Your basic Rockport, Texas, fishing guide normally comes in two distinct flavors – old and crusty or young and enthusiastic. After fishing with about a dozen different guides around Rockport during the past 13 years or so, I still can’t decide which kind of guide I like better.
Age doesn’t have a whole lot to do with which category a certain guide falls into. Some of the old and crusty guides are pretty young, and some of the young and enthusiastic guides are actually pretty old, age wise. I guess it’s more of a state of mind thing than a calendar thing.
The old and crusty guides know everything about everything, and they don’t mind telling you about it. They’re generally pretty opinionated, and they’re generally right. They don’t mind answering questions, even stupid questions like I ask, but they don’t appreciate being asked the same question twice. But then, who does?
Your basic old and crusty fishing guide is, without question, the undisputed captain of his vessel, whether it’s a 50-foot offshore rig or a 17-foot bay boat. He knows where everything is, exactly, and can probably put his hand on any particular item in the dark, in 6-foot swells, blindfolded. But you’ll have to blindfold him. I’ll pass.
When you step onto the deck of the old and crusty guide’s boat, you get the distinct feeling you’re a guest. Maybe a welcome guest, maybe not. It depends on how many times you ask the same question. As a guest you’re expected to behave yourself and try not to fall overboard. And catch fish.
The main goal of fishing with a guide at Rockport is, after all, catching fish. The first time my wife and I fished with a guide, the fish weren’t biting for a while, so I decided to take a break. My wife was still fishing, and I figured if she started to get some bites I’d start again. So I set my rod down and dug into our cooler for a snack.
After a few minutes our old and crusty guide gave me A Look, and asked me if I was going to eat, or fish. I said I was taking a break. I had the distinct feeling I had offended him, so I picked up my rod and started fishing again. And sure enough, I started to catch fish.
I thought I had really made a big mistake, and was in trouble, and my guide would blackball me, maybe write my name on the bathroom wall at the Boiling Pot or Charlotte Plummers, with a note that I wasn’t serious about fishing, and the other guides would all mysteriously be busy when I called them. But he wasn’t actually mad at me, because I had followed directions and caught fish.
The thing about the old and crusty guides is that they want to do their jobs, and they expect their clients to do their jobs, too. The guide’s job is to take you out and find fish. Your job is to catch fish. As long as everyone does his job, it all works out fine. If you want history, or sea stories, or the best fishing advice you’ll get anywhere, you need to fish with one of those old and crusty guides. I’ve never fished with one of them without learning something, and having a great time. It’s like fishing with Hemingway.
Captain Ed Zielinski (pronounced ‘Ed’), for example, taught me a new fishing knot last weekend. I thought I knew most of the fishing knots I needed, but I’d never seen this one. He called it the Zielinski Spider Knot, and it’s a very handy knot to know. I can’t tell you how to tie it, of course. Not that it’s a hard knot to tie, but I don’t want to give away Captain Ed’s knot.
Your basic young and enthusiastic Rockport fishing guide is often just as knowledgeable about where and how to catch fish as your old and crusty guide, and often knows as much history about the area, and sometimes even has just about as many sea stories to tell. The difference is that your young and enthusiastic guide will answer the same question twice, sometimes three times, before he throws you overboard. That fact alone has saved me from getting wet a few times.
Your young and enthusiastic guide is just as dedicated to helping you catch fish, and usually just as good at it, as your old and crusty guide, but he’s generally more laid back about it. You’re not going to go wrong with either guide, and you generally can’t tell which kind you’ve got until you’ve fished with him a while, anyway.
What I recommend is fishing at least two days at Rockport, one day with an old and crusty guide, and one day with a young and enthusiastic guide. And then let me know which one you like best. I don’t think it really matters much, though, since a day on the water at Rockport beats a day doing just about anything else, anyway.
The only thing you have to make absolutely sure of, when fishing with either kind of guide, is never to take bananas on the boat . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who doesn’t eat bananas, anyway. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or email@example.com