Austin wanted a picture of this fish. "Hold him like a man!" he commanded.
The next day Austin and I fished together turned out to be when a stormy northwester was rolling down the Gulf Coast. I assumed we'd have to cancel, but Austin laughed at the suggestion. We tossed gear into the skiff while the north wind tore through the usually placid bayou, rattling the palms around us. As we got into our foul weather gear, I found it hard to be optimistic. Austin called to Bill, the collector of ramp fees, "I know it's no fishing day! I just want to get paid!"
I hoped this was merely the grim joke it appeared to be, but I was ambivalent about our prospects, and my pessimism increased as Austin powered his Hells Bay skiff over an angry gray chop. After repeated lashings of 40-mph cold saltwater, I moved back to the downwind side of the boat. I tried to look where we were going, but I was soon reduced to cowering in the noise of the two-stroke Yamaha, the hammering separations between the seat and my backside, and the sheets of wind-borne seawater.
We ran into a broad bay that narrowed and finally disappeared against a wall of mangrove swamp. Here there was no wind. Clouds scudded overhead, but we were in a place that was quiet as a church, and how very nice it seemed. Austin anchored the boat, and we got out, entered a winding creek much like a prairie trout stream, with a sandbar on one side and an undercut bank on the other. I lost count of all the snook we caught and released.
It wasn't really a story you could tell without ruining your credibility. Angling often requires eluding your fellow anglers and discovering opportunities others don't want, and here is another lesson I'd learned from Austin: Go fishing when only a fool leaves his house.
You know, Austin, I'm thinking of writing about fishing this winter. I learned a lot. I suppose you'll be in it. Might do some good."
"I don't care. I've already got everything I want."
"Well, then let's use a pseudonym for you."
"If you're going to do it, you might as well use my name."
"I was thinking of Captain Marvel."