James Murray tells a story for a small crowd at the ORL Salmon Arm branch on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Column: Bob Jones, the writer, not the painter, continues to be an influence

Great Outdoors by James Murray

A few years ago I was in a used book store on the Vancouver Island and found a book written by someone I considered both a friend and a mentor.

Bob Jones wrote about fishing and the outdoors and although he has passed away, he still lives large in my memory.

Jones once said that if he ever won it big in the lottery, he would still keep writing because, as he put it, “writing is a compulsion, a subconscious itch scratched only by putting words onto paper. However, with the sudden disappearance of that annoying necessity called ‘having to earn a living,’ there would be an immediate reversal in the amount of time I would spend working versus fishing.”

In his story entitled If I Were A Rich Man, Jones admitted that “whenever a few dollars accumulates in my bank account, it is hastily converted into something useful – most often a new addition to my angling library, a fly line, a rod or on the off-chance that enough dollars were ever to accumulate, perhaps a pair of waders to replace the patched-on-patches pair that cause me so much embarrassment whenever I have wear to them.”

He also once said that, should he receive such a windfall, he would surely fulfill a lifelong dream of fishing from one side of Canada to the other. … “thereby ensuring the even distribution of his wealth among deserving tackle-shop operators, guiding services and fishing lodges.

That particular dream was, indeed, fulfilled with the publishing of his book Fly Fishing Canada – From Coast To Coast To Coast, which Jones edited for the Outdoor Writers of Canada. He continues to share that dream with the many people who have read his 528 page anthology. I know I have spent many a winter’s evening sitting on the couch by the fireplace reading his book.

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I remember sitting with Jones one time in a pub near the Vedder River and talking about the possibility of him putting together a similar anthology of short anecdotal/humorous stories by a number of outdoor writers and storytellers.

I should, perhaps, mention that it was Jones who sponsored me into the Outdoor Writers of Canada. For some reason, as he put it, he liked my style. I was honoured. I still am. I know always liked his style.

Bob Jones inspired a lot more outdoor writers than just myself. He was a good writer. He had a sense of humour and humility at the same time. In one of his books, entitled Warped Rods and Squeaky Reels, Jones recalls the time he met an outdoor writer by the name of Homer Circle, who just so happened to be the resident fishing guru of Sports Afield magazine, at an Outdoor Writers Association annual convention.

Jones wrote that Circle glanced at his name tag, smiled, and stuck out his hand.

“I assumed he remembered me from the two previous conventions we had both attended. As he clasped my hand he said that he was a real fan of my work. Flabbergasted doesn’t begin to describe my feeling. One of North America’s best known outdoor writers, a fan of my work. Wow.

Thank you, I said.”

“I haven’t had a chance yet to get downstairs to see the display” commented Circle. “Are you showing some of your paintings?”

“Paintings,” I said.

“Oh, aren’t you Bob Jones the painter from Delaware?”

“No, I’m Bob Jones the outdoor writer from Vancouver Island.”

“Oh, I’m sorry … what sort of stuff do you write?”

I for one know what kind of stuff he wrote. To this day, Jones continues to influence my writing. He was a true wordsmith with an impeccable sense of timing. He knew just when and how to set the hook – in more ways than one. I guess you could say that Bob Jones gave me a subconscious itch that can only be scratched by putting words on paper.

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