Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

February 28th, 2005

Nervous As Two Cats In A Room Full of Rocking Chairs

Here at the precipice of spring, my nerves get all jangly and on end. The willow trees are budding, and that's a sure sign the sac-au-lait (that's crappie to you folks north of I-10) are moving into the shallows, along with the first few brave bluegill and bass.

I am a nervous wreck. The winter's got me all frazzled, and the nearness of spring is like candy in a locked glass jar. One of the disadvantages of my part of south Louisiana is the effect of the river, which is also its advantage. Truly, when the fishing here is on, there's no better anywhere, but the river is cranky and easily influenced by so many things that happen in the Gulf of Mexico and away up north. Rains right now in the Midwest are promising that the slow drop of the river, and basin, over the last few days will cease, and everything will rise again. In fact, predictions are that it may be July before the basin gets right for fishing this year with all the water expected from up north.

That's the paradox of this area. When it's good, it's awesome. When it's bad, it's terrible. There are very few non-river-influenced lakes within driving distance to satisfy me. Those areas south of the Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee tend to clear up sooner than the basin itself, but that just means every fisherman who's as stir crazy as I am right now will be out there until the basin is primed.

The waiting is the hardest part. Temperatures are in the seventies today, but the water is high and muddy, pummeled by south winds and rains late last week. More rain is expected later this week, on the weekend, of course.

Last weekend, with nice temperatures but wind blowing fifteen to twenty miles per hour, I pulled my fiberglass boat out of storage for a good cleaning, charging the batteries and the like. I haven't had a chance to finish my wooden skiff, which will eventually replace the bass boat, but I don't think it'll be this year.

Meanwhile, fishing locales east and west of the basin are heating up. Good catches of sac-au-lait are being reported in some impoundments already, and last week an eight-and-a-half pound bass was taken from the University Lake at LSU in Baton Rouge. Makes me downright miserable. All the fish in my area are swimming in chocolate milk. There are a few ponds I can haunt, but I need the basin, running water, the river and the lake.

I obsess over Ebay when I can't obsess over going fishing. My "watch list" usually has twenty or more bamboo rods on it. I hardly ever buy one, you understand, but I like to watch as a learning experience. I have learned a lot from Ebay, but others haven't. For instance, it always amuses me that the item listing for "Bamboo Fly Rod" turns out to be a baitcaster, and "Vintage" and "Antique" are automatic if a rod is bamboo, since such things are surely relics.

There are also the listings for a "fly pole" or "fish pole" on an eight-foot Orvis Battenkill in mint condition. Those crack me up nearly as much as the "Antique Vintage Fly Fishing Rod, Possibly A Garrison" that the picture clearly reveals is uncut bamboo stalk similar to what Huck Finn might have used in a Twain book. If it's ferruled, the listing adds the word "Rare."

Now, you can tell that some sellers find a low-grade Japanese rod in a garage sale somewhere, do a four-second perusal of bamboo rods on the 'Net and set a reserve price of $2,000 for it with a "Buy It Now" price of $3,000. What I am constantly on the look for is someone who does absolutely no research and lists a "fish pole" at $9 Buy It Now, for an eight foot Granger Deluxe. So far, no cigar. But I did run across a Battenkill listed as a "bambu fly poll" that was in mint condition and sold for $113, and of course, I was flat busted at the time.

I even tied a few flies over the last few months, despite my decrepit vision. Mostly Jitterbees, a couple McGintys and several of my own concoction that are probably going to have the fish jumping on the bank in terror when I present them. Doesn't matter, because even though my eyes hurt and I had a headache when I was done, I had a great time doing it. It passed the time on a cold winter's evening.

My fly boxes are full now, mostly from Ebay purchases, as I do every winter to stock up. My lines are all dressed and my leaders all replaced, reels oiled and rods spic-and-span. I refurbished two bamboo rods this winter I'm dying to get to the water with, and am in the process of creating another banty rod out of a heavy nine-footer. Ought to be a pretty good five-weight.

Today it's raining pitchforks and Gen. George Armstrong Custers all over the Rez and here at work. It's so dark outside I feel like I'm working the late shift, if we had such a thing at the newspaper. Monday night I had to cover a budget workshop for the city council that lasted over two hours. I have another one tonight, and Thursday there'll be a meeting of the city historic district commission and the following Monday another budget workshop, followed by a meeting of the local port commission. I am exhausted and frazzled. Sometimes, after a couple hours at these meetings when I've had about all I can stand of line items, deficits, expenditures, revenues, bond issues and utility rates, I just want to stand up and scream, "Oh, why don't we all just say the hell with it and go fishing???" So far, I have been able to restrain myself and maintain good journalistic conduct. This is probably also good reason why my checkbook is always an undecipherable mess.

Bear with me. I know most of you are the same way. Spring's coming, it's just around the corner. A watched pot never boils, you know. Think about something else, and the next thing you know, it'll be time to fish. To keep my mind off of it, I think I'll go balance my checkbook. If I emerge from this task before summer, I'll file a fishing report, I promise. ~ Roger

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