As most of you know (at least those of you who read my column on a regular basis), I have spent the vast majority of my adult life teaching people the fine art of angling and guiding a large number of those same folks to their “fish of a lifetime.” Not that it matters, but just so you know, as I’m sitting here writing this I’m smiling from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat (creepy, right?). The reason I’m smiling so big is because visions of all the high-fives I have had the privilege of causing over the years keep popping up in my brain. If you could only see inside my head for just one second, you’d be smiling too. You’d also be a little freaked out. I have truly had some great trips with clients and friends alike over the years, but the one trip that makes me smile the most is my own personal trip of a lifetime.
It started 20 years ago yesterday in eastern Manatee County. I haven’t finished it yet, and I pray every day it never stops. I woke up on the morning of June 25th, 1994, with more excitement running through my body than I had ever experienced before. I had preplanned this trip well in advance and I was pretty sure I had everything I needed for it. Knowing I’d be too nervous to drive, I had arranged a ride. Larry, my oldest and dearest friend, came by and picked me up. He also helped keep my nerves in check — because, let me tell ya, excited didn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling. Larry’s job was to get me to the starting point for this trip and stick around just long enough to make sure it got off without a hitch. I had an inkling this trip was going to be something extra special, so I invited a few close friends and most of my family to watch me take off on this journey. Though I was excited, I truly had no idea where this trip was going to take me. As it turned out, I was nowhere even close to be prepared for it.
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