GOLDEN HILL, MD. -- Trout, spots, sea bass and blues bit so well at the mouth of the Honga River last week, Gibby Dean barely had a moment to catch them. He was down on his knees most of the time, carving up peeler crab bait on the motor box of his 29-footer, so others might fish.
"Don't worry about it," he said, brandishing the bait knife with a flourish. "Everybody outfishes me. I'm doing what I do best."
The truth of the matter is, if anyone could fish and cut bait, it ought to be Dean, 41.
Ask him for his business card and he demurs. Should he give you the one that identifies him as Capt. Gibby Dean on the Chesapeake Bay, reasonable rates, sea duck hunting and sport fishing, or the one that says he's regional sales manager for Occidental Chemical Corp., donning suits and hopping jets to sell feed products from Maine to Arkansas?
Dean's double life may be proof you don't have to give up the good life to enjoy the good life. By timely application of some old-fashioned Eastern Shore stubbornness, he's claimed the best of both worlds.
The son of a boatbuilder and sign painter from Cambridge, Dean stumbled into the business world 10 years ago, fresh from a six-year stint as a Maryland state trooper, when a friend asked if he wanted to try out as an intern commodities broker.
Three years later he was lured away from the brokerage house by Occidental, which needed a feed salesman for the farm-rich Eastern Shore. Four years after that, Dean was offered an executive-level plum any right-minded salesman would kill for.
Occidental asked him to move to corporate headquarters in Tampa and take over as regional sales manager in charge of the East Coast, West Coast and parts of Canada.
Dean thought it over carefully. He looked out his window at the brooding Choptank, the river he'd known all his life; he thought of the mother who had raised him there and now delighted in his kids; he thought of his duck blinds and fishing holes and boats; about the creeks and backwaters and marshes he knew and loved. Then he called Tampa and said the unthinkable.
"I told them no, I wouldn't go," he said. "They couldn't believe it."
Occidental executives put their shoulders to the wheel and worked on Dean, but he wouldn't budge. "My philosophy," said Dean, "was I like to stay in one area. I'm not interested in a resume' that includes several major moves and three or four divorces."
To its credit, the giant corporation bent. "They told me all right, if I insisted, they'd let me try running things from here for a year," said Dean.
Three years later, Eastern regional sales headquarters for the feed products division of Oxychem remains on Suicide Bridge Road in Hurlock, Md., and Dean still carries two sets of business cards in his wallet -- one for work and one for play.
He got his Coast Guard charter captain's license two years ago, after carrying friends and clients on fishing and hunting forays informally for years.
His summer fishing specialties are trolling, jigging and bottom-fishing for blues and sea trout in the shallow waters around Hoopers Island. In fall and winter he hunts sea ducks in the open water near the mouth of the Choptank River.
Next month, for the first time in half a decade, he'll have a chance to chase his favorite quarry, rockfish, in haunts he remembers from the years before Maryland's ban on rockfishing went into effect in 1985.
To celebrate, Dean hopes to book some double trips -- rockfishing and sea ducking in the same day. It should be no problem for him, as accustomed to double duty as he is.
Dean says he started booking charter parties to help pay for his fishing and hunting habits. "I'm not making any money at it," he said, "if I just cover expenses I'm happy."
Meantime his corporate balancing act has undergone some fine-tuning. He and Occidental's other regional sales manager got together and decided to try to split their regions in a more orderly fashion.
"I was flying over his house to get to some of my clients," Dean said. "So we just sat down with a map and said, 'Let's split this up and see if they'll go for it.' "
Dean wound up giving up a big chunk of his Western territory, which in most corporate settings is akin to shooting yourself in the foot. Did it bother him? "I was tickled to death to lose it," he said.
These days Dean saves all his vacation and leave time for fishing and hunting. On days off when he doesn't have a paying party, you can find him puttering around Dorchester County in his red Chevy truck or his Baybuilt boat, looking for new spots to explore and surveying the things that make life worth living.
For information on fishing and hunting this fall, call Dean at (301) 943-1124.
A story on reopening of rockfish season in the Potomac next month listed the wrong phone number to call for a free permit required to fish for rock in the river. The correct number is (804) 224-7148. Anglers also may request the permit by mail from Potomac River Fisheries Commission, P.O. Box 9, Colonial Beach, Va. 22443. Include your name, address, date of birth and phone number. The Potomac season opens Oct. 5.