Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

May 9th, 2005

Coloring The Soul

By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson
"You know Tim, the soul's just like an Easter egg. Until some little kid dips it in color, it's just a plain, old egg." Tim, my first mate, and I were gathering dock lines and stowing equipment after a good day offshore chasing sailfish and dolphin with three quite funny customers. They had made our day.

On any given day, especially the days when I ran the Huntress, the forty-eight foot Buddy Davis sport-fisherman, a lot of preparation and attention was given to the boat, the gear, fuel, and any of the other facets of operation for a safe and enjoyable trip for the crew and customers. We had to make the day count for the anglers, for one, hoping for a return charter, and secondly, and most importantly, to enjoy the day and the company of each other. I never could understand why a skipper and crew had to be in a foul mood and display an unwritten rule of rudeness to the folks that paid the bills, and vice versa. Whether it was on my eighteen-foot flats skiff, or other vessel, I always saw it as a team effort between crew and angler. This was a way of life, and still is, and the color of the day should linger forever in our souls.

Sure, there were customers who came and went. Some we had a lot of fun with on the boats, and when the sun was setting in the west, many times I sat on the fly-bridge, or casting deck, staring at another one of the Master's beautiful paintings, reflecting on the day, asking myself the question; Did I make the day count for that person, or persons? Did we seize the day?

Life is capricious, disappearing right before our very eyes. When we least expect it, that special someone we expected to be where we left them is gone. We never got to say what we wanted to say to them face to face. As David Brin once said, "Why must conversations always come so late? Why do people always apologize to corpses?" You may ask, what does this have to do with fly-fishing? Everything, it has everything to do with life and living and fishing and being.

People walk into and out of our lives everyday. Some of them become closer than others. I met Johnny Walker back in 1997 through another fly-fishing website. He had called me and wanted to come to Florida to fish with me. I figured he was another customer. I was wrong. John became part of our family immediately. Seems as though we shared the same ideals, goals and thoughts on many different subjects, and as we conversed on the way to the river, we realized we were more alike than we could have imagined.

I spent part of this past weekend with John. He's from Texas and works for a defense contractor and, as luck would have it, the Orlando office is working along with the Texas office, so his trips have become more frequent. I don't miss a chance to visit with John. Some trips are spent on the water, some not. But each and every time John comes down, we spend golden times conversing about life, enjoying food shared at our table, and we even spend a little time fly-fishing with each other either on the lake behind the house, or on the flats.

We have often talked about death and what it means to us. We both agree that when the time comes for our departure from this place, we want it to be a time of celebration of life. And, in order for it to be a celebration of life, we agree that we have to "live" life. We have to breathe in the colors that surround us. He and I were sitting out on the new pool deck Saturday night watching another sunset. I said I had missed too many of them, but I swore I would stop in my tracks, whereever I was, and never miss another one.

That same morning, as we drove around the dike road that borders the Indian River, the sun was just rising and we slowed down to take in the waking of the river. This has become tradition to me, and now to John. The roseate spoonbills where everywhere that morning, appearing more numerous than usual. Their pink-coral plumage matched the streaks of early-morning sunrise. The alligators were out in abundance, seeking to perhaps catch one of the snowy egrets being a bit too careless. In the distance, just over the water, an osprey caught a glimpse of an unaware mullet and dove at Mach speed to harvest breakfast for her new babies that awaited her arrival from their nest atop the old radio tower.

We fished that day in an angry river. Wind caused us to force our back-casts as we waded clear waters that were empty of red fish and sea trout. And later we would laugh at each other for having sore wrists and achy shoulders. Another day not wasted, but spent adding color to our souls.

As I have said before, it's been a rough year loosing so many of our friends. But we have only lost them in a physical sense; we still have their spirit and their color of life. They have added so much color to our souls by their ability to live each day if it were their last and sharing their experiences and their lives with us.

I'm not sure how to end this story, other than to say;
"Today is here now. Tomorrow isn't ours yet, and may never be. The color is there. Seize it, take it and add it to your soul, then blend those colors talking, loving, sharing, laughing and, sometimes, crying."

See y'all next week. ~ 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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