I lost one of my very best friends to cancer on Sunday, and I can't seem to think of anything else just yet. His name was James Hayes, but everyone called him "Cobby." It was a nickname he picked up as a child because he loved corn on the cob so much.
Cobby was a great fisherman but a better friend and person. I met him when we were putting our boats on the trailer one day. We had each been out fishing alone and helped each other take out. After we both made it up to the parking lot, we sat and talked for about 45 minutes.
After that, we seldom fished alone. There was no need. We fished together, usually for smallmouth, on Dale Hollow Lake and usually until our wives called and told us to get back home. Cobby lived near and fished the Hollow all his life. He knew it as well as anyone and loved it even more.
I'll never forget the pranks we used to play on each other out on the water. It seems like we were always loosening each other's reel drags or casting across each other's lines to be the first to a really good spot.
When we fished together, even though we were just out for fun, it was always a competition, and we always knew exactly how many bass each of us had caught. When one of us was a fish or two down, it was time to get serious. Things got quiet then, but they were always fun and I loved the company.
In July of 2007, I had the chance to relate a story about my buddy Cobby in BASS Times. It appeared in the section called "The Lighter Side" because it was a funny tale about a time Cobby thought he had hooked a new world record smallmouth. It turns out that he had hooked a piece of shale rock that was heavy and flat so that it dipped and darted from side to side as he tried to bring it to the boat. When he finally got it close enough that I could net it and see what it was, I fell to my knees laughing.
Well, when that story appeared in the magazine, Cobby had no idea it was coming. I waited until we were in a big group of friends to pull the magazine out. Then I started reading the story out loud to everyone.
At first, Cobby thought it was a joke and that I was just pretending to be reading it. But when he finally saw it and everyone laughed, he just smiled and said, "I'm going to get you for that, Headrick."
Afterwards, I saw him show that same article to anyone who would stop to take a look. The story was funny, but his pride in being in the magazine was real.
Tomorrow I may feel good enough to go fishing again. If I do, I'm going to stop at a couple of Cobby's favorite spots and try my luck. I'll think about the times we spent there and all the fish we caught. And, if I'm lucky enough to catch one and can see through my tears, I'll glance to the back of my boat and lift that fish up to Cobby.
Take care, my friend. I miss you.
Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at Stephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.