was wrong ... and I'm glad I was wrong.

You see, Cobby has a young nephew named Joel Hayes who is 20 years old and just as eaten up with bass fishing as I was at his age. He used to fish with Cobby when I was too busy to go and Cobby wanted a fishing partner.

Joel obviously soaked it all up when they were on the water. He's a terrific young fisherman, and, just like his uncle, an even better person.

For several nights after Cobby's funeral, Joel would come by the house just to talk fishing for half an hour or so. It was his "fix" and mine, too. Each of us was helping to fill in that gap that was left after Cobby died.

I guess I've known Joel most of his life, but we never fished together while Cobby was alive. Each of us fished with Cobby when the other didn't go. It seems strange to think of it now, but somehow fitting that we're becoming fishing buddies after Cobby's gone.

Just like Cobby, Joel fishes slowly. I fish a lot faster, and sometimes it costs me. Usually, I caught more bass than Cobby — and I'm catching more than Joel — but just as often they're catching bigger fish than I am.

I think all good anglers learn from other anglers no matter who they are or how much experience they have. I certainly know I learned a lot from Cobby. Now I'm starting to realize that Cobby's lessons for me aren't through just yet even though he's gone. He's just teaching me through his nephew now.

Hopefully, I can return the favor. If that's not the Circle of Life, at least it's the Circle of Fishing.

Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at [email protected].