It’s a real blessing to have a job like this because everyone has a fish story, whether they caught one, knew someone who did or never could catch one but wish they could. Each year it’s pure fun to reflect on some of the characters we met. With a tip of the hat to everyone who crossed these pages in 2019, we’ll take the next two weeks to meet a few favorites and one giant in the outdoors world, who left us far too soon.
Happenstance occasionally blesses us with handshakes which become friendships. Such is the case with Mike Wec. When he’s not at work doing the corporate thing or being with his wife and young son, he’s outside. I can see his mother telling him to be home when the streetlights come on, then yelling for him to get home now because they’ve been on for hours.
Hunting for deer, jigging for sea bass, casting for stripers, or walking a field flushing pheasant, Mike is outside all the time, dressing, preparing, cooking, smoking and grilling. If you’re fortunate to meet Mike, hopefully it will be somewhere he can serve up some of his killer homemade sausage. A few months back, in a quiet campground along Maine’s Golden Road, Mike grilled up some links, proving renaissance men do still exist. Hunt, catch, consume, repeat. Mike Wec is the real deal, and he’s got the pictures to prove it.
Some of us fish, some of us fish a lot, then there’s Greg. Behind the helm of the Miss Colleen, his pretty 20’ Swan Point center console, Greg fishes with a fine mix of passion and knowledge; he’s the guy who marks the line between real sea smarts and b.s. He’s the President of the Aquidneck Island Striper Team, a member of RI Saltwater Anglers Association’s Board of Directors and Chair of their Education Committee, proving his resolve to be engaged in the process, crafting solutions to the toughest fisheries problems as opposed to just talking about them.
By day and often by night, he cares for people as a hospice nurse, giving those in need the comfort they deserve. Greg is a wealth of knowledge and a study in generosity. Onboard, he makes the most of his Humminbird Helix electronics and Spot Lock trolling motor to keep him on the fish but it’s what’s in his head that really guides the boat. He’s happy to share his boat, gear and time tested plotter points. If you have an interest in the politics of fishing, Greg easily speaks to current facts and statistics but he also appreciates just going fishing. He knows every rock pile and bump, has a genuine feel for where squid should be and can’t wait to get a few in the bucket. He’ll need them for next Spring when those first sea lice covered stripers signal another season of fishing and meetings to protect our resource.
Good managers run a room without anyone knowing they’re there because they’re working off a playbook of real confidence. As President of the RI Saltwater Anglers Association, Steve unassumadly leads a strong, cohesive and motivated contingent of recreational fishermen and conservationists. We have RISAA to thank for so much ocean access, level headed regulations and symposiums which focus on critical, timely issues, like poaching. If our state government was run as efficiently as RISAA, we’d be a far better place right now. Thanks in large part to Steve’s leadership, RISAA has built a reputation for being constantly engaged, attending countless meetings, hearings, talks and ribbon cuttings, reminding legislators and regulators that they expect to be part of the process and from that position, Steve has built working relationships from which we all benefit. In a selfie-driven world, he is refreshingly less about a photo-op and more about results. Countless fish stories which cross this desk are thanks to the tireless dedication of Steve Mederios, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
“Randy was” is a painful start to a sentence about a sportsman we should celebrate in present tense. He was complex, talented, articulate, gifted; an artist on paper and canvas. Randy led the New England Outdoors Writers Association, the country’s oldest outdoor communication group, with his loving wife Mary, who shared his passion for our natural world. Together, they exemplified the power of two. He lived for drawing natural scenes, painting waterfowl and catching and photographing fish not for recognition or reward but for pleasure and people. Medium action bass rods and fiberglass fly rods, a father’s grouse gun, a worn red and black wool jacket with holes in every pocket, a persistently leaky hunting camp in a town with no name, finding a small pool of native brook trout; those are memories which make great stories and Randy wrote them with a unique, real, personal style. Some writers have talents to tell stories of those who fully enjoy life without some trappings of modern day plastic everything and Randy was blessed to be both.
He took his own life for significant reasons which we all can appreciate and suffer from, ending a long, wonderful career as a painter, writer, teacher, player, volunteer, leader, friend and most of all, devoted husband.
Andy Stroud wrote for us then Nina Simone sang for us:
Consecrate me now to Thy service – By the power of grace divine; Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope – And my will be lost in Thine.
Randy Julius, may you rest in peace, in that grace divine, knowing you were loved and needed and appreciated and respected and now, sadly celebrated in past tense.