When I grew up in central Florida many years ago, I
didn't know, at the time, where my enslavement to fishing
would take me. One thing I did know was the fact that when
I got into trouble with my parents, it was usually caused
by me staying too long at one of the lakes that dotted my
hometown of Auburndale.
It wasn't until I had pretty well mastered all the other
facets of fishing, both fresh and salt, did I take up the art
of fly-fishing. Oh sure, my dad dabbled at fly-fishing with
an old fiberglass rod and automatic reel, but I didn't pay a
lot of attention to his style, if he had one, or some of the
time not paying attention to what direction the fly was heading
on his back-cast, thus resulting in me being firmly attached to
a small popping bug by the forehead.
As time passed, I took up the sport through lessons offered by
Captain Jon Cave. I took it seriously, and believe me, Jon took
his instructions seriously in the same manner as a drill sergeant,
but with a little more rigidity. I took to it like a duck in water.
That was over seventeen years ago. However, this story isn't about
A friend of mine, Matt Philips, lives close to the St. Johns River
here in Seminole County. Matt is a true outdoorsman, and his love
of the water and woods goes back many years. In fact, he told me
recently the only time he usually got in trouble with his mom and
dad was when the teacher would send a note home complaining that
Matt spent too much time writing his class essays on fishing, and
the teachers wanted him to "broaden" his storylines on other subjects.
However, this story isn't about Matt either. Well, sort of, maybe.
Just before Christmas last year, Matt invited Linda and me out
to his sister and brother-in-law's home on the St. Johns River
for a Christmas party. Very nice home, warm and friendly folks,
outdoor camping type of place with a boathouse. My kind of hangout.
After brief introductions, I spotted Matt down by the boathouse
cleaning an assortment of bream and catfish, but it didn't seem
as though poor Matt would ever complete his task of cleaning part
of the Christmas dinner; fried catfish, bream and speckled perch
(crappies as they are also known as). Matt has two boys, Stone
and Gage, and while Matthew stood in the boathouse cleaning
station, steady streams of catfish were being delivered by
the boys. Now that's fresh fish, don't you know?
Stone kept fishing as Matt began cooking up the fresh catch
of the day, and finally he had to tell his son to quit so he
could eat. As I saw it, the kid stopped for a few minutes,
but as Dad began getting the grease hot, the kid was right
back down by the water and resumed dragging in catfish and
bluegills. Reminded me of when I was nine, and like I said,
got in trouble for fishin' just a wee bit too much.
A few months rolled by and Matt expressed his interest in
learning to fly-fish, and came to me with questions on
equipment. A few visits to EBay and Matt found a nice rod
and reel. I got him set up, new line, backing, leaders and
such. I rigged the new outfit, took him out front of our
office and gave him a brief lesson in casting skills, then
sent him home to practice. The next day Matt came back to
work with stories of Stone, his boy, asking more questions
than Matt knew how to answer. But just as soon as it started,
the interest seemed to wane.
A week or so ago, Matt came to work and asked if I could tie
tails onto lead-headed jigs for speckled perch, and showed me
a few photos of a jig that wasn't made anymore. As I examined
the pictures, I remembered I had an old bobbin and some other
fly-tying materials on a bookshelf in my office. I fetched
them and demonstrated with a pencil and a paperclip, and how
to tie the feathers (paperclip) to the hook (pencil) with the
thread that I just happened to have, also. After the Neanderthal
tying demo, I handed off the materials and bobbin to Matt and
told him to take the stuff home. Oh yeah, Matt and his family
have chickens...and the two boys...and now very frightened
chickens...with far less feathers.
Seems the boys have now taken a more than normal interest in
tying chicken feathers and deer hair to the shanks of jig hooks,
and by the looks of things, they have gotten quite innovative
in newly formulated patterns, some of which were recently tested
on the local speckled perch population. The tube type and the
natural chicken are working very well with the boys light
spinning tackle. But that's not where this is going, it gets
It seems as Matt has been practicing with the long rod more
than I realized, and with more observation than he realized
from Stone. Stone began asking more questions, and Matt figured
it was going to be one of those "flash in the pan" things with
the nine year old.
Yesterday I began being grilled again about tying vices, and
after a few suggestions, Matt, and his wife Angel, ordered a
Regal vice for the boys to tie the yard-bird flies. The boys
had improvised somewhat by using a pair of hemostats and a
pair of vise-grips to hold the hemostat in place to grip the
Another event took place yesterday, and here's your story.
Matt decided to go to our local K-Mart and purchase a twenty-dollar
fly-rod and reel combo for Stone for Valentine's Day. Figuring the
kid would probably loose interest, or break the 8' 6" Martin, or
just use it as a cane pole, why invest in anything more than this
inexpensive rod that came with a little box of streamers and a
muddler minnow (size 8). After all, it was a Martin, came with a
WWF line, already rigged, leader and everything and was a 5/6
weight. I'd fish it.
This morning, Matt came in with a disk and told me to plug it
into my computer. And there was Master Stone Phillips...The Natural!
With brief instructions from Dad, Stone put the rod together,
Matt tied on the minnow and as his dad watched, The Natural
began to lay out line, watching his back-cast, shooting line
on his fore-cast and back-cast. Twenty, then thirty feet. The
fly landed on the surface. The warmouth perch plastered the
muddler, and ten fish later, in the dark, Matt had to drag
his Natural up to the house to eat supper.
So, in ten years or so, when you read about Stone Phillips in
some fancy fly-fishing magazine you heard it first right here!
I figure, with a few lessons, well, Dad's in trouble!
(And so are the chickens!)
'Til next time. ~ 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.