Tom Keck Is My Role Model

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Tom fishes the South Platte Photot by Louis Cahill

In September of 2009 I was fishing the South Platte below Spinney Reservoir, the stretch they call the Dream Stream.

When I noticed this gentleman casting trico patterns to the far bank…from a wheelchair. I watched for a bit as he worked a pod of rising fish with a long reach cast, occasionally fooling one and bringing it to the net that he had fashioned with an extra long handle. He would wheel himself down stream to the next rising fish, careful to travel far enough from the bank that he didn’t spook fish. It was an impressive display. I would find out just how impressive when I walked over and introduced myself.

Tom Keck, of Denver CO, is a likable fellow and a great fisherman. Generous with his knowledge of the S. Platte as well as with his beautifully tied flies. The flies he gave me turned out to be day makers. But don’t let his gentle demeanor fool you. This fellow is carved of wood. I asked him how he wound up in the wheel chair and this is the story I got. Ten or so years earlier, fishing the Platte at Deckers he had taken a bad fall. Alone, his back broken and paralyzed, he struggled in the fast water nearly drowning. Eventually he pulled himself to the shore and then to the road with his hands. There he found help but he never walked again. He also never stopped fishing the river he called his home water.

I’ve taken a few bad falls. Not like Tom’s but bad enough to make me wonder what I’d do if I were really hurt out there on my own. I hope I never have to answer that question but if I do I hope I’m half the man Tom is and can face it with the courage and determination that he has shown. I hope I’ll be out there on the river the day before they put me in the ground. And I hope it’s a long way off. In the mean time I’ll remember Tom casting tricos to the far bank. If you’re out on the Platte and you see a fellow fishing from a wheel chair, walk over and shake his hand. You’ll walk away a better person and maybe a better fisherman. While you’re at it, tell him he’s my role model.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline

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11 thoughts on “Tom Keck Is My Role Model

    • Greg,Great stuff as aalwys. Tricos are magic: size 22 flies, spiderweb tippets, sipping trout…that’s what fly fishing is about. Late August / early September is a good time — cooler temperatures cause the spinner fall to occur later in the morning, a hint of autumn is in the air, and the opportunity exists to harass the fish later in the day with hoppers. But as all things in life, get out when the opportunity presents itself. Those early morning outings in July with the dank, moist air are special times, too — by the time the sun gets high enough to become uncomfortable it’s time to reel up and retreat into the shadows until the next outing.

      • Louis,

        I’m Tom’s son. Sadly, my father passed away in March of 2012 following heart surgery. I just found this today and showed my mom. She was thrilled. Thanks so much for this. The only thing my dad enjoyed more than fishing was teaching others how to fish or how to tie flies. I’m glad you introduced yourself that day.

        One point of clarification: The story about how he fell in the stream and nearly drowned was true, but he was already in the chair when this occurred. He was paralyzed in a car accident driving back from Deckers after another fishing trip in 1985. The accident never kept him from the sport he loved.

        Hopefully your able to fish “The Dream Stream” for many years to come. When you do, I hope you’ll remember my dad. Thanks again, you captured the essence of my dad beautifully!

        Todd Keck

        • Todd,

          Let me offer my condolences for the loss of your father. He was a wonderful man. That was obvious even in the short amount of time I spend with him. A kind and generous spirit.

          I learned that he was also acquainted with a good friend of mine who went on to become an amazing trout guide and Umpqua fly Tyer. There’s no telling how many lives Tom touched. I’m grateful to have met him that day.

          Thank you for leaving this comment and letting us know if his passing. I will think of him every time I fish that river. Please know that our hearts are with you and your mother in this time.

    • Yes! you always need bnkicag regardless of what fish you are chasing! 1/ the bnkicag helps increase the arbour of your reel (the diameter) so that your line is not tightly coiled against the center of the reel. By increasing the arbour, you also create a bigger diameter with which to reel in against. I.e the bigger the arbour the less turns it takes to reel in a given amount of line.2/ Once day you are going to catch a big fish you’ll need that bnkicag!

  1. What a great a great story. Thanks for sharing. It is inspiring to hear someone who pursues their passion against obstacles. Good lesson for us all. Probably seems just the natural thing to do for him, but it shows us all true grace.

  2. I know that this article was posted many years ago, but there is not a day at the Dream Stream that I don’t think of Tom. Tom was a counselor at the school of my first teaching position. That was back in 1974. Tom was always a fine gentleman and an avid angler. I ran into him on the river one day when I was struggling with the trico hatch. Tom gave me one of his flies and it turned the trick for me. To this day I still fish Tom’s pattern and remember him fondly when I net a fish that has taken it.

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