Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

June 7th, 2003

Dances With Sugar
By Roger Emile Stouff

Memorial Day being a half-day at work for us newspaper people, I didn't get to head out for a little line-throwing until evening.

After putting out the day's paper, my gal and I decided to head for New Iberia, La., for lunch and a movie. The lunch was a buffet, and I succeeded in causing myself severe distress with repeated trips to the desserts. The movie was "Shrek 2" and that helped me feel a little better.

After a much-needed nap, it was a couple hours before dark so I loaded a couple rods into my tackle backpack and drove over to the pond I frequented all last year alone. Since this spring, as reported earlier, I have been dismayed to find that the maroons have taken it over. I still go there though, stubbornly refusing to let the Philistines completely kick me out of what was my private sanctuary.

There was no one around this particular evening, as I had hoped. The maroons, I believed, were recovering from barbecue and beer. I had brought an eight-foot four-weight I just picked up used, a great little rod. Since the sun was still bright and a little wind kicking, I chose to start things off with a Jitterbee under a VOSI.

I don't know the geographical extent of the VOSI in the fly fishing world, but it is quite common in Louisiana. VOSI stands for "Vertically Oriented Strike Indicator" and, simply put, is a very small oblong perch cork cut in half. As one of the premiere fly anglers in our area, Catch Cormier, noted, no self-respecting fly fisherman would be caught dead using a perch float, thus "VOSI." It works very well.

All last year when I fished this pond, I caught not a single bream. From April to December when winter finally caught up with me, I caught oodles of small bass, a lot of medium bass, and a handful of lunkers. Since being overrun by the maroons, I have been catching quite a few bream, very large ones now and then, and lots of small ones. I am sure that this means the maroons have reduced the population of large predatory fish in the pond.

The Jitterbee/VOSI resulted in a few nice bream and a decent bass. There were dark thunderclouds rolling in, but no rain, and when the sky turned overcast, I switched to a popper, my trusty Accardo Spook.

When a car pulled upon the nearby road, I knew the tranquility was over. I recognized the car. It had been here several times before.

Out hopped a younger man and his wife or girl, carrying baitcasting rods. Also out of the car emerged Sugar.

I don't know what breed Sugar is, but she's a medium-sized tan dog with the energy of a tornado and the hearing of a rock. While I was working a stand of willows off-center of the pond, the couple started working their baitcasters along the north bank, fanning out and shouting at each other from fifty yards apart.

And Sugar began to play.

Sugar leaped over their lines if they dropped their rod tips too low. Sugar raced through the tall grass like a maniacal Greyhound with faltering directional skills for now and then she'd barrel into their legs.

"Sugar!" the young man would yell, teetering for balance. "Calm your butt down!"

Sugar does not understand these things. When told to calm down, Sugar leaps into the pond. At some point in her life, Sugar learned to associate the words "calm down" with jumping into the pond, and shows her only true obedience in life by doing so at once, usually right in front of the young lady, who gets soaked and commences to fussing.

The couple tends to work the bank like they are running a marathon. Casting and walking, casting and walking, displaying the time-honored wisdom that if there isn't a bite on one cast within a twenty-foot stretch of bank, there ain't no fish there. I try to keep the patch of willows positioned between us, so they can't see the fish I'm taking, but at that pace it's fruitless.

At last they near the corner of the pond, and Sugar takes notice of me. It is as I feared. Shooting off, belly low, Sugar gallops for me, tongue flapping, while her master is yelling, "Sugar! Come back here! Sugar!" and I am praying he does not say the words "calm down."

They work their way completely around the pond three times this way, casting once every twenty feet, yelling at Sugar, yelling at each other, catching the occasional small bass, and hollering at me from one hundred and fifty yards, "Sure ain't biting today, huh?"

By and by, a buddy of theirs pulls up on a four-wheeler and, being a pal and all, tries to distract Sugar by racing around the pasture near the pond so that Sugar will chase him. He soon tires of this, of course, and goes back to chat with his friends.

Now, every time they make one cast and move twenty feet, with Sugar bounding into the pond with a colossal splash if she even hears the man tell the girl "Keep you rod tip down," because she thought she heard "calm down," there is also the sound of the four-wheeler cranking up and moving twenty feet, then shutting off, and discussions about football, work, family, friends and the fact that the fishing sure sucks here.

Tiring of my spot behind the willows and feeling cocky, I move behind the other anglers a respectable distance to fish the south side of the pond. Sugar bounds around me, tangling in my legs, nipping at the butt of my rod. The young man is yelling, "Sugar, Sugar, SUGAR-SUGAR-SUGAR!" and Sugar hears naught. So to be helpful, I shout, "Sugar, calm down!" and Sugar immediately leaps into the pond, drenching the young woman, who then yells, "SUGAR!" At which point Sugar rockets toward me again, and begins a tango with my legs, causing me to accidentally step on her toe. She yelps and runs off, pouting.

After their fifth circumference of the pond, they load up and leave, yelling at Sugar all the way to the car. I have caught about eighteen fish, they have caught two. I hear, "We'll try tomorrow, maybe they'll be biting then." And off they go, Sugar's head out the back window, yelping at me in farewell.

It's nearly dark, and I pull a few more fish out of the pond, avoiding the murky, muddy areas where Sugar calmed down. Just as it is getting too dark to see the Spook or a strike, the silence is absolute, the sky tranquil. For just a split second, in the complete stillness, I find myself missing Sugar.

Then I get my flask out of my tackle bag and take a good stiff belt to regain my senses. ~ Roger

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