Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

August 22nd, 2005

Heading Home

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the last in a series of columns on Stouff's recent trip to Browning, Montana to fish for trout on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation for an upcoming episode of "Fly Fishing America" to be aired next spring.)

The last day of actual fishing in Montana was the day before I headed home to Louisiana. The crew from Fly Fishing America had a few last minute interviews to do, to get the impressions of Joe and I on the whole event. We would do these interviews on Cutbank Creek just behind the Kipp Ranch.

The area of Cutbank Creek behind the ranch was as fine a jewel as any I had seen in Montana. A precious gem of a stream, it meandered in tight coils here, and as Joe and the camera crew found a comfortable spot to do interviews, I cast along the creek searching for a few more trout. It's the typical fisherman's malaise: Just one more cast. Just one more cast...

In fact, I had not intended to fish so seriously that I'd need waders so I didn't wear them. At one point though I wanted to cross the creek. I decided I'd "wet wade" as they call it in Montana, cross without waders and just get wet. Well, getting wet is fine and dandy, but I was not prepared for the temperature of that water. Waders keep you nice and warm, almost too warm sometimes, but when I stepped into knee-deep water at about 45 degrees, I understood what cold water was. Completely. Boy, howdy.

I missed several half-hearted strikes and so managed no trout that day. Soon they were calling me over to do my interview, which I dispatched with as much dignity as I could. Then it was off to the ranch again where I put my rods up for the last time.

North American Indian Days was holding its 54th annual event in Browning during this time, and we went on down to the fairgrounds to get some footage there. We were just in time for Grand Entry, too, the time when all the dancers in all their regalia enter the dance arena. It was a sight I hadn't seen in a long, long time and missed greatly. When I was a kid my parents and grandparents made the pow-wow trail, as we called it. We'd set up a booth and sell crafts my elders made, all over the southeast. We also had a teepee my grandfather made that we took with us and erected for several years, though he always had to explain that Chitimachas did not live in teepees, we lived in palmetto huts.

"Then why do you have a teepee?" the folks would ask him, perplexed.

Putting the back of his hand beside his mouth clandestinely, he'd say, "It makes the tourists happy," with a wink, and the folks - all tourists themselves - would nod knowingly and wink back.

I hadn't seen a Grand Entry probably since I was 12 years old, and I was glad to be there in Montana to see it again.

We broke for supper and I headed for the first booth I could find that had big black letters reading "FRY BREAD."

If you don't know what fry bread is, you have not lived. It's an unleavened bread made by Native people, similar to Mexican sopapias but something on the order of a zillion times better. I have not had real fry bread since I was in Arizona in 1980. I have tried cooking it here, but there's something about the altitude difference that just doesn't work unless you know how to compensate for it. Joe's wife Kathy had made fry bread our second supper and I about killed myself on it, but was ready for more.

The booth-bought fry bread was nowhere near as good as at the Kipp house, but it weren't nothing to sneeze at, believe me. I also had an Indian Taco, which is simply a taco on fry bread, and let me tell you something, cher, that was some good yeah! At the trading post in Browning I saw a T-shirt that read "Will Work for Fry Bread" and I almost bought it, but opted instead for a T-shirt with a beautiful embroidered fishing fly and the legend "Here, fishy, fishy" on it. Hee-hee. Spinnerbaits, phooey!

Sunday was pretty much a resting day. Mick would arrive and we'd leave about three in the afternoon to make the long trek back to Kalispell to catch the flight to Seattle, then Houston and finally to Lafayette, a redeye trip if I ever heard of one. This time Mick would drive south of Glacier National Park for a whole different view of Montana.

With Indian Days going on, Joe had lots of people coming in so we said our goodbyes early. I understand how it is with all your people arriving, and the pressure of tending to our camera shoot to boot. We stopped long enough at Indian Days to watch part of the rodeo, but had to leave before the best parts.

Then I was on that same prop-job airplane and leaving Kalispell behind, having shook hands with Mick and vowed to do my best to be as hospitable when they come to Louisiana in the fall. I was exhausted, had a much easier time of flying on the way home, really. For instance, when I got on the plane in Seattle to go to Houston, I swear I sat down, buckled up and the pilot said, "We'll be setting down at George Bush International in about 15 minutes." Just that fast. I slept the whole time, didn't even remember taking off.

A dozen hours of travelling later and weary as a dog, I finally found myself in Lafayette, looking for my truck in the parking lot, turning from Surrey Street onto U.S. 90 and pointing the front bumper happily toward the Rez. Patches spun circles and crawled up one side of me and down the other when I got in the door. She had been in the care of friends who had come over to feed her daily, and there had been no bloodshed, remarkably. Her loud meowing sounded like, "Hey where you been all this time this guy he came every day and gave me food and then he was gone and I think he drank all the beer out of the fridge and then there was this day when the lights went out because it was storming outside and you know how much I hate that and another day there was this bird sitting on the porch and I thought I could jump on it but I bruised my nose on the window pane and where HAVE YOU BEEN?"

I was still exhausted and slept most of the day. In my dreams were wild trout and clear, rushing water. Chief Mountain loomed over them all, and cattle fussed nervously about grizzlies in their proximity.

So that's the tale of my time in Montana. My thanks to Barrett Productions for allowing me that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was truly a dream come true. Thanks also to Joe Kipp, and if any of you kind folks should ever need a guide to fish for trout on the Blackfeet Reservation, look no further than Morning Star Troutfitters. Anybody that could take a southern Chitimacha-Cajun out of the blackwater swamps and teach him to catch all those trout including two gorgeous and big lake trout in three days has got it going on, ya folla?

I look forward to having him and the film crew here in the fall, and hopefully we can catch some bass, big redears or whatever. Perhaps even some trout of the speckled variety on Louisiana's famous coast. My native waters, like his, are wide and varied. I believe what struck me most about the trip, besides the beautiful terrain, the awesome trout, and wonderful people, were the words. Remember that the Blackfeet people had serious European contact only some 130 years ago, whereas that same level of contact for Chitimacha was some 350 years ago. His people are not as far removed from pre-contact days as mine.

There are voices in his mountain streams as surely as in my lakes and bayous. I could not hear them as clearly as he, son of those lands and mountains, but their whispers were there. Perhaps he will hear the words here, too, the words at the base of cypress trunks with soaked waterlines, along shell reefs and at the back end of dark canals. Even three and a half centuries has not silenced them.

That's the power of native waters and native earth. They whisper and sing. They refuse forgetfulness. Wild trout and wild bluegill, cutthroat or bass, it's all the same. The heart of the land and the waters is beating with power, still vibrant, and the resonances strike chords in the soul of those who will listen and hear. ~ Roger

It's out! And available now! You can be one of the first to own a 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. Roger will also be giving away three autographed copies to readers. Stay tuned, for an announcement on the Bulletin Board on that soon.


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