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
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
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
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
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