T he trip I was told was a special needs trip. I had fished these clients many times before and so I found it a little strange I was contacted by the daughter instead of the gentleman who normally booked the trip with me over the many past years.
She said “You don’t know me, but my Dad and brother have fished with you many times and I would like to book a trip for the three of us.” We settled on a date and I covered the usual items required and recommended for a trip with me. The young lady hesitated when I asked how her father and brother were doing.
“My brother is fine but my father is having some memory issues. Capt. Mac he doesn’t remember you but he does remember your boat and your guide business name, Mac Attack Guide Service. I must tell you these days we don’t know what to expect and it’s only fair that I warn you that he IS NOT the same man you have fished with over the years. It’s quite possible he will remember nothing of how to fish. I am not sure if you take ‘special needs’ trips and if you would rather not take him/us fishing my brother and I will completely understand. He speaks about his past fishing trips and seems to recall vivid detail of most all the trips he took with you. He simply states he wants to fish with Mac Attack Guide Service on the grey boat with the old rusty anchor.
“Has he been a danger to himself or others” I asked, “since his memory decline?”
“Not at all but rather he is more subdued and often will not participate in conversations or activities” she said.
“My brother is scared you will have to teach him how to fish all over again.”
I laughed and said, “That’s not much different than most trips I have with new clients!”
She laughed too. “This is the thing though; the responsibility for his safety and wellbeing rests with me while on my boat.”
“Capt. Mac, he has never demonstrated any violence or outbursts but he may not remember things you have told him just minutes before so you might have to repeat yourself OFTEN.”
“Doesn’t seem much different than what I do on most trips,” I jokingly said, and again I could hear her snicker. “Bring your father and let’s see how it goes. If all else fails we can always cut the trip short and come back early.”
“Thank you,” she replied with a quivering voice.
It’s important to note here that guides often make notes to themselves if they elect to take on clients with special needs, as it can and often does dictate the strategy for fishing that day. After the safety concerns are dealt with, the goal comes back to trying to have a fun day catching fish. Most trips like this cancel for obvious reasons: deterioration of the special condition or fear of the unknown, with the latter the main reason.
They arrived and had I not known of the dementia, I doubt I would have noticed as the gentleman approached my boat. He seemed to not know how to get onto my boat, so I quickly demonstrated and he said “Thanks Capt. Mac. Two platforms— one moving one not, has always made me nervous.”
“I do it most mornings and I still have to watch my step,” I said.
We shook hands. “Good to see you again” I said, “but I am sorry I don’t remember your first name (I always called him mister ________ ).”
“Well” he gleefully stated, “its ________.”
“Ah, yes, thank you for telling me. I almost never forget a face but I am sorely lacking in remembering names!”
“I’m sorely lacking in remembering a lot of things these days I am told” he said with a laugh.
“You help me with names and I will help you with the rest” I chimed back.
“Deal” he said.
The daughter at this point looked like a load had been lifted but for what reason I didn’t know her brother pulled me to the side and told me to focus on his father and sister, for he knew his way around my boat after the many trips we had taken together. Sounded like a good plan to me. For some strange reason I had the distinct feeling someone was going to get schooled in today’s fishing and it wasn’t the elderly gentlemen in question.
At our first stop he grabbed a rod, informed me the reel handle was on the wrong side and asked if we were using shrimp or croaker.
I smiled at the daughter while the son looked on in amazement. When I tell you this gentleman just about cast all the line off my reel, I am not exaggerating. He then handed the rod to his daughter and told me he was going to help her today, as she had not fished much. He asked me to help his son, for, he stated in a loud voice, “he doesn’t really know what he is doing either.”
“What are you saying, Dad? I’ve fished with you for years!”
“Yeah, and who always caught the most fish?”
The young man looked like he was in a game of spades and just got trumped with an ace.
First spot—10 fish in the box, 9 of which were caught by the father and daughter team.
“Let’s go to that reef where the whooping cranes were,” he said.
“Huh? I have no clue what you are talking about” I said.
“OFGS” he said, “where the small barge is tied to the post, we caught some reds there,” he said, exasperated.
At this point, I’m thinking I will let him drive! His daughter and son just looked at me and shrugged their shoulders.
At the second stop, it was much of the same, mostly the daughter and son dancing to their (forgetful?) father’s tune. Oh there were memory issues, no doubt, like a few times he went for bait and forgot where the live well was, or that he was going for bait at all, or that he had caught a 22-inch trout. Once he asked me my name and how I spelled it, and if the hotel served supper, but his level of detail in fishing was uncanny. How I tied my knots, what size hook to use, where to hook the bait, and that he didn’t require a fishing license because he was, in his words, OVER-AGED. The truth is, had I not been told, I would have not known a thing and chalked up any issues to old age-related memory.
The reds that day didn’t want to play but the black drum and trout did so we ended up with a good box of fish. It was a good day, a day much different than what I was expecting and MUCH different than his kids had prepared themselves for.
I know dementia and Alzheimer’s and the other memory depreciating disorders are indeed real and the above situation, while real, might be the exception rather than the rule. I just remember a time when age-related memory issues were expected and to some degree respected as a graceful sign of old age. Today we have a names for it, we watch for it and God help the person that has that label for truly much will be noticed whether it be real or not. We watch closely those people and things we care about. I hear ticks in my motor that aren’t anything more than bad gas. I went ballistic when my father started limping in his 70’s – little did I know he had sustained injuries to both legs in the battle at Iwo Jima. Truth is he never noticed the limp, just me.
After the fish were cleaned the gentleman shook my hand and he handed me some money in the exchange.
“Thank you” I said, “but your kids have already paid for the trip.”
“No” he said, it’s a tip. You earned it today. I’ve enjoyed fishing with you over the years and I hold many fond memories. See you next time and thank you!”
“I look forward to it!” I replied.
His daughter came and thanked me as well. As she walked off she turned and said, “What happened out there today? It was like my Old Dad was back.”
“I don’t know ma’am, I just told him where the bait was.”
October brings the cooler weather most of us look forward too after a long hot summer. The trick to catching fish is asking questions. Seek those that frequent the waters on a regular basis. When the cooler temperatures hit it changes the feeding habits of bay fish, including what they feed on. You can learn much, especially from lure anglers. They are a persistent type angler and if you are lucky enough for a successful one to share his or her secret, mimicking their presentation with bait or like-type lures is a great way to get hooked up.
Copano Bay — The LBJ causeway construction is still underway so be careful. On high tide the area close to Turtle Pen is a good place for reds using free lined finger mullet. The LBJ causeway fishing pier is holding some nice sheep head. The key here is braided line and small hooks tipped with squid or shrimp. At the slightest tap set the hook. Sheepies love to hang under and around the bridge and their pilings so target those areas. The deep edges of Hannibal Point are a good place for trout using piggy perch free lined.
Aransas Bay — Grass Island Reef is a good place for trout using live shrimp or croaker free lined. The outer edges of Ninemile Point just off Key Allegro are a good place for flounder using fresh dead shrimp bounced or slowly jigged off the bottom. Use a light weight, just enough to get the bait on the bottom and if you feel a tap wait just a few seconds before setting the hook. Wades down Blackjack Point are good for reds using finger mullet or cut menhaden free lined.
St Charles Bay — Bird Point has some keeper reds frequenting the area. Cut mullet on a light Carolina rig work well here as do Berkley new penny Jerk Shad. Drifts across Cow Chip still produce reds using soft plastics in new penny and morning glory colors. Some black drum are close to Salt Creek; use live shrimp on a light Carolina rig.
Carlos Bay — If the temperatures drop more than 20 degrees the edges of Carlos Trench are a good place for reds and trout using free lined croaker. Drifts across Carlos Lake using top waters in blue and gold and red and white colors are good for trout and reds.
Mesquite Bay — S Reef is holding some trout; free lined croaker is best here. The northeast shoreline is a good place for reds using cut mullet or menhaden or a light Carolina rig. The west shoreline just off Bludworth Island is a good wade for reds and trout using soft plastics in morning glory and nuclear chicken colors.
Ayers Bay — This is a good time to bottom fish for big drum in this bay. The east shoreline is a good spot with a light Carolina rig free lined using cracked crab or jumbo shrimp works best. You may still find some trout on Ayers Reef with free lined croaker the best bait. The shoreline just off Rattlesnake Island is a good place for sheep head using a silent cork and live shrimp.
Location: Live Oak Point is a good wade for trout. This area has some big trout this time of year but patience is needed along with a very slow wading technique. Croaker work well here free lined as well as red and gold spoons. Super Spooks in bone color can be good as well on calm days.
Email Capt. Mac Gable at [email protected]