Dave and I met 15 years ago at a Salmon Unlimited meeting. As it turned out, it was the first S.U. meeting for both of us, and we just happened to sit next to each other. Not knowing anybody at the meeting, I introduced myself to Dave, and we struck up a conversation. Ever since that evening, our friendship has grown steadily stronger. Just last week, Dave and I were the guest speakers at our March SU meeting, talking about rigging your boat for fishing on Lake Michigan. Dave talked about baits, tackle, rod holders, downriggers and divers, and I talked about electronics and safety equipment. It was a pleasure seeing and hearing Dave talk about a subject that he loved so much. It was a true honor to assist him in his presentation. Earlier in the month, Dave and I shared a table at the SU swap meet.
Dave was a recently elected board member of SU. He believed in the value of the club, and he cherished the friendships and connections that he made through the club. He was instrumental in bringing the Chitown Angler together with SU, was a charter moderator and frequent contributor to the SU posting board. He also enjoyed reading and posting on the GLAngler board (more than 220 posts!), and was always eager to share whatever tips he had learned in order to improve every ones chances of success on the water. He was always the first to volunteer his boat and services when the club asked for volunteers for special outings like "take a kid fishing", new member outing, or to take church members out on the lake fishing with him to raise money for his church. He was the supplier of tinsel flies for many of the club members, and was the creator of his famous Tommy fly (named for club member Tom Pierce), "Mardi Gras" and "Catmandu" flies.
Dave came to us from New York, graduated from Cornell University, and worked for Sears until he retired some 15 years ago. When Dave came from New York, he brought decades of Salmon fishing expertise with him. The first boat that he invited me to fish with him on was a 21’ Sportcraft soft-top. It was on this boat that Dave taught me about the advantages of using a fish billy to calm Salmon down before trying to remove the hooks. Early in the morning Dave had pulled in 3 or 4 nice sized Coho Salmon into the boat, and each time he gave the fish a quick rap on the head with a fish billy to calm the fish down so that he could take the hooks out. Wanting to impress Dave with my newly learned technique that he had just taught me, I planned to do the same with the next fish that I brought on board. When that time came, I got so excited that a grabbed the first thing that I saw to club the fish into submission. However, it wasn’t a fish billy, but rather, a brand new Yellow Bird. I started flailing and the more I hit the fish, the more Dave laughed. Dave never let me live that moment down (or let me get near another Yellow Bird)!
Dave and I fished many an SU tournament together on his boat “Playwright”, a 28’ Bayliner Ciera Express hardtop. Dave and his grandson Scott Nuzzo (Scotty) would have the boat ready to go in the harbor and Ed (Sierzega), the other team members, and I would meet Dave at the Waukegan Harbor House for a cup of coffee before we got under way. Dave was always stopping along the way to and from the Harbor House to swap stories or get a fishing report with other slip holders who were fishermen. Dave never missed an opportunity to stop, talk, and make a new friend!
Every winter I would look forward to Dave calling me and inviting me to come to various fishing shows with him to learn new techniques. He would call a bunch of us and always offer to drive. Dave figured that trips like that are more fun with more guys coming along to share in the experience. Last winter we attended fishing seminars and shows in Benton Harbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan, Chicago, Kenosha and Racine Wisconsin.
Dave also loved to go on longer trips to go fishing. One time, the club (SU) sponsored a trip to Lake Erie (Lorraine, Ohio) to fish for the elusive Walleye. Dave, Barth (another one of Dave’s’ friends) and I piled into his “To FISH 2” mini-van for the land of the Walleyes. This was the first time for me going fishing on anything but Lake Michigan. My expectations were high for great fishing and adventure. When we arrived we began to hear about how poor the fishing was for this particular season. We went out on our charters that had been arranged for us, but in two days fishing, all we had caught were 8 drum fish and a couple of small mouth bass. On the morning of the third day we went out on our charter, and at 11:00 am our captain said that because the fishing was so bad, we could go in early. All he wanted was compensation for the gas that he had used. When we got back to port, we had the balance of the day ahead of us so we went exploring. We ended up at the maritime museum, where there were artifacts from famous shipwrecks on the great lakes. One was a model of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald! Since it was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, we three were the only ones in the museum. The curator, who was a little old woman came out to meet us as we were about to leave, and convinced us to stay and watch a movie about shipwrecks on the great lakes in the museum theater. We agreed, and sat down (we were the only ones in the theater) to watch this epic. Well, we had gotten up at 4 am that morning to go fishing, it was dark, and it was a warm summer day. I think all three of us saw maybe the opening and closing credits, and snored through the rest! Dave said that we must have looked like winkin’, blinkin’, and nod, sleeping and snoring there in that little theater.
I know that Dave was universally well known, well liked, and respected as a fisherman and as a friend. At the harbor he was always eager to stop and chat and swap stories with anyone who would say hello. He also loved to share his catch with his neighbors and his friends who didn't fish, but loved fresh Salmon and Lake Trout.
I'm sad to report that my long time fishing buddy Dave Wright (Captain Dave of the boat Playwright) passed away Tuesday night while at Central DuPage Hospital. Dave was admitted to the hospital last Friday complaining of shortness of breath. Test later revealed that he suffered from blood clots in his lungs. The usual treatment for this condition would be blood thinners to break up and dissolve the clots. However, Dave just had another stent implanted into one of his arteries leading to his heart this January, so the blood thinning option was not available to him. I visited with him at the hospital earlier in the evening and we talked about what we had to do to get his boat ready to put in the water and to go fishing. He was hoping to be released from the hospital Wednesday. Little did I know that this was the last time I would ever see him. It makes you stop and wonder about what's really important in life, and what a great gift true friendship really is!
Dave leaves behind a legacy of friends who are much better fishermen and people, because of the time that they spent with him. I will miss him deeply, not only as a fishing buddy and captain of our fishing team but more importantly as a good and trusted friend. He leaves a void in my life that will not be soon filled, and I will never forget our times on the lake together.
David C. Wright Sr.
aka - mrunning17
November 12, 1940
March 19, 2008