Jim remembers another long-time fishing mate, Bob Stinson.

In 2022, one of my many flyfishing friends and contemporaries, Bob Stinson, passed away. These recollections of Bob are therefore somewhat overdue, but better late than never!

I’m advised that Bob first came to Australia for the 1956 Olympics, where he represented the USA as a sailor. Bob was a New York stockbroker and retired from broking whilst still young.

Later, he migrated to Australia – I suspect after a stock market boom, as he seemed to be quite well off! I know he had a brother who was in the securities industry too. The family had a lovely house on the coast at Martha’s Vineyard, the summer vacation island just south of Cape Cod. Bob would head back home to the USA each Australian winter to visit family and friends, but also to flyfish for striped bass along the nearby coastal beaches. He also fished the famous waters of upstate New York; rivers like the Beaverkill, Willowmoc and others that flow through the fabled Catskills. These were the streams where he learnt to flyfish.

Me fishing the Beaverkill – one of Bob’s ‘home waters’.

Bob was a tall, slim man with a craggy face and moustache, with swept back hair and a deep guttural American accent that never changed. Although a mate of mine described him as a ‘goofball’, he wasn’t. True, he might perhaps have been a little eccentric and forgetful, but he was a thinker and to this writer, a very intelligent bloke. Everything he took up in Australia was attacked earnestly: investments, golf, flyfishing, farming. He made many new friends in his adopted country.

I remember a trip to the Seychelles with Bob, when he inadvertently left his wallet at customs & immigration in Melbourne. A nightmare ensued, but with help from his fishing mates, the result was a very memorable trip to the southernmost island of Farquar, chasing giant trevally and bonefish on the sandflats. Some of the best sight fishing on the planet was on the southern islands of the Seychelles, until Somalian pirates captured some American flyfishers, who then had to be ransomed back to safety while their mothership was destroyed. Flyfishing charter businesses in that part of the world are still in recovery mode.

Bob (on the right) with a big GT.

Bob purchased land in Tasmania in the 1970s from Jason Garret, who sold off a small subdivision to finance the establishment of what is now known as London Lakes. He subsequently built a shack on Lake Samuel.

Bob farmed just outside Geelong, near Gheringhap. He and his wife Lou had two boys, Finn and Rupert, who went to school at Corio. As teenagers, both boys worked for the Compleat Angler during school holidays, and were extremely popular with customers and staff alike.

I think it would be fair to describe his two sons as outstandingly good anglers. They both regularly out-fished their dad, and walked and hiked all over the remote Western Lakes of Tasmania.

At one time, elder brother Finn discussed with me the purchase of Mayfly Fishing Travel. In the event, it didn’t come about. He loved being outdoors, and couldn’t see himself deskbound in an office. He ended up a well-recognised trout and steelhead guide on the waters of Alaska, and on the west coast of North America. He also guided for a short time in New Zealand. Rupert left school and worked in IT in San Franscisco. Their love of Tasmania and New Zealand also brought them back to the antipodes each summer.

Finn and Rupert were travelling together when they were both tragically killed in a road accident in 2004. It happened on the highway from British Columbia to Alaska. Both were heading back to Anchorage after a memorable steelhead fishing trip, to then fly to Australia and join their parents for summer and Christmas. They never made it. They were both in their late 20s and I cannot imagine how Bob and Lou felt when they received the devastating news from the USA, early one morning here in Victoria, and just a few weeks before Christmas.

Rupert and Finn.

It’s fair to say that some things afterwards were never the same for Bob. His sons were, truly, the light of his life. As another old and dear friend said to me at the funeral of her son, who had died from a brain tumour at the age of 60, “It’s just not right for a mother to go to the funeral of their child.” Sadly, she also died a year later, in my view from a broken heart.

Bob played golf at Barwon Heads Golf Club and eventually retired there. The last time I saw him, we were both fishing at Lake Fergus in Tasmania. He, in his mid-eighties, kept falling over on the button-grass. But he was stoic, determined and caught a couple of beautiful trout. A friend commented at the time on his fierce resolve! I’m not sure, but perhaps that might even have been his last time fishing.

The shack at Lake Samuel today is still filled with photos of the family’s fishing exploits, and has only recently been purchased by two old school friends of the boys. Bob wanted it to happen that way.

The sands of time run through the hourglass for us all and eventually come to an end. An old friend once remarked to me that life is a bit like a stone tossed upon a pond. Eventually, the waves of memory subside. Although Finn and Rupert Stinson’s lives were cut short, together with their dad Bob, all three were bloody big rocks!