Fly Fishing Tale Style
Having made a comprehensive list of what I had to do to be ready to depart at 5:30 a.m., I checked it twice. I was also two Big Dog cups (six real cups) and four Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits into my morning when my phone rang. It had to be my podna Terry Labauve. We often chat at that ungodly hour. And since we’d been doing so for 30 years, I bellowed my usual response from our college frat days, “Lo, the day dawns!”
“The gates locked. Can’t get in,” my fly-fishing companion for the day Frank Conrad replied, ignoring my absurd-to-him morning dramatics.
“Be right there,” I stammered. Seems my list wasn’t so comprehensive, as the security gate that keeps us safe and the riff raff out (or maybe it’s us in and the safe folks out) was closed. Seems I’d omitted that little entrance matter from my exhaustive list. Oops.
We were headed to Jeannette Nelson’s farm pond near Grand Lake to fly fish. Well, Frank was. As I’ve told you, I have the reaction time of a too-long-dead zombie, can still barely tie a fisherman’s knot, and despite lessons, I am also inept with a fly rod. I was using my idiot-proof Garcia Abu-matic spin-casting rig. Frank planned to fly fish Jeannette’s fresh water pond and then head to Jim Bel’s Hackberry Hunting & Fishing Lodge to try fly fishing his brackish marsh.
It was a glorious, clear, not raining day for a change. We had a perfect windless light patchy fog morning that’s ideal for fly casting. I set up on the concrete benches. I’d had a bad pain day the day before and the bench was perfect for me to sit on and cast across the lilies on top of the fool proof brim bed. Frank was tied up tying on just the right imitation minnow fly as the brim and bass were already striking the real minnows. Tying on a fly is an art form in itself. It always seems to take forever because it does, even if you’re an expert fly fisherman like Frank.
So there we were, finally set up with me casting a chartreuse beetle spin lure that had always been so productive there. Frank was whipping his fly rod back and forth, setting up the perfect cast to the brim bed’s outer edge. I had already caught my first palm-sized brim by the time Frank had cast three times. We were there and it was on except the fish flipped the off switch. We cast and we cast and we cast. We worked the entirety of the two-acre farm pond with Frank changing from minnow to crawfish to bug-like flies with a net result of two fish. I managed to haul in two more brim. I’ve had two tales over the years filled with fish from there. This time it was near pas rien. As Chief Dan George of Little Big Man and The Outlaw Josey Wales said, “Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it don’t.”
Surely Jim Bel’s marsh was where we ought to be. So we loaded up Frank’s truck and headed out to Hwy. 27 and then North to the interstate to travel the 45 minutes to what ought to be brackish marsh. The water had to be moving through the culvert at Jim’s. If it ain’t, the fishing sucks. Fortunately it had been the monsoon season here lately. It had even rained the day before. Last time I was at Jim’s with my Sanford & Son tale, we’d torn up the flounder. Besides, I was really interested in seeing if Frank could fly fish Jim’s with any success.
As befits two old coots, Frank and I discussed the “back in the day” days on our drive. He’d grown up in Vinton and I in Jennings. What prompted that chat was all the homes and apartments being built where rice fields once prevailed on our drive. We crossed the Ellender Bridge into LNG’s billion-dollar expansion where a marsh I once hunted as a college kid existed. Mostly, we chatted about hunting. Back then, if you wanted to hunt doves or ducks and geese, you just asked the farmer and more often than not you were allowed to. I reminisced about hunting near Lake Arthur where PopPoo Poole used o set up a blind on the rice levee for his early teen grandson Butch and myself. He’d brush up a spot for us where the ducks and geese were already concentrated and haul us there at the crack of dawn in a cart he pulled behind his tractor. PopPoo would come back about an hour or so latter to haul our limits and us to breakfast. Frank shared about hunting the Gray Estate and others areas south of Vinton and near Gum Cove virtually unchecked through his high school days. Same tale, just no breakfast.
But we’d come to fish and as we eased past the culvert, the water was pouring through. I grabbed my rod and reel and the Mark Fontenot-approved chartreuse Gulp lure and chunked her out near the flow’s end eddy. Meanwhile, Frank was engaged in yet another of those time-consuming fly lure ordeals. His choice was a truly shrimp-like fly that had to be a winner. Alas and alack, we cast and cast and cast on both sides of the culvert. Net result was the flounder you see pictured, one redfish and a speckled trout, all, of course, tossed back. But the magic in fishing is in the epiphany of being there, not the fish caught. Sure, catching a lot of fish is a hoot. But for Frank and I, the magic worked. It always does.