Denis Peirce: Farewell to a friend
There is more to fishing than just chasing fish. There are the places we go and the people we share the experience with. I have been fortunate enough to meet a wide variety of interesting and interested people through my angling adventures. One of these friends I have made was local fly fishing guide Jon Baiocchi. I was shocked to hear a week ago that Jon passed away. He was only in his early 50’s, young from my vantage point. As I have heard the story, he was guiding a client when he had a stroke from which he did not recover. He died at the river.
I cannot put my finger on when I met Jon for the first time. I interviewed his father Bob on my radio show many years ago. Both Bob and Jon had a strong relationship with Jay Fair, another storied angler in the Northern California fishing community that has also passed on.
The first time we fished together I wanted to write a column about fishing Deer Creek in Nevada City, Wolf Creek in Grass Valley and Squirrel Creek in Rough & Ready all in one day, catching trout on each creek. From our first outing, what struck me about Jon was his willingness to share what he knew with fellow sportsmen. There are guides who hold back what they have spent years figuring out. It is that knowledge which is the basis for their business. When speaking with Jon he was not one to hold back. He was dedicated to helping others be successful on the water.
I had him on my radio show numerous times and when asked, he was forthcoming with where he was fishing, the insects the trout were feeding on and the techniques he was using. He genuinely wanted others to achieve the level of skill he had worked years to achieve. He often was a featured speaker for fly clubs. I heard him at our local Gold Country Fly Fishers meetings and I learned something new on each occasion. He shortened the learning curve for hundreds of fly anglers during his guiding and speaking career.
He had a circuit that he fished each year. During the late fall and winter he was on the lower Yuba River. In early spring he fished the middle Fork of the Feather. He then fished Lake Davis in the late spring. During the heat of summer he could be found on the North Yuba and the Truckee. His favorite I believe was fall fishing on Lake Davis both fly casting and trolling with flies. He then returned to his home in Nevada City to fish the lower Yuba again.
From the outside looking in, the life of a guide, on the water fishing everyday, seems idyllic. The reality is being up well before dawn to be on the water before the clients arrive. Making sure that all of your gear is in order, lunches are arranged, and he spent many an evening tying flies for tomorrow’s trip. On his days off he is scouting for new water to produce fish for his clients who became his friends.
Jon was passionate about the waters he fished and the condition they were in. Both he and his father were well known in the conservation movement. Jon was also known for an occasional on-line dust up with others. But invariably it was on a topic he was passionate about.
This past winter I featured him in my column about the largest steelhead of his life which he landed on the Yuba River. In retrospect it was a fitting culmination to his lifelong love of fly fishing. He spent his last day on the water guiding a fellow angler. Hindsight leads me to believe that there may have been a higher power involved in the events of his final season.
I am going to miss Jon Baiocchi. He was a friend to both me and my son. He always had a kind word and a genuine interest in Colin. I have saved a number of my radio interviews with Jon. I consider them among my best shows. I will find a way to make them available to others.
Of the many anglers I have had the pleasure to have known and learned from, Jon Baiocchi is in the upper echelon. Godspeed Jon. I believe we will meet again.
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com.
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