Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

August 29th, 2005

To Wit, Woof!

It took me a few weeks, really. After my wonderful but exhausting time in Montana, I feared I was burnt-out on fishing (much to the delight of some of you kind folks, no doubt) because I just couldn't get up the gumption to go.

I'd look at my tackle sitting there in the corner, untouched since it was last used on Cutbank Creek, Montana. It kinda stared at me, as if feeling neglected. But I would think about fishing and just get all tired and lethargic.

Now and then, I'd go grab a baitcaster and some worms and go catfishing in Bayou Teche behind the house. I'd take along Daisy, the black lab I'm sitting, and we'd spend a leisurely couple of hours catching small catfish and the occasional half-decent one until nearly dark then call it a day.

"Well, old girl, it's a day," I'd say.

"Woof!" Daisy would agree.

But finally this week, I woke up one morning and said, "I think I need to go fly fishing," so I drank coffee, put on my fishing clothes and mud boots. I loaded tackle and dog into the back of the truck and went to a pond. Daisy has been learning how to get along with a fly fisherman. Like most south Louisiana inhabitants, be they dogs, fish, people or pelicans (who must learn about that hook flying through the air on the backcast) Daisy understands catfishing and bait casting quite well. She is quite content to prance up and down the bayou bank, then sit by me and together we watch my line waiting for a bite.

But the dog is as mystified by fly fishing as most of the rest of St. Mary Parish residents. Being a water dog, she loves to swim of course, and I have pretty much trained her to swim behind me. At this particular pond I like to put on my mud boots - otherwise known as Cajun Nikes - and walk just a few feet off the bank. That way I am away from the tall shrubbery that lines this pond and I can cast parallel to the bank as I walk. She understands fishing well enough, but this whole line-whipping, nine-foot rod-casting business just doesn't seem to qualify as fishing, so she constantly wanted to swim in front of me, right where I'm trying to raise a fish. I have largely talked her into now swimming behind me just by saying, "Back!"

So I'm fishing along, picking up small bass with a grasshopper fly and enjoying myself tremendously when I notice my right foot is getting harder and harder to pick up. It finally occurs to me that this is because my right boot is full of water. I have sprung a leak, it seems. This is pertinent only because I went and got a new pair of mud boots, and since the leaky pair had been a little tight anyway, I got a new pair a size larger.

The next day I am at another pond, standing just off the edge of the bank in the water. I have caught enough fish in that spot so I go to walk farther down and when I lift my right leg the suction of the mud holds the boot in place and my foot comes right out of it. I am then teetering on one leg, reluctant to put my socked foot down into the water and mud, trying to hold onto my bamboo fly rod, lean down and put my foot back into the boot, all of which is completely futile and there I go, behind first, into the eight-inch-deep water.

I am a muddy, soaked mess, but you shoulda seen me, you'd have been proud: This comical figure, I'm sure, sitting in the water, one foot in a boot the other in just a sock, a look of resignation and at the same time pure fury on my face…but like a true fly fisherman, like the consummate angler, I am holding my bamboo fly rod high over my head and there ain't so much as a drop of sludgy mud on it, thank you very much.

Daisy, meanwhile, is watching all this from where she is standing chest-deep in the water - behind me, I might add - with her ears perked up and a look of complete astonishment on her face. I look at her and say, "Well, why don't you do something to help me?" in true Oliver Hardy tradition, and she woofs quietly at me, wades over and licks my face as if to say, "This fly fishing business is weird."

I get to my feet, find my boot that's stuck in the mud and slosh ashore like some creature emerging from a black lagoon in pursuit of Julie Adams. I put my fly rod down some place safe - forgetting that my line is still out in the pond - and walk back into the water to rinse mud off myself, launch into a non-traditional dance trying to get my boot back on, nearly fall again three times, and finally succeed to return to a two-footed state of bipedalism. Daisy is watching all this with panting fascination.

Now that I'm out of the pond, soaked but upright, I am determined that a little fall is not going to ruin my trip. I pick up my rod and take the slack out of my line, only to find that during the debacle, a small bass has taken my hopper fly and has been swimming around the pond for the past few minutes doing everything he can to shake it out of his mouth, including wrapping the line around several clumps of weeds and six willow trees. I must break the leader to get my line back in and tie on another hopper.

We move down the bank a little, and I find a nice little spot opposite the other side on a corner. There is a small shrub overhanging the water here, and I put my hopper right under it. It was the kind of fly cast fly fishermen dream of, and the moment the little hopper landed, a swell of water moved toward it, a huge v-shaped hump of something coming after the fly with determination. Daisy and I stare at it in complete disbelief.

A black hole opened in the apex of the wake and sucked in the fly without much fanfare at all. If a volcano could erupt with all the excitement and hysteria of a drop falling from a leaky faucet, that's what the strike would have been like.

"Oh, #%$*!," I said.

"Woof!" Daisy said.

I lifted the rod tip firmly, and when the fish felt me on the other end of that grasshopper he was planning to have for supper, he dove toward deep water in resentment of my presence. My rod bent into a question mark - which was highly appropriate, I can tell you - and I thought I had hooked a Russian submarine, then poof! The rod sprang back and my fly landed on my left shoulder.

"Oh, #%$*!," I said, which translates to - well, never mind, this is a family-oriented column.

"Woof!" Daisy said, which I can't translate, but I'm sure is something akin to, "Nice going, killer."

Norman Maclean once observed that so-called poets pontificate about little epochs of time, milliseconds of forever, but that only fishermen really know what it's like "until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone." Like Norman, I shall remember that no good - er, that slimy...uhm, that fish, forever. ~ 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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