Maybe you know someone like Martin Redcay; someone with an indomitable spirit; someone who is a little bigger than life; someone who doesn’t give up even when the odds are stacked against him and his physical body begins to fail. But I’ll bet you don’t know anyone quite like my friend. Let me tell you about Martin, because I want him to be remembered and honored.
His early life was tough and he left home as a teenager to make his way in the world. He somehow ended up working with horses, and proved a natural at it. He spent much of his working life training and grooming horses at racetracks and horse farms. At one point he was kicked unconscious by a horse, and that may have contributed to his health problems later in life.
When he left the horse business, Martin and his wife, Barbara, moved to Roscoe, which is considered the world capital of fly fishing for rainbow and brown trout. He became a skilled fly fisherman and supported his family by serving as a fishing guide and by teaching others how to fish and tie flies. He was welcomed into a fraternity of fellow fishermen who built bamboo fly fishing rods and tied flies. They served as guides to the fabled trout streams of the Catskills, which drew fishermen from all over the world.
Leaving that part of their life behind them, Martin and Barbara moved to Clarence to live in her family home. For several years, he felt lonely here and missed his colleagues and friends in Roscoe. But eventually they developed a circle of friends and neighbors in Clarence. I am proud to be one of them.
Just before he turned 80, Martin had major heart surgery that involved a quadruple bypass and a valve replacement. When I visited him in the hospital, he told me and his wife that he wanted to have a blow-out 80th birthday party two months hence with 100 guests. Barbara and I exchanged glances, sharing our thoughts that he was being far too ambitious. “We’ll see, Martin,” she said. Then he turned to me and said, “I want to take you fly fishing in September down in Roscoe.” Whatever Barbara and I might have said in response, we were certainly humoring him.
He did have that blow-out 80th birthday party and even had a special barbecue pit built for the occasion. No matter that the concrete had not set properly and exploded the day of the party, splattering Martin with hot pieces of concrete; the party was a big success. And the three of us did indeed set off one day last September for Roscoe, and fished the streams that he loved. No matter that Martin had to use a walker to fish; it also was a big success. It was my introduction to fly fishing and I fell in love with it, though we didn’t catch a fish during our three days there. Martin regretted that, but he turned to me and said, “That’s why, Bob, they call it fishing and not catching.”
We had plans to go fishing again in the spring, but Martin’s health worsened over the winter. He had a couple of falls and ended up back in the hospital with a heart attack. He suffered a stroke, and never came home. Barbara plans to scatter his ashes in the streams near Roscoe, and I will accompany her. Martin will finally be going home to the place he loved best.
In the Bible, when Jesus invited Simon Peter and his brother Andrew to put down their fishing nets and join him as disciples, he said to them, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” So I figure that fishermen might have a special place in heaven. I think Martin could teach the angels a thing or two about fly fishing.