That guy

On most fishing trips, there's one
storms on the flats
Photo: Chad Shmukler

As the tropical rain continued to beat down atop the minivan, we waited. Five of us, all soaked to the bone and spent after hours casting fruitlessly over foot-deep water to anything that looked like it might be a bonefish, had congregated at the car, done for the day.

The owner of the lodge had suggested a little road trip to one of the island’s many accessible bonefish flats via car rather than sending half a dozen anglers out on boats to reach farther-flung fishing waters in this downpour. Either way, we were going to get wet. This way, we wouldn’t be risking life and limb running over the Caribbean chop from flat to flat in a sideways deluge.

We set a meeting time. Be back at the cars and ready to head back when the clock hit four, we were told, because dinner would be waiting.

Five of us met where the vehicles were parked within minutes of our scheduled return to the lodge. The sixth? In the ether. He’d wandered off down an old berm along a channel that ran between flats, and he hadn’t come back yet.

So we waited. And then we waited some more. The lodge owner followed our missing cohort’s route down the berm, hoping to speed his return.

“Well, hopefully this means he’s catching fish,” one of the on-time guys said from the back seat. “Because I didn’t see a damn thing.”

It was tough fishing—and it was my first-ever bonefish trip. Over the course of a week, the tropical wind blew angrily, and, now and then, it spit rain at us. We donned rain gear and pushed through it—we hadn’t come all this way just to sit in the lodge and “wait it out.” Especially when the forecast looked so dismal. Either fish or don’t.

We fished.

And our sixth compadre was serious about his fishing.

Twenty minutes later, the lodge owner returned to the vehicles alone. We waited another 45 minutes. Our chaperone for the day was getting nervous—losing clients in the rain and darkening skies never seems to go over very well. Working a handheld radio, the lodge owner was constantly checking in with a couple of his employees who had taken a third vehicle and had driven miles around this complex of flats and canals in hopes spotting our lost angler, but to no avail.

“We’ll head on back,” the owner told us. “I’ll come back once I get you guys back to the lodge.”

It was then that my buddy looked at me—the guy who got me on this trip to the tropics in the first place.

“There’s always ‘that guy,’” he said. “And now, we know who that guy is.”

“That guy” is present on most trips. He’s the guy who might pop off with the off-color joke that isn’t received as well as he’d like it to be. He’s the guy who is always first in line at shore lunch and then again at dinner. He’s the guy who’s late to meet the guide at the boat in the morning and usually the guy who convinces his guide to stay out later than he should … the guy who kind of wanders through your fishing trip on his own time table, the rest of us be damned.

At best, he’s the guy who, unwittingly more often than not, throws a wrench in the engine and gums up the trip for the rest of us. Even just a little bit. And usually, it’s forgivable. Sometimes, depending on the severity of the hijinks, it’s even a little endearing. But usually, it’s just annoying—consideration and manners go a long way when you’re on a trip with others, and where being on time and accommodating is simply expected.

And, after a day or two, when you can’t identify “that guy,” you might take a good look in the mirror. Just in case. Trust me, you don’t want to be that guy.

We got back to the lodge just after dark. Dinner was, indeed, ready. And it had been for a couple of hours. Not long after we got back, the adventuring angler showed up. He’d meandered on down the berm until it hit a road, which he followed until a couple of local motorists found him and picked him up. They delivered him to the lodge, much to the relief of the lodge operator.

The rest of us exhaled, too. Nobody wants to be on the trip where one of the anglers disappears and is never seen or heard from again. Even if he is “that guy.”

I’ve been on trips where everybody honestly gets along. And I’ve been on trips where lodge clients get so ripped the night before fishing that they stumble into the wrong room and pass out on the floor. After they’ve pissed themselves and pissed off the owner of the operation, of course. I’ve been on wonderful adventures that were soured just a bit by guys who were uber-competitive—fish counters and those who refuse to be outfished by others in the group. You know, the type A guys who can’t tone it down for the sake of the rest of us. The guys who spend so much time taking selfies of the day’s fishing attire for their Instagram page that they hold up the show in the morning (yep … I’ve seen it with my own eyes).

Thankfully, I’ve been on trips where “that guy” was seemingly unidentifiable. These are the trips to cherish—and they usually happen among friends, where the quality of the clientele can be generally controlled. And, of course, friends are apt to forgive each other for minor violations of the generally accepted code of behavior. You might be “that guy,” but they’d never label you as such. Maybe you farted in your sleep, or had one too many tumblers of whiskey the night before and made an ass out of yourself. Maybe you were just off your game a bit. Forgivable.
Our relief that evening, as our lost fisherman was found, turned into something that resembled indifference. Upon his return, the once-lost angler didn’t offer up an apology or an explanation. He simply bitched about the poor fishing and how hard he’d worked to make up for it. Then he ravenously dove into his twice reheated meal, chewed with his mouth open and talked about his “adventure” between bites.

That may have been what turned the rest of us off. It was bad enough to just wander off on your own on an unfamiliar island in the middle of the Caribbean. But no mea culpa? No “Sorry, guys, I just got lost?” Unforgivable.