I have been dying to write this story for quite some time, and now I finally have the chance. I know you are probably thinking it's going to be about some freaky experience I had when I was a child that made me the strange person I am today -- but it isn't. This story is about the making of one of the most diehard fisherman I have ever known: Johnny Bringas.
Many of you might be saying to yourself, "Don't I know that name?" You just might because for nearly a decade, Johnny has been one of those men in brown who delivers packages for UPS. My relationship with Johnny began long before he started working for UPS because he is the nephew of my wife, Karen.
Johnny and his mother, Nadia, and his sister, Tatiana, moved to the Lowcountry when Johnny and Tatiana were both children. They lived on Daufuskie Island -- this was before they paved any of the roads there and, much like when I was growing up, Johnny had the whole place to himself. He wasn't an avid fisherman, but when you are raised in an environment like Daufuskie, you are pretty much on your own when it comes to finding ways to entertain yourself. Why? Because you can count the number of other children your age on one hand, plus there are no luxuries such as convenience stores or movie theaters. In a nutshell, it is just you and yourself.
Johnny is now in his early 30s, is married and has a daughter. He and I fished together during his early years, but it wasn't until about three years ago that something seemed to snap inside him. Because he doesn't know I'm writing this story about him, I can only guess what event caused him to take fishing to a new level. He reminds me of Clark Kent -- a mild-mannered UPS man by day, but once he is off work, he is all about fishing.
I have always enjoyed introducing young guns to fishing, and over the years I've adopted quite a few. Usually these relationships start with a call from their fathers asking me to take them fishing because Dad doesn't know much about the sport. But almost without exception, the relationships that started when they were young have endured as those boys became young working men, some with their own families.
Usually I get at least one or two calls a week from one of my "kids," and the question is always the same -- "Will you take me fishing?"
But since Johnny's revelation about angling, I can expect 20 or more calls a week from him. He is a human sponge when it comes to learning the tricks of the fishing trade. Knots, rigs and techniques all are on the table, and he soaks up the information like nobody I have ever met. What really blows my mind is he works 10 hours a day at UPS, but as soon as he is off work, he grabs his cast net, catches bait and fishes until the wee hours of the morning -- only to get up and repeat the pattern day after day. I always know he has been night-fishing when I wake up in the morning and there's a picture waiting on my cellphone. It's almost always Johnny holding a monster redfish, black drum or some other fish.
The thing that gets me about Johnny is that he gets fishing. He is one of those rare fisherman who realizes he doesn't need anyone else to fish with; instead, he has found peace in himself through the art of angling. I grew up fishing by myself, so I can relate to what Johnny has found in such a short period of time, something that many in this sport never come to realize. Nature is peace.
Did I mention he can toss a 10-foot cast net like it's a Frisbee? It's amazing.
The next time the man in brown stops to deliver a long-anticipated package, it just might be Johnny Bringas. And if you see fishing rods sticking out the window of that big brown truck, I can just about guarantee it's Johnny.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.