Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

June 20th, 2005

My, How Time Flies
(No pun intended)

By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson
On June 7th, 2004, my first article in my new column here on FAOL was published. Pretty exciting for this Florida boy. I had forgotten about this date until I went back to read some of my own stuff. That kinda sounds egotistical, not meant to be, just checking on something I had written in another article. Then I "clicked" on "INTRODUCTION" and realized a whole year had passed since I agreed to write weekly stories on this site.

Let's review, shall we?

I had spoken to Deanna (LadyFisher) and Jim (James Castwell) on the phone to find out deadlines, content of stories, all that stuff, then agreed to write the column. After sending in my first one, I was met with a tragedy that still influences my stories to this day.

I was pretty excited and wanted to share that feeling with one of my best friends, Steve Letchworth. Steve was a pharmacist at our local drug store, so I loaded up in my truck and headed down the highway to let Steve know what I was up to. It was a Thursday afternoon. Upon arrival, I realized Steve didn't work on Thursdays, so I figured I'd call him that night and tell him about FAOL, and my "Flats Dude" column.

That night I received a call from another close friend, Capt. Jon Cave, that Steve was instantly killed in a car crash out in an area close to the St. Johns River. Eight months prior, Steve had called me from Idaho to inform me that Terry Friedrich had passed away suddenly at home. Terry was another close friend, and the news of Terry's death came as Linda and I were moving, literally, into our new home.

I emailed Deanna and let her know that I probably wouldn't be able to continue the newly formed column. But, as I sat down by the lake trying to make some sense of the news, and watching Linda go through her sadness and anger, I began to think about a new story that would be written through tears of loss and sadness. This story was from a dark and secret place hidden deep within my soul, that most never see. The story was "Ripples." A story, a year later, I still can't read aloud.

Prior to my column, I sent in a couple of stories that were published here. Only because of Dave Micus, did this happen. He kept at me to do so. "Baby Ducks and Fly-fishing" was published in the "Readers' Casts" section, one of Linda's favorites. And just the other day, the story repeated itself as a new family of baby ducks swam the rim of the lake behind the house with their mom. The story prompted our own Betty Hiner to email me and tell me that she too enjoyed the story. I called Betty a few months ago just to hear what she sounded like. What a warm and dear person she is. I hope to fish with her one day.

There have been many I have spoken to on the phone. There have been quite a few that I have been fortunate enough to spend a few days with, casting colored and thick lines into salty waters. And even more that I have written and received emails to and from.

Two folks I have been in constant contact with every since I have been a member of this site are Dave Micus and Roger Stouff. They are both my mentors. Their stories influence some of mine.

Dave and I speak frequently on the phone and through emails. We laugh at things, kid around, and comment on each others stories before they are even published, sometimes. One day he and I will share waters together, either down here or up there in Massachusetts. I greatly look forward to that day.

As I discovered Roger Stouff's writings, I felt as though I knew Roger. The more I read, the more I knew I had to get him on the phone and hear his voice. His voice was important enough to me that I searched him out and called him. I explained to him that I needed to hear what he sounded like, so that I may read his stories in his voice, not mine. Over the past year, Roger and I speak over the phone, and like Dave, I will spend some time with Roger on the waters of Bayou Teche and I will listen to him as he listened to his grandfather and to the spirits of his ancestors.

I have read almost all of Roger's articles, and one minute I'm laughing, the next I have eyes full of tears. I just ordered his new book, Native Waters, A Few Moments in a Small Wooden Boat. I look forward to sitting down by the lake, reading it in my green chair. So, you, my friend, are a gift. I just read the excerpts from your book, and even though I have read all that I could find of yours, that canvas on which you live and write amazes me. You are a gift for all of us that read. I remember you once telling me not to make you out to be someone you are not. Now, I have to argue that...you are what I thought you were.

As I scroll down through the titles of the stories I've written this past year, I am reminded of times spent with friends over on the west coast of Florida, a saltwater fish-in where I met quite a few of y'all. There are stories that you told me made you laugh, cry and think. There are many stories linked to my dad's infinite wisdom, wisdom of common sense that somehow some of it rubbed off on me.

To summarize a lot of this, Castwell asked a question in the "Sound Off" section a couple of days ago, "Are fly-fishers better people?" I thought about it. I read most of the answers the other members posted. Here's my take...

I honestly believe I'm no better than anyone else. I was blessed with a good family that I know brought me up the right way. They did the best they could. I had a dad that loved to fish, and thanks to him, he always took me with him. I've met some wonderful folks that fly-fish, and some that, well, were not so nice, but just a few. Here's the catch. I'm not a better person because I fly-fish; I'm just a better person because of fly-fishing.

Thanks for letting me go on for an entire year.

'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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