Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

November 21st, 2005

Music of the Stream

By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson
BSwan (Bob) posted a questioning thread on the Bulletin Board last week. It concerned music we might possibly listen to as we fished our favorite waters. For some reason, I immediately thought of Betty Hiner. Betty and I have spoken a few times through emails and once on the phone, and just through these brief correspondences, I think I have a little insight on her personality. Here was Betty's response.

"I listen to the music every time I fish. The music of the water in the riffles, the birds calling, the wind through the trees, kids laughing, and the fish jumping and slapping the water on reentry."

Just what I expected from our Betty. This put me to thinkin', and lately I ain't been doin' much of that. I immediately emailed Betty and agreed.

I'm not a religious man, spiritual maybe, at least. But getting close to Nature through her music has always led me to believe there is more to those sounds than just background noise.

One thing I never allowed on any of my boats, whether a skiff or an offshore monster, was a blaring radio that would easily mask the calming sounds of the saltwater flats, or a quiet, fog laden lake, or the vast secrecy of the deep-blue Atlantic Ocean.

I grew up fishing for bass, bluegill, and other sweet-water species, and Dad never had any artificial sounds disturbing his peace and quiet. Well, with the exception of my squeals of youthful excitement if I happened to hang into a "nice one." But come to think of it, maybe that was his "music" as I allude, once again, to a part of Betty's post, "kids laughing." Their laughter is music, and as silly as it may sound, I'm self-entertained by my own laughter at times, that inner child thing. Besides, if I hook into a "nice one," is there anyone around that would hear me? Perhaps...perhaps Dad is still listening from over there.

Early morning is a miracle. Poling my skiff just before sunrise, clouds turned rosy-gold and gray. The roseate spoonbills, in their entire pink splendor, would begin to gather with the great white and blue herons, the snowy egrets, on the grassy shallows searching out breakfast in the quiet of the early morning. The territorial disputes sent a loud squawk because of the violation of another's fishing grounds. Mullet launched themselves from the smooth film of the brackish waters and the splashes added to the rhythm of the river's waking.

Offshore, the Huntress' twin voices growled just below in the engine room; not heard so much as felt, and pelicans glided just above my bridge as if they enjoyed the rumble of her engines. The hissing of salty spray as it is cast out from beneath her voluptuous and curvy bow, then meeting the smooth surface of deep, blue water, "shhh, shhh, shhh." And again, the laughter of the anglers as they anticipate the day's excitement and of what it may bring. The crackle of the VHF radio was often tuned down, or off, as to not interfere with the morning's sounds as I listened to a thousand trips previously recorded within my mind. And screaming reels, and snapping outrigger clips, and the furious growls of the twins as I throw them in reverse to back down on a belligerent billfish. The yells and screams of the anglers and instructions from my mate, Tim, as he wires the fish to the awaiting!

On a quiet lake somewhere in central Florida, Dad and I waited for the big, blue bream to eat the red wigglers we offered, and the red-winged blackbird called her mate from a stand of cattails near where we fished. He would sit there for hours, silently and still. And just as I was about to speak, he would hush me before I opened my mouth by saying quietly, "Listen." And I would, but I would hear nothing, but now I understand. I now hear what he listened to. It was the sounds of silence, the music of the day.

Your water's voice is different than mine, but the same. We are connected by these waters and sounds of Mother Nature's many instruments..."listen."

"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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