Florida’s Space Coast is famous for its sightfishing opportunities. It’s an interesting phenomenon. Sounds simple enough, search for the fish and once you see them cast a lure or natural bait to their location and let skill or lady luck hook you up. To “sight fish” you first have to see the fish, but what if you couldn’t see?
It was early summer of 2005; I received a call from a client asking if he could bring a blind person with him on his next charter. The question took me back for a second with worries of what that simple request may entail. Will he always wear a life jacket? Will he be able to cast? Can I really provide him with an enjoyable trip? What will he expect from the outing? Will I need any special equipment?
The simple questions had simple answers and I agreed to give it a go. The date was set, weeks in advance, and the worries of the moment were gone until the day that Robert, my client and Dick, the blind guy, would show up at the Banana River dock ready to go fishing. The Kelly Park boat ramp has two handicap parks that at least makes the trip to the boat a short one.
They walked down a narrow walkway that separated the two boat ramps. Dick’s right arm was trustingly locked in Robert’s to be lead out the dock and alongside the waiting boat. Using a white walking stick with a red tip on the end Dick quickly scoped out the configuration of the boat’s cockpit by dragging the walking stick across the structures. This process, according to Dick, gives him a mental picture of his next task, which in this case was boarding the boat.
Without hesitation Dick stepped precisely onto the deck of the boat beside a leaning seat. He then used the walking stick to proceed to the front where he stationed himself on the padded ice chest that sets in front of the center consol. He was ready to go fishing.
Dick is without sight, but his other senses are developed well beyond normal. Using his God given instincts and physical strength Dick maneuvered his first Banana River redfish to the side of the boat. At every point along the way as he brought the redfish towards the boat he responded instantaneously to shouted commands to turn him right or turn him left or raise the rod tip. I am sure spectators from an on-looking boat would have no idea that Dick was blind. He enjoyed all the thrills of any other angler except the one of visually inspecting the fish. He didn’t know without assistance if the fish was “normal” with one spot on each side of the tail or if it had multiple spots. He didn’t know when the fish was laid along side the law stick it measured 23 inches until he was told. He soaked up information that was given to him verbally and could probably repeat it to anyone interested in listening today.
But, did it really matter that he could not see the fish? Not to Dick. He had enjoyed one more of life’s many pleasures that so many of us take for granted and so many like him never get to experience. Dick has long ago accepted his handicap and goes on about his life making the best of every day. Just as many fishing guides approach their chosen profession with a passion that rivals a minister spreading the gospel of the Word to a flock of eager listeners, Dick has a passion of his own.
All day long, without saying a word, Dick was teaching the rewards of patience and the skill of “feel” in fishing. Just capitalize the word “PATIENCE” and think about it. We could all improve our own fishing and catching skills by duplicating Dick’s patient deliberate actions. Dick was demonstrating to us all the need for a new phrase in the vocabulary of fishing. Sight-less fishing for reds!
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