“How mad are you?”

“How mad are you?”
As the boat coasted to a stop all eyes scanned the calm protected flat for signs of life, a telltale ripple of nervous water that could give away a big fish's location or simply a raft of bait bunched up along a piece of structure. After a brief moment of observation it was plain to see that this stretch of water was alive and definitely worthy of a much closer look. The anchor was set and three anxious anglers went over the gunnels in unison with high hopes of tangling with some big fish until they felt the bottom. The beautiful flat they had so wanted to fish just minutes earlier now seemed to be the reincarnation of the Bataan Death March or Trail of Tears. It's funny how sinking in soft mud to your crotch has that affect on people. Even the most diehard of anglers has a point at which they cry "uncle" and it usually coincides with deep "suck the life out of you" mud.

Like a punch line from the famous comedian R.D. Mercer who so frequently asks, "Just how big an ol' boy are you?" You must ask yourself, "How mad at those fish are you?" For years there was no mud too deep, no water too cold, or no climate too nasty if it meant a shot a stud trout. The early morning treks into places most sane individuals would never even entertain fishing let alone go there on purpose and be excited about it are much fewer and farther between now. I still completely embrace the opportunity and love the thrill of the pursuit but that drive has become somewhat tempered. I promise I will be last to admit that age has anything to do with this because vanity will not allow me to go there. Either way you go, adjustments have to be made and I have already begun that phase of my fishing career.

One of the coolest concepts I have begun to employ came from my son Hunter and his passion for shooting ducks. For those of you have never met my son he is absolutely consumed with hunting and fishing, particularly waterfowl hunting. On our duck lease in Louisiana we have some water that was holding a good amount of birds but it was difficult to hunt. Hunter's solution was a camo float tube, the perfect blend of stealth and comfort. He has employed that technique with loads of success and I have since taken the same technique to the bay. The float tube is the perfect answer to the boggy bottoms that make the long hours of wading miserable. If the bottom is firm enough to walk in you can simply drag the tube behind you and use it for storage. If the bottom gets bad you simply ease into the seat and continue to enjoy your time on the water with much less effort. It's a tremendous tool for fishermen and is extremely under utilized. The comfort you are afforded is ridiculous not mention the safety aspects that go along with it. A float tube could be a lifesaver, especially during these cold weather months. That's a win-win situation in my book.

Now another creature comfort that I have found recently are my new breathable waders from Gulf Coast Waders. The first pair I tried on I fell in love with, similar to finding shoes that really fit. The big difference with these waders is the cut; they are tapered in a way that allows for nearly three more inches at the top. Now for some of you that may not be a big deal but for those of us who are vertically challenged it's a nice bonus. The extra cut and taper of the waders also allows for more room to layer up during cold months without sacrificing movement or comfort. The extra room also helps the folks who may have packed on a few pounds over the holiday, a category that I certainly fall into. Probably the best thing in the equation is the good folks at Gulf Coast Waders are Texas fishermen just like all of us so they have a particular interest in the products they make. I have been really happy with their waders and service along with their willingness to listen to ideas about how to make their stuff even better. Their waders make a really nice addition to any fisherman's arsenal. Learn more at www.gulfcoastwaders.com.

Now that we have tried to make your life on the water a little easier and a lot more comfortable I want to take just a minute to remind everyone about cold water safety. Several years ago I wrote about a really close friend of mine who miraculously was saved after his boat capsized one winter day. There are some really serious precautions everyone should take during this time of the year. The most obvious precaution is a Personal Floatation Device. The new styles that are self inflating are extremely comfortable and make it easy to wear all day long. Older styles should still be worn every time the big motor is running and the driver needs to have the "kill" switch connected. Other very good items to have in your possession are extra clothes or a slicker suit in case someone gets wet along with a thermal safety blanket that can be purchased in any camping section. Perhaps one of the smallest yet most important items is a whistle. Put one on your life jacket or maybe wear one around your neck, they are worth their weight in gold if you need to get someone's attention or signal for help. My friend who capsized told me how close he was to not being picked up due to the fact that nobody could hear him holler from his over turned boat. As a matter of fact several boats passed him by without ever noticing him. A whistle is a no nonsense and very effective tool that will certainly get the job done under these circumstances.

I hope some of the information and techniques that I have described help you throughout the winter and for years to come. My family and I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.