Small hands hold a big machete, skillfully sawing and chopping a half frozen whole Bonita–shark bait for the night. I’ve watched Walter Jr. do this over and over, night after night, chumming up sharks and other fish off the back porch of the lodge.
I’ve had the pleasure of observing, interacting, and learning from Walter Jr. again and again. As a 14 year old boy Walter is one of the most hands on, hard working, and caring young men I’ve encountered and he has impressed me on so many levels. Walter is someone who’s fun to be around, always willing to talk, and ready for anything thrown his way. We’ve wrangled a handful of sharks together and every time is more exciting than the last. His hands on approach to chumming them up, hacking at frozen fish, and manhandling sharks when landed is amusing and something I’ll never forget.
Walter has taught me a lot more then just fishing techniques these past weeks, to me he’s really shown me what it means to step up and fill the shoes of becoming a man. There are some things that he does that I would’ve never done as a 14 year old boy. He’s fully devoted to his family, school, and all other responsibilities. It’s amazed me how on top of everything he really is. Walter isn’t at the lodge most days, he’s recently been in exams at school. I’ve had the opportunity of spending most nights with him, as his father, Walter, stays at the lodge throughout the night with us for security measures with the boats. Every morning both Walters are on an early schedule. Walter Jr. wakes up early with his father to insure that he gets back to Savannah Bight in the morning for his other responsibilities, then often drives the boat back to the lodge by himself. Walter’s understanding of the water, ways around it, and machinery involved with it is impressive and something that was well beyond my knowledge at age 14.
The other evening we took Walter wading with us before dark. We targeted bonefish, as they inhabit the flats surrounding the lodge. Ned and I had fly rods, Walter brought his pole spear, a device unknown to both of us at the time. On our wade we spotted a box fish as we often do. Walter approached the fish with caution, snuck up from behind it, and speared the fish directly in its back half. Ned and I were blown away and astonished at what we’d just seen and we couldn’t stop laughing.
Walter was as happy as we were and super pumped to have speared the challenging critter on his first attempt of the day. I wasn’t aware that a box fish was good table fare at first and when Walter explained that he was going to take the fish home to his mother Ned and I were overly impressed. These are only a few of the examples from this week that have stuck in my head, but over the past 2 weeks Walter has impressed me on a whole new level. His devotion to family, responsibilities, and the water are unlike any I’ve ever seen before. For a 14 year old boy, the maturity level Walter shows is amazing and beyond impressive. I’ve truly learned a lot from Walter Jr., and can see him finding a place in Fly Fish Guanaja, maybe someday as a guide.
By: Jack Gillenwater