I cannot remember the exact date of this story,
but that matter is of little importance. What
I can remember is my last fishing trip with
the old man. No folks, it was not my father,
but rather my grandfather that it the essence
of this story.
We were out for a pleasant day of fishing and
for the first time my grandfather was to bring
his fly rod while I was in the boat. He was
always worried that one of his not so graceful
casts would wind up in me somewhere. You see, I
was the oldest grandson in the family; and as a
matter fact, I am the oldest child of his oldest
child. My grandfather and I had spent countless
hours fishing together, and I had always had a
good time with him. He was a rather large man
and had a wonderful sense of humor that all kids
can relate to easily. Some of the best times we
had were on days that we couldn't get fish into
Well, on this particular day, the old man was
in a very good mood. Normally, as with all of
us, going fishing brought a large smile to his
face. But today, was the first day of the spring
that we were going to be out on the lake.
Springtime (what little there is of spring down
there) in southern Louisiana freshwater means
one thing. Violent Top Water Action, and we
were ready for a thrilling day on the water.
The boat ride was rather short, I am not sure
whether it was that I was laughing my rear off
from the old man making jokes and telling stories,
or if I was all too ready to start fishing. Once
the motor stopped, I watched in amazement as the
old man slowly and methodically put the fly rod
together. He showed and told me of all the things
he was doing, and I was astonished at all of it.
Watching the line gracefully lift off of the water,
flow into a perfect loop back cast and without
any apparent effort on his part, send the line
with leader and fly attached to a soft and gentle
landing on the water 60 feet away. I could not
believe how easy he made it look.
I sat there just watching him make cast after
cast, I could not take my eyes off of him.
Before I knew it, he lifted the rod and
started yelling he had a nice one on the
line. For the first time in my life I heard
"Zing" as that bass pulled of more than his
fair share of line. I ran to the front of
the point and watched the whole process
unfold. That first bass was only about
11-12 inches long, but fought like one
that was 10 times bigger. For an hour,
I could do nothing but watch as the old
man caught fish after fish on that fly
rod. Watching the bass blow up on that
little popper he had was the greatest
sight I had every seen. Casting such a
small bait and catching so many fish on
a rod that seemed to small to really be
able to do it was a sight for a child to
Then something happened that made us laugh
so hard we both thought we were going to
lose our lunch. The old man gently made a
side-arm cast. This cast made this little
yellow popper fly effortlessly under some
branches and land without any splash at all.
It was like he had reached out and placed it
on the water. The little popper sat there
for just a second when the water parted and
Basszilla swallowed the thing. Not only did
the bass inhale this bait, but it threw water
about 6 feet in the air as it did so. The
old man then said something I had never heard
him say before, "Man am I in for a fight now!"
He set the hook on this fish, but it wasn't
necessary. Right as the old man set the hook
the fish decided to jump out of the water with
the popper firmly in his mouth. To this day
I have never seen a fish jump higher out of
the water. This fish jumped straight out of
the water, right into the sky shaking its head
with all its fury, and promptly landed in the
branches of the tree 3 feet above the water.
Just as the darned bass landed in the tree
and got stuck, the popper fell out of his mouth.
The old man and I sat there looking on in
amazement at what we had just witnessed. We
looked at one another and started laughing.
We were not just laughing, we were rolling
on the bottom of the boat we were laughing
I am still not sure how he did it, but as
we were laughing, the old man used the
trolling motor to get us to the tree with
the bass ornament hanging in it. What we
found made us laugh even harder. The bass
was not just any bass, it was a bass that
later weighed in at 10 lbs 2 ounces. We
placed the bass in the live well, and did
our best to keep him alive. As we had no
camera, no one would believe it if we didn't
bring him to the dock. After putting the bass
in the live well, and ensuring that it was
breathing and doing well, it took us an hour
to gather ourselves to get back to fishing.
By this time, the sun was getting low in the
sky and we decided it was time to call it a day.
After riding to the dock and loading the boat
on the trailer, we proceeded to go to the
local bait and tackle shop to tell our story
and have a soda. As expected the locals
were skeptical to say the least. As a matter
of fact, one of the locals called my father
and told him to come pick us up as he thought
the old man had been having more than just soda
all day! But, once the fish was displayed,
things got really quiet. The shop owner had
an aerated tank in the back for minnows, and
at the sight of the big fish he moved as many
of the minnows into a different section so that
we could put our bass in to keep him alive.
Someone then called the local wildlife and
fisheries to report this bass being caught
in the area.
As one could expect from a small town, with
a fish this big it started drawing a crowd.
People still were unwilling to believe that
this fish was caught in the way it was. That
is until the wildlife and fisheries agent
showed up. The agent proceeded to listen
to our story, and with the look on his face
he wasn't believing us either. This all
changed when the agent started to examine
and weigh our prize. He raised our fish
out of the tank, and after just a second,
he placed the fish back into the tank and
started laughing. His laughter was so hard
that he lost his breath and had to sit down.
Needless to say, the crowd that had formed
was more than a little puzzled by this behavior.
After calming himself, the agent walked over
to the old man and shook his hand, and gave
me a pat on the head. He then proceeded to
take the fish out of the tank and pull out
a small section of branch from the fish that
the old man and I had not seen sticking in him.
The piece of branch was no longer than ½ inch
long and was only stuck in him less than 1/16
of an inch. But this proved our story accurate,
and everyone had a good laugh.
The wildlife and fisheries agent then
proceeded to place the fish on the scale
in the shop and came up with the 10lbs 2
ounces weight. Everyone gave a round of
cheers and applause to the old man for
this beautiful fish. Then came the
ultimate insult. The old man was enrolled
in a local fishing tournament for the largest
fish caught during the month. This fish
would have easily won for the month and
perhaps the year. But since the fish was
landed by the tree, and we merely "recovered"
the fish out of it, the old man's fish was
disqualified from the tournament. This
surprisingly went unchallenged by the old
man, merely finding the whole situation to
funny to argue.
Now what makes this story saddening for me is
the fact that it was the last time that the
old man was to go fishing. The next week,
the old man got sick and was brought to the
local hospital. He was diagnosed with a form
of cancer, and was bed ridden for the remainder
of his days. My grandfather was a proud, lovable,
and caring person that everyone knew.
His funeral was the largest in that area in
recent memory. People had come from all over
the South East US to attend his funeral.
His life was one that touched more people
than I can ever dream of. At his funeral,
many people spoke of his deeds and his life.
Many of the stories dealt with his life as
a hunter and fisherman, as these were two
of his passions in life. When everyone had
said what they wanted, I stood and asked if
I could tell a story of the old man. I was
escorted up to the front to tell the story
of the old man's last fish, and how after
all had left from the shop on that fateful
day, he took his prized fish to the canal
in front of the shop and let the fish go.
He had never intended to harm the fish in
any way. I looked up and saw everyone in
tears, it seems that was how the old man
was his entire life. ~ Reginald Caillouet III