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A Good Fish Story

A Good Fish Story

I love real adventure. I have traveled the world, been chased by baboons in Africa, hang glided across the Swiss Alps, and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane at 15,000 feet. But, I never thought fishing could be called an adventure. It seemed...

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Listening To My Wiser Self

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Are you taking care of yourself properly? Is your health a priority? The reason I am asking is because this has been a weakness of mine my whole life. I love to eat. I eat when I am happy, sad, lonely, depressed, exhilarated, anxious, etc…..I love all kinds of food. I...

A Good Fish Story

A Good Fish Story

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I love real adventure. I have traveled the world, been chased by baboons in Africa, hang glided across the Swiss Alps, and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane at 15,000 feet. But, I never thought fishing could be called an adventure. It seemed monotonous to me. I just never saw the point. No, nasty letters, please. Every time I went fishing I sat in a boat for hours and never caught anything. That was true, until this weekend.

I have a good friend I grew up with named Tim. Tim and his wife live in West Palm Beach where he is a successful business man. Jane and I ate dinner with them a month ago, and Tim invited me down to fish. I reached out to a mutual friend of ours from grade school named Chuck, and we made the arrangements and arrived in West Palm this past Friday.


Our first day of fishing was Saturday. Tim picked us up at the hotel at 5:00 AM. We met the captain of our fishing boat at the dock and were in the inter coastal waterway headed for the sea by 5:45 AM. Shortly after we left shore, we caught about 50 sardines which would be our live bait for the day. When I caught my first sardine, I let everybody know that was officially the biggest fish I had ever caught.

The morning started slowly. We tried a few spots around 15 miles from shore but were having no luck. Then all of a sudden the fish began to hit. We caught Black Finned Tuna one after the other. It was exhilarating. The tuna would fight and struggle enough to make it pretty hard to reel them in. They were all around 10 pounds in size. Just about the time you’d put a hook in the water and decide you were going to take a momentary rest, one of the guys would yell, “FIsh on,” which alerted us that we had a fish on the pole.

Then the captain began to cut up chum. Chum is fish that is cut up and thrown into the water. I thought that was interesting, but I had no idea what was about to happen. Suddenly, I felt a fish on my line, but this time it felt different. It didn’t dive as the tuna did. The fish on the line was trying to swim away from me then it would jump out of the water showing me it’s beautiful colors. Our captain shouted, “That’s Mahi Mahi.” I had eaten one before, but I had never seen one in its natural habitat.

As I got my Mahi in the boat, Chuck and Tim had Mahi on their hooks. As we reeled in the fish, the captain would come gaff the fish and pull them into the boat. In just a few minutes we had quite a few Mahi Mahi on the floor of our vessel. The water was green and blue as a school of these fish were all around the boat. The chum had created a feeding frenzy. I have never seen anything like that in my life. The energy on the craft was palpable. The captain was cutting and throwing the chum into the water, and we were catching these beautiful fish one after the other. It was thrilling.

We caught fish all day long. If they were great fish to eat, we put them in a cooler to take home. If they were not good for food, we took the hook out and threw them back.

We fished again on Sunday. This time in Tim’s boat, we stayed within 3-4 miles of the shore. Tim had a plan for us, and it worked like a charm. We fished for three hours and caught 35 beautiful fish including more tuna, amberjack, mangrove snapper, and a few sharks. We also caught a gorgeous 80-100 pound fish that sailed out of the water to show himself to us before he snapped our line and swam away. It was breathtaking.

I am home now and have been reflecting on my fishing adventure with my friends. It has been on my mind all day. I have already scheduled a trip in September to take my wife fishing. I want my sons to go fishing with me. I even have been envisioning taking men and woman on Big Life fishing trips. I think they would love it. We would fish during the day and eat seafood and talk business each evening.

I love adventure. I do not have the temperament to sit all day hoping for a nibble. But deep sea fishing, that’s a different story. I have discovered after this trip that I am seriously hooked. 🙂

That Time I Almost Wound Up In A Russian Gulag

That Time I Almost Wound Up In A Russian Gulag

In 1996, I made my first trip to Russia. With quite a bit of nervousness, I bordered a plane and flew to Helsinki, Finland then traveled by boat to Tallin, Estonia. There I hooked up with a couple of other guys from America who were going to be spending the next three weeks with me. One of the men was a journalist for a Christian newspaper, and the other guy was a humanitarian aid worker. We would be traveling in a late 1960’s military jeep and would be giving the vehicle to a church group upon our arrival in Russia.

The bumpy ride across the small Baltic country was exhilarating. Because I was the youngest, I volunteered to sit in the back of the jeep with the luggage. When we came to the Russian border, I was genuinely excited. The soldiers asked us to allow them to look through our bags. Fortunately, the humanitarian aid worker with us understood Russian, and he told them that would be ok.

As I was standing behind the jeep, the journalist came up to me and said he needed to tell me something. He said, “Ray, I think we might be in some trouble.”

OK, put your self in my shoes for just a moment. There are men all around me with submachine guns. There is a tower just off of the road where more soldiers are watching the border. And this guy I don’t know well is telling me ‘we might be in some trouble”.

He continued. “I have a loaded gun in that trunk.” He was speaking of the next piece of luggage about to be inspected.

I immediately felt myself growing a little faint. I remembered reading about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian dissident who had written The Gulag Archipelago. Was I about to be arrested because of my traveling companions foolishness? I couldn’t run – so I did the only thing left to do. I prayed. I do not know if I have ever offered a more direct prayer in my life. “God, I am sorry this man I am traveling with is an idiot. Please, please, please don’t let the soldiers find his gun. And Lord, if they do find his gun, please let them know that it is his gun and that I would not/did not bring a loaded gun into Russia.” Well, you get the idea. It was very heartfelt, and I was petrified.

When the soldier opened the trunk to inspect it, I felt sweat running down the side of my face. My mind was jumping all over the place. There was an element of the ordeal that seemed like a movie with the soldiers all smoking their cigarettes and speaking in their native tongue. Almost simultaneous with that thought came the picture of me doing hard labor in Siberia. And in between the random thoughts and the sweat, I kept praying.

Then a funny thing happened. A jar of honey was in the trunk. The journalist had brought it to give to our Russian host family. On the bumpy ride across Estonia, the jar had broken. The soldier pulled his hand out of the trunk in disgust, wiping the sticky substance from his fingers. With that, he waved for us to put our bags back in the jeep and to cross into Russia. The gun was taped to a can of beans packed a couple of inches away from the honey.

Things worked out, and I am grateful. But I have never forgotten how close I came to the gulag. Thank God for a broken glass of honey.

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