Column: Sharing coffee and swapping stories with the late Jim Willis

Column: Sharing coffee and swapping stories with the late Jim Willis

Great Outdoors by James Murray

“Got time for a coffee?” he’d ask, and then in the same breath say, “Come on, I’ll buy.”

A simple enough statement but, in the case of Jim Willis, it also meant, “Got time for a coffee – let’s go swap a few fishing stories.”

I don’t know how many times Willis and I have gone for coffee over the past 25 years, but I do know it only took a short while – a few months and maybe a few hundred stories – to realize that Willis genuinely enjoyed sharing fishing stories. Probably almost as much as he enjoyed casting a line to the shimmery shadow of a three-and-a-half pound rainbow trout moving slowly through the shallow waters of White Lake or Jimmie Lake, or any of the other lakes that he loved to fish.

Willis’ stories were mostly about local lakes and streams, you know, the homegrown sort of thing. They were slow and easy to listen to, kind of familiar like maybe you’d heard them before, but still interesting enough that you didn’t mind hearing them again, especially in their slightly new, somewhat revised version. His stories were just the thing to warm you up on a cold winter’s afternoon when you were killing time waiting for your winter tires to be switched over or just hanging around the local fishing tackle store – one of his favourite places to hang around and join in on any sort of conversation/argument/discussion about fishing.

Willis’ stories were not only engaging; if you were listening close enough, you inadvertently learned a fair amount, like what flies to use along a particular shoal and how deep to fish along the drop-off. And, if you were lucky, you might be sitting at the table when he would stop right in the middle of his story and pull out some of the flies he had tied to fish the particular lake he was talking about. He had no problem handing a few of them out. You could just tell he took a certain pleasure from catching fish on flies he’d tied himself. He also got a different kind of pleasure out of other anglers catching fish on flies he had tied.

I am proud to say I have a couple of his flies in my fly box.

Read more: Residents asked to share ideas on housing needs in Salmon Arm

Read more: Gate blocks well-used access to Salmon Arm’s Mount Ida

Read more: Safety concerns in South Shuswap prompt reformation of Blind Bay Crime Watch

I first met Willis not long after arriving in town over a quarter of a century ago in, yes, you guessed it, the local fishing tackle store. He was talking to Bill Keown, a local angler and fly tier-extraordinaire who also happens to work there. Somehow I got dragged into their conversation/argument/discussion and by the end, well let’s just say I walked away having made two new friends.

The thing about Willis that always impressed me was that while he was passionate about fishing and catching fish, he was also a conservationist. He believed in limiting his catch instead of catching his limit. He was a catch-and-release fisherman long before it was the thing to do. Having said that, he really did love to catch fish.

Willis was one of the founding members of the Shuswap Flyfishers, an organization made up mostly of like-minded anglers who like to fish and gather together to talk fishing. For as long as I can remember Willis proudly wore a cap that had the group’s logo on the front. I remember when the hat was new. I also remember how it aged and faded over time.

Jim Willis passed away a few weeks ago. I will miss him. Most of all, I will miss going for coffee and sharing stories. We all have our time on the waters.

However, I am sure that by now he has met a whole whack of anglers that passed on before him. They are probably sitting around having coffee in some restaurant up there, swapping fishing stories. I can just hear him telling one of his stories in that slow and easy manner, one of those familiar stories that will help pass the time for everyone until they head off for one of the lakes up there that are full of three-and-a-half pound rainbow trout moving slowly through the shallow waters.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Armstrong Regional Co-op board members Brett Kirkpatrick (left) and Robbie Hoyte (right) flank Scott John of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society. The co-op donated $2,500 to the society for its Save the Towne Theatre campaign. (ARC photo)
North Okanagan-Shuswap cooperative contributes to Vernon theatre campaign

Armstrong Regional Co-op kicks in $2,500 for Okanagan Screen Arts Society’s Save the Towne Theatre campaign

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery, scholarship for rescue at Sicamous beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

A young Sicamous Canada Day parade-goer is awed by a colourful float filled with beloved Disney characters during the July 1, 2020 community event. (File photo)
Editorial: Now is the time for Sicamous to shine

Shuswap community might be just what people who work from home are looking for

Greyhound Canada announced May 13 it was closing operations permanently after more than a century of operation. (Black Press file photo)
COLUMN: Goodbye to a never forgotten friend

Greyhound bus trips played a big role in columnist’s life

Someone or something is vandalizing birdhouses built and erected along Salmon Arm’s Foreshore Trail, much to the chagrin of a Shuswap biologist who looks after the houses. All but one of 32 along the trail are occupied. (Facebook photo)
Ongoing birdhouse vandalism rocks Shuswap trail, groups

Eight more boxes were destroyed Saturday, May 15

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

File photo (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Overturned kayak in Kelowna creek prompts police response

Kelowna RCMP is looking to speak with anyone who may know the individual associated with the kayak

Penticton city parks staff were busy this week using the beach grater to sift through sand, getting the shores ready for beach season. When it comes to beach clean up they are collecting run-off debris, pulling weeds and picking up litter. (Penticton photo)
Hottest day of the year, so far, in the South Okanagan

Penticton city park staff cleaned up the beaches getting ready for the season

This is what the glowing boulders look like at night at 28 Huth Ave. (Submitted)
PHOTOS: Glowing boulders popping up in the Okanagan

Local landscaper Brandon Messier also brought the Lost statue to its new home

Coldstream Fire Department is on-scene Sunday, May 16, battling a fire in a Matner Lane orchard just up the hill from the firehall on Aberdeen Road. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Okanagan fire crew tackles orchard blaze

Fire broke out just before 2 p.m. on Matner Lane, which is just up the hill from the Coldstream firehall on Aberdeen Road

A drug bust on Government Street in Duncan on Tuesday, March 30, led to a "substantial seizure" according to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP. (File photo)
Search continues for diver who went missing in Okanagan Lake

Emergency crews continue to search for the 52-year-old who didn’t resurface Saturday

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

Most Read