I first met Renn Tolman in the early 1990s on Shuyak Island where I lived and worked as the seasonal ranger. Renn had been hunting and fishing on Shuyak Island since before I moved to Alaska. He told me of all the old-timers that used to trap and fish there. Showed me the best spots for big bucks and hidden coho streams that few knew about. He also pioneered many routes up to the high country on Afognak Island. We shared his smoked salmon which he cured under a blue tarp on the beach every year. He was a man of simplicity and a minimalist, yet open minded and not afraid of what the future brought our way.
Decades later we spent many a day and night spinning yarns about boats, the early days in Jackson Hole and living off the land. To visit him at his boat shop was like stepping back into old New England. Friends came by with salmon chowder, pickled herring and whisky.
Renn was a great philosopher, teacher and mentor. He shared all his hard-earned knowledge with any who would take the time to ask. He was a lover of all things wild, and I know he touched many lives and hearts, especially mine.
I’m going to miss you, Old Salty. Shuyak won’t be the same without you but your spirit will live on there forever.