Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

March 15th, 2003

Spring Fever
By Roger Emile Stouff

Yes, it's March. There's an easy way to tell if it's March, in case you're not sure, other than looking at the calendar.

The best, most surefire way of determining if it's March is to keep your eye on folks like me. If you see us lurching down the street like some bizarre marionette, it's March. If you talk to us for eight minutes without stop about your recent trip to the doctor and the various maladies he said you are suffering, and we say, "Huh?" at the end of your dissertation, it's March.

Most of all, if you are with one of us at a restaurant and tell the waitress, "I think I'll have the fried fish," and we suddenly slaver from the mouth, tremble convulsively, our eyes bug out like an amok dragonfly and suddenly fall face first into our potato soup, well, it's surely got to be March.

That's what happens in March to fishermen. The spring is so near, but not quite there yet, and we're about to go stark raving mad with anticipation. It's been a short, mild winter really, but even in such cases, it takes its toll on us.

If you go shopping with one of us, and we walk into the store and say, "If you need me, I'll be in sporting goods," and rush away before you can protest, it must be March. If you are following behind us on the road in our vehicles, and we suddenly swerve crazily, slam on the brakes and pull over to the side of the road, the driver's side door flies open and we leap out, jump the ditch near the shoulder, race across a pasture to see if the water in the pond we just spotted is muddy or clear, it must be March.

If you call our homes and we pick up the phone and say, "Yes, I'd love to!" it must be March and we thought that nobody would dare call us for any other reason than to go fishing. If you reply that you were only calling to inquire about our health, we'll slam the phone down and never answer your calls again until July, at least.

Don't make road trips with us, in March. A trip that takes an hour will take four, because we simply must take every side road, byway and dirt trail we see to look for fishing holes. Don't try to engage us in conversation about world events, religious issues, film, music, pets, computers, bad hair days or just about any other topic, because we'll only reply, "Yes, that's all fine and dandy, but where are they biting and on what?"

Expect no sense of responsibility from us, either. If the sun is shining, there is no threat of rain in the immediate forecast, the temperature is moderately warm and you have invited us to your annual extravagant get-together with free food, drinks, door prizes and chocolate cake, don't expect us to attend. If our children were getting married on a day such as the one described, we'd have to send our regrets, and if a daughter were involved, recruit someone to give her away at the altar.

This is what March does to an angler. Some people get "spring cleaning" fits in March. So do we. We clean our tackle, our boats, our lines, our bilges. Some people say spring makes them feel "frisky." Fishermen have no time for "frisky" in March. Frisky is relevant only when it's raining cats, dogs and pitchforks outside and there is no hope whatsoever of donning a wet suit with scuba gear and going out to spear the stupid fish.

In March, church congregation numbers drop drastically on Sundays when the weather is clear and fine. Fishermen will remind you that John was, after all, a fisherman and Jesus did a bit of angling in his own day, too. Fishermen take this as gospel that fishingness if next to godliness. This is evidenced by the number of so-called "angling widows" sitting in the pews.

One of my best friends is a minister who also owned a bass boat and loved to fish when he lived around here. We called him "Preacher With A Boat." The theory was, you wake up on Sunday morning, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the bass are biting. You skip church and head out for the lake. But you forgot about...Preacher With A Boat! Here he comes, zooming across the lake, a Bible in one hand and a Zebco 333 in the other, and he says, in true Pslams style:

All of you anglers get it wrong
Fishing trips take half as long
When you've met:
Preacher With A BOAT!

He thought it was pretty funny, but then, he was always in church on Sundays in March, too.

This particular parson, one of my best friends in the world, used to fish with a Snagless Sally. If you don't know what a Snagless Sally is, let's just say it's a fishing lure that looks like nothing which ever lived in the entire biological history of planet Earth, aquatic or terrestrial, and gets snagged on almost every cast. But my friend had remarkable faith in his Snagless Sally, even though he never caught a fish on it. It's that sort of faith that I admire, in preachers and in fishermen. It's probably also why preachers make dedicated anglers: It requires absolute faith, a trait required of ministers, to purchase a bass boat, outfit it with hardware and tackle, dump it into the water, take off on a 30 mile trip into the Atchafalaya River Basin without the foggiest idea how you'll ever find your way back before dark, without hitting a log and knocking your outboard motor into the drink, risking snakebite and blindly cast a Snagless Sally into water you can't see four inches down into in the hopes that a fish will bite it. The ultimate expression of this faith is that whatever bites will be a bass, not a choupique.

So it's March, and we fishermen are gearing up, shining the boats, checking our bilge pumps and trolling motors, oiling our reels and organizing our tackle. We put $30 worth of gas and oil into the tank, $12 worth of drinks and snakcs into the ice chest. We drive 48 miles to a lake, wait impatiently in line to put the boat over, fire up 175 horsepower V-6 engines with more torque than our pickup trucks, blast across the water throwing a rooster tail 85 feet from side to side...all to try to get an animal with a brain the size of a BB to bite a hook on what appears to be a translucent worm that swallowed a bottle of gold glitter, or a concoction of feathers, deer hair and lead wire that's supposed to represent a mayfly. And we wonder, who exactly has the BB-sized brains?

No matter. It's March, and we aren't using our brains much anyway. ~ Roger

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