September 26th, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Fishing with Flats Dude and Ed
By Jed Proujansky, MA

AAARRRGGGHHH as any good pirate story filled with suspense, intrigue, pillaging, plunder and affairs of the heart begins.

I left the comfort of my bed at O'dark 30 and started driving north for my rendezvous with Ed (FloridaFlyer) and Gary (Flats Dude). The blood red moon hung low in the horizon, and sat over my left shoulder as I drove. The road was near empty with the lights of semi's and the occasional traveler passing in the opposite direction. I drove marking the mile markers, with exits every 5 or so miles marking my progress north. I was looking for an exit about 65 miles from where I started marking the point where I change from the Turnpike to Rt 95.

Lantana, Okeechobee, Palm Springs Gardens passed as I drove in a semi conscious state thinking about meeting two fun guys from FAOL, 0ne who I have fished with before and one who I only knew through the passing of electrons. I had been on the road for about an hour, when at 5:30 my cell phone rings and it's Gary, checking on my progress. He and Ed were meeting early and starting without me. I was going to call when I got there and they would drive over to pick me up.

My first sign that there was a problem came when about 70 miles on I did not see the signage I had expected. No exit marked for the interchange. In fact, these exit signs seemed to yield little information other than a route number and exit number. My second sign of trouble was that the moon which had been so quietly following my progress over my left shoulder had moved up in my vision, indicating a turn inland. The final indicator was the serious lack of exits any more. While on this never exiting ribbon of darkness I called Gary and asked for some directions. He laughed, and wished me luck, then hung up. I drove for another 20 miles before I could find an exit or rest area. It was a rest area that showed me I had clearly missed my exit and had to go another 12 miles before the next one came. How come there are exits every 5 miles until I need one and then they are 36 miles apart?

The sun rose, morning was upon us and I, after 30 extra miles was approaching my destination. We were going to be fishing the flats near Titusville, some of Gary's home waters. I arrived at our meeting place. It was a boat launching area, with a lot filled with boats and trailers as well as single cars. The shores were dotted with people fishing bait from shore with their lounge chairs, coolers and umbrellas enjoying the Florida sunshine. There was the occasional spin caster, throwing lures but up to this point I did not see anyone wading the waters. I called Gary on the phone and he told me that they would be right over as the 'gator that they were watching and that was watching them was moving a little closer and they felt it was a good time to pick up and move anyway.

To us Northern boys that's almost enough to get us to crawl back into our sun baked cars and lock the doors. But logic came over me and I figured I would be okay so long as I was near to Gary or Ed. They might be willing to put my life in danger, but I assumed they had enough sense to protect their own.

After I called, I started to string up my rod in preparation for an exciting day of fishing. Floating line, 10 lb leader and a bite tippet of 20 lbs. Gary gave me a fly to use of his own design, but I will not divulge its make up or he might have to kill me. It was a pretty fly, looking like something I once saw dangling from the neck of a woman of the night. I chose to wear a full brimmed hat and long sleeved shirt as it was hot and I did not want to bring home a sunburn. Gary and Ed pulled up about the time I was ready. I had on my designer fishing shirt with 87 pockets, new never worn most expensive Simms deluxe wading boots with the special Gucci socks with Florida species in the pattern and my special tinted, shaded polarized anti-glare bifocals covering my eyes. I was trying to blend in and I hoped this outfit would work.

Gary who had never seen me before drove into the lot and as though he had radar went directly to me. He looked me up, then down, then up again, then upward to the sky and got out of his car. With a strong Gary-type handshake he introduced himself. Ed came around and we shook hands and then we were ready to start the day. I was amazed at how Gary was able to find me in the crowd, but then I realized it must have been my long rod.

We started driving out into the flats areas. The area is filled with small roads built up on top of these dykes that separate different areas of the flats. As we drove we saw multitudes of birds, cormorants, pelicans, anhingas, osprey, ducks, egrets, herons and others. We saw Tiger frogs, and 'gators. We drove through these winding one lane roads looking for Reds, tailing in the water or bait fish indicating fleeing actions. We saw hundreds of mullet jumping. If only they were trout or some fish that ate bait instead of only plant life. I think that mullet are here to humble fishermen. They were in some cases 5 lbs and larger and they were everywhere.

I did a search on Mullet behavior, wanting to find out why they jump. There were three answers given. One is that they jump because they are happy. That sounds like a PETA answer to me and I disregard it. At that level in the animal kingdom no animal expends that much energy for no biological reason. The second answer is to get ride of parasites. I am not so sure about that either. If a parasite can hold on against the pressure of a fast moving fish in water, why would the lighter pressure of air force it to release from its host? The third answer, which did make sense to me, was that they have an area in the throat where they store air for breathing. When they are swimming in the still warm water that is therefore lower in oxygen content they need to get oxygen into their bodies that does not exist in the water. They therefore jump into the air to get the oxygen. If the water has a lower oxygen content, as it will be on the bottom they sometimes need to do multiple jumps to get enough oxygen back into their bloodstreams.

We found a place that looked like a likely spot to fish. To this point we did not see any tailing, which is a characteristic of feeding redfish, but we stopped anyway. Ed immediately started to complain about being tired. Gary who had almost no sleep the night before and I who woke up before the crack of dawn looked at each other and politely told Ed to stow it. After all Gary and I were probably 15 years or more his senior and if we could carry on, so could he. I think his problem might have originated in the near empty flask o'rum that was hanging out of his back pocketů and he did not even offer to share.

We got out of the car and moved towards the water. I complained that wading was okay, but could I wade from shore as I did not want to get my fancy new wading boots wet in that muddy stuff. Ed "accidentally" pushed me in (I think in a large part because of my "stow it" comment) and since my boots were now wet, I continued. There was almost no breeze and the water was pretty flat. We waded over a level bottom that was about 3 feet deep. The bottom was made up of sandy spots and grassy spots. The sand was best to stand on and the grass best to cast to. In the grassy areas, one could sink in a foot or so, and as you stood there you were slowly sucked in.

We were spread out about 100 feet between us casting out towards the center of the flats and then behind us towards the shore. There was little action. Occasionally we could see wakes following our fly. We got a few hits, but no hookups. I caught the first fish. It was a trout. Now granted that it was a sea trout, and a new type of trout for me but really, did I travel 1500 miles to catch a trout? I can catch trout in half a dozen places 15 minutes from home and I would not have had to suffer the indignities put on me by two pirates. It was nice to watch my fellow fishermen cast. Ed is a respectable caster. I can hold my own as well. Gary is in another class. He consistently threw more line, and beautifully as well. It was a lesson in and of itself.

We talked during our ride about fishing. How fishing is not about fishing, but about being somewhere and experiencing it, not just seeing it. Listening and hearing what is around. Being in the present. It is something that Gary has written about, a lesson he learned from Linda, and it is something that Ed and I have talked about when we were last together. I think that if you fish, it is something that fly fishing lends itself to more than any other type of fishing. We saw kids bait fishing, grown ups spin casting from the flats but no other fly fishermen. I think that for the most part we were all sharing something in common, beyond or in spite of the fact that we were fishing. Before I ever wet my line, I knew that this day was a good one. The beauty of the area is without question, two friends of a like mind were with me and then, on top of it all we were going to go fishing. We might even catch fish.

As noon was approaching, we were hot and at least some of us tired, we decided to head inland for something to eat. Ed had emptied his flask earlier and Gary was muttering something like, "Bud, I need a Bud," so we picked up our lines and headed in.

We went to one of those restaurants that had a large pool with fish swimming in it. I started to run for my rod, but Gary told me that it was not considered polite in these parts to try and fish out a restaurant pool so I left the rod in the car. It was a seafood joint, and Ed and I ordered shrimp. We figured that since we were imitating them all morning it would make sense to at least eat a few. Gary got Mullet. He figured since he couldn't catch those that were ubiquitous all morning we might as well eat their cousin. We each ordered a beer while we were waiting for our rum. No reason to drink lightly, after all it was one of those days whose name ended in 'y'.

As we talked, a plan was hatched. We finished our booze, I think we finished our lunch and went back out to the car. We exchanged the rods for cutlasses and started. It was long and hard work under the hot Florida sun. After hours of pillage and plunder, pillage and plunder (with only one 15 minute break under the strict watch of Capt. Gary) we finally gathered up our loot and stored it. It is in a secret warehouse with almost no distinguishing features. I would show you the map, but then I'd have to kill you all, and that is a lot of hard work.

With only a short time left we took another cruise through the flats. We did not see much action and nothing that could entice us back to the water. We finally went back to the cars and said our good-byes. As I drove home, tired and cooked from the sun I realized again that what is most important about fishing has little to do with catching and at times a rod is not even necessary. It is about being in the present, with the wonder of it all surrounding you, filtering into your being through all of your senses and fitting into the scheme of it all.

Thanks Gary and Ed for a wonderful day together.

Oh yeah good readers, the details of pillaging and plunder and stories about the affairs of the heart will have to wait for another time. ~ Jed

About Jed:

Jed has been fly fishing for 35 years. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife. He has opportunity to fish for trout, warmwater species and saltwater species. "Its all about fishing and being there, not catching. I can get skunked in cold rushing water, on warm ponds or in the salt with equal pleasure."

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