Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

November 8th, 2004

Of Bass, Bream, Sac-au-Lait and Redfish

Here it is, the Sunday before I go back to work. Seems like my vacation just started, but then, don't they always feel that way?

I have to admit, it was a bittersweet nine days. Sweet, in that I got to spend most of them out on the water, and with family I only see once or twice a year. Bitter in that I've never experienced a worse series of consecutive days of fishing in my life.

We were doomed, after all. Though by Thursday of the week before I left work the forecast was "iffy," I couldn't change my vacation plans. My cousin Jim and his son Christopher were leaving Ft. Worth, Texas, Saturday morning. I cannot schedule vacations that include the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month or the third Tuesday, because those are our "biggie" government meetings that must be covered. So if I missed the first week of November, I was out of luck until the end of the month or early December.

By the time Jim and Chris arrived, I was getting worried and we hadn't even been out yet. The river had risen two feet, causing the entire basin to rise as well. Winds were suddenly kicking up from the south to twenty miles per hour, and three, count 'em, three fronts were expected to pass through during the week.

Oh, I had prepared for this vacation far in advance. I picked up an eight-weight rod to fish the salt with my very first time. Our own Gary Henderson, Flats Dude, gave me some great advice and sent me some flies for redfish which were too beautiful it seemed to fish with. I stocked up on indicators, bluegill flies, put fresh leaders on all my rods. I bought a new set of tires for the truck. Jim and Deanna Birkholm sent me a copy of Pete Cooper's new book, Fly Fishing the Louisiana Coast which I devoured, and will review for FAOL later on.

But the weather could not be planned for, of course. To make a long, long story short, we fished every day from Sunday to Thursday, dawn to dusk, and to noon on Friday. Total take amongst all three of us for the week: About a dozen bluegill, none keepers, two sac-au-lait (crappie for you Yanks), one bass and one redfish, which Jim caught on spin tackle.

Desperate for finding fish that were biting somewhere, anywhere, I took to exploring basin areas I had never been. I ran the boat aground on sand bars twice, and almost had to jump overboard one of those times to get us free. I ran down four sets of batteries in my GPS, consumed perhaps one hundred gallons of gasoline, and, in a freak accident involving a snag and a boat cleat, broke the tip of my Diamondback four-weight.

It was not a week to be remembered fondly, as far as the fishing goes.

But it was a week to be treasured spent with my two cousins. We traded many stories, of course, and laughed heartily often, both at our stories and the despicable condition of the fishing on our mutual vacations. It's good to have a sense of humor about things like that. Otherwise, we might have drowned each other out of sheer frustration. I never knew what frustration was, really, until I spent a week trying to navigate an eighteen foot bass boat in fifteen to twenty mile per hour winds and fish at the same time. I ran down both trolling batteries completely each day. Usually they last me two or three trips.

The fly rods worked best on the fish we caught, really. Jim and I fly fished, and Chris began to take an interest in it. I had been waiting for this. One evening I put a new leader on Jim's line for him, and Chris tried out some casting. He took to it well, faster than Jim and I thought he would.

Jim still fishes a fiberglass rod my father gave him when he was a lad. Jim's dad, my Uncle Ray, gave me my first pocket knife. There was a tradition at work here, you see.

So when Chris expressed that he might be more interested in this whole fly fishing business than he had formerly believed, I was ready. I gave him the first rod I ever bought for myself, two years ago, after a twenty-year hiatus from fly fishing with my dad. A five-weight Pflueger Supreme that was soft enough to help a beginner learn, but quality enough to not frustrate him. A graphite reel loaded with line, backing and leader rounded it off.

Christopher was extremely delighted and appreciative.

"It's a tradition," I said, leaving it up to him to realize that I had fulfilled my chapter in that tradition. The next would be his to write as he chooses.

The cousins left Friday at noon. By Saturday the winds were down to ten, and by Sunday, light and variable.

Never let anyone tell you that the gods of fate and fishing vacations are kind. Don't believe it. It's all a vast conspiracy.

It's Sunday morning as I write this. Louisiana Sportsman Online, Rod n Reel and LaFlyFish are telling me this is the time: The winds are going down, the temperatures are sweet, the redfish and speckled trout are hitting rubber boots out on the bay. The bass are coming into the shallows and the bluegill are leaping into the boat on their own.

But I got an aching back, tired feet and a broken Diamondback. Today I'm going to watch movies all stinking day with my girlfriend. Monday I go back to work and have to face the most dreaded part of the end of a fishing vacation possible, the horrid question, "How much did ya'll catch?"

I told my cousins that the interesting thing about the words bass, bream, redfish and sac-au-lait is that they are each plural as well as singular in form. You don't say "basses" or "breams". Therefore, I can honestly and truthfully say we caught bass, bream, redfish, and sac-au-lait and leave it at that. I don't need to quantify. Writers are good at such near-misses with truth. ~ Roger


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