Fishing the keys

A Pocket full of Memories; Saying Good bye to Billy Pate

Yesterday, 05/21/2011, Billy Pate, with close friends, family and fly reel, were laid to rest in “The Pocket”. It is one of the most desirable places to fish at Buchanan Bank, on the edge of the Back Country. A tarpon-rich area of flats and channels that stretches out for more than 20 miles before the open sea is reached. It has a cull-d-sac of about 30 X 30 feet, where for some unknown reason tarpon migrate and follow the turn around to head another direction; coined “The Pocket.” On April 18th, 2011 saltwater fly fishing lost a pioneer, Billy Pate, a big game fisherman with a passion for life, “The Pocket,” Billfish, and Tarpon. His record 188-pound tarpon on 16 # test, was in the books for over 20 years as well as many more accomplishments in the billfish arena including the first blue marlin landed on a fly! He collaborated with Ted Jurasick to create the first anti-reverse reel. Billy was also a conservationist and fly fishing advocate and was one of the founding members of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. This is the place where Billy Pate used to camp for years. "The Pocket" is legendary. It is a place where etiquette was learned the hard way, giving way to first come first serve, but stay to your claim as claim jumpers. In a polite gesture nowadays it gives way to new occupants. Billy Pate rests now where he fished with many of his own from previous years; Jack Brothers, Jimmie Albright and Cecil Keith too name a few, together again with a Pocket full of memories and some Tarpon, too...

A Pocket full of Memories...

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Billy Pate's boat as his ashes are placed on the Down Tide at "The Pocket"

In a humbling to sobering moment, I could feel a lump in my throat as I swallowed and wiped the tear from my eye, as we laid Billy's ashes across the waters of where he loved to fish and where I first met up with such a southern gentleman. His ashes and favorite flyrod were placed into the waters off Buchanan Banks of Islamorada, Florida, in his and my best spot to fish; “The Pocket.”

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The Billy Pate Reel too, is put to rest, as it is cast one last time into "The Pocket."

As Billy's ashes were spread upon the back country waters of “The Pocket”, I remembered back that many a great angler before, have too been laid to rest here. Billy's in good company with Jimmie Albright (The Albright Knot is most commonly used for joining mono-filament lines of unequal diameters, for creating shock leaders and when a Bimini Twist is tied in the end of lighter casting line. It is also used for connecting mono-filament to wire). Between Billy's ability to make the long casts in turning those Tarpon, and Jimmie as another angler at his side, I know they are not resting, but fishing even more now. If I recall correctly, where Billy now rests is where Billy and I first met. We fished together many times and competed against each other in many a tourney, but our favorite place angling together was here; at “The Pocket”, off the Buchanan Bank of the Islamorada back country.

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Old friend, Dr. Stanley Sherman reflecting thoughts of 'Days gone by'.

Accompanying me out for his last ride was Dr. Stanley Sherman. As we scooted along the skinnies of the back country Stanley remembered when he first ran into Billy. He was drinking Budweiser and nibbling on popcorn, while discussing the possibilities to what nots in opening a new tackle store down here; the World Wide Sportsmen. Also in tow were around forty boats with friends, family, and guides of which will all miss him but never forget him! My last request is to be placed in the “Pocket” when my number is called! Then, together we can do some catching up, with tale after tale of tarpon wars. Good Bye Billy, I loved you man, and you will ride with me daily across the streaming waters of the blue!

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Genesis 3:19b " for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
'I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee' (Ezekiel 27:18). Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
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Billy, Rolling Down Tide!
Good Bye Billy; Gone from the days, but never forgotten from our hearts.
Keeping the pocket safe in fishing for all...