Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

March 13th, 2006

Getting Out Early
By Roger Stouff, Photo by Francis Todd

So it's Sunday afternoon. The day before I had taken out my wooden runabout that I built in 2001 and cleaned her up good after a year or more of disuse. In fact, the registration had expired in 2005.

While I'm polishing and spit-shining, noticing that I'll need to reapply the varnish topsides soon, a Wildlife and Fisheries truck drives up in the yard. The agent gets out, thumbs in belt, and says, "Good morning!"

I say, "Look, I know my sticker's expired, but you can't ticket me if I'm not in the water, right?"

He laughed. "Calm down, I just wanted to see your boat."

I felt much better. By Sunday I had the boat back in fairly good shape, though she still needs a new battery and a bit of work to the lower unit of the outboard to be ready for cruising. I then got to work on my big ugly fiberglass bass boat which I am hoping to get pristine and ready to sell this spring so I can finish my skiff, getting back to wooden boats exclusively.

About 3 p.m. the phone rings and it's my friend, Francis.

"I feel so sorry for you having to look out at the sun from the house all day," he says. "Wanna go fishing?"

After clearing things with the missus-to-be, I was in the truck and on my way. I met Francis at his house and we trailered his boat to Bayou Teche near Patterson, La. We hadn't been there so far this year, but a spat of warm weather and zero rain convinced us it was worth trying. If no fish were catchable, at least we'd get the heck on the water. Truth be known, Francis felt sorry for himself as well as me. Both of us were going stir crazy from being off the water for too long.

We first motored over to one of my pal's "honey holes" but alas, the jar was empty because the water was murky. So we moved back eastward and found better water to work with fly rods. Francis fished a dry attractor as well as some beadhead or another under an indicator. I was fishing my new Harry Boyd cane 8' #7 because this part of Bayou Teche has, in the last decade, become a world-class bass fishery and I was hoping that if I dropped the right nymph in front of a largemouth, no matter how cold he was in the still chilly-water, he'd be tempted enough to take a nip.

But not much was happening along the cypress trees, and the wind was blustering, so we moved to slack water on the opposite site of the bayou, the residential side, and began fishing docks, bulkheads and blow-downs. Francis picked up a fesity respectable bass but my best was a fair bluegill. A bit light for a #7 rod, but you know, you can't pick what bites your fly, can you? I picked up a smaller one later, missed a great fish who splashed me with his tail a good ten feet from the boat. Harry made me promise him a picture of my first fish on that rod, and since Francis is a photographer of considerable reknown hereabouts, he had his Nikon handy as always, so here it is, Harry. Yeah, I know. Operator error, not the equipment! The next one will be the big fish!

We worked those docks and bulkeads until the last possible moment of a golden sunset before packing up and motoring back. Not much more than an idle, really. We talked about a lot of things, but noticed mostly the auburn cast of the sun's fanning rays against the cypress. Golden hour, perhaps a photographer's favorite time but an outdoorsman's favorite as well. We scanned the horizon for eagles, their populations on the rebound here in south central Louisiana. We talked a little bit about quail hunting, on the decline here in south central Louisiana, a little about travels, a lot about fishing. Though Francis is of the generation before me, he's one of the few spirits I can spend a day on the water with and feel like we're sharing the same thing.

If the weather holds, the fishing here should be pretty good in a month or so. Early, really, for this area, but only by two weeks or so, maybe a month. If we get a hard cold spell, it'll put things back a week or two yet. Either way, it'll be high time to get after it. ~ Roger

Do you have your copy yet? It's out! And available now! Get your copy of Roger's book. Native Waters: A Few Moments in a Small Wooden Boat

Order it now from www.iuniverse.com, Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble.com.


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