Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

June 13th, 2005

Whirlwinds and Paradise

By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson
The past month, or so, has been just that; a whirlwind. The pool is finished, finally! And right before our contractor finished it, Linda and I had begun a massive landscaping project in the backyard, including the lake bank. I grew up on cypress lined lake shores, so I saw it fit to install two, very nice bald cypress trees just at the water's edge. I'll probably add one or two more. Just kinda feels more "homey".

Palm trees were in order to add that tropical ambiance that Florida is famous for (instead of that giant, plastic mouse). So, it was off to the nurseries to look at a few different specimens. Did I say a few? There are now at least eight different species of palms scattered strategically around the pool and around the yard, and why not? Heck, there's even palms in the huge, terracotta pots on the deck of our new, cement pond. Then six ligustrum trees, three drake elms, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Then it was time to install the new sod. We're not the "call the landscape company" type. We like getting' dirty. And boy, did we ever. All five pallets of it went down one piece at a time. The reward? An instant carpet of green that will require fertilizer, bug killer, weed control, and various other types of spraying, spreading and, of course, mowing. The five pallets were added to the other part of the lawn the pool contractor managed not to destroy. But that's just fine, I like yard work, seriously; in touch with Mother Earth, a sense of pride.

Dang, almost forgot Linda's goldfish pond. It's nothing fancy...yet. It's nice, about a hundred and sixty gallon, pre-formed shell, buried in the ground with a fountain and a couple of dozen little goldfish doin' laps. But that had to be landscaped also. And what goldfish pond would be complete without a three hundred pound, concrete, gopher tortoise bench standing guard over it? He's pretty cool, though.

I hadn't even thought about fly-fishing with all this going on. Now I did check the FAOL website quite regularly, but as far as planning a trip to the coast, or even walking down to the lake to fling a bug? Not a chance. Well, until the Friday before Memorial Day.

My buddy and I were preparing a Cajun-style luncheon for a group at work when my cell phone rang. It was our own "phishfool_98" (J. D. Cornelius) from the saltwater bulletin board. He was down from Alabama visiting his folks in Daytona and had asked for a little advice on fishing the area. Well heck, I just couldn't let the opportunity get away, so I posted back that I could meet him in Titusville for a little camaraderie and fly-fishing.

Around five-thirty, Memorial Day morning we met up just outside Titusville and headed to the flats on the eastern shoreline of the Indian River. I found out that J. D. had spent some of his youth in the area, and as we drove toward our destination, he reminisced about the area and how it had changed over the years. But as we drove, he came to realize the river hadn't changed that much. The eastern shore is protected and is a National Wildlife Reserve.

My old, familiar friends were there; gators, roseate spoonbills, wood storks, as the orange sun began to crest the mangroves. I forgot about all the palm trees and shrubs and grass back at home. We grew silent as we watched the river wake up. The same dike roads I had driven many times refreshed my tired body and mind, as I searched the waters for signs of tailing red fish.

I shared a golden bend-back with J. D. as we entered the water, surveying it as we waded knee-deep in the estuary in the goldenness of the morning, getting to know each other. But as it has always been with other fly-fishers, it seemed to me that we had known each other long ago.

In typical, saltwater style, we beat the surface to a froth with colored, thick lines. A few nice sea trout were even caught and released. The noon hour snuck up on us; hours seemed as minutes, and J. D. had to return to Daytona to spend the rest of this sacred holiday with his folks. A new friendship was established, and we vowed to meet again when he returned to east, central Florida.

I returned home to our self-created paradise, and, as I sat there looking over the lake behind the house, I realized I had left one paradise to return to another. I was where I needed to be. I was home. And, an hour and a half before, I was also home...my native waters.

'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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