The Wild South Podcast

Episode 1: Flip Pallot, Legendary Fisherman

Ever use an air mattress as a boat? Flip Pallot did. Hear that story and many more from the icon of the outdoors

A man sits in a boat

Photo: WILLIAM HEREFORD

Pallot in 2017.

About Episode 1:

In the inaugural episode, Dave and Eddie talk with world-renowned outdoorsman Flip Pallot about his time as a young boy growing up in a small, wild town called Miami, his breakthrough TV show, how he casts with a fly rod differently than most anglers, and why watching as many sunrises and sunsets in a single lifetime is a pursuit worth beginning at any age. Presented in partnership with Duck Camp.


Listen to Episode 1 here:


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Sites mentioned in Episode 1:

Flip Pallot’s Instagram

Flip Pallot’s Youtube Channel

Flip Pallot

Hell’s Bay Boats


photo: courtesy of flip pallot
Pallot with a snook in the 1960s near Marco Island, Florida.

Transcript of Episode 1:

Flip Pallot (00:00):

I remember what got me interested in fishing, and it was standing on a dock fishing for bream, just dangling dough balls off the side of a dock in a lake. And I hooked a bluegill or bream and was lifting it out of the water in a bass, left the water and ate this panfish on the way up. And I can see it all, hear it all. I remember it all. And that incident was the springboard for me as far as fishing was concerned.

Dave DiBenedetto (00:47):

Welcome to the Wild South Podcast. I’m Dave DiBenedetto, editor-in-chief of Garden and Gun Magazine.

Eddie Nickens (00:53):

And I’m Eddie Nickens, contributing editor for Garden and Gun.

Dave DiBenedetto (00:57):

Together, we are talking with the most interesting outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen in the south and far beyond.

Eddie Nickens (01:04):

Quail hunters and duck hunters, trout anglers and redfish fanatics, musicians, scientists, writers, wild game cooks, and frankly, a few wildcats we dig up along the way.

Dave DiBenedetto (01:14):

We’re talking about legends and legends in the making.

Eddie Nickens (01:17):
All with unforgettable stories of life way beyond the sidewalk.

Dave DiBenedetto (01:23):

And today we are talking with Flip Pallot. So Eddie, what a way to kick off the Wild South podcast.

Eddie Nickens (01:31):

You know, I remember when we were talking about this show and what the Wild South could be, sort of the ethos that we were after, and both of us knew instinctively at the same time, we gotta get Flip Pallot. He’s been like the North Star to so many of us who love the outdoors in the South and around the world.

Dave DiBenedetto (01:50):

You know? And so many of us first got to know Flip because of Walker’s Cay Chronicles, right? The outdoor show that took outdoor shows to the next level. Up to that point, there were guys kissing large mouth and hooting and hollering, and there was nothing soulful. There was nothing authentic. There was nothing that really spoke to you. Flip could’ve ended it there, and he’d still be a legend. But  I mean, the man is deep.

Eddie Nickens (02:16):

Oh yeah, yeah. I mean, he went from television show to a lauded career as a guide there in Florida. He had a chance meeting with a island owner in the Caribbean that kicked off the Walker’s Cay Chronicles. After that, he co-founded Hell’s Bay. This is the man who brought the flat skiff, the polling skiff to the American consciousness. I mean, you can’t swing a fly rod without busting into somebody’s flat skiff. 

Dave DiBenedetto (02:43):

I mean, think about that alone, the ubiquitous flats boat, what it did for flats fishing in Florida, what it did for flats fishing up the East coast. I mean, we’re using flats, boats in the marsh grass for red fish or striped bass in the Northeast. I mean, changed an entire fishery.

Eddie Nickens (02:59):

Yeah. And I think he changed more than just a fishery. This is the man who taught the Seiders brothers who founded Yeti Cooler, taught those guys how to fly fish. The very first ad that featured a Yeti cooler had Flip in it. He’s just come to embody so much of what we love about the outdoors, and he’s a very inspirational figure.

Dave DiBenedetto (03:21):

Yeah, I mean, first of all, he is humble. So humble, but you know, a hero of mine. And in my position, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a number of my heroes. And you don’t always come out of the other side thinking the same way that you did before going into it. When I met Flip I left with even higher regard, you know, I’m like, wow, that is the real deal.

Eddie Nickens (03:46):
How did you guys meet? I met him because you gave me a magazine assignment for Garden and Gun. What was your first meeting with Flip? 

Dave DiBenedetto (03:51):

So, we had a Garden and Gun event at Deep Water Cay, the now closed Bonefish Lodge down in The Bahamas. And Flip was the main attraction people paid to come fish with Flip and hang out with the editors of Garden and Gun. So the first day I’m heading down to the dock and I had grabbed my flat boots, which I had gotten in a previous gig, I think it was at Field and Stream. And the manufacturer was claiming that, you know, coral wouldn’t cut your feet. They were indestructible. And I get down to the boat and the first thing Flip does, he looks at me and he says, what are you planning on doing? Hiking the Appalachian Trail? 

Eddie Nickens (04:25):

That was his opening salvo, huh? 

Dave DiBenedetto (04:28):

Yeah, from there we got along famously. It was an amazing day. I mean, I would say it’s just like if somebody was shooting baskets with Michael Jordan, I mean, to watch Flip cast, to hear Flip talk about the environment that we were floating on and passing by the pine trees, the soft coral, all of it. It was an unforgettable day.

Eddie Nickens (04:47):

Yeah. You know, I mean, I think that the thread that ties his life and impact together is this notion of connecting an individual’s experience to the natural environment. He’s well known for a carving out of guava, a fork that he puts on the end of his pole that he pulls his flat skiff with. And I asked him one time, why that and not, you know, the skiff polls come with a plastic foot and he sort of recoiled. Um, he’s like, he couldn’t touch his beloved Florida with a piece of plastic. That wouldn’t be right. Yeah. I think it’s those kinds of stories, those kinds of insights that make him a beloved figure far beyond fly fishing, far beyond the hunting and fishing world. He’s the North Star of what we’re doing here at the Wild South.

Dave DiBenedetto (05:36):
Absolutely. So let’s get on with it and let’s talk with Flip. Flip, it is so good to see you, my friend.

Flip Pallot (05:51):

It’s good to see all of y’all.

Eddie Nickens (05:53):

Look at that good looking man. How you doing Flip?

Flip Pallot (05:57):

Well, could not be better. Really. I’m doing good.

Dave DiBenedetto (06:00):

Flip, I can’t tell you how excited we are to have you on the show. I wanna get right into it. And I know you and your wife, Diane, you guys live in Mims, Florida, which is on the Space Coast and not far from the fabled St. John’s River. And I’ve heard that you guys have some pretty interesting neighbors. Tell me about these turkeys.

Flip Pallot (06:25):

Well, when we decided to move up here from Homestead after Hurricane Andrew in 93, we found this piece of property for sale that was in the woods. And there were no other houses at the time, anywhere around. I walked off in the woods just to look at the property and I scared nine hogs and a flock of turkeys. And I came back to the truck and I said, Diane, we have to buy this property immediately and from the very first that we moved here, those turkeys were always here and they’ve just gotten more numerous and they’re completely broke. I mean, when I walk out in the morning, there could be a dozen gobblers waiting for me to feed ’em. It’s on, they’re almost like chickens at this point. But the good part of it is, is that if I get a coffee and go out in the dark in the morning and sit there until it starts to break daylight, I hear ’em in the trees. I hear every single sound that they make. And so it’s almost like a postgraduate course in turkeys more than anything else. I think I’ve learned what not to say to turkeys when I’m turkey hunting.

photo: WILLIAM HEREFORD
Flip and Diane at their Florida home.

Eddie Nickens (07:43):

You know, that brings to mind. You do everything you can outdoors, right? And the fact that you grab your coffee cup every morning and walk outside, you told me one time Flip. If you have the choice to do it outside or inside, do it outside. And I’ve really incorporated that. If I can eat outside, if I can take my coffee outside, if anything, just get outside as much as you can.

Flip Pallot (08:07):

I think that it’s important in some way that I can’t really codify that we see as many sunrises and sunsets as we can. I think it’s cathartic in some way, even necessary in some way that we may not be able to put our fingers on. But I think it matters.

Dave DiBenedetto (08:27):

It does matter. I totally agree. So let’s go back in time here and get into a little bit of your formative years. Eddie, you were telling me there’s a story about Flip and hawks that really reveals a lot about this guy. Let’s hear it.

Eddie Nickens (08:45):

Yeah. Flip, I mean, there’s a lot we can talk about and there’s so many stories you can tell, but this is one of my favorite ones that you’ve shared with me, and that is about the young Flip Pallot catching hawks at Tahiti Beach. I think that story explains so much about who Flip Pallot is and where it comes from, how you got to be, you know, the dude who uses a woodburning kit to burn new tread in the bottom of your worn out Crocs. It’s sort of all, it all leads back to Tahiti Beach. Tell us that story.

Flip Pallot (09:17):

Well, I guess to understand the story, you’d have to understand that at that time in my life, which was like 12, 13 years old, Miami was a pretty rural place. It didn’t resemble in any way what it is today. Now it’s a megalopolis almost. I mean, well it is with millions of people. Millions. And when I was there, the whole thing, greater Miami was 80,000 people.

Dave DiBenedetto (09:44): 

Oh wow.

Flip Pallot (09:45):

Kids rode bicycles and they rode great distances without thinking anything about it. I mean, a 30, 40 mile bicycle trip. It was nothing for kids then. So anyway, we did everything on our bicycles and we had learned of this man, Ross Allen, who had a tourist attraction in Florida called Ross Allen’s Birds of Prey. And he had these newsletters and he wrote about catching two different kinds of hawks. One was kestrels and one was red shouldered hawks. Those were the two most common hawks in South Florida when I was a kid. And catching kestrels involved, well, we would take the little square crate that they used to deliver milk in to your doorstep every day. And we would turn it upside down, put a white mouse or a guinea pig underneath it, and then tie oh 200 loop knots in short pieces of monofilament attached to the top of the cage. And we would put this little milk crate with the guinea pig under a power line, and the kestrels would fly down to get the guinea pig, and they would land on top of the milk crate and entangle their feet, their talons in those loop knots. And they’d be just stuck there. So we could go over to the crate and just collect them. Basically. It was much more intricate to catch red shouldered hawks.

Flip Pallot (11:17):

Do you, do you know what an AWOL bag is?

Dave DiBenedetto (11:19): 

No.

Flip Pallot (11:20):

Every airline used to make a little bag, probably 18 by 20 inches or so, and had a zipper top and two handles, and they would give them to passengers and the passengers would just put stuff that they intended to carry on the plane in these little a wall bags. And we would ride our bicycles to Coral Gables. And then we would get on a bus, which would take us downtown Miami, where there was a big park and there were pigeons in this park, millions of pigeons.  And we would start feeding the pigeons until we got a crowd of them around us. And then we would grab a pigeon and put ’em in that AWOL bag and we would get four, five or six of them and get on the bus, go back to the bus station in Coral Gables, get our bicycles, which we simply leaned up against the building. And then we would ride over to this beach, which was about 15 miles from the bus station. And we would dig holes in the sand and we would cover one another up, whoever’s chance it was to be in the hole and cover the person up with sand. We would take a bushel basket. And in between the slats, there’s just a little bit of space so that air can get in and move around. And we would  put a bushel basket over top of our head.  We would tie a little string to the foot of a pigeon and run the string out through one of those little holes. And we would have a welder’s gauntlet on our right hand and hold onto the string with our left hand. And the other person would hide and the pigeon would just walk around outside the bushel on the sand and a red shoulder hawk would dive down and grab him and start eating him right there. And while he was doing that, you’d pull on the string and then put the string between your teeth, then grab the string again and pull it again, and then put it between your teeth until you pulled the hawk who was eating the pigeon right up against the bushel basket. And then you’d hold the string in your teeth, put your left hand under the top of the bushel, and with the welder’s gauntlet, you would suddenly push the bushel up and grab the hawk with the gauntlet and he’d try to bite you, but you had on this gauntlet and he couldn’t bite through that. And you had a hawk.

Dave DiBenedetto (13:47):

Then what? 

Flip Pallot (13:50):

Well, I mean, then we were free to just ride straight home from there and then we would sell those hawks to either Ross Allen or we would sell them to a guy named Bill Haast who had another tourist attraction. We would get $30 for a kestrel, $45 for a red shouldered hawk.

Dave DiBenedetto (14:10): 

You were rich. 

Flip Pallot (14:11):

I had more money than my father. It was hysterical. 

Dave DiBenedetto (14:14):

Yeah. So how’d the hawk get home?

Flip Pallot (14:17): 

In the AWOL bag.

Dave DiBenedetto (14:19):

Oh, in the AWOL bag.

Flip Pallot (14:22):

Yeah, yeah. No, you, you didn’t want to be seen. We had it worked out. I mean, it was, it was very, very seamless the way that we did it.

Eddie Nickens (14:30):

What strikes me about that story is, you know, a couple of themes, just freedom Flip the initiative that you had to have to even think about riding to a park and catching a pigeon and riding to a park and catching a hawk and riding and selling sort of the entrepreneurial spirit as well. But just your ability to tinker. You know, that’s kind of one theme of your life. You’ve made a lot of cool stuff that enabled you to do a lot of cool things.

Flip Pallot (15:02):

When you say things like that, I think you’re thinking in terms of today, there simply is no comparison. A child of 12 or 13 years old today is not anything like what a child was at that age then. I mean, today, a child that age is limited by his surroundings and by the situation in the world, it’s not safe for kids to do what I did then. I, I was 12 years old, I had a knife in my pocket every time I put pants on. We actually played as a very, very serious activity. A game that we called tree tag, where we would climb up in these giant trees and chase one another around the trees like monkeys.  And we didn’t think about the consequences of doing that and, and somehow our parents didn’t either. And somehow we lived through all that. 

Dave DiBenedetto (16:03):

Alright, you’re about 12 in the story with the hawks. So let’s fast forward a little bit. I really want to talk about the Tackle Box. The Tackle Box was the shop that you went to as a kid, and it was where you met your best friends. We’re talking about Chico Fernandez, Norman Duncan, and Little John Emery, and I believe it was Chico who called you guys the Four Musketeers. You were basically inseparable and you would go on to really define what would become saltwater fly fishing. But for now, I just wanna hear a little more about the Tackle Box itself.

Flip Pallot (16:41):

Well just start by introducing the concept of a local tackle shop. We called them, every little community had one or more. And at every one of these shops, there was a core group of people all ages that just hung out. And every one of these shops had a guy or a girl very often it was a girl that was a rod builder, and they would build custom rods for customers, or they would build shop rods that would just go on the wall for sale. And all of those rods reflected the light tackle. I mean, there really was a light tackle community then. And we had things like two pound test monofilament that actually tested two pound test. Big line was eight pound test.

Dave DiBenedetto (17:43): 

Wow. 

Flip Pallot (17:44):

That was like big stuff. And when I say big stuff, we all lived under the umbrella and the rules and the guidelines of a local tournament, which was called the Metropolitan Miami Fishing Tournament. And it had tackle divisions of, had a plug casting division, spin casting, fly casting. And then it had a general division where you could use anything. Every week. The local newspapers, the Miami Herald and the Miami News had fishing columns and the columnists would post the leaders in the different divisions of the MET Tournament. It was a big deal. I mean, it was the central focus of our life.

Eddie Nickens (18:28):

So this culture of light tackle back then Flip that was really rooted in those tackle shops, right?

Flip Pallot (18:34):

It was. And the Met Tournament.

Eddie Nickens (18:36):
And the Met Tournament, yeah. And the young kids were in there as well, that, that’s where you met some of the friends that you had for the rest of your life.

Flip Pallot (18:43):
I met Chico in one of those local tackle shops in 1958. He’d just come from Cuba and John and I were in first grade together.

Dave DiBenedetto (18:56): 

Right? 

Flip Pallot (18:56):
Yeah, so John was my friend always, maybe my first friend. And Norman, met Norman in the Tackle Box too.

Dave DiBenedetto (19:05):

Right? I mean, you might not wanna say this, but you guys were pushing what it was to be a saltwater fly fisherman. And you know, Chico talks about how you sanded down 200 pound monofilament to make cheaper versions of a fly line. You know, y’all were continuing to invent and improve, right? 

Flip Pallot (19:27):

Well our lives were outside, but I mean, I remember what got me interested in fishing. And it was standing on a dock fishing for bream with dough balls on a number 12 hook and a piece of Dacron line just dangling dough balls off the side of a dock  in a lake. And I hooked a blue gill or a bream and was lifting it out of the water and a bass, left the water and ate this panfish on the way up. And I can see it all, hear it all. I remember it all. And that incident was the springboard for me as far as fishing was concerned. And we lived in a time where none of the things that we needed existed. I mean, here’s, here’s how crazy it was. You know, spinning was in its infancy and it wasn’t as efficient or effective. A fish fighting tool as a plug rod was, plug reels had no drags. I mean, it went as fast forward as it did backward.  And so when you hooked a fish, the only way that you could ever catch him was to apply drag to the spool directly with your thumb. And there was a Cuban woman in one of the tackle shops that knitted these little doilies or condom like things out of kite string that you slipped over your thumb,  and it would allow you to apply pressure without burning your thumb off on the monofilament or the Dacron, whichever it was. When monofilament got really popular, the plug reels of the day, and the best one of all was a reel called a pflueger supreme. The tolerances between the spool rim and the frame of the reel was inconsistent. In other words, you could buy one out of a box and it would be a really good tolerance between those two features of the reel. But some of the reels that you bought right out of the box, the tolerance was bad. And if you got any kind of an overrun, the monofilament would leap behind the spool and you would lose everything. We would actually go to a shop and make them take 15 or 20 boxes of pflueger supremes off the shelf, and we would go through each reel and check the tolerances of the spool. And they would see us coming and they would go, oh no, here they, they knew the four of us  and they knew that it was gonna be, oh no, we’re gonna have to pull everything off the shelf and let these idiots go through. So everything that we needed or wanted to make the catches that we wanted to make, we had to adapt or invent or modify in some way. The rods that we needed didn’t exist. We had to build them. We had to get the components and build them. And Norman Duncan had in his garage a very, very, very sophisticated rod wrapping machine, and he had a wood lathe. So we could turn the corks and shape the corks on a wood lathe. All of us took wood shop in high school so that we could use lathes and we would build our own rods. We would coat the wraps with spar varnish. And while it was still wet, we would go fishing.  We didn’t care but then the resource was so amazing, indescribable, I can’t tell you what the resource was. I mean, how many fish, how many species of fish, and how accessible they were. The entire west shore of Biscayne Bay, which is huge, was accessible.

photo: courtesy of flip pallot
On Biscayne Bay in 1967.

Dave DiBenedetto (23:29): 

Wow.

Flip Pallot (23:29):

Even if there was a house there, you didn’t even have to ask if you could go into the yard and fish on the sea wall or fish around the dock. And in those years, Florida had a law that if you operated farm equipment, you could get your regular driving license at 14.

Dave DiBenedetto (23:51): 

Ah.

Flip Pallot (23:51):

My family in north Florida, they farmed shade tobacco. And so in the summers I would go up there and work and operate farm equipment. And I got my regular driving license when I was 14. And there was an old guy in the neighborhood that died, he had an old GMC pickup and it was in his estate. And I borrowed a couple of hundred dollars from my dad and bought that truck and paid him back in about two weeks from netting mullet at night, finger mullet, and selling those mullet to the bait shops. I mean, we were deadly dangerous. Once we had wheels, I mean, our range, we could drive to Key West and drive to the Everglades and fish the canals in the Everglades that were unfished. I mean we would drive down the beach at Marco Island and Naples, we would drive along the sand. We’d put a guy with a fly rod in the bed of the truck and just drive right down the edge of the water and you could see the snook laying in the surf. And when the guy in the truck spotted a fish, he would just tap on the hood, he’d stop, and he would cast right out of the bed of the truck to the fish in the surf. It was an amazing, wonderful time to grow up in America. I mean, there was just nothing going on except hunting and fishing and making up excuses for why your report card was so bad. 

Dave DiBenedetto (25:22):

When did the first boat come into your life?

Flip Pallot (25:25):

Well, our first boats were air mattresses. And we all used our air mattresses to get around a lot of Biscayne Bay and the upper keys.

Dave DiBenedetto (25:36): 

Right.

Flip Pallot (25:37):

It is amazing what you can do with a decent air mattress  and light tackle.  I mean, we went so far out into the bay to fish on air mattresses in such foul, crappy weather that I’m even alive is just amazing.

Eddie Nickens (25:56):

You just kneel on the air mattress and paddle?

Flip Pallot (25:58):

No, you lay on it and paddle lay on your stomach,  and paddle, and you can go very fast and super far.

Eddie Nickens (26:06): 

Yeah.

Flip Pallot (26:07):

We had these little tackle boxes that we would tie onto the either end the front end or the back end of the air mattress. And when you were paddling, you had the rod either underneath you or over top of your back laying along lengthwise. And we had fish on stringers and sometimes sharks would come and grab the fish on the stringers. And we were on an air mattress. I mean, sometimes you could have 10 or 15 pompano on a string hanging off your air mattress and sharks all around  trying to eat them. Before any of us had boats, we started renting boats from Spec’s Boat Rental on Summerland Key. And there was an old man named Spec and he had big spectacles,  and, and these were little 15 foot open skiffs, and you couldn’t take the boat more than, I don’t know, a mile away or something like that. We used to take those boats out into the ocean, I mean, to the Gulf Stream,  and fish for amberjack and tuna. And I mean, and we’d go so far into the back country, you know, we’d have to hide gas on some of the islands and leave it there so that we could make those long trips. And when John decided to get a boat, he bought one of those rental boats from Spec and put a front casting platform on it and a rear deck and gunnels. And that was the first boat that was actually owned in our group.

Dave DiBenedetto (27:39):

So I wanna talk a little bit about Walker’s Cay. I mean, that’s how the world we live in knows you. Right? And what was brilliant about that show was we all felt like we knew you.

Flip Pallot (27:53):

I think that the Walker’s Show was one of the early, very, very early saltwater fishing shows.

Dave DiBenedetto (28:00): 

Right.

Flip Pallot (28:02):

There wasn’t much around in that genre. There were bass shows.

Dave DiBenedetto (28:06): 

Right.

Flip Pallot (28:07):
And so there was a, the opportunity to expose people for the first time to all of that, there was secondarily no competition for sponsors.

Dave DiBenedetto (28:21): 

Hmm.

Flip Pallot (28:22):

And because there was no competition for sponsors, when we got sponsors, we were able to maintain creative control.

Dave DiBenedetto (28:30):

Right.

Flip Pallot (28:31):

Today there’s so much competition for sponsors that the sponsors are in control of the content. And that reflects heavily on the production values of a television experience. From a viewer standpoint, it’s very, very infomercial today.

Dave DiBenedetto (28:49): 

Right.

Flip Pallot (28:49):

So we were able to concentrate on the two things. I think that set Walker’s apart from everything that followed. And those two things were number one, production values. We shot it on film, and film had this enormously warm feeling to it. The other thing was, we recorded sound separately, so the sound was 10 times better than everything else that was out there. And then I think the other thing that separated us was, I mean, every single episode focused on relationships.

Dave DiBenedetto (29:32): 

Right.

Flip Pallot (29:32):

And we featured not so much the fishing or the catching, but we always tried so hard to feature the relationship of the two people that were on camera. And we did that because we knew that everyone in our audience had a fishing buddy, a partner, someone that they went into the outdoors with during the happiest moments of their life, the most memorable moments of their whole life were spent with this other person. And we recognized the alchemy that can happen in a boat between two people. And it’s an elusive thing to capture unless you’re focused on it and then made the decision to capture it. And I think we realized the power of words as well.

Dave DiBenedetto (30:28):

Who wrote the voiceover montage? That opening scene.

Flip Pallot (30:32):

The opening scene was written by a brilliant writer by the name of Pat Smith. After Pat, we had someone else doing it when that second person left, then I did it.

Dave DiBenedetto (30:44): 

Right.

Flip Pallot (30:45):
I think what we understood from the very beginning is that things can be said in voiceover that cannot be said in dialogue. And things can be said in a certain way in voiceover that they can never be said in dialogue. And that peering into the camera and trying to utter sensible sentences for people who are not trained to do that always comes off just like exactly that.

Dave DiBenedetto (31:19): 

Hmm.

Flip Pallot (31:19):

Do you remember Jerry McKinnis?

Dave DiBenedetto (31:20): 

Yeah.

Flip Pallot (31:21): 

And Jose.

Dave DiBenedetto (31:22): 

Yeah, yeah.

Flip Pallot (31:22):

Those were two men who could look into the camera and make you feel as though they were talking to you. I mean, those guys would look into the camera and they’d go, come here, come over here really close. I wanna show you this how I hook this minnow. The next thing you know, you’re, you’re leaning into the television set and, but that’s a rare quality. I can’t do that. And so voiceover became the tool that let me achieve what those guys did naturally.

Eddie Nickens (31:54):

And that show, I mean, it just took off Flip. It just exploded.

Flip Pallot (31:58):

There wasn’t anything else.

Eddie Nickens (32:01):

I think you’re not giving yourself enough credit. Um, I know you had a vision for that show and y’all worked hard to bring that vision to life. Was it ever articulated early on that this is what we’re going to do and this is what we’re not going to do? We’re gonna break the mold.

Flip Pallot (32:17):

I hope no one takes this the wrong way. We had a model of what not to do, and it was the most popular show on television at that time, outdoor show. And it was called the ABC American Sportsman. And the format every week was some movie star or personality from sports who had no idea what they were doing when you put them on a drift boat and went down the Columbia River to catch steelhead or whatever, the celebrity was out of his element. And I guess some people found that engaging, it always was aggravating to me. And so there was never the relationship that I wanted to focus on. And that was this fishing buddy, hunting buddy, soulmate sort of relationship that I know that every viewer has. And so they never got to see in the ABC American Sportsman. They never got to see themselves. And so I think that between the production values and the relationships and the fact that there was no infomercialistic aspect to the show whatsoever, and yet people would get close and try to figure out what I’d get, emails and letters, people begging to know what reel we were using, what line we were using, what fly we were using. They were interested technically, but I think they were drawn by the other two things. The production values and the relationships.

Dave DiBenedetto (33:51):
Yeah. I mean there was an emotional connection.

Flip Pallot (33:55): 

Oh yeah.

Eddie Nickens (33:55):
And there was an emotional connection to you Flip to you personally. And particularly, you told me one time about the first time you were asked for your autograph. Do you remember this?

Flip Pallot (34:07):
Let me see. I made it up. So I gotta think back.

Flip Pallot (34:12):

I had at that point done a couple of episodes of a show called The Saltwater Sportsman, which I was hosting before Walker’s Cay came along. And I had been on some of the old American sportsman shows, some of the outdoor life shows. And, but anyway, there was a general store that sold food and sundries and we were gonna go in there and buy some, I remember rice crackers. And so Diane went down one aisle and I went down another aisle and I see this young woman, she like running down the aisle toward me. And she stops in front of me and she goes, don’t even try to deny it. She goes, you’re Flip Pallot. I know you are. And I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know who she was. And she goes, my husband is going to faint when he finds out that I met you. He’s your biggest fan. He loves to watch you on television. And she goes, can I have your autograph? Well, nobody in my whole life had ever asked me for an autograph. I said, I don’t have anything to write on. And she reaches up onto the shelf and grabs this box of Fruit Loops  and she says, just sign it on this box. She said, and write a note to my husband, his name is Fred. She said, just write something personal to him. And I could not think of anything. And in the end, I’m embarrassed to say, I just wrote, Dear Fred, have a nice life, Flip. 

Eddie Nickens (35:50):

The most valuable box of Fruit Loops in the world.

Dave DiBenedetto (35:55):

Right. For the record, I love Fruit Loops. Let’s, let’s talk about fly casting for a few minutes here. Something I wish that I was better at. I’ve seen Flip cast and my takeaway from that was  beyond wow. Was that it just looked so effortless. Eddie, give us some idea of what sets Flip apart.

Eddie Nickens (36:19):

One of the things that I think people are struck by with Flip is his physical aspect of his fly casting. You cast differently than a lot of people Flip. It’s a beautiful way of casting. Um, there’s a couple of stories that I think might be interesting and one is about, I think you’re in Dallas, is that right? When you were walking by the Abercrombie and Fitch store and you saw a sign about a fly casting demonstration. Tell us about that. Where were you in your career?

Flip Pallot (36:48):

I was at that point in the retail store business.  I had a retail store that was hunting and fishing and outdoor art and very fine firearms store in a very high end regional shopping mall in South Miami, Florida. And it fell to me to make trips every year to a men’s wear show in Dallas. And I was walking around the neighborhood of the convention center and I noticed that they were having the grand opening of an Abercrombie and Fitch store downtown in Dallas. I had to go in and see the store. And on my way in, they had one of those, a-frame signs by the door. And it said at three o’clock this afternoon on the roof, a fly casting demonstration by Charles Ritz. And I recognized the name Charles Ritz. I knew who he was. He was a great European traveling angler who did a lot of videos at the time and had written books. And so I went in, went up on the roof, nobody was there except this little man in a waistcoat and pointy toed shoes. And he was standing there with a fiberglass rod.  I did not think that that was Charles Ritz. I mean, in my mind, he was quite a lot larger. I walked over, you know, and I said, are you waiting for Mr. Ritz? And he goes, no, no. I go with this heavy, heavy guttural German accent. Let me know that he was Charles Ritz. So we chatted a little bit and nobody showed up. And I finally said to him, it looks as though nobody is gonna be here. And I said, but I would love to hear what you have to say. And he came up with a method of casting, which he called a high speed high line. And when I saw what he was doing, it was a revelation for me. The same sort of a revelation as when I first saw Lefty cast and I realized what was actually possible with a fly rod.

Eddie Nickens (39:06): 

Flip is fly casting an art?

Flip Pallot (39:11):

No, I don’t think it’s an art at all. I think, um, fly fishing is a tool that challenges us to catch fish in a more contemplative, difficult, challenging way. If you’re willing to learn how to cast 50 or 60 feet, you can be a very, very adequate fly fisherman.

photo: courtesy of flip pallot
Pallot with a mutton snapper in 2023 in Abaco, the Bahamas.

Dave DiBenedetto (39:36):

We’ve mentioned Lefty. Let’s talk about Lefty for a minute. Flip Lefty’s the most famous fly fisherman. I mean a character, an amazing character that so many of us are familiar with. You probably knew him best. Certainly as a fisherman, you knew him best. How would you explain Lefty to someone who’d never heard of him?

Flip Pallot (39:58):

Wow, that’s a difficult question. It’s difficult because I really don’t know anyone that I could compare to Lefty. But you know, if, I guess if I had to sum him up, I would say things like, he was gentle. He was very, very self-effacing. He was truly interested in you no matter who the hell you were. If he met you for the first time at a show in New Jersey and he was having a bad day, he still made you feel as though you were very, very important to him. He came up a little bit ahead of me. He was a little older than I, but he came up at that same time when the things that he wanted and needed didn’t exist. And so he had that same opportunity to contribute by invention. And he invented the system of fly casting that has brought more people into the sport than ever would’ve been here otherwise. If people had tried to come into the sport and been taught to cast in the conventional method, they would’ve bought a spinning rod. But Lefty came up with this elbow on the shelf long stroke method, which people could evidently easily understand and he could get them making that 50 foot cast pretty quickly and effortlessly, at least effortlessly enough so that they were engaged, not turned off.

Dave DiBenedetto (41:42):
Alright, so let’s just say somehow, you know, the Good Lord’s plan for you and you got one more day of fishing in your boat. Who’s the one guest you’d invite?

Flip Pallot (41:54): 

It would be Lefty.

Dave DiBenedetto (41:56):

Yeah.

Eddie Nickens (41:57): 

Yeah.

Flip Pallot (41:58):

It would be Lefty. You know, I’m gonna tell you a very quick story. The first day that I ever fished with Lefty, I was a nervous wreck. This would’ve been, you know, like 65, 66. I took Lefty back in the Everglades. It was a big bite that went way back up into the mainland and it was called Snake Bite. And, um, we were red fishing and I was pulling Lefty along and he was up on the front deck with a fly rod. And I look up in the bite and I see a herd of flamingos on the flat, and they’re all in the line walking together, scaring up shrimp on the flats. I could see their long necks and heads going down into the water catching these shrimp. And I could see the splashing of the shrimp out ahead of the flamingos as they walked along in this big phalanx. And I said something to Lefty, I said, Lefty, there’s a whole herd of flamingos coming toward us, and there’s red redfish all in among them. And the redfish were following the flamingos to get the shrimp and Lefty put his fly rod down in the bottom of the boat and pulled out a camera and a 400 millimeter telephoto lens. And, um, Lefty wanted the photograph of the redfish in among the legs of the flamingos more than he wanted to go up to the flamingos and cast a fly in there and catch a redfish. And, you know, Lefty had just come to Florida. He hadn’t caught many, if any, redfish on fly. And in spite of that, what was most important to him was this photograph. He was shooting black and white film. And it was a life lesson to me because he couldn’t do both. It was the first of a thousand days like that spent fishing with Lefty, where almost every day there was either a casting lesson, a life lesson. So without thinking of it, very hard, it would be Lefty. And then the next person would be Diane. Because more than anybody I’ve ever fished with, she appreciates it. And just seeing her appreciate it that much is what makes the day for me.

Dave DiBenedetto (44:25): 

That’s pretty special.

Eddie Nickens (44:27):

Flip you’re famous for giving nicknames to people in your life. I’m “Smoke”, right? Which you dubbed me one day when you didn’t think I could sneak up on this bunch of Florida hogs that showed up and we were turkey hanging. I replied that I moved like smoke through the woods.  You remember that?

Flip Pallot (44:43): 

I do. I do.

Eddie Nickens (44:44):

Yeah. There’s your buddy Graham Hegamyer “Bubbles”, your longtime friend, Bill “Duck” Bishop. But so far nothing for poor old plain as mud David DiBenedetto. 

Flip Pallot (44:59):

Oh my goodness. 

Eddie Nickens (45:00):

What you got for him? Flip anything come to mind for a handle? 

Flip Pallot (45:04):

Well, let’s see. I’m a big fan of David’s writing for a long, long time. So my knee jerk reaction is gonna be David “The Word Man” DiBenedetto.

Eddie Nickens (45:22):

Oh, this is not how I thought this was gonna go.

Dave DiBenedetto (45:24):

I will take it. I thought you were setting me up you two. I thought I was sitting here in a trap like that hawk.  I appreciate that comment.

Flip Pallot (45:33):

I might come up with something better,  but “word man” for now.

Dave DiBenedetto (45:37):

Well, I’m hoping that you and I Flip can spend a lot more time together and I can give you fodder for even more nicknames. I know Eddie feels the same way.

Flip Pallot (45:46):

You know, I, um, very recently I spent a day marsh hen hunting, well, red fishing and marsh hen hunting.

Dave DiBenedetto (45:52): 

Uhhuh.

Flip Pallot (45:53):

And I thought, you know, maybe if you get the time and want to make the effort to do a marsh hen hunt, we’ve got a lot of ’em. It’s a lot of fun.

Eddie Nickens (46:01):

I’ll be right there Flip. I really appreciate the invite buddy. Thanks for that. And that wraps up our episode.  

Dave DiBenedetto (46:11):

I’ll be there. Flip you know, I love a marsh hen.

Flip Pallot (46:14): 

Yes sir.

Dave DiBenedetto (46:15):

Well yeah, well maybe the three of us can get together. To your point, Eddie, it would be a dream.

Flip Pallot (46:19): 

Yes, it will.

Dave DiBenedetto (46:19):

I love both of you fellas. And Flip, it’s so great to have you on. Thank you so much for your time. It’s always, always a pleasure Flip.

Eddie Nickens (46:26):

What a great conversation, man. I know. We could have so many more. Maybe we will. I’d enjoy that. I think a lot of folks would enjoy that. But appreciate your time spent with us here today, buddy. 

Flip Pallot (46:36):

It’s been my pleasure, guys, and hope our paths cross soon and often.

Dave DiBenedetto (46:50):

Wow, that wraps up the first episode of the Wild South Podcast. Could not be more thankful to Flip for sharing his time and his stories with us. I mean, what a delight. Before we go, I gotta tell you that T. Edward here is actually writing a book about Flip. That is, if he finishes that book, when’s it coming out, Eddie?

Eddie Nickens (47:16):

Dave  friends, don’t ask friends about their book deadlines. You should, you should know this. You know, I am stoked about what we’ve done. Flip and I have been working on this for a couple years now, and when it’s all buttoned up, David DiBenedetto will be the first to know.

Dave DiBenedetto (47:35):

And I’ll tell all of you as soon as I do. Alright. The Wild South Podcast comes to you from Garden and Gun Magazine. This episode was produced and edited by Christine Fennessy, with music by our longtime friends and terrific fishermen, Woody Platt and Bennett Sullivan. Check us out wherever you get your shows and if you could take a second, do please leave us a review.

Eddie Nickens (48:02):

Oh yeah. Don’t forget, this is our first episode, first season, so we’ll take all the love you can share.

Dave DiBenedetto (48:09):

From here in Charleston, South Carolina, I’m Dave DiBenedetto.

Eddie Nickens (48:13):

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Eddie Nickens. We’ll see you next time on the Wild South. 


Also see:

The Wild Zen of Flip Pallot, from G&G’s October/November 2017 issue


Wild South credits:

Producer and editor: Christine Fennessy
Music: Woody Platt and Bennett Sullivan
Artwork: Lars Leetaru
Transcripts editor: Katherine Jarvis


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