On June 7th, 2004, my first article in my
new column here on FAOL was published. Pretty
exciting for this Florida boy. I had forgotten
about this date until I went back to read some
of my own stuff. That kinda sounds egotistical,
not meant to be, just checking on something I
had written in another article. Then I "clicked"
on "INTRODUCTION" and realized a whole year had
passed since I agreed to write weekly stories
on this site.
Let's review, shall we?
I had spoken to Deanna (LadyFisher) and Jim
(James Castwell) on the phone to find out
deadlines, content of stories, all that stuff,
then agreed to write the column. After sending
in my first one, I was met with a tragedy that
still influences my stories to this day.
I was pretty excited and wanted to share that
feeling with one of my best friends, Steve
Letchworth. Steve was a pharmacist at our
local drug store, so I loaded up in my truck
and headed down the highway to let Steve know
what I was up to. It was a Thursday afternoon.
Upon arrival, I realized Steve didn't work on
Thursdays, so I figured I'd call him that night
and tell him about FAOL, and my "Flats Dude" column.
That night I received a call from another close
friend, Capt. Jon Cave, that Steve was instantly
killed in a car crash out in an area close to the
St. Johns River. Eight months prior, Steve had
called me from Idaho to inform me that Terry
Friedrich had passed away suddenly at home. Terry
was another close friend, and the news of Terry's
death came as Linda and I were moving, literally,
into our new home.
I emailed Deanna and let her know that I probably
wouldn't be able to continue the newly formed
column. But, as I sat down by the lake trying
to make some sense of the news, and watching
Linda go through her sadness and anger, I began
to think about a new story that would be written
through tears of loss and sadness. This story
was from a dark and secret place hidden deep
within my soul, that most never see. The story
was "Ripples." A story, a year later, I still
can't read aloud.
Prior to my column, I sent in a couple of stories
that were published here. Only because of Dave Micus,
did this happen. He kept at me to do so. "Baby Ducks
and Fly-fishing" was published in the "Readers' Casts"
section, one of Linda's favorites. And just the other
day, the story repeated itself as a new family of
baby ducks swam the rim of the lake behind the house
with their mom. The story prompted our own Betty Hiner
to email me and tell me that she too enjoyed the story.
I called Betty a few months ago just to hear what
she sounded like. What a warm and dear person she
is. I hope to fish with her one day.
There have been many I have spoken to on the phone.
There have been quite a few that I have been fortunate
enough to spend a few days with, casting colored
and thick lines into salty waters. And even more
that I have written and received emails to and from.
Two folks I have been in constant contact with
every since I have been a member of this site are
Dave Micus and Roger Stouff. They are both my
mentors. Their stories influence some of mine.
Dave and I speak frequently on the phone and
through emails. We laugh at things, kid around,
and comment on each others stories before they
are even published, sometimes. One day he and
I will share waters together, either down here
or up there in Massachusetts. I greatly look
forward to that day.
As I discovered Roger Stouff's writings, I felt
as though I knew Roger. The more I read, the more
I knew I had to get him on the phone and hear his
voice. His voice was important enough to me that
I searched him out and called him. I explained to
him that I needed to hear what he sounded like,
so that I may read his stories in his voice, not
mine. Over the past year, Roger and I speak over
the phone, and like Dave, I will spend some time
with Roger on the waters of Bayou Teche and I
will listen to him as he listened to his grandfather
and to the spirits of his ancestors.
I have read almost all of Roger's articles,
and one minute I'm laughing, the next I have
eyes full of tears. I just ordered his new
book, Native Waters, A Few Moments in
a Small Wooden Boat. I look forward
to sitting down by the lake, reading it in my
green chair. So, you, my friend, are a gift. I
just read the excerpts from your book, and even
though I have read all that I could find of
yours, that canvas on which you live and write
amazes me. You are a gift for all of us that
read. I remember you once telling me not to make
you out to be someone you are not. Now, I have
to argue that...you are what I thought you were.
As I scroll down through the titles of the
stories I've written this past year, I am
reminded of times spent with friends over
on the west coast of Florida, a saltwater
fish-in where I met quite a few of y'all.
There are stories that you told me made you
laugh, cry and think. There are many stories
linked to my dad's infinite wisdom, wisdom
of common sense that somehow some of it rubbed
off on me.
To summarize a lot of this, Castwell asked
a question in the "Sound Off" section a couple
of days ago, "Are fly-fishers better people?"
I thought about it. I read most of the answers
the other members posted. Here's my take...
I honestly believe I'm no better than anyone else.
I was blessed with a good family that I know
brought me up the right way. They did the best
they could. I had a dad that loved to fish, and
thanks to him, he always took me with him. I've
met some wonderful folks that fly-fish, and some
that, well, were not so nice, but just a few.
Here's the catch. I'm not a better person because
I fly-fish; I'm just a better person because of
Thanks for letting me go on for an entire year.
'Til next time. ~ Capt. 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.