I had fished the lake behind the house for
four months straight. Not that I am bored
with it, I do find a certain peace there in
the "sweet water." I missed her, The River;
she was what I needed now, and soon. She was
calling to me.
I had been in the lake for an hour and a half
the other afternoon and the guy's dogs, in their
fenced-in yard a few houses down, had something
cornered in the fence, a turtle or a snake, perhaps.
The staccato barking interrupted my serenity, my
selfish need to be at peace with myself and the
world. I only wanted a few minutes to unwind from
the daily hassles of a week of meetings at work,
was that too much to ask for, I thought? I wondered
why the guy in the house hadn't come out to find
out why they were raising all sorts of hell. My
concerns over why he didn't see to the dogs flooded
my thoughts and drove me further into insanity. I
I returned to the waters just behind the house
to rid myself of the mayhem, only to have three
large, uninvited ducks decide to partake in a
bathing ritual just behind me, hissing angrily
at me for not going away. I was there first, and
it was my backyard. I gave up...again.
I returned to the screened-in, back porch without
the peace I had sought from the lake. Linda came
out and immediately noticed my discontent. I raved
and ranted for a few, and then listened to my
inner-self. I needed a healthy injection of
saltwater air in my flared nostrils. I needed
my river. Linda understood my need for that
solitude; that need to be where I could be alone,
but not be lonely.
That same evening, I fetched my nine-weight
from the garage and began my scurrying around,
searching for items I hadn't used since we moved
into the new house with the lake behind it;
things that had been buried in boxes yet to
I felt a certain satisfaction in un-tubing
my nine-weight. It felt as though I was
popping the cork on the proverbial "genie's
bottle" when I brought it out. It had been
waiting for months cooped up in that PVC tomb
for way too long, waiting to see daylight again
and I swear I heard it breathe a sigh of relief
when I mated the ferrules. I believe inanimate
objects take on feelings the longer I own them;
fly-rods certainly have their own personalities,
now don't they?
I found my reel bag and pulled out the matching
reel. It too was tired of the wait I had put it
through, and it demonstrated its dismay by
presenting me with a fly line with nicks and
cracks I didn't remember before the move. I
felt sorry for the rod and reel and promised
them both I would do better and use them more
in the near future.
The next evening I sat at the wrought iron
table on the porch, overlooking the lake
through a light drizzle. Occasionally, a
lightning bolt would flash and I wondered
if it was really safe to sit there with a
graphite rod within inches of my arm, as I
replaced the old, tired line with a new one.
I also tried to remember the last time I tied
a nail knot, and frustration set in again, as
I fumbled with the new line and thought about
the barking dogs and hissing ducks from the
The lightning had stopped when I finished
loading the new line, new butt leader and
attaching the reel to rod. I noticed the
heaviness of the rod compared to the five-weight
I had been using in the lake behind the house.
I noticed it more as I began to double-haul
casts in the front yard, out into the neighbor's
grass. I had become a wimp. The rod felt like
a nine foot broomstick. I cast five times and
went back inside with a tension headache and
an achy, right arm. More frustration set in.
"Just where the hell are my saltwater flies?"
as I began to unearth neatly stacked boxes of
things we had yet to unpack. Then Linda, the
"Finder of all Lost Things," shows up and
hands me my boxes of flies. I smiled and began
opening their clear, plastic sarcophagus, poking
and prodding at them as though I had never seen
them before. I plucked them out, one by one, and
stared into their fixed eyes, as if to apologize
for abandoning them, still remembering the
heaviness of the big rod.
Before dawn, the next morning, I had the truck
loaded and was on the way to my salvation; The
As I crossed the bridge, I looked over the
vastness of the flats, the acres and acres
of mangrove swamps that lined the shores
where the reds and trout were awakening.
There was no need to hurry, today was mine,
and I silently prayed for the old river to
grant me a day of peace from the hurried
world we all live in.
I turned on the dike road that borders the
familiar waters I have fished for three
decades. I had become spoiled over the years
as I glided into the shallow waters by way
of my skiff. It had been a long time since
I had driven to those areas and I felt each
bump and lump of the narrow dirt and shell
road. But now the roughness of the road
became unimportant, and far less uncomfortable.
On my left, opposite the flats, were the almost
fresh waters of the swamps. I slowed to a crawl
as I took it all in. There were herons, cranes,
roseate spoonbills, and black ducks...there, in
the midst of all that was going on, was my peace
I had lost. I wound past the culverts and slowed
to a stop just to watch finger mullet schooling
near the pipes. I began to read the waters out
in the flats from my truck, searching for
tailing reds. But I was still too far away;
still in no hurry to get there.
As I parked my truck on the shoulder of
the winding road, I found no trace of any
boats or people. Perhaps the old river had
heard me. The river was quiet and smooth
and waiting for me. Then I remembered the
heaviness of the nine weight that was
already strung and waiting for me, adorned
with the golden bend-back.
The rod was removed from the truck and I
thought back a few nights before and
remembered the difficultly I had with it;
the stiffness of it that I hadn't felt in
many months. But when I picked it up, the
heaviness had gone away. It had become
familiar again, as comfortable as an old
pair of deck shoes.
I climbed down the slope to my awaiting flats.
I wanted to smell it, to taste it, to feel it
in my hands; to baptize myself in those waters.
I waded out to mid-thigh and stopped to pay
homage to her and all of her subjects. I stood
there in the warm, salty water, watching the
rising, golden sun and I enjoyed feeling it
hot on my face. I dipped my hand into her
water and took in the aroma I had needed two
days prior, then wiped it through my beard
and hair. I began to cast.
The new line had an unfamiliar finish to it
and it sang through the guides as I
double-hauled it and shot line on my back
and forward false casts. The rod came alive,
for it too was now in familiar waters, again.
It forgave me for being ignored, and spoke
to me as it flexed, sending the new line and
its tethered friend out into the clear waters.
I stripped the line and felt it between cork
and fingers. I raised the tip and repeated the
cast. I was back in my element. Again, the fly
was brought back, as my mind drifted to another
area that could possibly hold a fish.
Suddenly, the line halted and returned in
the same direction as to where I had just
cast. I had drifted away, and was awakened
by the burn of loosely held fly line across
my stripping finger. A large sea trout ripped
the line through my fingers, out into the
backing, then threw herself from the water
in attempts to be free from the single talon
of the golden fly. I thanked the trout and
thanked the river for their understanding
my presence. This was repeated five more
times that day, as I wandered the flats
in search of tailing fish.
Becoming thirsty and tired, I returned to
the shore with a feeling of completeness
and fulfillment. There waiting and watching
me, was a stranger. He talked of fishing, as
we both kept a watchful eye over the flats.
We spoke as we had known each other for years,
as trout and reds broke the surface of the slick
water. I felt no desire to leave where I was
standing; contentment had surrounded my soul.
The meeting was just another facet of the day;
something that was supposed to happen. We
talked for an hour, or so, about where the
stranger had come from. He asked if I had
ever visited the Keys. We spoke of fly fishing
and life, and then he had to leave.
I was ready to head towards home with the
same anxiousness that I had felt early that
morning. I was rejuvenated. I was healed by
the salt. Linda met me outside with a glass
of iced tea and a smile, as she read my thoughts.
She had been there many times and understood the
medicine of the river. I had found what I was
looking for; the serenity. It was never really
lost. Life was good again.
A soft rain began to fall as we sat on the
back porch, watching the lake behind the house.
See y'all next week. ~ Capt. Gary
Gary grew up in central Florida and spent much
of his youth fishing the lakes that dot the area.
After moving a little closer to the coast, his
interests changed from fresh to salt. Gary still
visits his "roots" in the "lake behind the house."
He obtained his captain's license in the early '90's
and fished the blue waters of the Atlantic for a little
over twelve years. His interests in the beautiful shallow
water flats in and around the famous Mosquito Lagoon came
around twenty-five years ago. Even though Captain Gary
doesn't professionally guide anymore, his respect of the
waters will ever be present.
Gary began fly fishing and tying mostly saltwater
patterns in the early '90's and has participated as
a demo fly tier for the Federation of Fly Fishers
on numerous occasions. He is a private fly casting
and tying instructor and stained glass artist,
creating mostly saltwater game fish in glass.