Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

April 10th, 2005

The Waiting Game
By Roger Stouff

It's really frustrating, you know.

I live here at the delta of the Atchafalaya River, the most active river delta system on the continent. When the fishing here is on, there's none better. But when it's, is it off.

I read the reports from around the state: They're killing 'em at Lake Concordia, at False River, at Lake Martin. But down here, the water is high and muddy and the fish are few and far between. I could drive to Lake Concordia if gas didn't cost more per gallon than whole milk, but I can't afford it right now.

The Atchafalaya River is fed by the Mississippi River and the Big Muddy lives up to its name this time of year. I am at the southwest end of the basin area, and we are affected by what happens across the entire Mississippi River drainage.

Meaning "long river" in Choctaw, the Atchafa-laya (prounced should have heard William Shatner try to say it on an episode of "Rescue 911") is perhaps the most beautiful river in Louisiana's southern reaches. It is wide and volatile, and it's in many way a mini-Mississippi. The basin is so enormous folks regularly get lost within it. This is why when someone says, "Man, why aren't you fishing? They're killing them in the basin," what they mean is someone caught a mess of fish in Bill's Cove. That is about four miles from the boat landing as the crow flies but about thirty miles by boat down winding bayous, across small ponds, through oilfield canals, around several deadfalls and a least one beaver dam. Everybody knows a part of the Atchafalaya basin, but nobody knows it all.

Reminds me of a friend of mine who moved here from New Jersey and, having been a fish-ermen there, bought himself a bass boat and started learning the area. He asked that immortal figure of Cajun storytelling, Boudreaux himself, for directions on how to get to a certain place known for it's bass fishing.

"Well," Boudreaux told my friend, "You go down the Franklin Canal until you hit the Intra-coastal. Then you take a left. You go down the Intracoastal and count to the fourth canal on your right, then your turn there, and you go a little ways and you're in Quintana."

So my friend takes off. He goes down the Franklin waterway, hits the Intracoastal, counts four canals on the right, makes his turn and BAMM! He hits something, his boat leaps out of the water and then comes down again to a lurching halt. He has knocked the lower unit off the engine. Below the water he can see the outline of a sunken steel barge. He gets towed home and while waiting for his engine to get repaired, he runs into Boudreaux and tells him what happened.

"Oh, you mean that sunken barge when you turn off the Intracoastal to go to Quintana?" Boudreaux says. "Mais cher, everybody knows about that!"

That's kinda the way everything is around here. Everybody knows about them pilings just below the surface, that sand bar, that sunken barge. Everybody, you can guarantee, but you.

So while I have dozens of square miles to fish close to home, I have to wait until it gets right, and it ain't right yet. My favorite haunt, Lake Fausse Point, is like a saucer and when the wind blows south one day and west the next, it's like a saucer of water being tipped edge to edge, swirling the water within and churning up mud and sediment. Fish don't like that very much and don't bite very well. So I wait. And wait. Wait for the winds to lay down. Wait for the river to stop rising, and maybe fall a little. Wait for the water to clear up and warm. Wait, wait, wait.

Oh, come middle of this month, early May, I'm going to be in more panfish heaven than any grown man can stand, it's true. It's the waiting that hurts, especially when I read Louisiana Fly Fishing's website and they're getting eleven inch bluegill and shellcrackers at Concordia and the sac-au-lait are as big as the rear door of a Ford station wagon at False River.

I envy you trout fishermen. I am jealous that most of you don't have to own a boat and don't have to deal with batteries, registration, fuel, maintenance, oil and grease. I like the idea of getting out of the truck, making a long hike or a short hike, and fishing. Better exercise, too.

So expect to hear from me more by then. I'm not gone, just forgotten. I mean, I'm forgotten, but not gone. Something like that. I'm tying red and black Jitterbees, and Rick Z. sent me some flies I'm itching to try. Soon as it gets right. Another week? Maybe two. Ah, woe is me. ~ 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

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