I would be a bold-faced liar if I didn't say that I fish to catch fish and bird hunt to bag a enough birds for a dinner. So with that admission aside, what I really enjoy most about any of my outdoor pursuits is meeting new people and, if things go right, developing long-term friendships.
As you may or may not know, I have been hosting quite a few "How to Fish the Lowcountry" seminars over the past month and, in the process, have made new friends in the process. Believe me when I say I get my share of ribbing from friends of mine who are guides or charter captains asking me why on earth would I divulge fishing secrets that have taken me a lifetime to discover. My answer to that question is simple: I thoroughly enjoy helping others who are new to the area, because I know how frustrating it can be when you go to a new place and don't have a clue where to go and what to use.
Just a few months ago I found myself in this exact same predicament when my wife, Karen, and I went on a cruise to Belize. Arriving at this beautiful paradise with crystal clear blue water, all I could think about was fishing. Even though I had fished in plenty of tropical locations, I was pretty much lost as to where to go and, to add to my frustration, the local fisherman weren't all that keen on sharing their secrets. To me their attitude was pretty darn silly, since all I had was a handful of hooks and lures, and my fishing vessel was nothing more than a 10-foot kayak.
Yeah, like I could put a dent in the fish populations fishing like that.
Most outdoorsman have their little cliques and either fish or hunt with the same people time and time again. I know I do. But in the past few weeks I have had the chance to spend some outdoor time with new folks and believe that I might have made friends for life. It isn't always the case that you click with someone, but with the two people I am about to tell you about, it just happened.
I sometimes guide people in their boats, but I also have had instances in which the people I am guiding are more interested in catching every fish in the ocean than they are about relishing the experience of fishing in one of the most beautiful places on earth -- the Lowcountry.
I'll start with a man who I have guided on occasion and, to me, has the perfect attitude toward being out on the water. His name is George Edgar, a tall, lanky resident from Palmetto Bluff who, simply put, just gets it when it comes to fishing. A fly fisherman at heart, George is a delight to fish with. Our conversations are a combination of light-hearted banter, a few serious interludes and always a fair amount of humor. Whether we catch fish or not, I can always judge how the day has gone if, and when, he pulls out his late afternoon cigar.
I don't get many opportunities to go quail hunting but when George called me and asked if I wanted to tag along with him and his friend Mac Dunnaway on a quail hunt in Estill, I jumped right on it. Quite honestly, I was nervous because when you quail hunt, all eyes are on you when a covey flushes. Will I miss? Will I hit anything? On our ride up I silently went over all the excuses I might use to lessen the ridicule I knew was inevitable.
Meeting up with the guides, we loaded up the dogs and headed out. I had never met Mac before but from the get-go I knew he was my kind of person, with a quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor. As it turned out, the guide and I had some friends in common, which is not all good. Why? Let me put it this way, it gave him carte blanche to critique every shot I took and comment on every miss I made, which I will humbly admit was quite often.
But with that aside, the entire trip was a hoot. Walking through the woods and watching the dogs work we talked and talked, and by the trip's end I felt like I had known them both for eons. Also, I learned that Mac loves to fish, so I expect the three of us will share more grins together on the water.
The point to this story is this. Whether it is fishing, hunting or exploring the outdoors, doing it with good friends, old or new, simply makes the day memorable. It isn't how many fish or birds you harvest; it's all about camaraderie that makes the experience an experience. And when you add new friends to the picture it only makes the entire time priceless.
Another "How to Fish the Lowcountry" seminar is planned for March 6 and 13. I only have six spots left to fill, and they are by reservation only. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org, 843-816-6608
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.