Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

November 15th, 2004

I'm Worried

By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson

I know my wife loves me, probably understands me more than anyone else on this entire planet. We were best friends before we decided to "set the hook" permanently in the jaws of Holy Matrimony. She puts up with me and my many eccentricities; but here lately, I must have become quite the challenge for her. I'm beginning to worry myself and scare her, so I have decided to write all of this down, just in case she decides to put me away.

Here, I will mention instances that have recently occurred, and conversations, as short as they may be, that have lend me to believe Linda may be laying plans for my future that could include my demise. I'm worried.

As recently as the other night, for instance, I returned home from that big, retail chain store we refer to as "Wally World" with a bag full of Accardo Spooks. I was extremely excited because they are hard to get here, and, since the tackle salesmen at "Wally World" haven't a clue what an Accardo Spook is, they only stock one at a time. So, okay, I became very emotional to get a half dozen and figured they had finally listened to my incessant whining. Probably the first "red flag" Linda paid attention to. Maybe not.

We got home from the store and I went directly to my room. Let me explain. My room is where all of my fishing stuff is, "The Captain's Quarters," as I have chosen to call the fourth bedroom in the new house; my own little clubhouse (another red flag). I eagerly opened one of the plastic homes where the Spook had lived until he was purchased and brought to "The Captain's Quarters" where he would be treated with the respect he deserved. I pulled out my pocket knife and dug out the chartreuse paint that that filled the eye of the hook. My door was firmly closed; I made doubly sure of that.

I held my little friend by the bend of its hook, looked into its large, fixed eyes and imagined it to be a warrior. He was a warrior and would pick many a good fight with the bluegills and bass the next day.

"I am Spook, the Warrior," as I gave him my voice. "I will grip you with my deadly talon as the great osprey does, for I am made from the same feathers as he, The Fish Eagle." My door flings open, and Linda notices my "deer in the headlight" look and asks, "Who the hell are you talking to?" She notices the little cork bug pinched between my thumb and forefinger. "You're crazy and I'm worried, and I'm calling the hospital."

When I first bought my skiff, it was the last week of February of 1996. Not good weather for fishing the flats, and surely not conducive to teach my new wife to sight-fish. I was extremely proud of the boat. It fit almost perfectly in the double garage of the other home. Well, I did have to kick the car and truck out to make room, and it did sit kind of caty-wompus, taking up the entire garage. And, I'm sure she became lonely, all cooped up in the garage and not out ripping through the flats, doing what she was made to do. I could sit for hours and just look at her. I even climbed aboard one stormy and dreary afternoon, while Linda was at work. I sat behind her wheel and steered her through beautiful, open and shallow flats. I was unconsciously making engine noises as we searched for tailing reds. The garage access door swings open, and the blonde is shaking her head. "You're crazy and I'm worried, and I'm calling the hospital."

Over the years, I've fished with some very respectable, professional fishermen. At least they said they were respectable. I find myself in harms way, even by these trusted friends. They often make mention of how they don't understand why a smart woman, such as my Linda, puts up with me. I don't understand why they would say such things. Case in point...I show up at a dinner party in a brightly-colored, long-sleeved flats shirt. I believe it was referred to as, "watermelon." It was very expensive, even though I only paid five bucks for it on sale. They all looked at me, put on their sunglasses and then turned to Linda, did their "tisk-tisk" thing and said, "He's crazy and we're worried about you." Linda looks at them, shakes her head, looks at me and says, "Yeah, I'm worried, and I'm calling the hospital."

Get this. The last six times I've gathered my fly rod and started down to the lake behind the house, the wind immediately begins to blow, torrents of rain falls, lightning crashes all about. I now refer to the six-weight as my "weather maker." Okay, I can turn this into a positive thing. I mentioned to my neighbor, the one that still smiles and talks to me, that I had been considering selling the rod on the Internet for a million bucks to a farmer in the Midwest to make rain. As soon as I notice the yards in the neighborhood begin to wither and die, I run down the street, fly rod in hand, screaming, "Do you want me to make it rain?" Linda embarrassingly chases me down, loads me in the car, shakes her head and mutters, "Your crazy and I'm worried, and I'm calling the hospital, providing the neighbors haven't called the cops already."

Just the other evening, I was sitting on the back porch thinking of another article I wanted to write. I had a nice, cold glass of iced tea. I was staring out into the darkness listening to the frogs that were saying different things to each other. One particular frog had caught my attention. Linda walks out onto the lanai and immediately notices I'm staring blankly into the night, and assumes I've gone to other places other than the porch. "What are you thinking about?"

"Oh, nothing." I smile at her with that innocent as hell look I've cleverly designed to prevent her from callin' the cops.

"No, seriously, is everything okay?"

Damn, she seems genuinely concerned about my appearing melancholy. "No, I'm fine...Okay, listen to that frog."

Her lip begins to turn up on the side, as she cocks her head like my bulldog. "How do you spell what that frog is saying?"

It was an innocent and perplexing question I had asked.

You guessed it!

"You're crazy and I'm worried, and I'm calling the hospital."

"No, wait, I'm serious about this. Do you think it would be B-R-E-E-P", or "B-R-U-U-P?"

She runs into the house, slamming the sliding glass door behind her, leaving me to figure it out on my own.

Hopefully, I'll see y'all next week. ~ 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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