Act Like You Have Been There Before
He rolled up in a big silver suburban. Bob Skoronski retired (Green Bay Packer) was driving. I fish pretty often with Bob Skoronski. This was the fifth time I had been trout fishing with Coach Bob Knight (retired). Coach Knight flashed me a big smile and we decided to gear up right there in the parking lot of the gas station where we usually meet at. As the Coach geared up, I gave Coach something that I had been saving for him. It was a Curt Gowdy Parametric Fiberglass Rod. The rod was made by Berkley and was about 45 years old and in mint condition. It was a Curt Gowdy Signature Series. The Coach was honored by the gift. He got a little choked up. He said:” I have another friend that bought an original Ted Williams fly reel for me.” “Ted and I were good friends.” “I am going to put that reel on this rod and display it proudly in my den.”
During our last outing in 2007 I heard the Coach tell a story about his old friend Curt Gowdy. Coach and Curt were good buddies and fished a lot together in the old days. When the two would go on fishing outings Curt would always buy a newspaper. During the long trips to the streams Coach would drive and Curt would go to the sports section and read the entire sports section en route to the stream. It was an up close and personal Cavalcade of Sports from Curt Gowdy to his good friend Coach Bob Knight. Coach said Curt’s voice was so unique and it was an honor to ride with Curt to the streams. Coach said: “It was almost as good as the fishing.”
We got geared up quite quickly. Bob Skoronski usually goes along with the two of us while the Coach fishes and watches the Coach fish. This outing had a little different reason for the Coach flying to Wisconsin. Coach Knight was speaking in Madison, Wisconsin at the Forward Lymphoma Foundation on that next day. The foundation was founded by Bob Skoronski’s son Ron. Ron Skoronski was diagnosed with lymphoma about 2 years ago. Forward Lymphoma proceeds go directly to the benefit the University of Wisconsin Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Coach Knight donated his time and flew himself to the Midwest for his good friend’s son’s foundation. Coach refused any payment for his time and he paid his own way there. Coach also donated 2 Final Four tickets to the raffle being held at the event in Madison, Wisconsin. There was also a pair of Super Bowl tickets donated to the event by Bob Skoronski. The initial event was planned to have 50 attendees. It ended up having over 170 people attending. All donations and tickets fees were donated directly to Forward Lymphoma.
Onward we went to the streams. Coach Knight had told me from other outings that he was a quantity guy not a quality guy. He liked lots of fish and was not a “big trout guy”. We decided to target some spring creeks in Southwestern Wisconsin. I had quite a few of my friends tie up lots of flies for the Coach to use.
The flies varied from nymphs to big ugly bunny leeches. Rich Femling, the owner of Rose-Creek Net Releases and Fly Boxes, gave me a fly box full of Bass Flies when we fished last to give to the Coach. Coach’s eyes light up like a kid at Christmas as he perused the fly box.
The Coach already had his favorite fly tied on. It is a size 8 girdle bug. I had a hard time getting him to change flies. He said it was tried and true and he had caught trout from Russia to Bozeman on the fly. I did get him to switch flies a couple times. Not long after the switch I would see him tying his “tried and true” back on.
On the first stretch of water I asked Coach Knight about getting back in to coaching. Coach said he was done coaching. He did have some serious interest in the Georgia job when it opened but it never got past that. He said that his schedule is quite full nowadays with hunting and fishing. ESPN also takes a toll on his fishing already.
Coach and Bob Skoronski told stories of the old days when Skoronski use to drive all over the western United States to bird hunt with the Coach. Lots of times when I fish with Bob Skoronski, he talks about his glory days with the Packers. This also came up during this outing.
Coach caught a decent brown trout and I whipped out my camera and jokingly said,” Smile” to the Coach. Coach immediately frowned. I took the photo anyway. Knight looked at Skoronski and said: “Bob haven’t you taught Len what Lombardi instilled in to you players.” I looked puzzled and the Coach elaborated. Lombardi use to say “, Act like you have been there before.” When his guys scored, they didn’t do any outlandish dances or posing. “I don’t smile in trout glory shots.” “I act like I have been there before.” Both the Bobs smiled and we kept fishing.
It never fails when the Bobs are together the Ice Bowl always comes up. Coach likes to hear what Bart Starr said in the huddle to his linemen before the “famous” quarterback sneak. Each time we have gone out it comes up. It is 30 degrees below zero and the Packers are on the 1-yard line and Starr turns to each of his linemen in the huddle and asks if they can go their way with a run. Starr says” “Ski can we go your way?” Skoronski answered honestly and said he was having his hands full with his guy. Starr turned to the right side and both of the offensive linemen said that Jethro Pugh was tired and they could go there. Pugh was a man mountain for those days and dwarfed almost all offensive linemen that he played against. They had scouted Pugh and when he got tired, he stood higher in his four-point stance.
The call in the huddle was fullback dive between right guard and tackle. Starr lined up his troops and at the last second, he decided to do a quarterback sneak due to the frigid conditions and Starr thought a hand off might be risky. Starr had a silent hand signal with his center that meant quarterback sneak. It depended on what butt cheek Starr goosed his center on which direction the sneak was going. The rest is history.
We wander throughout the Driftless Area for the entire day. The Coach loves the small streams and solitude fly fishing brings. Many times, I would go ahead of the Coach and leave him alone on the stream. I figured he has a hectic life and is surrounded by many people and trout fishing is a cleansing process. Time to listen to the birds and watch the wind in the trees. Alone time…is very important.
At the end of the day Coach had landed 27 trout. a mixture of brooks and browns. All trout were caught on the tried and true girdle bug. A couple of glory shots were taken without a smile. I understood what he meant by the end of the outing. Coach shook my hand firmly as he left and flashed me a big smile. He said: “Thanks for the great day and it really looks like You Have Been There Before.”