“Thanks, but I want to hook my own fish,” said the ten year old youngster when I tried to hand him my rod as soon as the big fish hammered the Swim bait and started peeling off drag. “It wouldn’t really be mine if I you hooked him!” I had passed up several flocks of gulls working over trout hoping to put the young angler on a good redfish when we stumbled up on this school of oversize reds ganged up on a fifteen foot break.They were an absolute gift from heaven.Every time our lure bounced across the magic spot it was engulfed by another thick shouldered red. His uncle had already caught and released three fish on as many casts and my initial cast was immediately met with a solid thump as well.Cal had hooked two of his own, but one pulled off and the other one broke his line. He didn’t appear to be the least bit dismayed, however, as he stood next to me in the drizzling rain eagerly waiting to net the fish. After releasing the red I made another cast and handed him my rod with the lure still slowly sinking to the bottom.I was tying another lure on his line when he rocked back sporting a confident smile and a bent rod.Once again, however, his fish peeled off several yards of line before coming unbuttoned for no apparent reason.“I don’t know what I did wrong, but I don’t think I am going to catch one,” he said while slowly reeling in the slack line. And so the pressure continued to build as this trip was a Christmas present from his Uncle. Ken, a regular client that has fished with me for years, had called back in the summer and asked if I would call him as soon as the redfish bite improved.“Things are pretty tight for Cal and his Mom,” said Ken, “and I know catching a nice red would really make it a special Christmas!” Talk about pressure.I am reluctant to ever call any client and tell him that the fish are biting and here I was knowing this bite couldn’t last forever. Judging by the look in his eye, Ken was sharing my same concerns. As it turned out, the redfish that inexplicably pulled off was indeed the last redfish the youngster hooked and I did everything possible over the next four hours to make it happen just one more time.His Uncle and I caught and released several more, but much to my chagrin, Cal was right….it just wasn’t his day. I didn’t care if I ever fished again by the time I tied the boat up at the dock and Cal and his Uncle gathered up their extra clothing and headed to the truck.Under any other circumstances I would have been extremely pleased with the way the day had gone, but I had failed to fulfill Ken’s wishes for that special Christmas present for his nephew. I hadn’t even noticed that it was starting to rain even harder until I felt Cal pulling on the sleeve of my raincoat.“Capt. Dickie…my Uncle asked me to give you this,” he said holding out a soggy envelope.One of us fumbled the exchange and the envelope opened spilling the day’s fee on the dock. “Wow….that is a lot of money,” said the wide eyed youngster as he scrambled to snag a bill headed for the water.“I didn’t know it cost that much to go fishing!”

“That innocent statement sealed the deal and, if possible, I am now feeling even more miserable about the day.” After moving under the covered breezeway for the customary goodbyes, Cal suddenly felt the need to share his well-guarded secret.“Don’t feel bad Capt. Dickie,” he said in a barely audible whisper. “Uncle Kenny feels kinda bad because he thought this was what I really wanted and I had a great time, but it wasn’t what I really wanted the most.” “I was hoping he was going to just give me some money like he usually does and I was going to get Mom’s glasses fixed or buy her a new toaster.She’s just great!”“Thank you Jesus,” I thought to myself as I stuffed my day’s fee deep inside Cal’s pocket, gave him a hug and wished him a Merry Christmas.As it turned out, we both got a special Christmas gift this year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!