Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

January 5th, 2003

Communities Are Important to Me
By Roger Stouff

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 back cast.

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


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