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

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

Column: The not-so-secret life of Ralph Kernaghan

Remembering fellow fly fisher and outdoorsman

By James Murray, Observer contributor

He was certainly a tall fellow – long-legged, lean and lanky with a smooth, determined stride – not the sort of person you’d want to have to walk along beside while trying to carry on a conversation.

Then again, Ralph Kernaghan was also the kind of guy who would stop and actually take the time to talk to you. I know he certainly liked to talk about fishing. I think, more than anything else, he simply liked just sitting out in his boat on one of his secret lakes somewhere, casting a line.

I first met Ralph about 25 years ago at a meeting of the Shuswap Fly Fishers.

He was one of the guys that showed up to that first meeting and while he never really seemed to be into all the new, high-tech fishing gear, he was a pretty darned good fly tier – nothing fancy, just the kind of flies that catch fish.

I remember one time he gave the club a talk about Jimmy Lake, complete with a map showing the depth and structure of the lake. His presentation was precise and informative, almost military in manner. Not a surprise when you consider that he spent 22 years in the Canadian military, retiring with the rank of captain. We all paid close attention and in the end everyone felt they had gained a pretty good insight into fishing for rainbows that could be moody up at Jimmy.

What I remember the most though about his presentation was the one thing that he inadvertently left out. He had gone on in great detail about structure and insect hatches and when specific hatches were most likely to come off. He even recommended a few patterns that were almost sure to catch fish. But he never actually went so far as to say what patterns he used – a small point but one that didn’t escape my notice. Like I said, Ralph was a consummate fly tier, more than willing to discuss fly patterns and materials, but he was a lot more secretive when it came to actually showing you the flies that were inside of his fly boxes – the ones that caught fish. Ralph could be equally secretive about the names of the lakes where he liked to fish.

Having said that, once you got to know him and he got to know you a bit better, he would eventually come around to sharing some of his secrets – at least about his second-favourite lake.

While I admired and respected Ralph, I never had the opportunity to go fishing with him.

Ralph went on some of the club fish-outs, the ones that I was never able to attend because I had to work on weekends for the paper, and it was in my capacity as photographer/reporter for the paper that I took a fair number of photos of Ralph up at Larch Hills.

Ralph loved competitive cross-county skiing as much as he loved fishing. He won in his age category quite a few times at the Reino Keski Salmi Loppet. Not that he didn’t have an unfair advantage with those long legs of his.

Another one of Ralph’s passions was camping with his family – to be more precise, spending time with his wife and five children. He would pack them, the gear and their great, big canvas tent into the car and head off for a provincial campground somewhere.

Being in the military and over time being posted from one coast to the other, Ralph and his family saw a lot of campgrounds – and a lot of the country. I can only imagine the military precision with which space was allotted in the car and the patience required to keep five kids in check.

It’s the small things about camping together as a family, the sound of the rain falling on the tent, the meals eaten together over a Coleman stove and the just being free to wander in the woods that stay with you for ever. Ralph’s family was lucky.

Over the course of a lifetime, a person touches the lives of the people around them.

Ralph passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of 89-years-old. I know he touched the lives of many people. Quite simply, he enjoyed people and people enjoyed him. While I was saddened to hear of his passing, I am glad that I got to know him. His family has asked that when people think of Ralph, they think of him fishing. I will. I only wish I had gotten the chance to have had one good look in his fly boxes – to see his flies – the ones that caught fish.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Signs in Homer, Alaska, offer inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michael Armstrong-Homer News)
COLUMN: COVID-19 pandemic hits home

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

More than 20 days have passed since the last case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Lakeside Manor. (File photo)
Salmon Arm retirement facility reopens social areas after COVID-19

More than 20 days have passed since last confirmed case at Lakeside Manor

With a second case of COVID-19 confirmed at South Canoe Elementary, parents were advised Thursday, Jan. 14, that the school would be closed for up to two weeks. (Contributed)
UPDATE: Salmon Arm school to close temporarily after COVID-19 cases confirmed

South Canoe Outdoor Learning School may be closed for up to two weeks

Adams Lake Kukpi7 (Chief) Cliff Arnouse spearheads project to restore Upper Adams River early summer run of sockeye salmon. (File photo)
Adams Lake First Nation heads program to restore salmon habitat in Adams Lake

Chief remembers stories of Upper Adams River early summer run with sockeye weighing up to 40 pounds

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
13 more cases of COVID-19 tied to Big White Mountain cluster

This brings the total case count to 175, of which 32 cases are active

Most Read