(Flip Pallot is a respected author, television personality and angler. His well-known television series, Walker’s Cay Chronicles can be seen on ESPN. Flip is the newest addition to the G.Loomis fishing team and our official “Maestro de la pesca”)
The saltwater shallows were called “flats” by the old-time anglers that we emulated as kids. The flats were nearby, starting in Biscayne Bay and stretching like a broken tapestry from under the shadow of Miami’s skyline to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas 70 miles below Key West.
The muse that awoke my brother each daybreak and spoke to him of school, ball gloves, girls and the upcoming prom, never visited me although my brother and I shared a room.
I was unable to discuss the sights and sounds of my dreams with parents or normal fold… they would, with few exceptions have been unable to visualize low morning sunlight shining through those two or three droplets of water suspended along the spine of a bonefish tail waving in the early stillness of an awakening flat.
Distant, rolling thunder from squalls that has spent the warm night out in the Gulfstream would later in the day chase the sounds of least terns and ospreys off the flats and replace their working vocabulary with the sound of sweet rainwater slanting in on a breeze smelling of ozone.
These sights and sounds forged my yougerhood in the crucible of South Florida’s heat. These were the sights and sounds that called to me at those very moments when I might have been steering a path that followed most others… It didn’t’ happen.. I was like one of Peter Pans’ lost boys. I ran into other lost boys, and lost men, and I fit right in! Norman Duncan, Chico Fernandez, Ralph Delph, Stu Apte, John “Dozer” Donnell, Jimmy Grace, Bob Fordyce, Sandy “Catfish” Moret, John Emery, Jim Brewer, Eddy Whiteman, Hal Chittum, Lefty Kreh and other lost boys became my tribe and it felt totally right.
The flats were in bicycle range. We waded from shore mostly, but often used common air mattresses to reach deep or farther fishing areas.
We were so often absent from school that most thought we were not enrolled. The consequences of not attending classes were simply not part of our collective, conscious thought stream. Some argued that we had no conscious thought stream at all beyond fishing. I have a feeling that many of you know exactly what portrait I’m painting here… You may have been there!
My work has allowed me to cleave to the values and lifestyle adopted back on those air mattresses. These days I’m fortunate to be able to fish many wonderful and exotic destinations which I never dreamed I would see. Often I glance at the other end of the skiff or canoe and see with today’s eyes, the folks who have been with me in skiffs and canoes down through all these many years and I realize how lucky I am to be sharing these experiences with friends who have stood the test of time… there are many.
G.Loomis rods, Shimano high-performance reels and high tech skiffs have replaced the primitive weapons of the early 1960’s. We’re challenged by these better tools to improve our casting and angling skills. I’m always learning from new people that I come in contact with in my travels and I keep working on those skills. Often, while I’m at it, I get a glimpse…just the quickest glimpse…of that skinny kid on the air mattress, paddling out into Government Cut Shipping Channel, while from behind a huge, jetty rock, unseen, a man who looks a lot like my dad, silently mouths the words… “Be careful son”.