From my old pal Jay and how it all started.
How I Met Downtown Brown: It was the mid eighties. I fish with a group of slap-stick slap-water types called the Axolotl Society who annually converge on the unsuspecting residents of a western community and over the next few days proceed with flyrods, fur and feathers to flail their local waters to a foaming froth. Our parthenogenius was in a booth at the Ennis Cafe in 1962. We had fished the Madison many times but never met Randy.
In the mid eighties I was in sales for a big multinational company and won the Generals Club Award and a trip to an exotic locale. It was Key West. Although business had caused me to miss Axolotol and any other fishing for a couple of years , I decided to go early and fish a couple of days. Jerry McKinnis (Fishin’ Hole) helped out and got me day with a Keys Big Dog named Rick Ruoff. Hot Damn!. I got checked into the Flagler Hotel (Now a Waldorf Resort) 2 days early. I brought some medium spin gear (No saltwater fly gear and I was way too rusty anyway.) The night before my day with Ruoff he called me and said he’d been pressed into guiding out of Islamorada for The Columbia Tarpon Tournament. He said he was sending a great guide who disliked tournament fishing big time. I’d have a great day. He told me nothing else about my new guide. Somewhat disappointed but gonna have a great day. Six AM found me out front of the Flagler with my gear. Into the parking wheels a beat up Chevy crew cab with Montana tags, Montana dust and one of those mud flaps that look like a broom that goes all the way across the rear end. But it’s pulling a brand new sneak boat with a huffing outboard and all the right gear, And out comes this dude with sandles, baggy surfer shorts, a plaid Wrangler work shirt jac ( This was before all the technical pastels we have now) and a beat up western cowboy hat. (Yeah……………..that same hat) (It was beat to shit even then). As he was stowing my gear in the boat I asked him what’s with the Montana truck and Keys sneak boat. He said he fishes Ennis in the summer and the Keys in the winter. Florida guides have a certain reputation but this was out of the mold. I said, “I don’t like you already.”
And that was the start of a 30+ plus friendship that I cherish. He didn’t try to push me into fly fishing. He understood where I was coming from. He let me use my spin gear after he rigged it. First, he put me onto a couple nice bones. Then he ran in, got some crabs and put me over some permit which, being of of sync, I promptly screwed up and blew out. Then he took down toward the Marquesas to a pass off the beach of, I think, JImmy Buffet’s house. He rigged me an M70 Mirror Lure and put me onto 2 daisy chains of tarpon, which I blew up. A botched Grand Slam on my first Keys trip. All he said was, I know you’re a good stick, just way out of practice and I’d sure like to fish with you again. Axolotl started booking with him when going to Ennis. He’s been both guide and full outfitter on many occasions. He totally fits the spirit and temperment of our crazy group. He gets it. He was the first guide/outfitter we ever bestowed full membership to. The only other so honored is Mike Lawson down in Island Park. Last summer he introduced me to bone fishing for trout on the Ennis Lake Madison Flats. I’d love another day in the Keys with him.
Jay Hyer, Gulfport, Miss.