Only a week had passed since Port O’Conner took the brunt of a category 1 hurricane. As such storms go, this one had provided only slight damage to the scattered weather beaten structures on the Texas coast, and fortunately hadn’t keel hauled my plans for a guided fishing trip to the bay.
I was in a party of several men who were members of a Christian hunting and fishing club, and for most of us it would be our first foray into salt water fishing. Because of the size of the group, we were split into two smaller groups, each having its own boat and fishing guide.
The time came for us to choose which boat and guide we wanted to latch on to. The first guide was about fifty years old I would guess, with a pot belly and red hair. His skin was blotchy from too much time in the sun, and his shirt was stained and faded. His oar looked safe, but it had seen better days.
The second guide looked like he stepped off the set of an outdoors television show. He had a new shiny boat, and was dressed in the latest Columbia fishing shirt and pants. I swear he looked just like Tom Selleck during his Magnum P.I. days. He oozed of guiding god-ness, and I knew I had my guide.
I decided to make the best of things, and at least have a good time. We started the day by wading about 200 yards from the boat to reach a deep cut in the bay. We fanned out in a skirmish line, about 20 yards separating one man from another. We started to cast our live mullet toward the cut.
Bait fishing is something I do rarely, preferring to fly fish instead. But I had not set this trip up, and this guide service did bait fishing. When in Rome…
Before long we started catching an occasional speckled trout. However I noticed our guide caught 2 fish for each one that we as a group caught. So I made my way down the line next to him to find out what he was doing differently.
First I noticed his rod was a good foot longer than mine, allowing him to case quite a bit further. He allowed that I needed to let the fish run a bit with the bait before striking, and showed me how to work the bait so that the rattle we had affixed to the line with rubber tubing made the best fish attracting noise possible. Soon, I was hooking as many fish as my guide.
Back at the dock, the cleaning of fish commenced. Tom Selleck brought his boat in. Even though I now respected my guide more than I had that morning because he put us on fish, I just knew Tom was going to come in with a boat groaning with huge fish.
I was dead wrong. Tom and his party hadn’t boated more than 5 fish for the whole day. In spite of his new boat, new gear, and good looks, he had to eat crow at the dock as his clients looked at our full cooler.
Money could buy most of what Tom had…but my guide had earned his knowledge. The blotchy skin was from long hours looking for good spots before we arrived at the lodge. The faded shirt also had been sun beaten, and the boat had hauled many fish to the dock in its day.
Sure, I know the old saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover; but that day I learned that you also can’t judge a guide by his looks or his rig. Here’s to you Marvin…