PUBLISHED: 5:39 PM on Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Congrats sis, and thank you
I count my blessings every day.

I've had some excellent hunting and fishing excursions and have gotten to see some eye-opening locales within a relatively short time period while enjoying some fantastic company.

But my most impressive angling tale isn't about a bull redfish zipping through knee-deep water like a bronze bullet or a burly salmon peeling the rod tip down to the surface and making a mockery of the drag.

No, the greatest angling memory for me harkens back two decades to a weathered Rockport pier on a cool, breezy morning with a glistening sun that threw a million sparkles on the bay and still has a special place in my heart.

My fishing buddy and I had been dunking strategically aged shrimp only for a couple of minutes before the rod to my left sprang to life and gave the wiggle every angler pines for as a scaly denizen of the deep attempted to make off with the aromatic delicacy at the other end.

I wanted to lend a helping hand, but the tyke behind the reel turned the crank and fought the fish calmly, letting out harmonious squeals of delight every so often until she finally was able to step back and lift the quarry onto the dock with a resounding, wet thud.

The reel-and-squeal aspect of fishing often is tied to bursting billfish, twisting tuna or surging salmon, but in this case, the half-pound piggy perch may as well have been 100 times that size or put up a fight reminiscent of Santiago's struggle with his marlin.

My sister's pudgy 2-year-old face was aglow with jubilance as she bent down and scooped up the wiggling critter at the behest of my father for a snapshot. A moment later, she gave that first striped fish a gentle pat on the head and dumped him back where he came to brighten another youngster's day.

As long as I live, I'll never forget the day that little girl in the pink sundress looked at me with those puppy dog eyes and beamed with an ear-to-ear grin.

I couldn't have been prouder.

Looking back on that day, I also can't help but think how time flies.

Mary graduated from West Texas A & M on Saturday, something that puts things into perspective for my entire family. That little girl has been replaced by a woman with her own hopes and dreams.

And while she's sure to have plenty of obligations now and in the future, my sister and I share a bond that can't be broken.

Sure, little sisters have a way of putting brothers in their place - mostly in a good way - and that connection can never be taken away.

But we share something as meaningful: An affinity for hunting and fishing, and a respect for all the outdoors has to offer.

My sister has always been the best fishing or hunting buddy, no matter what we were doing. We had some competitive years like most siblings do, but no matter what, she always was quick to offer an "ooh" or an "aah" followed by an attaboy and a smile whenever I caught a bass or brought home some kind of critter.

I think as she grew older, my sister went on some trips to appease my dad and I, but she also went to spend time with us doing something we all enjoyed. That's what is so great about the outdoors: It offers enthusiasts of varying degrees an opportunity to spend more time together - and that's priceless.

It's not about always harvesting the biggest buck or catching the heftiest bass. It's about making the most of life and enjoying the world around you while also being humble and showing respect when you are successful.

It has been fun though, and we've made some great memories that someday we'll be able to shower our kids and grandkids with.

There have been the fall trips to the deer lease that I always look forward to, the summer fishing trips to the coasts of Texas or Alaska that are never short on ambiance, and a multitude of other excursions that are equally as special.

Do you remember those trips to the private lake near Brownwood? I remember sitting in dad's aluminum flat-bottom tub of a boat with you and him and thinking it couldn't get any better with all the bass we hauled in.

I'm smiling right now.

I know the prospect of striking out into unfamiliar territory can be a little daunting, but don't get discouraged. Everyone has untapped potential inside of them they will never use. You've got that in spades, so if you even dip into that at all, you'll do just fine.

Some of the best advice I've ever received comes courtesy of Amarillo teacher, author and fly-fishing guru Mark Williams, who simply told me "Dream, do."

It sounds simple, but those two words are the kind to live life by.

So today, I want to say thank you for just being yourself and congratulations on your accomplishment.

I love you, and since I'm now in the market for a fishing buddy, you're welcome anytime.

This column first appeared in the Sunday issue of the Amarillo Globe News. Will Leschper is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Texas Outdoor Writers Association.