Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

June 27th, 2005

In My Room

By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson

I sit here tying much needed flies; golden bend-backs are in order since they are my primary, saltwater fly. My mind drifts, as head cement dries, and my eyes begin to wander around this special hideaway Linda has created for me to stow all of my memorabilia of past fishing trips; a place where I can go to scatter bits of feather and hair on the carpet; to seek a little solitude, at times. It was the fourth bedroom, but is now dubbed, "The Captain's Quarters," my sanctuary.

Over my tying desk is a water color of two guys fishing the same flats that I sometimes frequent. I know that's where it is, the artist told me. But more importantly, it's a painting Linda and I purchased at an art show ten years ago when we were dating. She hadn't learned to sight-fish yet, and I hadn't purchased the skiff. But now the painting takes on a different light, ten years later.

To my immediate left and above, a print hangs on the wall. It is of old, wooden plugs and bait-casting reels, perhaps an old Al Pflueger Supreme with black line. I have a couple of those on a shelf to the left of the print. On the gold, wood frame of the print hangs many old, wooden plugs that my dad once fished. His rough hands tied them to line and cast the white and red plugs to largemouth bass years before my time.

As I stare at these old plugs, certain sadness twinges deep inside my soul. There should be more of them, but once a young man sold some at a garage sale when he was too young to appreciate sentimental worth over monetary value.

In the single window in my room, hangs a stained glass tarpon, and over there is a stained glass snook. I drew them, cut the glass and soldered each piece. They are the only two pieces left of my short-lived, stained glass business, and now they stand guard over the room when I'm not in there.

The two book shelves aren't filled with volumes of books, but there are a few. One especially. A book that Captain Jon Cave wrote, and Jon signed it, and then wrote a personal note in it, when four friends traveled to the east coast one sunny afternoon to bid two other friends a fine, and forever, farewell. And soon, another book will join Jon's book. A book written by a friend that I've never met face to face, but I feel I know quite well and he too will write in it.

Along with the books that sit on the shelves, there are small collections that are meaningless to anyone else but me. A young, glass artist once made free-standing fish, such as sailfish, wahoo, snook, dolphin fish, red fish and others. I never had fish mounted, and to memorialize the trophies I caught, I had the artist create them in clear glass. These stand alone.

The sailfish is approximately ten inches high and represents all the sails I caught, tagged and released. The sail is a noble, pelagic warrior, fighting to the end, and then gazes upward at the angler with their big, blue eyes, questioning their fate, and what had just happened. To release one is a religious experience.

The glass red fish has to be given to Linda and he represents the three, huge Indian River reds that were caught one morning on glassy flats, the smallest being forty-five pounds and the largest of the three weighing in over fifty-three pounds. All on eight-pound class tackle. She has earned that.

The crystal wahoo brings exciting memories of my best buddy, Pat Morgan. His first offshore fish was a sixty pound wahoo that caused his arms to go to jelly after the long fight. A photo of Pat and the fish hangs in my office at work.

The glass snook. I caught my first one off the beaches of Anna Maria Island a long time ago. The largest snook I have caught to this very day. Forty-three and a half inches, and weighed in at twenty-eight pounds. It was dark when I brought the fish to hand, never realizing just how big it was until I brought it home.

The leaping, glass dolphin (mahi-mahi) may be my favorite, next to the sail. It would have to represent the maiden voyage of my first offshore boat. Five, very nice dolphin were boated that day, and thanks to Jim Wilson has to be given, for it was he that taught me to rig, and search the horizon for flotsam and diving birds.

So you see, those simple, uncolored pieces of glass that Robert A. Mickelsen created many years ago have so much life and history. Those pieces of artwork have survived a divorce, several moves, a marriage, and a few more moves. (Robert's recent work can be seen at http://www.mickelsenstudios.com/ )

Up there, just behind me, are two, mounted fish; a bonefish and a largemouth bass. Yes, I know, I told you already, I never had a fish mounted, but those, my friend, I didn't catch. Let me tell you about them.

Those were caught by Terry Friedrich, a good friend of mine. Terry was one of the ones we had to say good-bye to. He was one of us, one of the six. I miss Terry. I miss not being able to pick up the phone and call him. The Master took him too early. Debbie, Terry's wife, gave me those two fish there on my wall. The bass was the first fish he ever caught on a fly-rod. Yep, a nice six pounder. The bone, you ask? Uh huh, his first bonefish on the fly. They tell their story.

And if you look over there on the book shelf, right behind Robert's glass fish, there are a few flies Terry tied. They were meant to be fished, but I just can't bring myself to get them wet. They just might be the last ones Terry tied, so I'll let them rest on the teak shelf.

And over on the corner of my supply cabinet is an old, wooden box. Another memento from Deb that Terry picked up somewhere. Seems it's still a mystery. Inside of it are many spools of tying thread, tinsel, and other stuff. Pull open those drawers, careful now. Inside is two old Herter vises, and with them are several thousand hooks of all sizes and types, paired duck feathers, all kinds of colorful and old materials. They all have their place, but they never talk. They remain silent, and their story will never be told. But Terry knew their story. So, I'll just have to wait until I see him on the other side to ask its history.

You may ask where Steve Letchworth is. Oh, he's here. In spirit, though. His memories haunt me late at night when I'm trying the hair bugs he loved so much. The ones he said were too pretty to fish.

I remember I tied him six of the prettiest, deer-hair sliders I had ever tied for his fiftieth birthday. He thanked me for them, and then tucked them into his tackle bag never to be seen again. Hell, he always packed them around, just wouldn't mess one up. Well, until I took him to the flats early one Saturday morning. I told him if he didn't use one, I was going to take 'em back and fish 'em myself. So, he tied the mullet colored one on and caught the biggest trout he had ever caught. When I tie deer hair, Steve sits right behind me on that day bed over there.

On that other book case are pictures of the prettiest woman on Earth. That's Linda. She's my soul-mate, and one of the best fisher-persons in the world, to me, anyway. I taught her a lot about fishin'; she taught me more than that. She taught me patience, and how to "see."

And what's that daybed for? Well, sometimes I can't sleep, usually right before a fishin' trip. Just like my dad. I come in here late at night and surround myself with all these memories, and that sometimes helps me rest without disturbing Linda. It's nice and comfy, but it's usually piled high with tying stuff. It can grow quiet in here at times.

Just me and my stuff, in my room.

'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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