When I think about all my married friends who are either charter captains or just plain hard-core fisherman, I find it a tad unusual that their wives rarely, if ever, fish with them. Personally, I love to fish with women. They listen a whole lot better than men do; they squeal when they hook a fish; and they just seem to appreciate the finer points of angling. Strangely, though, these women are usually married to someone else.
This past weekend I agreed to fish with my wife, Karen, along with our good friends Chris and Stacy Wimmer in the 16th annual Dottie Dunbar All Woman Fishing Tournament.
Many of you might recognize Chris as the tall, lanky harbormaster at Palmetto Bay Marina on Hilton Head Island, a job he has held for darn near as long as I can remember. Dottie Dunbar's family owned Palmetto Bay Marina when I moved to this area in the early 1960s. Dottie, who now lives in Columbia, could out-fish just about any man around. The tournament is held to honor her as a pioneer of the early days of Hilton Head and to inspire women everywhere to get out and try their hand at this typically all-male sport.
So back to my story about husbands, wives and fishing. For no particular reason, Karen had skipped the past few tournaments, but when we found out that Chris was retiring and he and Stacy were moving to Memphis, we knew this would be a great opportunity to be together before they headed off to "them thar hills."
Meeting up at 8 a.m., we loaded up Chris' boat with the highest of hopes that Stacy and Karen would kick butt first and take names later. The air was electric with excitement as the gals put on their game faces.
The rules were simple. The men could guide them, but we couldn't touch the rod -- not even to make a cast. The girls had to do it all.
So off we went to do battle with the two target species: trout and redfish.
Fishing is a lot like bowling; if you don't do it regularly, you get a bit rusty. Neither Stacy nor Karen had been fishing in quite some time so, with that in mind, Chris and I tried to anchor the boat so they could reach the "strike zone" without too much effort. Karen is right-handed while Stacy is a lefty, so positioning the boat was a bit tricky but after two or three moves, we finally got in position where the odds of a hook in the head were minimized.
It was time to fish!
On Karen's first cast, the cork had barely hit the water when it disappeared. Like a pro, Karen hooked a nice trout. "Easy does it Karen, don't horse it, that's it ... a little bit more this way, easy, easy ..."
Chris and I shouted as she brought the fish to the net and into the boat. The ice was broken, and they were on the scoreboard.
"OK," I said, "trout run in schools, so both of you cast in that exact same place, and I'll bet we'll catch one after another."
Easier said than done. Both girls got close, real close, but not quite there. This is when teaching another person's wife is a whole lot easier than teaching your own wife. Imagine that ...
They did manage to land two nice trout before it was time to go after species number two: redfish. I explained that casting was critical at the spot I had picked out for reds. I think I saw their heads nod, but it might have been them swatting gnats. Arriving at my super, super, super secret spot, we started fishing.
"Cast right there by those oysters," I said. Lord knows they tried, but it was just a bit out of range. It was killing me that that I couldn't cast for them but half a Valium later, I was pretty much OK with everything. To prove there is a God, the current magically swept their baits right into the "zone," and both girls hooked up with perfect 23-inch redfish.
We actually had a chance to win.
But from that point on, the girls' enthusiasm waned: "I need to take a break." "I'm tired." "Is there a bathroom on the this boat?"
It was OK, though, because I knew this was more about being with friends than it was about winning. Stacy was in first place in the redfish category all the way until just moments before the scales closed when Cindy Mix pushed her into second place -- but even that was all right.
So, farewell Chris and Stacy. It's been a hoot for the past few decades. And to you, Karen -- good job and we'll have to do again ... sometime.