There's nothing like teaching people to fish

cdad@hiltonheadisland.netJuly 18, 2012 

I have been in advertising and design for nearly 35 years and even though most of you are under the assumption that all I do is fish, hunt and explore the great outdoors, the reality is I still spend much of my time glued in front of my Mac, designing everything from ads to logos and brochures -- plus anything else clients throw my way.

I still love designing, but since I broke my back in a car accident a few years and six back operations ago, it is nearly impossible for me to sit hunched over in front of a computer for eight hours a day. I was pretty depressed when I closed my office on Hilton Head Island and began working out of my home, and it wasn't until I came up with the idea of guiding people on their boats that I snapped out of feeling sorry for myself.

Chronic pain pretty much dictates my day-to-day life. But because I work from home, I am able to take a one-hour siesta just about every afternoon, which makes a world of difference. But what has made the biggest difference in my life is dividing my life between two favorite things: designing and fishing.

I know I can do neither full time, but splitting what time I am able to work between these two things has been the best thing to happen to me since the day of my accident. Don't get me wrong -- because pain-wise I pay for every hour I sit in front of my computer and every second I spend on the water -- but it sure is better than collecting disability and sitting around withering away to nothing. If you have ever suffered from back pain for any period of time, you know that if you sit around and do nothing, the pain just gets worse. You have to keep moving or else you might as well crawl off into the woods like an old dog.

So what inspired me to start teaching people how to catch fish around here and be better boaters and sportsmen? It started quite by accident after I began putting on "How to Fish the Lowcountry" seminars at the Waddell Mariculture Center. Usually, I would limit these seminars to 20 people so I could spend more one-on-one time with each participant. It didn't take long for me to realize that just about everyone in attendance was ravenous for knowledge that would make their fishing excursions more productive. The things they said helped them most were often things I took for granted, having fished here for 50 years. How do I throw a cast net? What tide is best for trout or redfish? What do I look for because everything seems to look the same?

You wouldn't believe the amount of time and money many of these folks had spent and still had never caught a redfish or trout. I am talking beautiful boats, expensive tackle and electronics and still no fish. I really felt for these people and tried to give them as much information as I could so that maybe, just maybe they would have a successful day on the water.

It wasn't until I put out a flier that said: "Have a boat and can't catch fish? Then call me!" that I began my second career. I knew from the get-go that physically one or two trips a week would be about it, but since that very first trip, I have loved every single trip. Sometimes the people are locals, other times they come from upstate, and it isn't until I meet up with them that I know what type of boat they have.

I have guided on jonboats, pontoon boats, slick flats boats and boats that range from 15 feet to 46 feet. Inshore, nearshore and offshore, I try and get them involved as much as possible. It would be easier for me if I did all the rigging, but the next time they went out without me, they would be right back at square one. This way of doing things came easily to me because I was never one who would read manuals on how to do something. It just wouldn't stick in my mind but if I had someone show me something once, I never forgot how to do it. Even now, when I buy something that needs to be put together I usually throw away the "how-to" manual and put it together by looking at the picture on the box.

Am I ADD? Maybe.

I guess it really boils down to the fact that I like helping people and that is something I have always tried to do in every aspect of my life. I guess the reason is I get the greatest amount of satisfaction after I have showed someone how to do something and later on they call and tell me it changed their life -- even if it was something small and insignificant to most other people. Most of all, I also try and teach them to respect the environment and to practice catch and release. If everyone takes that approach, our fisheries will remain strong and vibrant for all the generations to come.

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.

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