It Goes with the Territory
EVERY PROFESSION HAS ITS OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS
Oftentimes, it’s not what you know so much as who you know. Every time veteran Baffin Bay guide Cliff Webb gets deep-stuck by a fish hook, which happens to him more often than most, he’s especially glad to have befriended next-door neighbor Stephen Leblanc.
Leblanc is a paramedic/firefighter for Corpus Christi — thanks for the service, Stephen — who’s contemplating a second career after retirement as a bay guide.
“I can’t count how many times I’ve been hooked,” Webb said. “It’s sort of like being a beekeeper. Every now and then, you’re going to get stung. But I call Stephen, and he hooks me up … er ... unhooks me up?”
This past summer, while wading the Texas surf at dawn, a fat speckled trout was close to hand when it jumped against a tight line and expelled the topwater it had eaten. The lure flew directly at Webb. He reacted instinctively to keep the plug out of his face — and took two barbs deep into a raised, horsehide-thick hand.
Leblanc was off duty that day and met Webb on the beach. He removed the hooks, glanced at the water, grabbed a rod and stayed long enough to catch a few trout of his own.
Two summers past, with a husband and wife aboard Webb’s boat, the wife hooked a fat redfish on a Mirrodine XL. The big fish slipped Webb’s grip as he brought it aboard, and one of the treble hooks got buried in the guide’s knee. The fish flipped a second time, came unpinned entirely, and punched a barb of the lure’s other hook in Webb’s opposite knee.
“We’d just gotten started, and fishing was great,” Webb said in explanation of his next move.
Rather than race back to port, he snipped both hooks just below their eyes — and kept fishing.
“It didn’t hurt that bad … except when I bumped my knees against the console,” Webb recalled.
That afternoon, he limped to Leblanc’s house.
“You been drinking at all today, Stephen?” Webb jokingly asked the medic. “No? Then I’m going to pour you one. Check this out.”
Webb got numbing shots in both knees and watched the trained medic deal with yet another of the pro’s “work-related” accidents.
Leblanc remembers Webb, who he considers tough as nails, making this comment as the second hook was pulled free. “Thanks again, Stephen. You know what? I think that numbing stuff’s starting to work now.”
Even Webb’s dog, Allie, a duckgrabbing Labrador retriever, benefits from the relationship. While she splashed through shallow beach water one morning, a fisherman unknowingly cast his lure directly in front of her.
“She caught that line across her chest and kept running, and the guy just let it come tight,” Webb recalled. “Got her good. She kind of knew what had happened and sat still until Stephen got there.”
Along their road as neighbors and friends, Leblanc and Webb have fished and surfed together often. Leblanc treasures that friendship and what it’s done for him.
“Cliff’s been really generous with his knowledge, really encouraged me to be a guide after I retire,” said the firefighter. “Hopefully, I’ve learned enough to keep myself out of those sticky situations he gets himself into sometimes.”
“Hmmph,” Webb finished with a smile. “If he’s going to be a beekeeper …”