Dick Hanousek's dad was killed in World War II, in France, when Dick was a toddler, leaving his uncle as the boy's father figure.

The relationship between the two gained urgency one day when the uncle interrupted a knitting tutorial Dick was being given by his mother and his aunt.

Dick was 5 years old at the time.

"Come on, kid,'' the uncle said. "We're going outside.''

Dick, of St. Paul, who died last week at age 82 at his winter home in Arizona, learned the lesson well.

Not the one about the perils of a life spent knitting.

The one about the blessings of being outdoors.

I first met Dick in 1981. About the same time, I met Bob Nasby, also of St. Paul. The two were different — Dick was a businessman and Bob was a working man — yet the same: They were both consumed by fly fishing.

One conversation led to another and the following spring the three of us were alternately basking in Key West's warm breezes and, about 30 miles offshore, casting for tarpon off the Marquesas Islands.

In the months ahead, we fished together again. First in belly boats in a small lake along the Gunflint Trail, slinging streamers for rainbow trout, then chest-deep in Lake Michigan, off Door County, Wis., wearing neoprene waders and hoping in the moonlight the lake's bulbous brown trout would find our flies.

By then, Dick was 42 and had already lived a handful of different lives.

In high school at St. Thomas Academy, he'd been a boarder, meaning he lived on campus. When he graduated, he joined the Army, serving three years before enrolling in the College of St. Thomas, as it was known then.

While in college, Dick bought his first business, Pioneer Paper Stock, and throughout his 20s and 30s bought, operated and sold multiple businesses. In his entire adult life he was never issued a W2 by an employer. He always worked for himself.

Dick fished at the time. But his primary interest was hunting. Ducks. Deer. Grouse. Elk out West. He loved it all.

Until he didn't.

"He got to a point where he just didn't want to kill anything anymore,'' his wife, Kathy, said. "He still loved hunting and said he would teach his kids to hunt. But he was done with it. It was then that he got serious about fly fishing.''

Something else also changed about that time.

As his net worth grew, his satisfaction with the process of growing it lagged.

So he sold businesses that required his day-to-day attention.

And went fishing.

Steve Hanousek, the eldest of Dick and Kathy's five children, was about 20 years old at the time.

"Dad told me once that he had good friends who made a lot of money and sometimes lost their families in the process,'' Steve said. "He didn't want that to happen to him.''

Though Dick was never happier than when casting a size-16 Adams to a rising brown trout on the Whitewater River in southeast Minnesota, the next day — or the next or the next — he might be knee-deep in an Alaskan river, or on Christmas Island in the Pacific or off South Andros in the Caribbean.

He traveled light, sometimes with only a duffel, a pair of waders, two or three fly rods, wading boots, and little else. Kathy was always invited, as were Steve and his sister, Kris, and brothers, John, Matt and Rich.

Newspapers were more forgiving in those years of expenses that attend such far-flung angling adventures — boondoggles, some editors called them — and for a long stretch of time I filed datelines with Dick from Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Alaska and other fish-worthy destinations.

During these trips we'd occasionally meet other fly anglers, women as well as men, who had the money, and the time, to globe trot the world, fishing.

Some of these anglers, I learned, cast as much with their egos as their arms.

Not Dick.

Years ago, he and I were fishing on New Zealand's North Island, and after a great day on a clear, serpentine river, we suffered through an excruciating, overlong dinner alongside braggart industrialists who spun long-winded tales about finned trophies they had brought to hand in exotic locales.

Twice or more, Dick had been to most of the places the men had name-dropped. But he never said a word.

“Dad told me once that he had good friends who made a lot of money and sometimes lost their families in the process. He didn't want that to happen to him.”
Steve Hanousek, Dick's eldest son

To Dick, his fishing travels, whether to Scotland's famed Atlantic salmon rivers or to Stony Brook, his all-time favorite trout stream near Brainerd, were intended not to burnish his self-image but to galvanize his connection to life — all life — not least that of an emergent mayfly rising to the dimpled surface of a crystalline river.

When I told my two sons that Dick had died, they went quiet. They had fished with Dick many times, as they have with Bob Nasby, and my sons know the debt they owe each of them.

Not for fishing lessons given, or secret streams revealed.

But because Dick and Bob taught me that if I started my boys throwing fly lines at age 5, as Dick and Bob did their kids and grandkids, I'd have fishing partners for life.

As would my sons.

"We had Dad cremated in Arizona,'' Steve Hanousek said. "In a month or so I'll drive his ashes back to Minnesota. I'll take a route through the mountains and stop along the way at some of his favorite rivers. He'd like that.''