The story you are about to read was inspired
by Gardenfish, and a few others that swim and
lurk in the saltwater bulletin board. All
names weren't changed to protect the innocent...
couldn't find any "innocence." "A Challenge"
was leveled at the members to come up with a
situation. And did they ever. ~ Captain Gary Henderson
Everyone has a story down on the river front. Here is mine...
It was one hell of a thunderstorm that night, as
I arrived on Bourbon Street. I had finally responded
to an email sent from a total stranger, and it read
like an old detective novel. The lightning lit up the
darkness, delivering the flavor of the street to me;
Bourbon, and that sounded good as I slipped into one
of the smoky bars that lined the street in "Naw'lins."
The neon light above the door flickered, missing several
letters burned out by nights like these. It just read
I wasn't really sure where to meet this guy called
"Tapply," just what the hell was he all about; said
somethin' about payin' somebody back for somethin'.
A guy in the corner banged on the strings of
an out-of-tune guitar, singing an almost-recognizable,
"Staggar Lee." His instrument's case sat open on the
floor in front of him as he swigged beer between verses,
spillin' some of it over a few coins that had been
dropped in the case under a sign that read, "Singin'
to Fish...by Angler Dave".
Just as the entertainer got to the chorus, a slight
man walked up to me, and whispered in a coarse, raspy
voice, stained with whiskey. "You the Flats Dude from
Florida?" He had a kinda mixed Texas-Cajun accent I
"Yeah, who wants to know...you Tapply?"
"Naw, he's the guy in the trench coat in the corner
drinkin' scotch, I'm Burke...James, to my friends."
I looked at Burke out of the corner of my eye, never
removing my hand from my rain slicker, refusing to
shake the outreached hand of Burke. Burke just stood
there as if he expected me to run, but I was here to
meet Tapply, still wondering if I had walked into
some kind of set up. I lit a smoke, pulled down my
cap and walked to the bar.
"Bourbon" The barkeep kept his eyes fixed on the
television as he says, "Sure that won't be a coconut
rum and pineapple juice?" The bartender's voice was
out of town, but sounded familiar. "How 'bout a nice
bowl of hot clam chowdah?" I just nodded as he slid
the steaming cup in front of me. The rain intensified,
beating on the tin roof of the smoky room. The "chowdah"
was good and I hadn't realized I was hungry. "Stripah
Dave from Ispwich," the man behind the counter extended
his hand. "You "The Dude?" I tipped my hat in his
direction, never taking my eyes off of Tapply.
Tapply sat surrounded by a few cheap lookin' women
with lipstick too red and jet-black hair; cigarettes
dangled loosely in the corners of their lips. I had
heard about these Cajun women and the spells they
could cast, I wanted no part of 'em. Tapply gave the
impression of a godfather in some old gangster movie.
"Angler Dave's" guitar kept spittin' our chords, and
I thought to myself, "Is he ever gonna play a different
"Stripah Dave" chimes in and says, "We all know who
you are. Tapply's sizin' you up. Come with me and
I'll introduce you two."
I was led across the barroom and stood lookin' at
Tapply from the other side of the round, oak table.
His graying beard hid part of his whimsical grin
that seemed permanently affixed to his puss. "We
have business in the back room, Dude." He shushed
the girls away and walked to a door at the back
of the bar. I followed out of curiosity.
The out of place door led into another room, lit
by old hurricane lamps; several salty-lookin' boys
sat around fly-tying vises. The room was busy, but
soon ceased all activity as I removed my rain slicker,
revealing my watermelon-colored flats shirt; my
signature, if you will.
They were all there now, Tapply, Burke, Micus and a
now-sober Angler-Dave. A short, balding man appeared
with three more bowls of "clam chowdah." Tapply
introduces him simply as "Lagasse". We all find
seats around a long, well-worn table.
I broke the silence. "What can I do for y'all boys?"
Tapply begins. "I have called for your help, Dude.
Seems this Lagasse fellow wants to start a chain of
restaurants and needs our backing. I have agreed to
throw in my two-cents provided he can cook up
anything we ask him. Our draw was for some fried up
'gator. Seems Burke and I were reading some of your
work on some fly-fishing web site, and noticed you
had become quite famous down in Florida for catching
alligators on the long rod. We figured if you could
catch one of our Louisiana 'gators, Lagasse might be
able to cook it up several different ways, thus
satisfying the taste buds of the conglomeration of
us gathered here on this miserable night. What do
I peered from under the bill of my favorite fishin'
cap, glancin' into the eyes of each gathered there.
Thunder rumbled outside the old bar and fly shop.
"Po' Boy's," huh, and I thought that was just a
sandwich. I looked at Lagasse and asked, "Can you
build me one of those muffaletta things I've heard
y'all folks down here are famous for?" He just
steps back and yells, "BAM!" and leaves us to
do our dealings.
The next morning I found myself on the bayou standing
next to some guide in a pirogue. His thick, Cajun
accent was, at first, hard to understand. A
"Robicheaux Fish Camp" ball hat covered most of
his black hair. I only knew him by his first name,
Dave; a guide never to be forgotten. He poled the
narrow boat around cypress knees and through thick
pond lily beds, and told many a joke about Boudreaux
and Thibodaux. "One of 'em said like dis", says Dave...
"Poor ole Boudreaux up and died one day. Upon
arriving at the gates of Heaven, St. Peter
greeted him, "Welcome to Heaven, dere Boudreaux!"
Boudreaux exclaimed "Mai, tank ya, cher!" St.
Peter explained to ole Boudreaux that there
was one stipulation before he was allowed through
the gates of Heaven...he had to answer one question
and get it right. Boudreaux scratched his head and
said, "Mai, ok, cher. What dat be?" St. Peter says
"What is God's first name?" Boudreaux answers, "Mai,
cher, dat be easy, it's Howard." St. Peter (laughing
"HOWARD? May I ask you, Boudreaux, how'd you come up
with that name?"
Boudreaux, smiling proudly, says "Mai cher, dat be
an easy one.....Our Fadda who art in Heavin, HOWARD
be dy name."
St. Peter, still chuckling, says "I can't argue with
that one, Boudreaux! Come on in!"
About the time my guide finished the joke, and right
before I was about to fall out of the pirogue, the
biggest ol' lizard in the swamp nailed the poppin'
bug and off we went crashin' through the trees and
branches, Ol' Dave hollerin' somethin' spicy in
Before long, that ol' gator was skinned out and on
the Lagasse kid's cuttin' board. We had 'Cajun fried '
gator tail, crawfish and 'gator pie, barbequed 'gator
ribs and 'gator jambalaya; we had 'gator fifty-seven
ways. Beer flowed, zydeco music played in the
background. Even Angler Dave managed to bang out a
rhythm on the washboard and spoon.
Years later I fondly remember back on that trip.
As I said, it read like an old musty private-eye
paperback. Tapply and Burke turned out to be a
couple of amateur authors. Lagasse is now some
famous chef with his own TV show, and still
yellin BAM! every chance he gets. Angler Dave?
Well, he's still playin' a mean guitar with some
Naw'lins blues band, but they won't let him sing.
Stripah Dave got into writin' stories and hangin'
out in sleazy joints to get a scoop.
Me? I'm getting' a royalty check every month from
a certain cookin' show, and occasionally I wander
the flats with the long rod, wearin' my watermelon
flats shirt and lookin' for a story myself; a story
where shady characters, smoky bars and stormy nights
all come together to make sense of things...Things
that go bump in the night.
Flats Dude walks away under an old street lamp down
Bourbon Street, disappearing into the dark, rainy
night, singing to himself...
"Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go, pole the pirogue down the bayou
My Yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou..."
See y'all next week, shweet heart... ~ 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.