As I drove toward the west coast, I began to
think back when I was a young boy growing up
in central Florida. I never realized, at that
time, that my dad's lessons were actually laying
a foundation of the fiber of life. Fiber, or
structure, of the "good" inner-self that seems
to have been, unfortunately, left out of the
life-lessons in today's rush hour of human
expectations and demands.
I value my fiber; my common thread that he
instilled in me; the trusting of others, the
true meaning of a good neighbor, seeing the
goodness of strangers no matter their status
or title. That was what they were, not who
they were. Dad was a wise man. And these lessons
were to unfold and be proven, once again, in the
next few days.
Returning to the west coast of Florida is always
exciting for me. I spent a good deal of my youth
on the Gulf of Mexico side of the state. The
Atlantic coast was farther away, so all of our
trips ended where the sun sets on emerald waters
and glistening, white, sandy beaches. This
particular area, Dunedin, I hadn't seen or fished,
and the expectation of meeting new faces encouraged
me to drive a little faster to my destination.
The three and a half hour drive gave me time to
imagine what I was in for. Would that same common
thread be within them? I know saltwater; no unusual
concerns there. I knew four of the folks I had met
several months prior; Bill Sorbie, my host, Harold
and Sue Hattaway, Stev Lenon. We had once gathered
south of my future destination to reintroduce
Harold back into the salty flats of the north
Skyway Bridge area of St. Petersburg after his
bout with cancer. But the others I had only spoken
with electronically through the invisible world of
cyberspace; the world of "Fly Anglers On Line."
I silently wondered what might happen when an Old
Geezer, a Dot Man, a Dun Fly, mixed with pureBS,
got together with twenty or so others with equally
strange names. I continued fighting the heavy traffic
on the paved ribbon that would take me to my native
waters. The same saline solution I had become accustomed
to as a child. Once again, anticipation filled my
I sat on a bench that overlooked these same
waters Friday morning, and I must say thanks
to Ms. Dorothy Dill, a lady unknown to me.
She must have meant a lot to someone, they
had dedicated this seat overlooking the lagoon
in her memory, it was routed in the wood that
now rested my back. Her soul haunts this place
where she apparently found the same peace I
found there that morning.
The ancient, long-needled pines reached skyward
eighty feet or more. Their branches waited for
the ospreys to land among them. Even the old,
dead pines offered up their broken down tops
as refuge to the owls and birds of prey. The
descendant pines of the same trees that the
Tocobagans hid behind the day Panfilo de Narvaez
led his men to shore.
It wasn't hard to imagine
the cries of the original natives that lived
here. Their concern was evident as rigging was
lowered from the large and strange, wooden ships
ran aground in the white sand just offshore.
They hid behind the mammoth oaks and the yellow
pines as they observed the Spaniards unload their
horses and supplies.
Children were hushed as the
rattling sounds of anchor chains were thrust
though the hull of the monstrous ships. Men
yelled to each other in strange tongue, and
women scurried to the shelters that they had
built just above the flood plain of the tidal
waters around that island.
Never had anything disturbed them more as they
crouched and watched the strangers wade toward
them, tall and dark strangers wearing metal
shirts and long, leather boots. Some of the wise
elders knew deep within their hearts trouble
was surely coming their way, and the life they
knew was to be no more.
The bones of the Tocobagan tribe now rest in the
burial mounds on the low-lying areas of the
island now known as Honeymoon. Diseases the
strangers brought drew the life from them,
and they would be no more.
The trees whistled and sang in the brisk
and cool breeze of this February morning.
I watched from afar, un-noticed by the
strangers, as they cast colorful lines in
the air forming tight loops. Again, strangers
to the salt had appeared from far away places;
not to invade, but to discover and observe,
and cast long rods. I sat for quite a while,
loosing track of time. Protected from the winds,
I warmed in the sun, taking my time to look into
areas that may have gone unseen by the visitors.
I saw souls still hiding in the palmettos and
underbrush. I offered an apology to the spirits,
then bid farewell to Dorothy Dill, and left her
bench in search of still, fly waters.
The waters in the inner lagoon of Honeymoon
Island were the calmest Bill (pureBS) could
find for us to fish. Protected by the
antediluvian pines and mangroves from the
nagging north wind, the water still possessed
a distinct chill and the winds would work their
way around the cove to find and buffet us.
The only encouragement, there wasn't anyone around
except for the abundance of fly-fishers from
our party, with the exception of the out-of-state
bird-watchers that stared at us in the parking
lot as we strung rods, donned waders and other
fly-fishing paraphernalia. I must admit, I found
the 'watchers' quite amusing as they would all
but trip on themselves as they 'watched' us.
Two by two, strangers of a common thread walked
through trails of pine needles as conversations
took place between them. Stories unwound, and
the strangers became familiar with each other.
Before the day would end, warm, Florida sun
would be found setting on old friends as they
shared cheeseburgers and beer sitting on a
wooden deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
Driving home, I began to think about the gathering.
It's true; we all share a common thread, a thread,
or fiber that runs deep within us. It became
apparent that extended weekend in February of
2005, when a collection of fishers came to be
on the west coast of Florida.
Common threads were gathered to form a strong
bond, and I am a better person because of it.
All is well.
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.