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The story behind the fly box; God’s country

A few months ago I received an unexpected message from Mary Anderson, a long time family friend from the Palling/Burns Lake area. She was excited to relate that she and her husband Bo had received a call from her son in-law Tony Clovis. Tony had been communicating with a colleague and friend of his, Rob VanEgmond.
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God’s Country by Tom Woodall (Submitted photo/Lakes District News)

A few months ago I received an unexpected message from Mary Anderson, a long time family friend from the Palling/Burns Lake area. She was excited to relate that she and her husband Bo had received a call from her son in-law Tony Clovis. Tony had been communicating with a colleague and friend of his, Rob VanEgmond. Rob had just been at a flea market in North Vancouver where he discovered a very old fly fishing tackle box made of aluminum inside of which were two compartments filled with several fly fishing hooks. What had caught Rob’s attention in particular was an engraving on the box exterior which read “G.Woodall, Burns Lake BC, God’s country”. He was intrigued, took a photo of it, and sent it to Tony via text inquiring about G.Woodall.

I was absolutely shocked to hear this news.

My father, Geoff Woodall, was an avid fly fisherman all his life. He had many fly rods, tied his own fishing flies he called “Woodall Specials”, and he fished whenever he had the chance. He loved sharing information about fly fishing with anyone who asked. He taught my mother to fly fish, then myself when I was very young. I knew every piece of fishing gear Dad had. I used to sneak into his fishing pack to scour through his most secreted hand tied fishing flies, including those which were in his personal aluminum fly box. The best of his “Woodall Specials”were for Steelhead, his most favourite fish. All our weekends were spent fly fishing on the Morice River near Houston when the Steelhead were running. My very best memories were of those times. Dad fished on the Morice River into his late 80’s. Today his ashes rest along the Morice River at one of his favourite fishing spots. Needless to say, hearing about someone finding an article of my fathers fishing gear, particularly his personal fly box, one which bore his personalized engraving, was absolutely mind boggling.

After some communication with Tony around who “Geoff Woodall” was, Rob made a decision and would buy the little engraved fly box. Given the uniqueness of it he felt that it may have some meaningful value and he intended to have it returned to the Woodall family.

When I heard of this through Mary, I was both elated and deeply moved by the sincere generosity that was unfolding. Rob had to take extra measures to carry this out. He had only taken a photo of the box at the market. First he needed to buy it. But by that time the market was closed. He made calls, found the sales person , and asked to have the box set aside. After waiting a week for the flea market to re-open Rob was finally in possession of the fly box, and with a little good natured finagling between he and Tony a trade was made; the fly box would be sent to Tony in return for some quality pipe tobacco Tony had found in Hawaii! Deal cinched, the fly box was in the mail.

My wife and I travelled to Burns Lake for the 100 anniversary celebration last August. During that time we were invited to Mary and Bo’s place to receive the box.

And there it was! How this personalized fly box, a most prized piece of fishing tackle, something that would never have been given away, had wound up in a flea market in Vancouver so many years after Dad cast his last fly, is a complete and utter mystery. Yet there it was before me, instantly recognizable by his hand tied flies and personalized engraving :“G.Woodall, Burns Lake B.C. Gods Country”. He shamelessly engraved these words on all his sporting equipment. Seeing them again brought a flood of happy memories.

As incredulous as it was to hold that fly box, to ponder the travels it must have had, all the hands it may have passed through over the years, with all the flies still inside, really pales in comparison to the thoughtfulness and generosity of those who made the return of it to myself possible. My heart was sincerely warmed by this experience. The fly box is now proudly on display in the house my wife and I built, a Woodall house, a bit far away but a piece of it nearer now to “God’s Country”.

-Tom Woodall



About the Author: Saddman Zaman

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