A fond farewell for a true friend.|
Written by Richard Simms
For many outdoorsmen, fly fishing is a way of life. For a select few, it goes a step beyond. So it goes for the late Walter W. Castings III.
Known to his friends as Walt, he was a managing partner of Chattanooga's Choo-Choo Fly and Tackle. We never met so I'm sorry to say I can't count myself as a friend.
That's my loss.
We shared other friends and through them, I know Walt much better now, albeit to late. He was not unlike many, if not most of the people who probably read this column. We all share something we just can't seem to explain, but we know it's there.
Many of us would like to know our final resting place says something about the way we lived our life. Walt was like that. He cared about family, friends, clean water, fresh air, a good hatch and the dimple of rising trout on a clear mountain stream.
If you saw the movie, A River Runs Through It, you may have some understanding of what the river meant to Walt. So much so, he told his family and friends he wanted to return there someday -- forever.
Walt died in January. He was cremated, and his last weekend Walt got his wish.
Knowing it's foolish to improve upon perfection, I defer my remaining column inches to the words of Walt's close friend and business partner, Les Kirk, who writes: "Walt was from Chattanooga with short forays to different cities. You wouldn't envision him an outdoorsman when you saw him -- tall, thin and urbane. He used the charm of a Southern gentleman to move about New York City. But Walt loved fishing, hiking and camping.
"A man only a year away from 50 is not supposed to die. But his time came, even after he beat the odds. Three months in and out of intensive care and then a miraculous recovery thanks to a caring determined physician, wonderful ICU nurses, modern technology and diligent friends and family. All to be dashed in a brief moment by a brain hemorrhage.
"Walt had written no will.
"What do you do? How do you handle the ceremonial end?
"Those who knew him best thought hard, and recalled these words. 'Just take my ashes to the mountains and dump them in the stream,' Walt told us. 'On a midnight ramble -- just don't trip and dump me on the trail.'
"So that's what we did. With his ashes placed carefully in flyrod tubes, we hit the mountain trails. A son, Grant; a daughter, Stef; a son-in-law and five close friends, all carrying the thoughts of many others.
"It was two days and nights dedicated to Walt with the usual menu. A warm campfire, a touch or more of tequila, fishing for brown trout, and listening to the subliminal roar of the creek.
"Sunday morning came and the sky cried. (expletive delete) Walt, it always rains when you come along.
"Finally the time has come. A spot is chosen. Eight people moved in a line down the trail to a special rock with a special story we'll never tell. And the rain stopped for a time.
"There were no memorial speeches -- the tears, mixed with ashes, said more than words ever could. First, son and daughter spread the ashes into the stream their father loved so much.
"And then friends were allowed their time to offer Walt to the water -- the place that he often led us to. Those of us who shared it with him will return, and know.
"As the ashes were carried away by the gentle current, we knew the trout were watching. Walt become one with the world he once held in his heart.
"Solemn, consummate closure for a special man and those who held him dear.
"And then, on a rock ledge overlooking the stream, we build a cairn of stones taken from the stream, crowning it with a rock infused with a cross of quartz. Walt would have liked what we did."
Yes he would have. Someday, when my time comes, I hope I'll have friends like Walt's.