Photos by Libby Rogers
I’ve just pulled into Bethy Creek Resort in Riverside, Texas at 6:30 am on a warm morning. I park and look at my disgruntled appearance in the rearview mirror, grateful that the day calls for a hat and sunglasses. I pick up my coffee thermos from the cup holder and toss it back, draining the last few drops of sweet energy left. Why am I up this early? It’s the crack of dawn, and I’m not still peacefully slumbering like an angel… what is wrong with this picture? Oh yes, I’m here to have fun. Can we have fun, in like, 5 more hours? I’ve been called a few things in life, never one of them being a “morning person.” Not to be dramatic, but I do not feel like it is God’s will for me to be awake and functioning this early. I think I might use that excuse the next time I have an early assignment.
I walk down to the boat ramp and meet Dave Cox, owner of Palmetto Guide Service, and hopefully the man who will make us look like we belong on the fishing channel. He greets me with a smile and a handshake, dressed like a true fisherman. If I had a nickel for every time Dave ended up saying, “Alright, let’s get ‘em boys!” to me and Libby this morning, I could probably pay for another trip with him, but we’ll get there.
The three of us set out on Lake Livingston as the sun rises, light pinks and purples reflecting off the water. It’s beautiful, and although it was difficult getting up this morning, I am glad to be here, and I smile as we cut through water that looks like glass. We set out to our first spot; Lake Livingston is calm, and the morning is still cool. Dave tells us about himself while prepping the rods, a natural conversationalist. The topics flow easily; all the while, we go through the motions of casting and reeling back in. We catch one; Dave decides if it’s a keeper or not, and then after the excitement of that catch recedes, the conversation starts up again.
A seasoned fisherman and outdoorsman, Dave has been guiding bird hunts since 1987 and began to guide fishing trips in the mid-nineties. A former teacher and environmental worker for over 20 years, he retired from working for the city and decided to pursue his passion for the outdoors. Since starting his own guide service, Dave says there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing. “I love the joy that fishing brings to people. A lot of people have the best day of their life out here.” He named the business after the palmetto shrubs that line the lake. “One day, I couldn’t even see the bottom of my boat, because it was covered in palmettos. Palmettos are also used to cover duck blinds while hunting, so I thought the name fit. I wanted the name to appeal to both hunting and fishing.” Palmetto Guide Service offers fishing on Lake Livingston and Lake Conroe for Black Bass, White Bass, and Catfish; mallard, wood duck, and teal hunting on the Trinity River bottoms and Navasota River bottoms; and snow goose and pintail hunting on the Katy Prairie region southwest of Houston.
I have not fished in over a year, and Libby hasn’t in about 10 years, but you’d think it was the other way around after my first cast. I toss it back and it gets stuck in the trees behind us. Dave tries to save the lure, but it’s long gone, and he has to cut the line using the handy scissors around his neck. Great start, I think to myself, and I pray he doesn’t have to use the scissors again for my sake. Sorry again, Dave, for losing your lure. May he rest in peace. We move to a different spot (away from trees, thankfully), and from here on out, there’s smooth casting from all three of us. That was the only mishap of the day, and we ended up being pretty impressive for a couple of gals who are most comfortable holding a camera and typing at a computer. After a while, a fish bites my line harder than one has all morning. I reel him in, and he’s fighting hard, obviously bigger than the others I’ve caught so far. “That’s a biggun’!” Dave exclaims, and I can’t help but grin. He measures him and tosses him in the cooler while explaining it’s a hybrid between a white and striped bass. “Yay, Andrea!” Libby says and we high five to celebrate the win for Postcards. It was an excellent high-five, one of those solid contact ones that only happens on a special day—the satisfying sound of full surface area contact, while a light from heaven beams down onto our hands. We bask in the glory, then it’s time to move on to more fishing.
While I set my rod down to jot some stuff on my notepad, Libby and Dave both catch a white bass each! We keep popping them pretty consistently, with Dave doing the dirty work like the great guide he is. We’d squeal with excitement when we caught one, reel it in, and let the fish hover next to Dave before he took it off the hook. We do the fun part, and then when it comes time to grab the slimy fish, we shove it in his direction for him to handle, and he does so graciously. Of all the fish we caught that morning, I only touched one for a photo. This is my kind of fishing.
After a fun morning of adrenaline spurts and hoots and hollers, the sun starts to warm up and intensify. At 10:15 am, I catch one last fish, and we begin the trek back to the boat ramp. Dave tosses all the fish into a pile on the deck for a photo opp, and Libby lays on her belly, camera in hand, elbows on the deck (the things she does for good pictures). “She’s really into it down there,” Dave says, and I laugh. “She always gets the best pictures, though!” I answer. He cleans the fish with ease and sends us home with a Ziploc each of fresh fish fillets. MMMM. Fried fish—it’s what’s for dinner! He lets me keep the big fish I caught with an, “I give credit where credit is due.”
Aside from the struggle of waking up with the sun, days like today make me say, “I love my job” to my friends, family, or whoever I am sharing a story of the day’s adventure with. Both the experience and Dave Cox exceeded my and Libby’s expectations. I had the most fun I have had in a while (probably since the last “Just For Fun” feature), led by one of the most knowledgeable guides on Lake Livingston. For a fun day out with family or friends, I’d recommend Dave to anyone seeking a professional and personable guide. You can book a trip with Dave online at www.palmettoguideservice.com or call 936-291-9602.