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by Chris Dorsey | Nov 7, 2020 | FISHING, FRESHWATER
Move Over Jimmy Buffett, Meet the Coolest Salt of the Sea

Pallot (left) with his fly fishing sensei and mentor, the late Lefty Kreh. Pallot's 15-year run on ESPN provided an unmatched celebration of flats fly fishing and, in the process, raised awareness of the importance of these coastal habitats for myriad ocean species--including prized game fish like bonefish, permit and tarpon. COURTESY OF FLIP PALLOT

Wherever the currents of time find Pallot, you can bet the fish will be biting and he’ll make room in the boat for you—whether in person or vicariously. What could be cooler than that?
For 15 seasons a lanky poet with the central casting name of Flip Pallot poled a skiff across the saltwater flats of the Caribbean and elsewhere turning television screens into windows with an unconventional view of the universe. His was a dreamy watercolor world of pastels where sea and sky blend with varying shades of turquoise and cobalt.

Occasionally, he would stop to cast his fly rod to bonefish, finned rockets the size of a calf muscle, offering them a mixed menu of shrimp and crab imitations. In the process, his rich prose painted a portrait of an endearing way of life in a place that almost seemed fictitious, as if it was his Lake Wobegon, where the fish are strong and their fight always above average.

Millions of ESPN viewers woke up on weekends to his melodic voice and followed his journey into some of the most inviting pieces of our planet, especially that ribbon of life where salt and land meet. These shallows are the nursery of the ocean and the incubator of Pallot’s musings about life and the pursuit of fish…and the place where he forever seemed in search of answers about the mysteries of the sea. In a television genre so dominated by pitchmen and how-to experts, Pallot became an antidote to the frenetic, NASCAR-on-the-water competition programs that dominated the sports network’s weekend airtime. As popular as those programs were, Pallot and his serene world brought a reprieve from them and delivered a program instead with a kind of lyrical quality where the music seemed to emanate from the silence between the notes.

A hunter-angler in full, Pallot finds sustenance for the mind and body on the land and waters around his south Florida home. A new partnership with Frigate Reserve Rum capitalizes on his fan base that spans the world of fly fishing and coastal living. COURTESY OF FLIP PALLOT

He shared an alternative perspective on life that often revealed to viewers something about themselves, for he gave words to the emotions and inspirations that could only be born in the majesty of a liquid wilderness and audiences loved him for it.

His series was called Walker’s Cay Chronicles and, not since Curt Gowdy’s long-running and multiple Emmy-winning ABC series The American Sportsman, has an outdoor show left such a legacy. As a natural storyteller, gifted writer and ambassador of flats conservation, Pallot built a loyal following of anglers and wannabe flats fishermen by being genuine—what advertising executives and marketers like to call authentic.

Watch an episode as he poles through the mangrove tentacles that rim the Florida Keys and you’ll witness him with his eyes peering osprey-like to make out the subtle fins of a bonefish tailing as it feeds or perhaps the stir caused by a snook leaving the edge of a labyrinth of stems to ambush its prey in open water. He takes on the look of a slightly leaner Hemingway but is more spiritualist than minimalist. He treats the flats as his cathedral where this holy water seems to forever help him distill the essence of his existence. It’s clear as he poles a friend through these sacred places that he is answering whispers from above that speak only to the soul, that he’s found his purpose and sharing it is clearly the great reward of his life.

Though few know as much about the salt flats and the species that inhabit them (or how to catch them), no one seems more inquisitive about these places than Pallot. His child-like curiosity, quick wit, humbleness and uncommon decency are immediately disarming—and charming—and become an elixir that you wish could be mixed into our public water supplies along with fluoride, delivering both brighter souls and whiter teeth.

Pallot’s daily commute takes him across the saltwater flats of the Florida Keys. Pallot is part of Captains for Clean Water, a non-profit that raises awareness about Florida’s water management woes and advocates for clean water and healthy estuaries across the state. COURTESY OF FLIP PALLOT

Watch a developer, polluter or cruise line abuse these fragile ecosystems, however, and the poet laureate of the flats transforms to something akin to Hayduke, the fictious environmental warrior and protagonist of Edward Abbey’s classic, The Monkey Wrench Gang. “Get pissed,” he told a group of Florida conservationists working to keep the Everglades from becoming the Neverglades. “If you don’t get involved, you’re letting the destruction happen.”


When Pallot speaks in those tones, it becomes a call to action to legions of his fly fishing tribe—and they know what to do. The most powerful and connected people in America visit guides on the salt flats in search of bonefish, permit, tarpon and memories. This sunbaked army of polers across the Keys might look like unlikely lobbyists but underestimate their influence at your own peril. See what their clients that have landed a permit or tarpon for the first time will then do to protect such places. The tug truly is the drug as any fishermen will attest and God help whomever stands between a man and his fishing fix.

That combination of passionate angler, mentor and conservationist makes Pallot beloved by brands as well. No one puts the cool in Yeti Coolers or takes fans to fishing heaven in a Hell’s Bay boat better than Pallot. He’s an ageless salt who has taken so many along on amazing journeys of discovery where they learn and grow together. It works because he’s never trying to impress—the great ones don’t need to—he just goes about his south Florida life with his lovely wife of 35 years, Diane, living by the ebb and flow of tides and weather as much as any creature in this habitat.

He occasionally takes a recurve bow and arrow out in search of a dinner of venison or wild pork…maybe a duck call to catch flights of ringnecks as they fly in squadrons over nearby ponds. He is a modern day hunter-gather who sits down to dinner after cooking (often on an enormous gas-fired pan called a Firedisc that would be suitable for making Paul Bunyan’s flapjacks) feeling blessed to be sitting atop the food chain.

For Pallot, home is often where the fish are biting. Even dinner preparation happens mostly outdoors, for three squares a day can be made on his Firedisc, an ingenious gas-fired surface that can cook virtually anything in short order. COURTESY OF FLIP PALLOT

It only seems fitting that a fish pirate who forever wanders the sea in search of finned riches would have his own rum—enter Frigate Reserve, a partnership with several others who live and dream the flats. The 21-year aged rum sells with the moniker of Life on the Wing, a variation of what might be Pallot’s personal mantra—life’s short, savor every sip.

Pallot’s friendship and mentorship of Oliver White, a lodge owner, guide and talented saltwater fly fisherman continues the line of succession that began with the late angling legend Lefty Kreh and Pallot’s friendship that spanned many decades. COURTESY OF FLIP PALLOT

Today, Pallot has reluctantly embraced social media and websites, not so much for commercial reasons but to connect to his extended network of fly anglers, flats philosophers and watchmen of the sea. Many of his friends are angling legends in their own right, people like Stu Apte who has caught and released more tarpon than any other ten people.

Then there was the late Lefty Kreh who, at 5-feet, 6-inches was a giant of the sport and Pallot’s mentor (images of the two are found throughout Pallot’s cybersphere). And Pallot is developing a protégé of his own, a young fly fishing entrepreneur and skilled angler named Oliver White who, if you see the two together, you’d assume was Pallot’s son. He’s closer to a clone, for the two share an uncannily similar profile just at different stages of life.

Wherever the currents of time find Pallot, you can bet the fish will be biting and he’ll make room in the boat for you—whether in person or vicariously. What could be cooler than that?

This article originally appeared in Forbes. Follow Sporting Classics TV host Chris Dorsey at Forbes.
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