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An Outdoor Life Lived: Len Rich, 1938-2009

I was just preparing to finalize an edit on a guest opinion column by Len Rich when I heard the news early yesterday: Len had passed away in the wee hours of Monday, finally succumbing at age 71 to pancreatic cancer. Now, I knew Len was sick, but I had no idea he was nearing his end. I had no idea because he and I were talking about him researching northern Ontario’s top trout waters this summer. Thinking about it now, I’m sure that was one of Len’s many ways of staying positive in the face of his health struggle—and it was certainly indicative of his great spirit. And of his love of fishing and writing.

For those who didn’t know Len, he was one of the deans of Canada’s outdoor writing community, a Hemingway-esque figure, what with his shock of white hair, white beard and near omni-present fishing garb. I’d only known Len a few years, but came to respect him immensely for his many years of mentoring up-and-coming writers through the Outdoor Writers of Canada. Indeed, Len’s contributions were recognized in 2007 when he was presented with the OWC’s Jack Davis Mentorship Award.

Of course, Len himself was an accomplished writer, having published hundreds of articles and some six books, most recently 2007’s Memoirs of a Fly Fisher. American-born, Len moved to Corner Brook, Newfoundland, in 1966 after serving eight years with the U.S. Air Force. And it was in Corner Brook that his writing career began in earnest, first contributing articles on archery to the Western Star (which, incidentally, carried a rather nice obituary on him). From there, he went on to write volumes on his outdoor passions of hunting, bowhunting and all manner of fishing, from saltwater to fresh.

Beyond writing, Len was also a keen conservationist, having served as a founding member and the first president of the Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland. He also served as an Atlantic Salmon Federation regional coordinator, and a hunting and fishing development officer with Newfoundland tourism. For his contributions to conservation and sportfishing, Len was honoured with the National Recreational Fisheries Award, presented by the Governor General at Rideau Hall in 1991.

That same year, Len fulfilled a lifelong dream by opening his own fly-in fishing operation, Awesome Lake Lodge, which he ran for 10 years before semi-retiring to focus more on his writing. Fittingly, Len’s ashes are to be spread across the waters of his beloved Awesome Lake.

Today, I received an e-mail from Len’s partner, Sue Buckle, complete with a far more detailed summary of his remarkable life (as well as information on the funeral arrangements). I’m pleased to share it with you below. As for that article of Len’s that I’m currently editing, it will appear in Outdoor Canada’s upcoming Summer issue.

Tight Lines Dear Friend –   Len Rich 1938-2009

We regret to announce the death of Leonard Frank (Len) Rich on April 13, 2009, in North Bay, ON following a brief courageous battle with cancer.  He was 71.

Len was born and raised in the small Upstate New York town of Whitehall.  After eight years of US military service he settled in Newfoundland in 1966. His careers spanned more than four decades, from sales rep and sales manager to automotive dealer and entrepreneur in the field of tourism.

His greatest passions were fly fishing and writing.  As a columnist, author and advocate for responsible stewardship and a mentor of up and coming writers, he left a profound legacy, touching the lives of many throughout the writing and fly fishing worlds.

Len discovered and later developed a fly-in sportfishing lodge in Labrador he named Awesome Lake Lodge.  He operated that business for 10 years before semi-retirement.

He authored several books, including Newfoundland Salmon Flies and how to tie them, Best of In The Woods, Fly Fishing Tips and Tactics, Rivers and Woods, So you want to be an outfitter, Memoirs of a fly fisher, Tales of Christmas (Editor), and his latest Bill Bennett: Pioneer Bush Pilot and Outfitter.  He also wrote hundreds of magazine articles for various national and International publications.

During his careers he was employed by the Newfoundland government as Hunting & Fishing Development Officer and by the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) as manager of Special Events.  Len was also employed by Corona College in Grand Falls-Windsor as Director of Communications and Tourism Training.  He and his late wife Ruby developed and operated businesses in Clarenville, NL, known as Whitehall Country Inn and The Grapevine.  He was predeceased by Ruby in 2004.

He served three terms as President of the Labrador Outfitters Association and three terms as Eastern Director of the Outdoor Writers of Canada (OWC).  An award winning writer, he was recognized by the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers of Canada for his books and articles and in 1991 received the coveted Canada Recreational Fisheries Award for “writing that influenced a generation of recreational fishers.”  In 2007 he was selected to receive the OWC’s Jack Davis Mentorship Award for his work with up and coming writers. He led the OWC Mentorship Program and for a decade he hosted the Creative Writing forum on the Sympatico Internet site.

Throughout his adult life he made Newfoundland his home, but recently lived in Orangeville and North Bay, ON sharing his life and love with his partner Susan Buckle.  He is survived by brothers Wayne, Shrewsbury, Vermont; Keith, Hoosick, NY; sister Dawn in Massachusetts; Susan and her children Cameron and Lianne Honeyborne; sons Len Jr. (Chantal) of Lewisporte, NL and Ken of Summerside, NL; daughters Lori (Tony) of Fort Nelson, BC, and Tammy of Summerside, NL; stepson Tony Blackmore and stepdaughter Roxane Bailey (Chris) of St. John’s, NL; and grandchildren Cassidy, Alicia, Evan, Tyson, Tyler, Mallory, Morgan, Rebecca, Daniel, Kennedy, and Andrew.

Funeral will be held in Clarenville, NL Saturday April 25 at Fewers Funeral Home, Clarenville NL 709-467-2468.  In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Margaree Salmon Museum, Margaree Centre, NS.  B0E 1Z0 or the charity of your choice.

Patrick Walsh

Patrick Walsh

Patrick Walsh is Outdoor Canada's Editor-in-Chief and Brand Manager. He grew up fishing and hunting in Bracebridge, Ontario, where he began his magazine career in 1983 as assistant editor of Muskoka Life magazine. Since then, he has worked for a variety of media, both in Canada and abroad, earning numerous writing and editing awards. In 2005, 2011 and 2012, the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors named him Editor of the Year, while Outdoor Canada was honoured as Magazine of the Year (in the medium circulation category). Walsh has been at the magazine's helm since 2000.