I belong to several. First and foremost, I belong
to a community which traces its roots in Louisiana
soil, and through our waters, back eight thousand
years. My father's people are today called the
Sovereign Nation of the Chitimacha. The name is
derived from what we called ourselves pre-historically,
Sheti imasha, meaning "people of the lake." So
you see, I am already half born of water.
Secondly, my mother is French-Acadian, and it
goes without saying that the Cajun people were
at least at home in the bayous, swamps and marshes
of Louisiana as their Native American neighbors.
Again, black water courses through my veins like
the Atchafalaya River.
Growing up a 'Breed, what on the Rez means "half-breed,"
gave me the opportunity to join another community, that
of the nearest small town, Franklin, Louisiana. There
I entered a career in journalism at age 15. Now, 23
years later, I'm still at it.
The most recent community acquisition I've made is
this one: The company of fellow fly anglers, and this
site in particular. My father was a dedicated fisherman,
and though he used spin tackle most of the time, the
man was a deadly weapon with a fiberglass Heddon and
yellow popping bug when the mood struck him. He taught
me how to make some rudimentary casts, always very
sloppy and never very far, by the time I was ten
years old. My first rod was a Heddon 'glass eight-footer.
Sadly, I put it up when I was about 15 and didn't touch
it again until last winter.
My father went to join the Creator and our grandfathers
in Dec., 1999. Last winter, I was poking around in the
old boat shed where the twelve-foot wooden bateau he
built in 1962 rested. The boat was in need of a good
cleaning and new paint, and since the fishing bug had
bitten me again for the first time in years, I spent
most of the winter months preparing that old boat for
another season of service. I grew up between its
gunwhales, learned all that I loved on its cypress
bench seat. My father was not into sports, never
played football with me or threw me a baseball. All
our best times where spent in that little boat,
pursuing fish on Lake Fausse Point in St. Mary
Parish Lousiana. My people called it Sheti, the
Spaniards would name it Lake of the Sheti imasha,
and later the French colonists called it Fausse Pointe.
In the boatshed that day, I came across our dust-covered
old Heddons. Picking them up, I blew decades of dust
from them and from a thousand old memories. The braided,
plastic-coated line was brittle and cracked, but I
stripped out a few yards and found fresh yellow which
I threaded through the eyes and, standing there in December
on the Indian reservation, found I could still cast sloppily
and not very far. But the feel of that old Heddon in my
hand was like finding myself all over again. I suddenly
felt a failed marriage, hopping from one job to the next,
living from paycheck to paycheck, estrangement from my
dad for more than ten years, drift away as that line
whisked through the air in lousy loops and too low a
My father and I largely mended our ways before he
died, and he went to his Creator again as a father
to me, rather than a bur in my imagined side. This
spring, four years later, I took his old wooden boat,
two years older than I, with new paint and varnish
and a new outboard, to Sheti, and with his
Heddon rod managed enough decent casts to bring
in several slab-sized bluegill and one or two
respectable bass. Circles, in my people's thought,
are very important. A circle was made whole that
day, and I am traversing it again.
This community, Fly Anglers Online, and its publisher
have kindly allowed me the opportunity to write more
about my fishing, and how it relates to a boy, an old
man, and eight thousand years of legacy, than I have
had the opportunity to do at the newspaper. The concept
among anglers of "home waters" is a dear and fascinating
one to me, for my home waters are steeped in history and
ghosts walk them always. I chose the title "Native Waters"
for this column with that in mind.
So I'm pleased to be here, in this community, in all
communities I have found and grown to love. I'm just
a little 'Breed off the Rez who happened to spend more
time fishing from old wooden boats and reading
everything he could get his hands on when a child,
now a man with stories to tell. My people believed
that it isn't enough to learn something: To really
make it part of your life, you must share it with
family and friends.
I have much I'd like to share, then, if you'd care
to listen. Much to observe from behind the cork grip
of a Granger "Victory" that came to me through
convergences of the kind I once doubted existed;
much to recall hidden between the gunwales of a
wooden bateau, floating along a blackwater coulee
surrounded by banks of cypress and tupelo who saw
my grandfather's grandfathers born; and a lifetime
of water coursing through my years.
And so, as I always like to close, Nea'se. Thank you.
For sharing my ramblings, and my waters. ~ Roger