There’s something about that look in his eyes. If you haven’t said hello and shook hands with Greg Shimek, you want to do that. When you greet, he leans slightly in your direction, and suddenly everything else goes away. When he says he’s glad to meet or see you, his eyes tell you he means it. It’s not that other people in your life aren’t sincere, and friendly, or aren’t glad to see you. It’s that the world stops for just the slightest moment as you realize he means it, and you know it, and you can feel it. It’s palpable.
The handshake tells you most of what you really need to know, but this Puget Sound Fly Fishers member (and President Elect) has been there and back again. As a Shelton, WA kid he grew up to work in sales, marketing and product development for an international telecommunications company. He spent 9 years in England and worked in 55 different countries on his way to retiring in Washington in 2013. A sales guy born and raised (see previous hand shake paragraph). In between he got a 5 handicap in golf, climbed mountains and got his pilot’s license. There and back again and then some. By the time he retired he had logged over 2.5 million air miles and “If I never get on an airplane again, it’s not gonna bother me. I’ll get over it.”
“I’m not a clubby kind of guy. Years ago, past President Dick Matthaei and member Al Lind got me involved in the club. I attended a meeting and liked it. After seeing a lot of iterations of PSFF over the years, I’m just really comfortable with the current mood and direction. The club is very professional, and it’s going to continue in it be inclusive, with younger folks, older folks and women. It’s one of the premier clubs in the state, and as bad as my cast appears on paper, they are actually helping me get it right”
Greg is the Executive Director of the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition and he’s on the board of the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group . “The decision in 1999 to go to catch and release on these sea runs was monumental. We don’t know enough about the species. They are deceptive, because when you find them you can be fooled into thinking there are a lot of them, but through tagging, we’ve learned that these fish tend to stay in specific areas, and because they’re so often willing to take flies, they can be caught over and over again, giving the impression that there’s more of them than there really are. We have to conserve this resource. Things are getting better, but we don’t know enough. If someone doesn’t look into the long-term viability of the resource, it could all go away. We must not let that happen.” I called Greg a couple days ago to chat and he sounded a touch out of breath. He apologized because he was walking a small Puget Sound Creek looking for cutthroat redds for research. As we speak, maybe we’re watching a golf match on tv or maybe enjoying a gin and tonic on a quiet afternoon – maybe we’re fishing our favorite spot – there’s an even chance Greg is upstream of all of us trying to find a way to save some fish. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
I’ve taken a few photographs of Greg. Particularly on a little local urban creek that feeds into South Puget Sound. I think my favorite image of these is a black and white shot of Greg just standing in the creek. No smile, no frown. Just standing there. The more I look at it the more Greg appears to almost disappear into the background. Almost as though he’s part of the landscape. Almost as though he’s at home. Greg Shimek. PSFF can be proud of him.