I did it. I finally pushed past my fears and plunged into the abyss that is the Gulf of Mexico (well, figuratively plunged. I actually just waded). Until yesterday I hadn’t been wade fishing since whenever it was that my back started really giving me trouble. The water has been absolutely perfect for wade fishing for over a week now, and I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I have been going to water therapy for three weeks now, so it was time to test out whether all that strengthening has done any good. After church we had some lunch and I tried to watch the Astros game (they ended up losing anyway when a furious 9th inning, two out rally fell just short. Chris watched it for me). I was doing my best to get all the way to the start of the Little League World Series final game (The U.S. team lost to Japan in a slugfest, 18-11. Read about it in the paper this morning). Both of which would have been worthy ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. Not to mention the inevitable nap that would have reared its ugly head and deprived me of key game highlights. Nope. Not this guy. I went fishing.
Now some restrictions did apply. Since the meds I’m taking have been doing a number on my head, I had to promise to let Chris know where I was and if I moved. Easy enough. I also had to change sites from my preferred fishing hole right in front of WalMart. I just can’t negotiate the rocks there any longer. Going into the water is no problem, but I just don’t have the strength to get out any more. We dutifully purchased one of the yearly parking passes, though, so I just moved up closer to 61st Street and walled across some sand. Safe and sound.
The negative about getting closer to 61st Street, though is that the tourists also like sand. And they were out in force. Well, I have seen it much more crowded, but in this case there was one family with about ten children along with numerous others. The ten kid family all had biblical names, too. I heard Josh, Jacob, and Isaiah, among others. Especially Isaiah. They were yelling at him the whole three or four hours I was there. I think I would have liked Isaiah. I did my best to locate myself apart from their play area, but, totally unaware of the current, they kept getting closer and closer to my cast area. And they were doing typically stupid tourist things, the worst of which was floating on a surfboard (there were no waves at all. Literally no waves). The teenage girl who insisted on riding it ended up well past the second sand bar, and had to be helped back by one of the adults in their group.
For some reason, though, when I started catching fish, everybody stayed clear of me. That was kind of unusual, too. Usually someone will come right over and want to see what I caught. I appreciated the distance, though, because just about every cast resulted in a strike of some kind. Started out with those tarpon wannabes, the ladyfish. They are about eight inches of skinny nonsense. They steal perfectly good live shrimp and when they get hooked they fight like their older and much bigger cousins, leaping from the water and twisting and turning. Thankfully they were usually able to free themselves before I had to deal with them. Another group of pretenders was the small black drum school that set up shop near me. They were fun to fight with, but not big enough to eat, so they were returned to the wild. So did I catch anything worth keeping? Well, yes. See, my whole purpose was to get at least enough to fry up when Zakary and his family come down. And I think I accomplished my goal. I landed three good sized speckled trout and a batch of whiting, all good fish fry fodder.
As I was leaving, I became the poster boy of the tourism bureau. The tourists swarmed me from all sides, jockeying for a better sight line of the net with the fish in it. Parents ran for their phones to take pictures. One little girl was wailing at the top of her lungs. Her Dad was pushing her closer and closer so she could “see the fishies.” I told him not to force her. The questions were flying from everywhere. “What are you going to do with those?” Answer: “I’m going to feed my family.” “Are those fish?” Answer: (well, I ignored that one, since it came from an adult). “What kind of fish are they?” Answer: “Speckled trout and whiting.” Reply: “I’ve never heard of either of those kind of fish. My boss would probably know what you’re talking about. Me? If it’s not pike or walleye I have no idea what it is.”
My favorite was the young teenager who very politely asked me to stop so she could take a picture. And then she asked, “Where did you get those?” Now she had just watched me walk in from the water, so I pointed back over my shoulder with my fishing pole and said, “Out there.” Not satisfied, she pressed, “No, where? Where did you get them?” Amused, I again pointed with my pole and replied, “Right out there.” Realization now dawning, she tried one more time, “You mean where we just were?” At that I took on the persona of the wizened old fisherman, looked her straight in the eye and, in my very best old fisherman-guy voice, said with a wink, “Yep.” Her eyes got as big as those old silver dollars (not the little quarter sized new ones). She looked at me. She looked out at the Gulf. She looked over at her mom. She looked down at the fish. And she quietly retreated. Away from the water.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 says, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
Father, thank you for the catch of fish yesterday. Thank you as well for the interchange with the children. That made it even more worthwhile. Amen.