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A Feel For The Game



Wall Leadin

    The instructions come quickly when you're dozens of miles offshore trying to catch a billfish.
    "Drop it back! Drop it back!" the captain says. "It's off the mid rigger!"
    In any big-game fishing situation, success depends on how well the crew works together, from the moment the fish is in the spread until it's in the boat, Brian Follett says.
    "It's all about communication," between the captain and the angler. Between the captain and the mate. Between the mate and the angler. Between the angler and the fish.
    And while that communication is important for anglers in all situations, it takes on a special significance where Follett is concerned.
    Follett, you see, is legally blind.
    "I see shadows, but nothing clear," he said as he relaxed on the dock at Canyon Club Marina in Cape May at the end of the Mid-Atlantic 500 in August. Follett was fishing on the Hook, a Snug Harbor, R.I.-based boat that was competing in the tournament for the first time.
    Follett was the angler on the rod of a blue marlin the Hook caught on the final day of the Mid-Atlantic, a fish that turned out to be short of the 400-pound minimum weight. It is not the first big fish he's caught.
    "I caught an 800-pounder this summer," said Follett, who grew up fishing in Point Judith, R.I., where his father, Howie, has been a commercial dragger all his life. "I was born and raised on the harbor."
    He wasn't born blind, however; he lost his sight at age 11, due to complications from Lyme disease. Fishing didn't change much for him in some ways. "Fighting the fish is the same mechanics," he said, but there is a different feel to it.
    "It's all about the feel of the rod, all about about finesse," Follett said, adding he is more tuned-in to the little things he feels. "The other senses compensate for the lost one."
    He puts those other senses to work in his other pursuit: downhill skiing. Follett, 28, is a member of the U.S. Adaptive Ski team and lives in Aspen, Colo., eight months of the year while he trains with the team.
    He competes in the slalom, the grand slalom, the super G and the super combined in the visually impaired category, where visually impaired skiers partner with a guide who communicates with them only via headset. At the NorAm Alpine Skiing competition in Kimberley, Canada, in January 2013, Follett, guided by Scot Jones, took two golds in the downhill events and two bronze medals in the super G.

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