THE CAPTAIN-CLIENT PRIVILEGE HAS A STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS.
Cliff Webb has spent more than half his life — and he’s no youngster — as a professional guide on Texas’ fabled Baffin Bay. Near the end of a conversation about something else, I asked if he had any funny stories to share — and then I listened. For a long time.
The “recurring theme” category, he said, involves inexperienced wade-fishermen trying to grab fish that they, themselves, hold out of reach.
“They’ll reel it up almost to the rod tip,” Webb said. “They’re holding 7 feet of rod and got 4 feet of line hanging off the tip, and they keep trying to hold the rod farther behind them with one hand and reach out with the other to grab the fish.”
One of his favorites involved three police officers. It was the highest-ranked of the three, all wading with their guide, who chased his hooked trout while the others watched in amusement.
“He stretched out both arms as far as they’d go in opposite directions,” he continued. “When he still couldn’t reach the fish, he kept walking in circles toward it like that was going to get him closer.”
The lower-ranked officers were sworn to keep that episode a secret. I was not.
A regular client Webb nicknamed “Daydreamer” is a good fisherman but easily distracted.
“Clouds, birds, boats. He’s always looking around, but he hardly ever looks at his lure or his rod tip,” Webb recalled.
One morning, Daydreamer was sitting on the bow, the toes of his flip-flops suspended just above the water as the boat drifted forward. His jig was closer to the boat than Daydreamer realized when he lifted his rod and unknowingly hung the hook point in the dangling bottom of his shoe.
He took another half-turn on the rod handle, and the line came taut.
“There’s a nice one, baby!” Daydreamer hollered back to his guide as he set the hook.
The point lodged itself firmly into the foam, and Daydreamer yanked the shoe right off his own foot.
The third candidate for column fodder was, like a few of my old waterfowl clients, a bit of a bragger, always showing up with something new, and also quick to tell everyone what he paid for it.
“Check out this new rod,” he told Webb as he climbed on board one morning. “Four … hundred … bucks. Best there is.”
Webb knew what it was. He had half a dozen of them at the house. He held his tongue and offered a compliment.
As they drifted across clear, shallow water, the rod performed to expectation. One redfish after another was whipped into submission by its lightweight strength.
“Check it out,” Webb said casually to his customer. “That’s one of the biggest blue crabs I’ve ever seen in this bay.”
Just a few feet off the port bow, perched atop the rock like it was king of the hill, was a fat blue crab. (Everybody sees this coming, right?) Wondering how fast that crab might scuttle away if provoked, the client poked that crab right in the eye with about $20 worth of the $400 rod.
The crab was neither impressed by the rod nor amused by the intrusion. It responded by thrusting forward a pincer and snapping off about 2 inches of payback.
Webb has many stories. If you ever meet the guide, ask him to tell you two: the one about our unprecedented speckled trout trip in 1995, only because it was his and my best-ever … and the one about the exotic dancer.