Spider Hansen – Nelson’s Greatest Angler

It was about 1955 when Spider Hansen showed up in Nelson. Spider was a thin lad with dirty blond hair and coke bottle glasses. I have no idea where he was from. He lived in a little house off the alley at the west end of Mill Street beside a wooded ravine we called “The Gully”. I lived on Kootenay Street a short block away.
I met Spider shortly after he arrived. I think his name was Eugene – I called him Genie. He was a friendly, amiable fellow that I was to know for some twenty years. But I was soon to realize that he wasn’t always as mellow as I first supposed – he had little tolerance for teasing or bullying. Indeed. In those days skates did not have those plastic guards at the ends of the blades and could be considered a lethal weapon. One of the local players, a big lad, was teasing Spider in the dressing room at the Civic Center while he cleaned his skates. After a minute or two of this guff, Spider launched a skate at the guy’s head. It just missed and the blade stuck into the wall just inches from his head. Spider was roaring mad and foaming at the mouth. However, scenes like that were rare. Spider was usually calm and friendly.
Like me, he loved to fish. We went out to nearby Cottonwood Creek or down to the boat houses or City Wharf. Spider was a very patient angler and was easy to please. Most of the boys wanted a nice rainbow or Dolly or maybe a whitefish or two but Spider would happily spend hours in almost the same spot catching the odd shiner, chub or squawfish. One time a fine eighteen inch rainbow grabbed his bare hook by mistake as he dangled it in a school of shiners. We all cheered when Spider landed the beauty then rode his bike through Nelson with the trout on his handlebars. Another time he hooked an even bigger rainbow off the old Nasookin that was abandoned near the wharf but lost it.
I lost close contact with Spider about 1964 when I went off to California to go to school. I came home in the summers then and only saw him the odd time. He was always the same however and had an endearing habit: no matter how long it had been since I’d last seen him he always greeted me as if I had never been away. “Hi Teddy, lets go fishing.” I don’t think we ever fished again . The last time I saw him was about 1968. I was hitch hiking up to Nelson from Spokane and got stuck in Creston. It was getting dark and looked like snow so I walked back to town to try and get a bus. As I trudged along the dark street toward the bus station, there he was: ” Hi Teddy, lets go for some beer”. We settled in at the Kootenay Hotel for a few then bought a half sack for the bus ride through the snow.
I never saw him again. Some years later I asked Clare Palmer where he was. Clare said that in the last few years Spider had taken to hanging around the Nelson Truck Terminus hitching rides on long haul trucks. He would take his fishing gear and a small pack and fish his way across Canada. Clare went on to say that one year Spider failed to show at his pick up point somewhere out on the prairies – he was never seen again. I hope he is still out there somewhere pulling four inch perch out of some prairie slough.
For my money, Spider was Nelson’s greatest angler. Of course many will disagree and cite the names of some of the great ones like Danny McKay, George Bing, Skipper Wilson, Muggsy Holmes and company. Sure, those guys were great – real pros – but they lived for rainbows and wouldn’t think of fishing for anything less. Spider just loved to fish and catching something was almost beside the point – indeed. That’s how it should be.
Miss you Old Pal.

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