Fishing on the fly…
BY OLIVIA CAMERON- Chas Madden has fond memories of spending a portion of his childhood on the island. Even before he can remember, Chas was brought from his home in Orlando to Boca Grande to fish and spend time out at sea. His parents, Charlie and Carolyn, appreciated the simplicity of the town and bought a residential lot before Chas was born.
Growing up in the Orlando area, Chas often retreated to the East or West Coast to see the ocean. He grew fond of Gasparilla Island and felt spoiled by its location. When he would return to Central Florida, there was always something missing.
“When I was real little, I had this old nasty surfboard that I used to take out to the beach and surf the tiny waves by the shore on Gasparilla. I took my love of surfing over to the East Coast and became obsessed with the sport,” said Chas. “You wouldn’t think there’d be waves around here, but there sure are.”
As he spent many family vacations on the island, Chas longed to be in Boca Grande.
Chas finished his high school education at Bishop Moore Catholic High School. He was studying at Valencia College in Orlando prior to his family’s move to the island. Just a year ago, they became full-time residents of Boca Grande. Now, Chas is earning his associate in science degree at the State College of Florida. His two older sisters live farther from the island but celebrate the holidays in town when they get the chance to commute.
His mom Carolyn fell in love with the eccentric seaside town with its memorable shops, which fueled her business. She continues to run “The Tide,” located at the front of the Old Theater Building, with the help of Chas.
“She first had the idea to work out of a trailer, but she stumbled on this location and opened her store. I enjoy helping her out most days of the week. It also allows me to stay in touch with the community,” said Chas.
At the beginning of the pandemic, The Tide was in for some changes. Chas and his mom made deliveries for customers at times when they couldn’t operate as usual. Their store hours fluctuated until they closed for the summer.
Now that The Tide is closed for the off-season slump, Chas has reconciled with the ocean.
“There are a wide variety of activities out here, from fishing to surfing to skim boarding. That’s what I enjoy most about living on the island,” he said.
For him, the quaint community sealed the deal.
“Orlando’s traffic is probably just as chaotic as it is in Los Angeles. The road construction has no end in sight.”
Living within reaching distance of the shoreline is bound to make anyone envious.
Chas idolizes his dad’s passionate character. The retired civil engineer raised Chas to be a natural fisherman.
“I didn’t have a choice when it came to fishing. My dad loved it so much it naturally rubbed off on me. Our relationship is built off our common interest,” he said.
Chas claimed his dad’s obsession with the sport drove him to find that same feeling. Now, Chas can’t see himself working in any other field.
“I’ve thought about following in his career path, but I have such a strong passion for being on the water that a career in the fishing industry would come naturally,” he said.
When Chas was five, his family realized that he struggled to tie his shoes. In school, Chas felt more connected to math studies but dreaded reading comprehension studies.
“By the time I turned eight years old, I found out I had dyslexia. In school, I had struggled with academics and wasn’t sure why. I felt I had to work twice as hard as my classmates,” he said.
Through schooling, Chas learned to deal with his struggle by taking more time to concentrate on one matter. Just as he feels there’s a subject for everyone, Chas envisions himself working with what he loves – boating.
“I’ve always wanted to work in the boating industry, possibly designing them. That may be my calling,” he said.
Nowadays, Chas is longing for the next tarpon season.
“That’s my favorite species to fish for, no question. I’ve jumped many of them. I fly fish for them, which is what my dad loves to do. It’s difficult but rewarding,” he said.
With little experience fishing in the Boca Grande Pass, Chas has yet to reel in a downward-swimming silver king.
“When you hook a tarpon on a fly, they start running from you. If you hook them in the Pass, they tug straight down,” he said. His interest in following a tarpon visually outweighs the excitement of fighting the fish. Next season, he hopes to see his mom participate in the Ladies Day Tarpon Tournament.
When he isn’t shredding on a surfboard or snookin’ on his Waterman, Chas is brushing up his knowledge of Olde Florida through a few classic paperbacks.
His pup, Piper, is a rescued border collie with a beautiful story.
“We took her in after her owner passed from a cancer battle,” said Chas. “She has thick hair like an Australian shepherd and big blue eyes. She will chase a bird for miles and collapse at the end of her run. She also strangely enjoys boat rides but won’t get in the water.”
Chas considers himself lucky to live on the island he always called home. He wouldn’t know where he’d be without the ocean. Boca Grande has enhanced his love of fishing. In the near future, Chas aspires to pick up fishing in the Pass and revel in his relationship with the community. For now, he’s sticking to fishing on the fly.