'I just want them back': Sask. anglers remember 2 friends who died in car crash hours after successful fishing tournament

Todd Taylor was laying down for a nap after an early morning of hunting when a message popped up on his phone – his cousin, Steve Taylor, and friend, Cody Strass, had died in a car crash.

“I laid there and I just couldn’t process it for a minute, and then I just lost it. I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Taylor and Strass were driving home from a weekend fishing tournament when the truck they were driving collided with a minivan on Highway 6, about 10 kilometres north of Watson, according to the RCMP. The crash occurred at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Both men were pronounced dead on scene, as well as a third man who was driving the minivan.

Taylor was living in Melfort and Strass in Pickerel Lake.

They were both avid anglers.

“(Cody is) kind of known as Saskatchewan’s trout king. I’ve talked to lots of people and there’s no one catching big fish like him,” said Todd, explaining how Strass worked as a summer fishing guide.

Although Strass’ main home at the time was in Pickerel Lake, he spent much of his time across the province.

He and Taylor spent their entire lives together, mainly bonding through fishing, hunting and playing hockey as they got older.

Todd said one of Taylor’s goals was to win Angler of the Year at the Saskatchewan Walleye Trail tournament. He met that goal just a few hours before he died.

“It’s just a sad irony,” he said.

“It’s heartbreaking, you know, to be shaking his hand at the awards after he won Angler of the Year to finding out not even 24 hours later that he’s gone. It’s a very hard thing to digest,” said Kolby Matiachuk, who was also friends with both Taylor and Strass.

He described Strass as “always joking around, laughing,” and Taylor as a loving father.

“That’s what I think we should remember most about him, is how much he loved his children and his wife, Steph. He made that very clear wherever he went.”

A GoFundMe created for Taylor’s wife and four young children has raised about $40,000.

“It’s just a small thing to help them move forward,” Matiachuk said.

Glen Boehme has been friends with Taylor for about 15 years, and met Strass just shy of a decade ago.

“It’s been the first day where I’ve actually been able to talk about it and not get super emotional,” he said during an interview on Tuesday.

“I’m not sure why things happen in life and I guess they happen for a reason, whether we know it or not at the time, but people are definitely going to be affected by this. I don’t think they would have had an enemy on the planet.”

Boehme described Taylor as someone who didn’t sugar-coat anything. He’d always give you honest advice, he said. As for Strass, he was “very high energy, very enthusiastic, very passionate.”

“You wouldn’t want anybody else in your corner but these two guys,” he said.

Boehme said it’s been hard not to think ‘What if I did this?’ or ‘What if I did that?’ when it comes to the deaths of his two friends, but he knows they’ll always be remembered and loved.

And Taylor agrees, finding some comfort knowing they died after a weekend doing what they love – fishing.

“But in the grand scheme of things, I just want them back.”