If I had a nickel for every time I heard, "You are the luckiest person I know, getting to fish all the time," I would give Bill Gates a run for his money.
Don't get me wrong, I love being out on the water and I do love to fish more than just about anything, but believe me when I say that even though this lifestyle has its perks, it also has its down side.
As you have probably figured out by now, I do spend a lot of time out on the water, but something you might not know is that fishing isn't my chosen profession. With two children to feed, a mortgage and such, my occupation since college has been in graphic design and advertising. Before opening my own ad agency, I co-managed Island Typographics on Hilton Head Island for about 15 years. I would go to work at 4 a.m. and often wouldn't get home until 11 at night. It really wasn't until after my kids had made it through 15 years (collectively) of college that fishing pretty much became my new occupation -- even though I still spend a lot of hours designing in front of my Mac.
I'll admit that I often considered fishing for a living but having been a mate on charter boats in my teen years, I learned that fishing every single day is not all beer and Skittles. If I had to pick one thing that kept me on the advertising fast track it would be the physical part of being a charter captain.
No doubt that if you are reading this column then you have an interest in fishing, am I right? Then let's follow that up with another question. After a full day of fishing, do you come home feeling like someone has beat you over the head with a 10-pound flounder? Come on now, be honest, it's a lot of work getting ready to fish. You have to fill up the boat with gas, load coolers with ice, make sandwiches, make sure you have all the tackle you'll need -- the list just goes on and on.
Then there is the anticipation factor. Even now, I have a hard time falling asleep if I know I am going fishing the next morning. I don't need an alarm clock either, without exception I wake exactly five minutes before the alarm is set to go off. So right off the bat I am tired. Then I make several trips lugging everything to the boat and before the lines are cast off, I am already sweating.
It's one thing when you are fishing by yourself, but when other people are expecting you to put them on fish, the pressure is most definitely on. I don't care how good a fisherman might be, because some days the fish couldn't care less if you were Ernest Hemingway himself because they just won't bite. On other days, you might spend hours looking for bait like menhaden, when the day before they were everywhere as you were heading to fuel up the boat for this trip.
Believe me when I say it happens.
Then you have the summer months when it is 100 degrees in the shade. I don't think they make a suntan lotion that can stop eight hours of exposure to this kind of sun. Not only is it shining down on you from above, it is reflecting up from the water. Without naming names, I have a couple of charter boat captain friends whose skin is so tough and wrinkly, they should use it instead of Kevlar on soldiers in Afghanistan.
I do my best to stay in the shade, but it's a lost cause. Nowadays, I find that the best solution is to never, ever look at myself in the mirror. The sun spots on my forehead are starting to take the shape of one of those pictures of Jesus that you see on the news. You know what I'm talking about -- the guy who gets a pizza and sees the Lord's face in the pepperoni or the Virgin Mary's image in a bowl of oatmeal. Laugh all you want but it's the price you pay for being out there day after day.
I guess finally, I'll try and describe my hands. Without revealing my actual age, my hands could easily pass for a mummy's hands. Hooks stick them, knives cut 'em, fish spines impale them and after a full day of offshore fishing, they swell up like balloons. So what's the best remedy for these occupational hazards? Soaking them in pure Clorox. You can actually see the sores bubbling, but by gum, that Clorox kills all the germs.
I'll leave you with one final thought -- tip your captain and mate because if anyone deserves it, they do!
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.