These men were part of the small group of original guides who developed the
shallow water fishery of the Florida Keys and are the pioneers of Flats Fishing.
They remained active guides for twenty years after I first became acquainted
with them in the mid-seventies. I got to hear their stories about what it was like
fishing in the old days. I got to hear Jimmy Albright talk about what it was like in
1935 when he would go to such and such a place for the first time. And when
he said "for the first time" he meant that it was the first time anyone had gone to
these places to fish with a rod and reel, and with the intent that whatever fish
they might discover would be tarpon or bonefish or permit. And forty years
later in the mid-seventies, when he would be telling me these stories, the places
he was telling me about had been well known fishing spots for decades.
Jimmy Albright was also the one who took it upon himself to deal with any
improprieties committed by members of the guiding community while on the
water. He could have cared less what you did on land, but you had to answer to
Jimmy if he had gotten word that you were observed committing some
egregious act of malfeasance such as: motoring or poling too close to
someone who was on the spot first and was poling or waiting for fish, or using
the motor to run across a flat or fishing area, or any altercation erupting
between guides while they were engaged with clients, etc... These old timers
were the ones who developed this fishery and they were the ones who knew
how guides had to operate in order to keep the fishery robust. There was
protocol; there were ways you did things - like how you would approach a
bank or area that had fish - or using your push-pole and not your motor when
near other fishermen. It was all about consideration - consideration for other
fishermen, and consideration for the fish. Thus, everyone learned the rules and
operated accordingly, and if you didn't, then you would get a call from Cecil
who would tell you that Jimmy wanted to talk to you. That's how things worked,
and these things worked smoothly, and as a result the fishery and Florida Bay
were the beneficiaries.
The lives of these men were dedicated to this fishery. They knew nothing else.
They cared for nothing else. This was why, when the time came for them to
pass on, their last wish was to be buried in Florida Bay. Next: