If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that I could probably afford to take a really nice vacation. It's funny though, no matter what we do for a living it seems to always turn into a job. So when someone steps on my boat and makes that comment, I just flash them a big smile and jokingly reply, "Yep that's what they tell me."
Yet all the while I'm thinking about the last couple of weeks I've worked without a day off. How sore my back is from too many days in choppy seas. My constant worry about a set of outboard engines with too many hours on them. Not to mention the constant barrage of other concerns and issues my customers cannot see and might not understand if they could, all part of the life of a fishing guide, all part of that greatest job in the world.
All joking aside, and if you could ever get a couple dozen fishing guides to give you a straight answer, all this fun in the sun is a good deal more stressful than anybody looking in from the outside would ever imagine.
One of the greatest sources of stress is the simple act of climbing on a boat every morning with tunnel vision. A charter captain must not only provide a great time on the water but must also produce fish, and this will definitely wear on you over time. People don't care about how many or how big you caught yesterday or what's planned for tomorrow, their day is today and it's time for you to show what you're made of. This added to a multitude of constant mechanical issues, finicky weather, late fish migrations, oil spills, short seasons and a down economy, will make even the best of them wonder if he had lost his mind when he chose this career.
I was recently thinking about these very issues and I am sure that if I sat here long enough, as with any profession, I could find even more to be cynical about. I think that each and every one of us can do the same in our profession.
As with most people I think it's easy to focus more on your trials than on your gifts, but with me it's hard to think about what I do for a living without thinking of the people that I have come in contact with over the years. The very people, and the great days on the water, that appealed to me from the start. The lifelong friendships that have been sparked from a simple phone call and a fishing trip aboard my boat. The business relationships that have evolved between me and a couple of large corporations, that make this down economy a little easier to survive.
I think about the opportunity that I get to be there when a man catches his fish of a lifetime. The ability to just be a part of a young boy catching a fish that is longer than he is tall. The days that just simply put a smile on your face watching young kids have the time of their lives catching fish just as fast as they can reel them in. A large smile on the face of someone holding a fish in front of a camera , that was just a few hours ago fearful of even losing sight of land, will knock me back to reality and remind me of why I chose to work fourteen hour days. I think about how much it means to me personally to realize that a family would choose to make me a part of their vacation year after year.
I can't speak for every person who has made his living as a hunting or fishing guide, but for me it was the thought of being outdoors, doing what I loved most, that ultimately spurred me to quit a full time job and take the risk. Looking back now I begin to realize that I had no clue what I was getting into. It wasn't the hunting and fishing that would keep me going and bring me to where I am today. It was the people that made it all worthwhile, and it is still the people today that make me want to be a better fisherman. If it weren't for the men and women that patronize my business, I would be back to the old nine to five to pay the bills.
This all takes me to a phone call I received recently from a gentleman wanting to book a fishing trip for himself and three young children. He was concerned about sea sickness and just making sure the kids caught fish and had a good time. On the day of the trip the seas were fairly cooperative so we decided to make a run just far enough to catch kingfish. To help my deckhand with the kids I tied to an oil rig , set out a couple drift lines, and began working the chum churn. Within moments the fish came to meet us. It looked like an aquarium under my boat filled with trigger fish, chubs, spade fish and even the gray snapper in a massive ball feeding on the chum. Moments later we hooked the first of many kings, and while my deckhand was helping one kid with the rod, I found myself on my knees resting my arms on the gunwale beside a seven year old young man who could barely see over the edge, telling him the name of the different fish that were feeding just out of arms reach. As I leaned there looking at the wonderment on his face I was listening to the laughter of the others fighting the kingfish. I realized they have been right all along. I have the greatest job in the world.