Travis Bailey’s life has been positively impacting the lives of disabled Texans for three decades, and on Feb. 4, his “Really Big Fishing Event for Really Special People” will celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The annual party, held at the Heart O’ Texas Fair Complex’s Fine Arts and Exhibits Building (4601 Bosque Blvd. in Waco), welcomes people with physical and mental handicaps and those who take care of them to a day of music, food, drinks, dancing, carnival-style games, karaoke, trout fishing and more in a supportive and fun environment.

It attracts thousands of participants and volunteers from all over the state, and by the end of the day, the line between disability and ability is virtually blurred away.

Started as a cooperative effort between Bailey, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Lone Star Brewery and the Governor’s Committee for People with Disabilities, the event also provides resources, information and networking opportunities for organizations and individuals charged with the duty of caring for people who can’t completely manage on their own.

The centerpiece of the party is the 10,000-gallon fish tank, which is filled by Waco firefighters and holds thousands of scrappy, tasty rainbow trout which participants can catch (three per person). Volunteers will be on hand to clean and bag fish for folks to take home. The original tank was actually a brewing tank donated by Lone Star Brewery back in 1987.

Volunteers and service organizations are the backbone of the event, and over the years, Baylor, the Young Marines, Fort Hood soldiers, Texas Parks & Wildlife officials, MHMR, Red Man Bingo, Veterans of Foreign Wars, K-12 school service clubs and a number of individuals have pitched in to make the day memorable. Each participant is paired up with a volunteer guide who will accompany him or her throughout the day.

Admission is free, as are food, drinks, games and all other activities. Doors open at 9 a.m. and the party wraps up at 3 p.m., and organizers recommend dressing warmly, as the building is kept cool to accommodate the fish.

Groups of five or more should call early to secure a time slot for fishing. For more information, call 254-752-8361.

Local fisherman dodges death again

Every year or so, something tries to kill Clay Yadon. Whether it’s a head-on automobile collision, a tornado, a malfunctioning parasail rig that sent him face-first underwater for longer than most people could hold their breath, or a health assault, Yadon has survived more close calls than an alley cat.

During the holidays, Yadon, a regular and long-time contributor to the Tribune-Herald outdoors column, was once again facing a serious threat to his health and had to open presents from a hospital bed whenever he remained awake long enough to rip the wrapping paper off of a gift.

But thankfully, he is back at home and continuing to recover – and beginning to plot his return to the water to keep Lake Whitney’s striper population in check.

Deer are out of hiding

It didn’t take long after the closing of deer season for area deer to come out of hiding. Last week, while driving on Highway 84 toward McGregor, my daughter Haley and I spotted a herd of eight whitetail deer grazing one of the fairways down at Twin Rivers Golf Course.

Fly Fishing Club to meet about stocking programs

The Waco Fly Fishing Club’s monthly meeting will take place Tuesday evening at the Lake Waco Wetlands. The featured speaker is Texas Parks & Wildlife biologist John Tibbs, who will give an overview of what his local fisheries office is doing at lakes and streams in our area.

Of particular interest to fly fishermen are the smallmouth bass and hybrid-striper stocking programs, and questions related to those species are sure to arise.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. with fly-tying and tale-telling, followed by the presentation at 7.

717-8907

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