The Brave Walk Among Us
S he arrived in her car for a few days of fishing with me. Even in the wee hours of the morning I could tell she seemed to have a barrier, or self-emitting force field around her. I get one’s personal space, but this was much more than that.
She quietly made a wide arc around the other anglers and guides who were there and made her way to the dock where my boat was waiting. She stood for quite a while sizing up each of the four guides there this warm, dark summer morning. She talked to no one, but rather just listened.
Once she had determined which one was me she stared at me for what seemed like hours, even though it truly wasn’t that long. I got the feeling she might just leave at any second.
I couldn’t help but notice her staring ,and in all honesty, part of me hoped she was not my client that particular day. After years of guiding, one gets a feel about a person, and my first impression of this lady was this might be a very long day of fishing. She gave off vibrations that something was not quite kosher, and for me that often meant a person who was going to be hard to please, or at the very least difficult to deal with.
I had seen that look and mannerism before, but I couldn’t place just where. Finally she walked over, no smile on her face, and stated she was fishing with me today, and she had some requests to make. She had everyone’s attention now.
The dock was quiet, and all waited for my response. You see, a guide’s boat is his or her office, and we all have rules. Those rules apply to everyone for a LOT of reasons. For me mostly they are safety rules, followed by fishing rules because it’s my name on the bottom line where a fun and safe fishing day is concerned.For a lot of folks, that fun day consists of catching fish.
“You’re sure I’m your guide ma’am,” I asked?
“Quite sure” she said. “You are Capt. Mac?”
“Yes,” I replied. She didn’t give me her name. “What would your requests (being plural) be?” I asked politely.
“I would like to bait my own hook. I would prefer to net my own fish, and I ask that you give me plenty of space for casting.”
“I can give you two of the three ma’am” I said. “There is close to a hundred dollars worth of bait in that live well, and I don’t want it killed by any chemicals you might have on your hand.”
She stared off in the distance considering my response then said “Do you have a bait net I could use?”
“Yes, but that seldom works well for people and inevitably they get their hands in the live well.”
At this point she is still a good 15 feet from the side of my boat, and again I thought she was going to turn away and leave. To this day I’m still not real sure what came over me, but for some spiritual/ mystical/ unknown reason I was bound and determined to get this lady out fishing. Maybe it was because anyone this uptight I decided really needs to go fishing or maybe it’s because I like a challenge
“Ma’am,” I said, “when you need bait, if you will simply point the rod tip at me I can get your hook baited, and you’ll never have to move a step.”
The response was immediate. “Sounds reasonable. Where might I stow my belongings?” she asked as she stepped forward.
As she went to step onto my boat, I reached to take her hand (a habit I have to ensure no one falls onto my boat). She ignored my hand and made her own way onto my Haynie (my boat).
As with any new client, I went through my short safety talk, and then told her the weather predictions for the day. “It will be a little rough going out, and it might be best to sit on my boat seat behind the console (where I pilot the boat from) for the best ride.”
“I would prefer the front console seat” she said.
“Yes ma’am” I replied. Ma’am would be her name for the rest of the day.
At this point I am thinking one of my guide buddies, as a prank, must have slipped a two-day-old, rotten shrimp in my pocket. I had to stink terribly for such a person as she to be so repulsed by me.
The other guides just stared in disbelief snickering. One reached into his ice chest and said, “Here Capt. Mac,” as he pitched me a Five Hour Energy drink. “You’re gonna need it.”
I wasn’t about to go into my “where one uses the bathroom while fishing on the boat” talk for tension already seemed to be at a button-popping, zipper-slipping level, and it seemed to be mostly ME.
She, on the other hand, was matter-of-fact, calm, and in control as she found her SPACE on my front console seat. She was slender, smartly dressed, very little makeup (she didn’t really need any), tightly braided, long blond hair, and she was in not just good shape, but rather great almost ripped, kinda-shape.
She was distantly attractive. All appearances said she was in her mid-twenties, except her eyes and her actions. They had the look of a much older and wiser person. Her eyes seemed empty one time, then all knowing the next, angry and ready for battle, still the next. Then just blank with no discernible way to read them.
Honestly I was a bit intimidated, maybe even frightened. It seemed one minute she had a soulful/spiritual presence about her which made me feel an incredible peace. Then, like a vapor in the wind, it was replaced with a look of hostile intentions that could cut me into tiny pieces and use me for the day’s bait.
It was unnerving.
Luckily, my role was to be a fishing guide, and so I focused on that. Even though I wasn’t crazy about the rules we agreed to before we left the dock, I decided to go full steam ahead.
“Let’s catch some fish!” I told her as we set up at the first spot.
The trout action was good. To her credit she was a quick study of my fishing techniques, and a limit of trout was quickly in the box, with her doing the netting after a bit of distant coaching.
I had put some live shrimp in my live well in addition to my other baits, as I had discovered reds had been hitting live shrimp that past week. I headed out to my favorite red hole on the northeast shoreline of Ayers Bay.
We had two slot reds in the box when she stated she would like to eat. She handed me her rod, and I quickly made my way to the back of the boat to allow her space to eat in peace on the front console seat.
I busied myself re-tying leaders and sorting through our bait when I turned and she was right beside me, a sandwich in one hand and a Coke in the other. “Would you like something to eat?” she asked. “I can’t imagine going this long without eating. I made this for you last night.”
Something told me this offering was a big step for her, as if a huge gap in her life was being crossed somehow. Although I did have my own grub, I felt accepting her kindness was the right thing to do. Instead of handing me the food she turned and set it down on the front deck (in her space). So we ate and talked about fishing.
She pointed out that a bathroom on board would be nice. So I launched into my “using the potty” speech and demonstration, to which she howled with laughter. She smiled and said “Like you would know what’s it’s like to be a female in any form or fashion.”
“No ma’am, but it was ladies like my wife who educated me on this very subject,” I poked back at her. It seemed the ice was thinning between us, thankfully.
Just as I was finishing my food and deciding not to outstay my welcome, she said “I want to apologize for being so aloof , I have had some unfortunate things happen to me, and I guess it’s made me a bit… strange.”
She looked down at the floor of my boat. I didn’t breathe as I recall, but just looked at the top of her cap, as she never lifted her head. “It started when I was twelve and lasted for nine years.”
I knew then where I had seen her look/mannerisms before.
“Counseling has taught me it helps to talk about it, but it’s difficult and I’ve not been able to very much” she said.
Thankfully, I knew silence is often the best answer, so I steadied myself to listen. She was 12 when it started and almost 22 when it stopped. In between, she lived in fear and in a mortal hell few can imagine.
She told me just booking the trip was one of the hardest things she had ever done, but she wanted to prove to herself she could do something alone on her own, and not go back into the mental prison that the abuse had created for her. She said arriving at the dock was so frightening, she drove away four times before actually stopping.
The darkness of the dock was not pleasant. She told me many things we take for granted are hurdles for her, but she said the hardest was the idea of being on a boat alone with another person, i.e, the guide.
I laughed, trying to lighten the moment and said “Well, we guides can be a pretty frightening bunch. You sure took your time sizing us/me up. I don’t think I’ve ever been stared at that much.”
She smiled and said “I wasn’t sizing you up Capt. Mac. I was so scared, I was trying not to throw up on your boat or on the dock!”
It was all I could do to not grab her and hug her, much like my daughter and make it all go away. Instead I lowered my head, said a silent prayer for her, and let my tears come out.
I could only imagine how she must have felt about being hugged. When I looked up, she had rod in hand and asked if she was expected to pay full price for the trip?
“Double,” I said “’cuz you’re a pain in the butt.”
Again she howled with laughter, nodding her head in agreement. “If so, I expect full service,” she quipped. “Will you cast for me?”
“I guess I’m gonna have to earn my money after all,” I smiled.
“Yes sir,” she retorted., “and if I holler, get the net!”
Back at the dock, I cleaned her fish, packed them up in a spare ice chest and walked her to her car. She drove away slowly, and I went to trailer my boat.
Just as I opened the door of my truck, her car pulled up. She jumped out, and gave me one of the best hugs I’ve ever had. I’d like to think as I watch her drive away again, she’d crossed some sort of healing threshold —as if a broken wire had been reconnected, but I will never know for sure.
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking. I do know the peace one feels when one experiences the healing power of fishing. She was an extraordinary young woman. I guess not everyone that brave gets medals or ribbons or plaques—if so people like her would have a boat load of them. I never knew her name.
Recent statistics show one in four women and one in six men were sexually molested before they were 18 years old—and that’s the ones that were reported. One can only speculate about the number of undisclosed abuses.
That means there are in excess of 43 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Of these 73 percent don’t tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year, 45 percent in excess of five years and sadly some never report or get help at all.
70 percent of these abuses occur to children under the age of 17. Sexual assault victimization is two to three times higher for children than for adults. The young woman that was on my boat that day was one of these victims. Thank God she got help, and I pray others in her situation will find the courage and strength to seek help as well.
• • •
March is a hard month to fish. It’s not to say there are no fish biting, far be that from the truth. The problem is what does one use to have a rod-bending day?
• Live bait can be scarce. Frozen has pretty much been worn-out for the past three months and artificial decisions can be mind-bending.
I have looked through my notes on the hard to choose bait choice month of March and here what is shows: Live bait gets the number one slot. Make sure the bait (whatever it is) has some life to it. Often the bait is very lethargic due to the cold water temperatures.
• Artificial comes in at number two. Soft plastics in new penny, morning glory and nuclear chicken are good color choices.
• Frozen is number three. A hint here is to get the freshest you can manage. Some of the bait has been in freezers since September or longer, and freezer-burned bait is not that productive.
• • •
Copano Bay • When the tide is moving, the mouth of Mission Day is good for reds and trout using live shrimp or cut mullet on a light Carolina rig. The deeper part of Copano Reef is a good place for black drum using frozen shrimp either free-lined or on a very light Carolina rig.
The sheepshead action is still good by the LBJ fishing pier. Use a heavy main line and light leaders and the smallest Kahle hook you can find. I use cut squid as it’s hard to get off the hook. Free-line is best, or a small split shot about 12 to 14 inches up from the hook.
Aransas Bay • With a light north wind, Nine Mile Point is a good place for trout using new penny Jerk Shad and a 1/16 ounce jig head. The shoreline close to Allyns Lake is a good place to set up for black drum using peeled shrimp on a light Carolina rig. Wades on the north side of Mud Island are good for trout in the deeper water and reds in the skinny water. Mud Minnows work well here as does finger mullet.
St. Charles Bay • The area close to Twins Creeks is good for black drum and a few keeper reds, using frozen or live shrimp. Top waters have worked for me here, as well, in bone and red colors. The area close to the old Turtle Pen area is good for reds, using cut mullet or menhaden. This area is best fished on a high tide, as it can get very shallow. Light Carolina rigs with cut mullet or finger mullet work well.
Carlos Bay • Carlos Trench is still the best spot for fish. Heavy Carolina rigs with mud minnows or finger mullet is the ticket. Throw into the deeper water of the cut, but be mindful this is a boat passage channel. The shallow shell in this area is good on warmer days, and high tides for black drum and reds. When fishing shallow, lighten your rig, meaning a light Carolina or free-line.
Mesquite Bay • The shoreline of Ballou Island is good for reds and black drum. Small cuts that run from the back water of this island mean a moving tide, and the fishing can be good. I like a silent cork with shrimp or free-line, with cut menhaden cast into the cuts. The shoreline of Roddy Island is a good wade for trout using jerk shad in pearl white or chartreuse colors.
Ayers Bay • Some good sheepshead action on the Second Chain using free-lined shrimp pieces or cut squid. Use small hooks here such as a Kahle 2/0. Some nice black drum can be caught on the east shoreline close to Ayers Dugout, using peeled shrimp on a fish finder rig.
THE BANK BITE
The west shoreline of St. Charles Bay is a good place for reds using cut mullet, menhaden or mud minnows. The key is wading out and casting into the deep edges that run along this shoreline. High tide is best here.
Contact Capt. Mac Gable at
Mac Attack Guide Service,
Email Capt. Mac Gable at email@example.com