I'm open-minded, but I was very skeptical of what was supposed to take place in Guatemala in November 2007. Merijo from Casa Vieja Lodge in Iztapa, Guatemala, called to give me the skinny.
"His name is William Fisher Van Rooy," she said. "And he's 4 years old. The plan is for him to catch his first sailfish at the Lodge." I listened for her to finish, not quite knowing what to say. I have a 4-year-old nephew and there's no way he could sit still for more than three minutes.
"Oh yeah, you're gonna love this!" she continued. "They call him 'Bill-Fish.' Get it? Billfish from William Fisher. Pretty cool, huh?" If this little boy's mother was not part of this naming ingenuity, I give kudos to the father for pulling off such a coup.
This story was too cool not to investigate, so I accepted the invitation to fish with the Van Rooys. If a 4-year-old boy just happened to have what it takes, from patience to desire (you can't make small children do something they don't want to do for long) to land a sailfish, I'd be there to document the story.
Edgar, Casa Vieja's driver, picked me up after clearing customs. To my surprise, the Van Rooys were already on board the lodge van. The Van Rooy family included Carl, the patriarch, Adam, his son and father of William Fisher. Also with the family was close friend Jason Robertson.
The Van Rooys are no strangers to blue-water activities. Although the family businesses are located in Indiana, they frequent Key West where their 60 foot Hatteras, Blue Hooker, is berthed. They have traveled the U.S. East Coast and Caribbean extensively in search of marlin and other denizens of consequence. The three adults have been fishing for decades; this would be the first blue-water outing for Fisher.
So, there he was, strapped to his car seat, which was belted into the van's bench seat next to his father. This was the first time he'd been away from his mother. This was, after all, a "man's" trip; mom was home minding baby twin sisters.
As we made our way to the lodge, I was impressed with Fisher. At 4 years old, this young man possessed volumes of politeness. "Excuse me," he said to his dad patiently and quietly, as the adults talked about everything fishing, "I'm done watching Shrek, Daddy." Everything about this kid seemed cool, calm and mature. Yes, I was impressed, but the acid test was still ahead of us the next morning when the Canaso would leave port to chase billfish in the Pacific.
I learned at dinner that the total focus of this trip was for Fisher to release his first sailfish, anything released by the adults would be lagniappe. Their planning had been thoughtful, from the lifejacket to the idea of placing Fisher behind a strap-on rod holder fixed to the fighting chair. They even considered the footrest, bringing stacked foam blocks to bridge the distance between the child's feet and the chair footrest. I began to believe the family just might pull this off.