The Greatest Fishing Story Ever Told
Captain Dave wrote this story in 2013 but it's just as touching as it was the first time we had the blessing of hearing it.
The story you are about to read today is a story about an extraordinary young man who touched my life. It's a story that I hope will reach every fisherman. It's a story of reflection, remembrance, hope, and a whole lot of courage. You see, the thing I love most about my life is I get the opportunity to meet young children like Joshua Lownes. Joshua was a young boy who came into my life a short time ago through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Joshua was going to get a wish, but even more than any wish, Joshua dreamed of going fishing. I hoped when he got out of All Children's Hospital that dream would come true. I was going to take Joshua fishing. It's with tears in my eyes that I write this, as Joshua never got the chance to fish with me. I received the worst news anyone could imagine; Joshua passed away on Aug. 11. No one, and I mean no one that I know right now, can take away the empty feeling I have inside of me. Today I bow my head and close my eyes, cry a lot more, and laugh a lot less because Joshua cannot grace my presence and fish with me.
I have been attached to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for about 17 years. It's how and why I became a charter boat captain. Nevertheless, this story is not about me, but about an incredibly courageous and brave young man named Joshua Lownes. I called Joshua's mom, Donna, before I was going to meet with him, and she told me how much Joshua loved to fish. It's not often that the foundation gets wishes from a child who loves to fish, but when we do, I know exactly what to do. I contacted "The Bass Professor," Doug Hannon, and asked him if he would autograph one of his books for Joshua. He agreed and I met with him that day and he signed his book Big Bass Magic for Joshua. My next quest was easy enough—get my friend Gary Poyssick, one of the authors of the saltwater fishing book "Skinny - How to Fish in Shallow Saltwater" to autograph his book for Joshua. I was all set with books, lures, and paperwork and ready to find out exactly what Joshua wanted as his fishing wish.
When I met Joshua at All Children's Hospital, his father Jeffrey was there with him, along with his mother, Donna. They are not ordinary people by any means. They were Joshua's strength. What loving parents; Joshua was proud of them. You could see that immediately. They held him up at every step of his journey. They never let the circumstances or disease steal away Joshua's capacity for joy and wonder, just like the Make-A-Wish creed states. When I met Joshua the treatment he was getting was something no one should have to go through, nevertheless a young boy. What he went through is indescribable. It is something that he did not deserve; he is a lovable boy who loves to fish. What life had given him was not fair or right. It makes me so mad. I cried so hard I put myself to sleep thinking about these cruel and unfair things. But Joshua, he would surely let you know that is not what he wants you to do. Joshua's smile that day warmed my heart. We talked fishing! We shared fishing stories and laughs for hours. I had to bite my tongue so hard as not to let the tears roll down my cheeks during our talk. We talked about all his favorites -- reels, lures, baits, his favorite fish to catch, and Doug, Jose Wejebe, Bill Dance, Kevin Van Dam, and the greatest bass story ever told. Talking about these legends of our sport and their angling skills brightened his day, and for those moments, just maybe, made him forget about the sickness and pain. I told him Jose jumped in the water after a tarpon and how Doug has never killed one bass in all that he has caught. Then it was onto fly fishing on the flats with those monster permit. The stories included Filp Pallot's first meeting with Jose and Kevin Van Dam's Bassmaster Classic wins. That day I left Joshua with the hopes of taking him fishing. The minute I walked out the door of the hospital, my emotions got the best of me until I thought of something Joshua said to me: "I caught this beautiful bass on a bread ball. Why did the bass eat the bread ball?" Wow, I thought to myself. Here I am feeling sorry for Joshua, a young boy who does not even feel sorry for himself even after the cruel, unfair hand life has dealt him.
Joshua, it was my honor to sit in the same room with you. You again have reminded me of the meaning of true bravery, courage, hope, faith, and sacrifice. You had the courage to fight and never give up hope. You were unafraid of everything that was thrown at you. You were a boy anchored with so much guts. Your heart was tremendous. I wish every fisherman could have met you. You are truly inspirational. You taught me that we are put here for a purpose and that purpose is to give, not receive. So, if I ever had a wish, my wish would be for you and every little boy and girl to never have to be sick, be afraid, hurt, or scared. Joshua was teaching me lessons in life, not me teaching him anything about fishing. The message I got from Joshua is that no matter how barbaric or horrific his sickness was, that someway somehow he was able to triumph because he was not going to let it get in the way of his dreams or his parents' love. His character constituted a victory, no matter what life threw at him.
Joshua, the qualities you possessed are what winning at life means and that lasts forever. I will always remember Joshua as an amazing kid and the last smile I saw on his face as we talked fishing. I want the entire fishing world to know how special Joshua was. On this day I will take myself fishing, and as I catch that first fish of the day, I will release it in silent honor as a living memorial to Joshua. That fish I release will stand eternally in honor and remembrance of Joshua's courage and legacy.
So please, I am asking all of you to go out and catch a fish and release it in honor of a great young boy who graced our Earth, Joshua. Let the fish go in celebration of life, and let Joshua's love for our sport live eternally. Joshua is looking down on us with a smile.
The power of my words could never describe how Joshua and all the Make-A-Wish children touch me. I have not forgotten any of their faces. They remind me the greatest quality any human being can have is compassion, no matter what the circumstance. When I came out of Joshua's room that day, he might not have realized that my life as a man was better because he had been in it. He made me a better man, a better human being. Thank you, my fishing buddy. I will someday meet you at the greatest ocean of them all to once again share in our fishing plight. When I have that day, I will get to treasure it for life.
This is also a living testament to Joshua's family, who day after day bravely and quietly can piece their lives back together. Knowing Joshua, he would say to all of us: "If you want to honor and remember me, repay the world with a compassionate act of kindness to someone who is less fortunate." Take them fishing!
Captain David M Rieumont
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