A while back I recommended the Mill House Production podcasts of interviews with a handful of some South Florida celebrity anglers who were instrumental in establishing the local angling traditions. From Biscayne Bay to the Keys to the Everglades, these guys got in on the ground floor and savored the almost unknown and untouched fly fishery. They popularized the fishery and helped modify the tackle and techniques that have made South Florida saltwater flyfishing what it is today. In the podcasts they all bemoan how things have changed, and how it has not been for the better. One or two actually admit to being an accessory to this decline.
Anyone who has read saltwater fly fishing books or magazines over the last few decades will recognize the names of Stu Apte, Flip Pallot, Chico Fernandez, and of course, Lefty Kreh, who sadly is no longer available for interviews. Some were writers, another had a TV show, but all were written about frequently. Some others who are interviewed but likely not as well known to the general fishing public include Steve Huff and Tom Evans, although these too are hallowed names within the smaller demographic of serious salt water fly anglers.
I consider it an honor to have met and conversed with a number of these legends. They all knew, fished, and/or competed against each other. It seemed like they were all part of a fraternity of fly fishing explorers, and while I never pledged to join their club, they were always willing to let me and other non-celebrities through the doors to party with them.
With all the name dropping and reminiscing in these podcasts I was saddened and somewhat shocked that another name was never mentioned. You see, for me, one of the most influential writers of those times was Charley Waterman.
The problem might be that Charley was not limited to only flyfishing in South Florida. He was also a trout fly angler and a wingshooter. He wrote for a number of popular outdoor magazines, often on the last page, as he had a sense of humor in his prose that was as adept as his flycasting or bird dog training. And, Charley had this thing for flycasting for snook in the mangroves. His articles on this subject were the main reason I sold my flats boat and took an obscure right turn into Everglades National Park.
I had often wondered how I got to where I am today. After some reflection I believe I figured it out.
First off, I have to credit Charlie. It was his writing, specifically about flyfishing in the mangrove backcountry that initially started me in this direction. Before reading his magazine articles I was primarily an offshore angler considering a career as a commercial fisherman like others in my family. Waterman’s wit, wisdom, and love for flyfishing, for snook in particular, were the great motivator for me. I also have to mention Chico because one magazine article he wrote about Stowe canoes prompted me to buy one. Now long out of business, I agree with Chico and think Stowe made one of the best fishing canoes. I know it was the best I ever owned. And, little known local guide and writer John Kumiski’s small and seemingly forgotten treasure “Fishing the Everglades” was also a strong motivating factor.
While I’ve met John and Chico, I doubt either realizes how much they have influenced me. I am very sorry that I never had the chance to meet Charlie Waterman, although I must admit I once blamed him for a minor misery – I was stuck in my canoe, in a downpour, while trying to find my way along the then uncharted East River. Thoroughly soaked, lost, bug bitten and with no easy way back, I thought to myself “what am I doing out here?” and the answer I came up with was, “ this is all Charley Watermans’ fault”. I always hoped to have the opportunity to apologize to him for that.
Unfortunately, like Lefty, he is no longer available. But his books are. If you want an insight into the life and thoughts of an avid outdoorsman, along with the occasional out-loud laugh, I suggest you search for one of his books.