There is no feeling in the world better than those brief moments when you experience something truly new in your life. Just think back to the very moment you saw your son or daughter born. Was that something or what? That first breath they took, the first look they gave you -- these are moments that stand out in your memory with such clarity that it could have been yesterday.
These eye-opening experiences are right in front of your nose every single day, that is, if you choose to see them.
I realize not everyone is that observant. With all the distractions life brings -- cellphones, car radios and such -- I guess it's easy to let a lot of the little things to slide right on by.
A couple of examples of this happened in just the past week. The first one occurred when I was on the Cross Island Expressway on Hilton Head Island. I was just about at the bridge that goes over Broad Creek when an osprey with a fish in its talons came screaming across the road just ahead of me and right on his tail was a full-grown bald eagle that had every intention of taking that fish away from the osprey. Twisting and turning, the two of them showed aerobatic skills any jet pilot would envy. Though it only lasted seconds, I don't think I will ever forget that blink in time, yet when I looked at the driver in the car next to me, he gave no indication that he had seen the incredibly beautiful drama that had just unfolded.
Then, just yesterday, I was up in Bull Creek catching bait shrimp with my nephew, Johnny Bringas, and my friend, Will Thompson, and no sooner had I told Johnny about strand-feeding porpoises --something he had never seen -- than two porpoises began strand-feeding 50 yards from us. They herded mullet up onto a large, gently sloping mud flat and then shot themselves completely out of the water and right up onto the bank where they ate the flopping fish before they wiggled their way back into the water. That was on the right bank and at that very instant, Will noticed two large pink birds picking their way along the water's edge and in his usual, humorous manner said, "Is it me or are those birds pink?" They were pink all right and immediately I recognized them as roseate spoonbills, usually only seen down around southern Florida. Neither Johnny nor Will had ever seen one before, so those few minutes with strand-feeding porpoises on one side of us and roseate spoonbills on the other was another one of those moments that will forever stick in their memories.
The kicker to this last story was there was a boat full of people anchored nearby, and it appeared that not a one of them saw either phenomenon even though they were less than one 60 yards from both scenes.
Maybe I'm biased because I am an avid watcher, but it just seems as though so many people go through life in a daze and, in the process, miss out on some pretty amazing stuff. "Daze" is probably a bit snooty a description for these people because the cause is probably due to the simple fact that they were never encouraged to watch. My dad and mom raised us to look around, to see and to question. Then, when I really was drawn to fishing and hunting, that just seemed to tune my senses to always be on the lookout for those subtle dramas in nature that often occur in just the blink of an eye.
It was a good week for me. Besides the things I just described, I also heard from Al Stokes from the Waddell Mariculture Center, who asked me if I would be willing to take his son Collin and Waddell intern Player Aston fishing before they had to go back to college. Finding an opening in my schedule, I met up with the two of them and off we went.
You would think that Player, a Waddell employee and native of the Myrtle Beach area, would have caught redfish before but he hadn't. The tides were perfect for reds so I took the two of them to one of my best low-water spots. As we waited on the tides, and hopefully some reds, he told me that in his neck of the woods, the shrimp and redfish were scarce. In a nutshell, overpopulation and lack of vision had ruined their fishery. No sooner had we finished that conversation than he latched into a big red in mere inches of water. I could just tell he was awed by their power, as that fish screamed across the shallow water flats. In the next few hours we managed to catch some reds, all too big to keep, plus some fine roe trout. If I had to describe the look on his face, it was like a mule eating briars. It was an eye-opening experience for him and for me, his tales of the ruined waters up the coast made me appreciate our piece of heaven here just that much more.
Even if it is for just a day, try looking around as you go through life. Look up in the air, at the water and just basically try to learn the art of seeing. Once you get the hang of it, you'll never again see this planet the same way. Whether the event you see lasts seconds or minutes, it will always be in your mind to re-live and, from experience, it will be as clear as the day you saw it.
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.