Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

May 8th, 2006

Yesterday, Once More

By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson
As I poled the little skiff with Ian, my oldest grandson, and his dad Pete aboard, around the flats looking for that one special red fish, I thought about Dad and me. A peaceful melancholy set in, not in a sad way perhaps, but in a way that silenced the birds and other marine noises that I look so forward to hearing on my waters of the Indian River. My thoughts took me back to yesterday when I was nine, and the excitement of the fishing trips my dad would take me on.

I seek counsel from my wife Linda now and again. She's brilliant when it comes to the minds of children, I'm not. I never had any kids of my own, but inherited Linda's two daughters, and later, seven grandkids that would eventually come along. April and Pete having four boys and Wendy having two boys and a little girl, the last born. Linda has a way of taking me back to my youth and reminding me how to see. Too often I get wrapped up in the adult that I think I'm supposed to be.

I had left Ian at home the week before, as his dad and I fished the flats. I knew his feelings were hurt, I could see it in his eyes when we returned with our stories. Something I knew, deep down, that had to be corrected; a wrong that had to be righted. There's nothing worse than hurting ones feelings, especially a child, nothing. But as the next weekend approached and they came to our house, I hesitated in inviting the boy to go, after all, this was serious fishing, and teaching Pete to handle the skiff wasn't going to be an easy task. I believe my dad's spirit gently nudged me in the direction where I knew I needed to go, were I had to go. And Linda's lesson allowed me to reach through that invisible curtain that separates the physical world from the other side where the wisdom of our foregoers haunt and yet remains within our reach as we need it.

I walked down to the shoreline of the lake behind the house. That's where I usually find him. He waits there at times when I need to ask him for reminders of lessons he once was able to teach me in person, but through the eyes of a boy I never understood, or didn't pay attention to.

Clearly I could see myself in my youth. I could feel my excitement of the upcoming fishing trips. I felt the fear of making a mistake that could disappoint my dad. But now I had understanding. Dad was never disappointed; his fears were the same as mine are now. Being able to see from both sides enabled me to visit yesterday through the eyes of today, and more importantly, the eyes of a child.

When they arrived, I took Ian outside to be alone and talk. The wisdom and understanding of a nine-year-old is incredible. I explained to him this would be the first of many trips to these waters I call home. It was time to set tradition, not only with Pete, but him. The same tradition that was given to me by Dad when I came of age to understand our waters, and all that belonged to them. It was time to learn respect, not of me, but that which surrounds us.

My concentration wasn't on the glistening and clear waters of the lagoon as I pushed the skiff southerly. I was back in that old, wooden skiff and my concentration was on that brown, cork bobber anxiously awaiting the sudden hit of a bluegill. I could smell the musty waters of the lake and feel the warmth of a summer's morning sun. I could hear Dad's voice as he spoke ever so quietly to me, coaxed me to listen to the sounds of the silence. It was yesterday once more, where tradition was being born.

'Til next time. ~ Capt. Gary

About 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.

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