Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

June 7th, 2004

By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson

I began my fishing journeys when I was a mere three years old. It all started with my dad teaching me to squeeze a piece of light bread into a dough ball and pinch it onto a size eight hook. We were on the shoreline, or "bank" of Lake Cannon in Winter Haven, Florida, four miles east of where I grew up.

I can still smell the freshwater; the outboard engine smoke, and I can still hear the sounds of puttering outboards attached to the transoms of old, then new, wooden skiffs.

I caught my first three-inch bluegill that afternoon. With that little fish, a man who I called "Daddy" for not nearly long enough, and I, began a journey that I am still traveling today.

The journey has taken me far from home and returned me safely many times. I have met many colorful folks and have been lucky enough to call some of them "friend." There have been a hell of a lot more good and happy times than not. And, on the other hand, there have been sad times, also.

One of the saddest times in my life was losing the man who taught me right from wrong. He taught me the rules of life. The rules of honesty and dependability was his way of life, and I knew he did his very best to teach me this, even though he was a man of few words. He only had a third grade education, but as time passed, I realized he was one of the wisest men that ever graced the face of God's green Earth. I still speak with him, outloud mostly. He still teaches me lessons I have yet to figure out on my own. His presence is felt strongest when I am on the water, whether salt or fresh. He is my guide. He will forever be at my side.

One of the happiest times was a little over eight years ago. I married my best friend, Linda. I had no idea what was coming. I knew her for over three years before any inkling of us ever becoming more than just friends was thought possible. Boy was I in for a surprise.

It is only fair that I introduce her to you. She's the major part of my life; my equal and my soul mate. Linda had never been in a boat, let alone sight-fished for red fish, trout and other species of the salt. She took to it like a retriever on a duck! I can't get her to pick up a fly rod, but she out-fishes all of my buddies, yeah, and me, with light tackle. We're talking about fifty-three plus pound red fish on eight pound tackle. But that's not all that impressive. What impresses me is that I was her teacher; then, I became her student. She taught me patience. Something I used to have until I began running big boats and guiding on the flats. Simply put, she taught me to "smell the roses," so to speak. I will be writing more about Linda in the future.

I must cover in this introduction what I hope to write about. I really don't know yet. How's that?

I will make you some promises, though. I will never intentionally hurt anyone's feelings. I promise to write the same way I speak. I will write mostly from the heart. I will write about good, ol' southern cookin'. I will write about things that happen to me that I think may amuse you, because they amuse me. I will write mostly about life; about growing up in central Florida before the plastic mice and ducks with first names. However, I won't get "techy." I'm not a fly fishing purist. I fish to catch fish. I fish to empty out and clear my thoughts. I fish for fellowship with my friends. I even keep a few fish, from time to time, for supper.

So, sit back. Pull up a chair.

Welcome to the Florida I love...the Florida of "Back Then, and Now."

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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