June 01, 2020

Family Matters by Capt. Wiley Crowson

Father and Daughter with Fish

 "Take care of our lakes and waterways, as we are merely borrowing them from our children''. As not only a full time fishing and hunting guide, but a father, I find this quote replaying over and over in my head as I go throughout my day pursuing my career and passion in the outdoors. I am even more fortunate to have grown up in and now have my own family who has instilled this passion and most importantly supported this career I've chosen to lead.

 I was fortunate enough to have 2 grandfathers and a father who carried me along with them throughout my young life on their annual hunting trips to their deer leases in the Texas Hill Country or fishing trips to Texas coastal towns like Port O' Connor and Matagorda. It was somewhere during these trips that I developed a love for the outdoors, like they had. Pair that love of the outdoors with a personality, who as my grandmother said, "could make friends with a fencepost but argue with a stop sign", it became obvious as I got older and went off to college, a career working with people in the outdoors was meant to be.

 Though both grandfathers have since passed on and I've moved nearly 250 miles away from my parents to the deep South Texas Coastal Brush Country, their words and teachings still ring in my head throughout my daily life as I have become a father myself to an 8 year old who's personality and stubborn nature rivals only that of her father. I have started reminiscing about some of the hunting or fishing trips I was fortunate enough to get carried along with as a child by my grandfathers and father. Doing things like, sitting in a deer blind in the Texas Hill Country during below freezing temperatures of the Y2K scare, taking a float plane to a chain of barrier islands off the coast of Louisiana for a 3 day fishing excursion, or catching big trout and redfish up and down the Texas Coast. All of these experiences as a youth have molded and developed my passion for what I do today, and for that I am forever grateful.

 The demands of being a full-time guide sometime cause me to neglect moments and opportunities to spend as much time with my daughter as I'd prefer, but as she's gotten older, I have tried to carve out more time to start doing what my father and grandfather's did for me, introducing her to the experiences of the outdoors and nature that we have at our dispose living in the great state of Texas. A recent trip to the magical waters of Baffin Bay is one I hope she never forgets; I know I never will.

 My buddy William and I decided we were going to take our respective kids on a relaxing shoreline fishing trip to Baffin Bay one evening after work to try to have our kid's catch their first redfish. Our wives packed a cooler of snacks and drinks for the kids while the William and I packed our own "adult cooler" to occupy our time sitting on the back of the flat-bed truck while the kids played and we waited on a fish to swim by and pick up the cut mullet we had put on the bottom with one of the 5 rods we had strung out along the shoreline. As the kids played and the dads tilted a few pops back and the evening wore on with the only excitement being a few Hardheads taking the bait, but as the sun sunk and hit the horizon and the stiff southeasterly breeze started to subside, a rod doubles over and the drag starts singing, this was no Hardhead.... Aubrey, my daughter, had drawn the first big fish and the fight was on. After about 5 minutes she landed her first Redfish, a perfect 24" slot red. After a few pictures and high-fives the kids went back to playing in the shallow tide pool nearby when another rod went off. It was Miles' turn, William's son, to grab the rod and catch a fish. It was a nearly identical Redfish to Aubrey's previous fish. Now both dads are pumped, the trip was not in vain and whatever happened next was just icing on the cake.

 As the sun sank below the horizon and day was starting to turn to evening, the far rod on the shoreline doubled over and the rebar rod-holder that was jammed into the mud was almost donated to the depths of Baffin Bay. If an NFL scout would have had his stop watch on us as we sprinted towards the rod, I have no doubt we would have been clocked in the sub 4.4's. William got to the rod first, set the hook, handed it to Aubrey, and the fight was on. The next 30 minutes were something I will never forget, and I hope she won't either. As the drag from that old Shimano reel whined, Aubrey fought the Baffin monster, taking every trick this old beast had up his sleeve throughout the fight. While this bull red was giving her all they could handle we noticed one of the other rods doubled over also, DOUBLE HOOK UP! Miles' was up on the other rod while Aubrey had her hands full with her Baffin giant. Both kids struggled and reeled, battling these over-sized bruisers all by themselves until both fish had enough and hit the shoreline. Both of these Redfish measured over the 45" mark and to this day, I don't know who was more pumped up, the kids or the dads!! After multiple pictures, both fish were released to fight another day, and we packed up our gear and headed for home. The near hour long drive back home through the ranch to the house was filled with laughter, song, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until the back seat went quiet and both kids were sound asleep, sawing logs.

 As a guide, I have been a part of a lot of my client’s most memorable hunting or fishing experiences, and seeing the unmistakable joy on their faces is worth more than any financial tip could ever be, but on the other hand, the job can be extremely stressful for the guide when you are expected to produce every time out. As I think back to the trips years ago with my grandfather's and father, I can recall memorable trips we had hunting or catching big fish. I can also recall trips that were cut short by technical problems along the way as well as many trips when we came home empty handed and our tails tucked between our legs. They are what made me who I am today. It was a day where we were just father and daughter or father and son just hanging out having fun fishing and it turned out to be a truly unbelievable experience. I hope that as time goes on, Aubrey and I will share many more experiences in the outdoors, and I pray that one day when she’s older, she’ll look back and smile remembering these precious times we get to spend in the outdoors with our family.

Capt. Wiley Crowson