I sit here tying much needed flies; golden
bend-backs are in order since they are my
primary, saltwater fly. My mind drifts, as
head cement dries, and my eyes begin to wander
around this special hideaway Linda has created
for me to stow all of my memorabilia of past
fishing trips; a place where I can go to scatter
bits of feather and hair on the carpet; to seek
a little solitude, at times. It was the fourth
bedroom, but is now dubbed, "The Captain's Quarters,"
Over my tying desk is a water color of two
guys fishing the same flats that I sometimes
frequent. I know that's where it is, the artist
told me. But more importantly, it's a painting
Linda and I purchased at an art show ten years
ago when we were dating. She hadn't learned to
sight-fish yet, and I hadn't purchased the skiff.
But now the painting takes on a different light,
ten years later.
To my immediate left and above, a print
hangs on the wall. It is of old, wooden
plugs and bait-casting reels, perhaps an
old Al Pflueger Supreme with black line.
I have a couple of those on a shelf to
the left of the print. On the gold, wood
frame of the print hangs many old, wooden
plugs that my dad once fished. His rough
hands tied them to line and cast the white
and red plugs to largemouth bass years
before my time.
As I stare at these old plugs, certain
sadness twinges deep inside my soul.
There should be more of them, but
once a young man sold some at a garage sale
when he was too young to appreciate sentimental
worth over monetary value.
In the single window in my room, hangs a
stained glass tarpon, and over there is a
stained glass snook. I drew them, cut the
glass and soldered each piece. They are
the only two pieces left of my short-lived,
stained glass business, and now they stand
guard over the room when I'm not in there.
The two book shelves aren't filled with
volumes of books, but there are a few. One
especially. A book that Captain Jon Cave
wrote, and Jon signed it, and then wrote
a personal note in it, when four friends
traveled to the east coast one sunny afternoon
to bid two other friends a fine, and forever,
farewell. And soon, another book will join
Jon's book. A book written by a friend that
I've never met face to face, but I feel I
know quite well and he too will write in it.
Along with the books that sit on the shelves,
there are small collections that are meaningless
to anyone else but me. A young, glass artist
once made free-standing fish, such as sailfish,
wahoo, snook, dolphin fish, red fish and others.
I never had fish mounted, and to memorialize
the trophies I caught, I had the artist create
them in clear glass. These stand alone.
The sailfish is approximately ten inches high
and represents all the sails I caught, tagged
and released. The sail is a noble, pelagic
warrior, fighting to the end, and then gazes
upward at the angler with their big, blue eyes,
questioning their fate, and what had just happened.
To release one is a religious experience.
The glass red fish has to be given to Linda
and he represents the three, huge Indian
River reds that were caught one morning on
glassy flats, the smallest being forty-five
pounds and the largest of the three weighing
in over fifty-three pounds. All on eight-pound
class tackle. She has earned that.
The crystal wahoo brings exciting memories
of my best buddy, Pat Morgan. His first
offshore fish was a sixty pound wahoo that
caused his arms to go to jelly after the
long fight. A photo of Pat and the fish
hangs in my office at work.
The glass snook. I caught my first one off
the beaches of Anna Maria Island a long time
ago. The largest snook I have caught to this
very day. Forty-three and a half inches, and
weighed in at twenty-eight pounds. It was dark
when I brought the fish to hand, never realizing
just how big it was until I brought it home.
The leaping, glass dolphin (mahi-mahi) may
be my favorite, next to the sail. It would
have to represent the maiden voyage of my
first offshore boat. Five, very nice dolphin
were boated that day, and thanks to Jim Wilson
has to be given, for it was he that taught me
to rig, and search the horizon for flotsam and
So you see, those simple, uncolored pieces of
glass that Robert A. Mickelsen created many
years ago have so much life and history. Those
pieces of artwork have survived a divorce,
several moves, a marriage, and a few more
moves. (Robert's recent work can be seen at
Up there, just behind me, are two, mounted fish;
a bonefish and a largemouth bass. Yes, I know,
I told you already, I never had a fish mounted,
but those, my friend, I didn't catch. Let me
tell you about them.
Those were caught by Terry Friedrich, a good
friend of mine. Terry was one of the ones we
had to say good-bye to. He was one of us, one
of the six. I miss Terry. I miss not being able
to pick up the phone and call him. The Master
took him too early. Debbie, Terry's wife, gave
me those two fish there on my wall. The bass was
the first fish he ever caught on a fly-rod. Yep,
a nice six pounder. The bone, you ask? Uh huh,
his first bonefish on the fly. They tell their
And if you look over there on the book
shelf, right behind Robert's glass fish, there
are a few flies Terry tied. They were meant to
be fished, but I just can't bring myself to get
them wet. They just might be the last ones Terry
tied, so I'll let them rest on the teak shelf.
And over on the corner of my supply cabinet is
an old, wooden box. Another memento from Deb
that Terry picked up somewhere. Seems it's still
a mystery. Inside of it are many spools of tying
thread, tinsel, and other stuff. Pull open those
drawers, careful now. Inside is two old Herter
vises, and with them are several thousand hooks
of all sizes and types, paired duck feathers, all
kinds of colorful and old materials. They all have
their place, but they never talk. They remain silent,
and their story will never be told. But Terry knew
their story. So, I'll just have to wait until I
see him on the other side to ask its history.
You may ask where Steve Letchworth is. Oh, he's
here. In spirit, though. His memories haunt me
late at night when I'm trying the hair bugs he
loved so much. The ones he said were too pretty
I remember I tied him six of the prettiest,
deer-hair sliders I had ever tied for his
fiftieth birthday. He thanked me for them,
and then tucked them into his tackle bag
never to be seen again. Hell, he always
packed them around, just wouldn't mess one up.
Well, until I took him to the flats early one
Saturday morning. I told him if he didn't use
one, I was going to take 'em back and fish 'em
myself. So, he tied the mullet colored one on
and caught the biggest trout he had ever caught.
When I tie deer hair, Steve sits right behind
me on that day bed over there.
On that other book case are pictures of the
prettiest woman on Earth. That's Linda. She's
my soul-mate, and one of the best fisher-persons
in the world, to me, anyway. I taught her a lot
about fishin'; she taught me more than that. She
taught me patience, and how to "see."
And what's that daybed for? Well, sometimes I
can't sleep, usually right before a fishin' trip.
Just like my dad. I come in here late at night
and surround myself with all these memories, and
that sometimes helps me rest without disturbing
Linda. It's nice and comfy, but it's usually piled
high with tying stuff. It can grow quiet in here
Just me and my stuff, in my room.
'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.