By David Graham - April 11, 2022
Saturday I learned of the passing of a good friend. Pat Halko was a person I was fortunate to have seeded a relationship with over a decade ago... two guys from different walks of life, half a country apart sharing a common interest in fishing. Pat and I had collaborated on an article about land based shark fishing years ago... I had come across images online of his exploits along the southern Gulf Coast of Florida at a time when there weren't really any established shark anglers in that area.
Some 12 years or so later, call it fate... I wound up on Pat's home waters - setting up my own residency in Southwest Florida. I reached out to Pat because... that's what you do. You humble yourself, you make connections with those you can learn from and share things with. Over the course of time between then and when we first talked - Pat had fallen ill with a rare disorder similar to Leukemia. Complications from which had resulted his undergoing an extremely risky double lung transplant and basically learning to do everything all over again.
My immediate impression of Pat in meeting him in person was that of a guy with immeasurable humility and selflessness despite any of his own grievances. I don't think I've ever encountered someone so 'at peace' and content with life. I have fished with a lot of people... but this was a guy who really looked on his passions for what they were really all about and I couldn't help but watch Pat and envy his ability to be happy in the moment. Its easy to get caught up in wanting the next bite - the next fish - wanting something more. But I wasn't Pat's first 'student'... in fact he had taken other people out time and time again to let them experience the thrill of a big bite... and he seemed keenly interested in making sure I saw things through his lenses and he worked hard to make sure I was enjoying my time.
We hit the water together several times over the last couple years - but we never talked about his condition. We talked about highlights of experiences the two of us had... cool trips, things we want to do. I found quickly Pat is the kind of guy that will stop in his tracks to enjoy 'the little things'. On the water any passing bird or natural sights or sounds would catch his focused attention - he'd stop... observe whatever it was 100%... then carry on to the next task, almost moving slowly towards what we were actually trying to do... but silently reminding me that I was the one that wasn't focusing. In talking to Pat though this all made sense - and brought me back to reality. Here was a guy who has really done some amazing things... slept under the northern lights, climbed to the top of the mountain figuratively and literally, and had a front row seat to some of Nature's biggest shows.
Every so often life puts you infront of someone either by chance - or by some divine plan... and they etch some kind of 'mark' deep into your conscience. I feel very fortunate, and blessed to have met Pat Halko. It's hard to find authenticity today, but I met it in its purest form with Pat.