I made my first fishing trip in my pinou this week.
In case you're like me and can't remember what you had
for lunch yesterday…or sometimes by 4 p.m. the same day...
a "pinou" is the 15-foot long and 35-inch wide boat I
built as a hybrid between a pirogue and a canoe. I built
it from no plans, right outta my head and had a short
experience launching it behind my house in Bayou Teche
a couple weeks ago.
Transporting a 15-foot long vessel without a trailer is
a challenge. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, mainly
because I ain't got it. I also didn't want to burden my
truck with a canoe rack until I'm sure I like this whole
paddlecraft thing. So I did some investigating and found
a thing called a truck bed extender. It fits into the trailer
hitch receiver already on my truck, extends an iron bar
about three feet, then comes straight up with a T-shaped
set of iron bars which can be adjusted for height. I used
this to support the pinou, tied down securely and with an
orange warning flag.
The choice of where to go was difficult. I am not a paddler,
yet. I had one harrowing experi-ence with a traditional
pirogue and gave it up for 25 years. So I wanted a place
with no boat traffic to make a wake and tip me over. I
settled on a secluded pond away from traffic and the public
The pinou hauled very well with the truck bed extender,
hardly wobbling or anything. I packed in a personal
flotation device, or as we used to call 'em, life vest,
ice chest with a bag of ice and two Diet Cokes, my tackle
bag and one fly rod, two paddles and a net. Not thinking
wisely I unloaded it from the truck with all this inside
and dragged it to the water the same way before kicking
myself in the behind. Reminder to me: Put all the stuff
in after you get it to the water, it's a lot easier!
It looked awful pretty there in the water, just the forward
third of it on the bank, all hunter green with a black
waterline and varnished wood inside. I actually had to
sit and admire it for a minute, pardon my swelled head,
and I thought about my dad in that minute. I remember
being about 12, 13 maybe, and my parents got me a stereo
system for Christmas, one of those all-in-one jobs that
used to be so abundant with the turntable on top and the
smoked plastic lid. I had no convenient place to put it
so I begged dad for an additional twenty-five bucks to
get a little pressboard stereo rack from the department
"Say, I've got some pretty nice plywood in the shop,"
he said. "We could build you something from that."
My adolescent mind conceived this as the most ridiculous
thing I had ever heard. Why on earth would anyone spend
a day or two in the shop making something like a stereo
rack when they had plenty of them right down the road at
the department store. He ended up giving me the money -
it was never about the money, of course - but the lesson
appeared to have gone unlearned.
Shaking off that memory, tasting its bitterness of shame,
I got into the pinou and pushed away from the bank. I was
surprised again at the ease with which it paddled and while
I still need a lot of practice learning paddling, it took
virtually no effort to get the boat going at a good clip
until I found a likely spot to fish. Casting my eight-foot
fly rod was not hard at all from a sitting position and
while I didn't exactly mop up on 'em, I caught two nice
bream and lost two flies to two monsters of the deep that
I never got a glimpse of but nearly gave me heart attacks
when they struck.
My biggest problem is drift, and I'm unsure what to do about
it. A one-mile-per-hour wind, just the merest exhalation of
a babe, and peeey-awwww! That flat-bottomed girl is heading
down the bayou tout suite. I like to fish quick at first until
I locate some fish then slow down and fish every inch of a
likely spot, but the breeze from aft kept me going when I
didn't want to. I'm working with my paddling buddies on the
'Net on how to correct this.
Just to be sure I could, I stood in it to stretch my back
a few times, and even fished from a standing position for
a little while and yes, the boat is a little tippy, but at
no time did I fear it was going over, just sloshed from
side to side a bit. I walked from my aft seat to the ice
chest secured to the front seat with bungee cords to get
a Diet Coke and back to my seat again with-out incident.
I cast a boa yarn leech my friend Rick Zieger in Iowa sent
me and got several strikes. One of the two fish that nearly
gave me heart failure was on Rick's white boa yarn leech,
the other on a red and black Jitterbee of my own tying. I
imagine if I had been able to spend more time paying
attention to my line and less paddling I would have done
better. I may consider a small electric trolling motor
eventually, but the sweetness of paddling along a quiet
pond was really wonderful.
Not wanting to be on the road after dark on my initial
maiden test fishing trip, I loaded the pinou back up
with ample time to get home before dusk. But I took a
little time, as has be-come a tradition with me, to
spend a moment in quiet. Though I quit my two-pack-a-day
cigarette habit a year ago, I do still enjoy a smoke on
the water now and then, and keep a pack of short cigars
in my pack. I lit one of these and stood near the pond,
watching the sun throw lances of dragon fire over the
cypress and willow trees to the west. Golden hour, and
everything was am-ber or auburn or brilliant green and
red and black. A long shadow stretched from my feet,
narrow and skewed, with a fedora and a cigar and for a
moment when I glanced at it I thought it might have been
my dad's shadow as I had seen it so many times at the end
of so many days, but of course, it was my own. Odd how
they seem to look so much alike now.
Fish were rising to scuds or small insects I couldn't
even see but I didn't reach for my rod. I stood there,
smoke drifting around my head and thought of my father
again. I wondered...no, scratch that. I was thankful
that I did learn his lesson, after all, and I am sure
he knows it.
Now and then, as the sun moved closer to the horizon,
it would center in the space between tree limbs and
cast a spot of radiance like heaven's gates opening
to earth. I'd watch them glow and then fade slowly as
the day continued to shorten. Microcosms of life, I
thought. Emergence, swelling to glowing brilliance,
fading, then gone. That little pressboard stereo rack
didn't last a year before it sagged and delaminated and
went to the trash, but the wooden bateau my father built
two years before I was born still carries me safely to
the lake and back when I ask it to. My little
pirogue-canoe hybrid shows promise of being just as faithful.
There are lessons in all of it. I've said many times that
the most important of them I learned growing up between the
gunwales of a small wooden boat. Not so much has changed.
Not so much, after all. ~ 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
or Barnes & Noble.com.