One evening after an early dinner I decided to drive over to the famous fly shop, Florida Keys Outfitters. I was familiar with the owner Sandy Moret as he had been a regular fixture on Flip Pallot's groundbreaking series The Walkers Cay Chronicles. For anyone who is not familiar with Sandy, He is probably one of the 10 most important figures in saltwater fly fishing in the last 50 years. Rob Fordyce once told me that Sandy is probably one of the "fishiest" people he's ever met, and quite possibly the best Bone Fisherman on the planet.
When I pulled in the parking lot I could see someone standing out on the porch, smoking a cigarette. As I approached the entrance, the details of the individual began to materialize. He had a gray nicotine-stained beard, a long ponytail, and at least one earring. Turns out it was the man himself, Sandy Moret. I walked over and introduced myself as a visiting "highlander" from the Texas Hill Country. We had a good laugh and held a fairly brief, but very enjoyable conversation regarding the tough fishing of the last few days.
Sandy politely excused himself to his office to finish up some work, and I proceeded to browse around the store admiring what I would consider to be one of the most organized and well run fly shops I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. On the far wall, they had a rack of hats with the Florida Keys Outfitter logo embroidered on the front panel. I decided that I needed a momento for my first trip to the Keys and subsequently purchased one in a unique forest green and tan color combo. As the clerk rang me up I thanked Sandy for his hospitality and left for the hotel to build leaders for the next days fishing.
That hat has been a permanent fixture in my angling travels for as long as I can remember. It was with me in 2003 when I made a second trip to the Keys to chase the Silver King with my old buddy "Bubba". It had seen much of the Lousiana marsh from the mouth of the Mississippi River all the way over to Terrabone Bay. It had survived unscathed miles and miles and miles of wade fishing and kayaking the Texas Coast from San Luis Pass all the way to East Cut. It was with me for the hundreds of hours I've spent on the deck of Captain Freddy Lynch's skiff, including the time we had a near death experience in a lighting storm in 9-mile hole (seriously). It was with me on my honeymoon in Rockport Texas (yes, Rockport...we couldn't afford to go anywhere else). And, it was with me when my then 9 year old son took a 15 pound Carp on a 6 wt. the very first time he ever sight cast to one. Now that I think about it, that hat was with me throughout just about every important fishing experience I've had in the last 17 years.
Last month my son and I took a family friend on a float trip down the Guadalupe River. Several stretches of that float for better or for worse have been radically altered by last years torrential flood. While traversing one of those spots that is now twice as swift and twice as deep as it once was, my beloved hat got caught on a tree limb, and fell in the water. For several agonizing seconds, it drifted behind us as we tried desperately to retrieve it. The current, however, was just too swift and dangerous to risk a full exit from the boat to grab it. I watched as it eventually began to become waterlogged and slowly sink, finally becoming lodged in a watery grave at the base of a large cypress tree. Later that day my son and I tried multiple times to wade upstream to the scene of the crime in hopes that it was still stuck on that cypress root. No luck, however, the current was just too dangerous, and after all, it was just a hat...certainly not worth risking life and limb over.
For several days I actually found myself a bit depressed over the loss. I mean, this was THE perfect fishing hat. It had a low profile crown, the bill was just a hair longer than normal, and the underside was the perfect shade to block out just a bit more reflection from the sun. A few weeks ago I spent over an hour in the local sporting goods store trying on headwear, but none of them were right, so I am still on the search for a replacement.
My old buddy Bubba has a way of pairing down complex, emotionally charged situations like this, and it usually always involves some sort of comparison between Texas Rednecks and women. I can hear him now...."Andy, finding a good fishing hat is like trying to find a good woman. They're in short supply and every Redneck in Texas is looking for one too."
At my stage in life, I guess I should be thankful that all I'm looking for is a hat.
Hope you all have a great week