Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

October 31st, 2005


By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson
My wife Linda's a packrat! Dyed-in-the-wool, packrat!

A few weeks ago was the fall break for kids in Seminole County, so Linda had a week off and I decided this would be a great time for me to take a week of leave so we could hang out together and maybe hit the coast and catch a red fish, or two. Maybe a trout, anything. Turns out, my dear wife had other plans. The dreaded honey-do list! Curses, foiled again!

We've been in the new house for two years and the garage, well, the garage had been pretty much ignored except for leaving enough room for Linda's car, the riding mower and other stuff, and it was the "stuff" part that led to the demise of the fishing part of my week-long vacation. Well, the weather also played into it, being that rain was predicted by our local weather gurus, and that, combined with the howling winds, put the whammy on any attempts to head off in search of fly-waters.

George Carlin said it best in one of his comedy skits:

"Actually this is just a place for my stuff, ya know? That's all, a little place for my stuff. That's all I want, that's all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table, everybody's got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that's your stuff, that'll be his stuff over there. That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time."
Anyway, we got tired of walking all around the stuff...garage stuff. But the little piles of stuff, I thought, had been reduced into even smaller piles of stuff when we moved from our old house to the rental house and then into our new house. What happened? (Read sentence number one at the top of the page.)

Linda, aka, Packrat, worked in retail management for quite a long time. The last three companies she worked for went "belly-up." So, all the stuff they were going to throw out that was their stuff, became our stuff. It all made sense. It was all perfectly good stuff, just lots and lots of stuff.

Let's go back a little over three years ago when Linda worked for a home improvement/hardware store. When Dooms Day hit, there were piles and piles of hammers, screwdrivers, chisels, tape measures, sockets, ratchets, razor knives, screws, bolts, ladders, fire extinguishers, shovels, rakes, and on and on and on. This stuff found its way to our house via my truck. Okay, hold on, not so fast. I was summoned by the little blonde to bring the truck as to haul all this stuff, because, "This stuff is just too good to be thrown away!"

The garage at the old house started filling up. To the point that I couldn't get the skiff out of the garage because of the piles of stuff in front of it. So, we moved some of the piles of stuff into the attic until the rafters began to groan and the drywall started to crack. But there was a saving grace! Our neighbor Wayne was also a "packus rattus." With that said, back to the present.

A trip to Sears was in order to sort out the couple of million sockets, both metric and standard, even more screwdrivers of various sizes and quality. Hacksaws! Hey, anybody need a hacksaw? I have nine of 'em! We purchased a triple decker, bright red mechanic's tool box, and took all of about fifteen minutes to fill it up. Various sized hooks were installed on the wall to hold the weed eater, the blower, rakes, shovels and such. Four days later the task was done. But still, the garage is still packed with stuff. At least I know what stuff I have now.

In the midst of all the sorting, discarding and more sorting, I did find some of my stuff. And what a surprise I would uncover from just a simple task as cleaning out the garage.

Years ago, a friend of mine gave me an old, metal tackle box. One of those that kinda looks like a tool box, and it folds out drawers as you open it. Kinda gold colored, but I knew it was old when he handed it to me. He doesn't fish. His dad didn't either. But his dad had received the tackle box as payment from an old man he did some work for, and Skip received it from his dad, and Skip gave it to me.

As I opened the box, I realized that whoever owned it originally was extremely organized, and a fly-fisherman to boot. There inside were many old, wooden plugs with cracked and yellowed paint. Hooks in wooden tubes and sinkers in the blue, slide-open metal boxes that read, "Take a boy fishing today", written on the back of the tin. But underneath one of the folding shelves I found two fly reels that looked practically brand new, line still loaded, and still in their paper boxes. On the opposite side were two Al Pflueger Supreme bait-casting reels, and they too, were in the original boxes. But as I carefully explored my new treasure chest, I found a small plastic box that contained a special surprise. Six, still in the cellophane wrapper, streamers...never used. The flies were attached to a small piece of paper backing. Through the confusion of selling a home, packing up furniture, moving into a rental house as our new home was being built, then moving into the new home, these special old flies and their roommates, disappeared, and then re-discovered as Linda and I cleaned out the garage.

I'm not that familiar with freshwater flies, especially cold water stuff. I'm a saltwater, tropical kind of dude. So, as I inspected these streamers, the names of them were as foreign as the names of my saltwater flies would be to a cold-water, trout fisher.

There were six, and as you read the names, I'm sure you may have used these, and they may be as commonplace as my bend-backs, or deceivers are to me. Protected in their clear wrappers was the "Spofford Smelt," the "Campbell's Fancy," "Needle Smelt," "Maynard's Marvel," "Golden Demon," and the "Jackass." And as I turned them over, I discovered another small treasure, the name and address of the tier, Don Statton. I wondered how old these colorful bits of thread and feathers were. I wondered if Don was still around, after all, I had his address and phone number in my hand; a business card of sorts. Millers Falls, Mass.?

I nervously picked up the phone and dialed the number. There was some reluctance since I didn't know how old the flies were, and I surely didn't want to stir any unpleasantness if Don was no longer with us. But still, I had to place the call.

A much younger voice answered sleepily. I asked if Don was there, and was told he was working at a nearby college. His son, Gary, had answered, and I had awakened him...ooops! But as I told him what I had found, and the reason for calling, he began to warm up, and wake up. Sorry Gary.

Names, as unfamiliar to me as the names of these flies, were mentioned by Gary. Folks his dad fished with; men's names that invented these flies and those, some now gone, that had written stories about their home waters and flies. The likes of Harry Kenerson, Ora Smith, and the New England Outdoor Writers' Association, were spoken of by the son of Don that now fly-fishes these same waters for landlocked salmon, and with these very same flies. I haven't spoken to Don yet, but I plan on calling him soon.

In all this re-discovery, Linda handed me a dusty, aluminum tube. I hadn't seen it in a few years either. This was also included in the tackle box gift from my friend, and apparently, the same guy that had owned the box had owned the fly-rod contained in the tube. A four-piece, Garcia Conolon, eight-foot, six-weight "fast," or seven-weight "soft," fiberglass fly-rod. It appears immaculate.

I mated the ferrules of the older rod, and picked up my nine-weight that sat nearby. Two different animals that told different stories. My rod knew only me, and I knew its tales. The Garcia held tight to its stories, unrevealing. Its monetary value? About ten bucks. Its untold stories? Invaluable. To me, anyway. Someday soon, I will rig that old rod and one of its reels found in the metal tackle box. I'll take them to the lake behind the house and let them breathe an old familiar breath over new waters.

Well, the garage is a lot more organized and I now know I have tools I can get to.

Three days of cleaning the garage; rewarding. A pile of junk that went to the roadside; to the point of embarrassment. An old fly-rod and a plastic box of flies, with name and address of tier; priceless.

'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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