Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

June 21st, 2004

Don't Get Me 'Goin
By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson

Aw, now don't get me started on things that you know full well I can't stop talking about. Things like food, or fishing or life in general. Okay, you twisted my arm...ouch!

Let's touch on food. I like food. I like mostly all kinds of foods, except rhubarb, rutabagas and green peppers, yuck! Double-yuck on green, bell peppers! I love Cajun food, but why do they go and mess it up with bell peppers? And, if y'all don't know what rutabaga and rhubarb is, go ahead, try it. I wrinkle my nose to you!

I love food. I love food that is fancy, as long as some chef doesn't go and serve me up one of those cute, little plates with an ounce of whatever is supposed to be a full meal and charge me as much as Bill Gates' salary for a year! I would like more than a taste, please! I love barbeque, as long as it's real. That stuff they cook on those new, fancy gas grills ain't real, it's fake barbeque. The Real McCoy is slow-cooked over a good hardwood. It takes time, and that time can be spent talking about my next favorite thing, fishin'!

Yessiree...fishin', pure and simple. Cane-pole fishin' is where my roots are firmly embedded. I grew up fishin' with a cane pole and dough balls, or worms, or crickets. Then some fool introduced me to saltwater many years ago. Yep, offshore spoiled me rotten. Forget that dollar-twenty-nine-cent cane pole and give me blue-water; way out there where you can forget about seeing the shoreline; where bottle-nosed dolphin ride the push of the bow wake; where fish, bigger than humans, crash bait and turn the gears of expensive reels into smoking junk and break the finest of graphite rods into mere shreds.

Wait...just give me the gin-clear flats, where the water is brackish and is no more than knee-deep; where one's footstep can easily spook a red fish into speeds of pure blur, and cause nightmares to the stalking fisher-person for years to come.

Put me in a multi-thousand dollar flats boat, dress me in sheer, brightly-colored flats wear that is designed to keep me cool on the hottest of Florida's mid-afternoons. I love sight-fishing. It's a hunting trip. There's no room for the impatient; quiet stalking, watching and casting to the quarry as you hold your breath in anticipation. Then, just as you have made that perfect cast, the fish sees the fly go through the air and he imagines it to be an osprey high above him, and his instincts tell him to run, run away. He's now gone from tailing to Mach 3, just because he can. Or, the perfect cast results in the thirty-pound class red chasing down the small, shrimp-like fly; your heart is in your throat; you strip, strip, strip...he nails it and the drag of the fly reel is the only sound that slams you back into reality.

Or just give me my five-weight fly rod, a poppin' bug and my lake behind the house. Give me the sunrise or sunset. Give me the serenity of a gentle fog rising and the big bluegill boiling water under that little bug.

Isn't it all the same? Isn't the purpose interchangeable? Does it just have to be so damned complicated? After all, it's just fishing; that may be true to someone that doesn't understand all of its power. I have always said; "A man's wallet is only connected to his brain by his left arm." He will, at an instant, go from a reasonable human being to a slobbering buffoon when a new article of piscatorial importance is discovered.

Just think; when we are fishing, no matter if you are standing in your cold-water stream, or you, in your warm-water river, and me on my saltwater flat; we are all connected physically by the water in which we stand. But fishing is still very simple, and should stay that way, just pure enjoyment. I suppose that's the number one reason I stopped guiding or running big, off-shore boats. The enjoyment went away. It wasn't simple anymore.

When Linda and I got married, I taught her to sight fish on the flats. She took to it like a duck on a June bug. She became good at it in a very short time and then re-taught me the most important thing I had forgotten; the joy of fishing. She re-taught me to stop looking in that one degree of the circle, that degree was the target; the fish. She re-taught me to look full-circle, to look at the sunrises and the sunsets. My student had become my teacher. I'm afraid I missed a lot of the other three hundred and fifty-nine degrees as I looked for that illusive target for the paying customer.

I have, once again, returned to simplicity. It's in the form of the lake behind the house. I have returned to my roots. I haven't stopped fishing my beloved saltwater, I have just simplified it. And, simplicity has returned my sanity and enjoyment. The sanity part has been argued by others.

A strange and wonderful thing happened the other evening. I gathered my fly rod, went down to the lake, leaned my rod against an old pine tree and sat down in the green chair at water's edge. I stared out onto the lake at the rising fish. My wife stared at me, unnoticed.

She finally asked, "Aren't you going to go fishing?"

My reply? "I already am." ~ 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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