Warning to my loyal readers: This is a waterless fishing column devoid of fish.
I hate the city. I am, after all, a reservation Indian who grew up on a reservation with no traffic lights, working in a town with about four between home and work. Driving in cities makes me crazy, and I hate it passionately.
But last Saturday, there was an event I wanted to go to badly enough to risk it all. The Inaugural Saltwater Fly Fisherís Picnic was held at Woodland Plantation in Port Sulphur, sponsored by Uptown Anglers in New Orleans (www.uptownangler.com). If you look at a bottle of Southern Comfort, thatís Woodland Plantation on the label.
In addition to lots of seminars and demonstrations, there was the chance to meet some people I had not met face to face as yet, but who have become friends: Glenn Cormier, webmaster of Louisiana Fly Fishing (www.laflyfish.com) and a columnist for Louisiana Sportsman magazine, who has been extraordinarily kind and helpful to me since the publication of Native Waters last year.
Then there was Larry Offner (www.bayoubound.com), a fellow fly angler from Denham Springs who has become quite a pal, and Ron Begnaud, a Lake Charles fly angler who specializes in redfish on the fly (www.redchaser.com).
So I raised my chin, stiffened my upper lip and Saturday morning at about 7:30 a.m. I got in the truck and headed for Port Sulphur.
It werenít too bad, really, until I hit Gretna or some place like that. How do I know where I was? Katrina blew all the place names away. Traffic started building, and the next thing I knew the lanes had been fruitful and multiplied until there were so many I couldnít count them all. I saw a tourist information center and pulled in, walked inside to talk to the lady.
"Hi," I said. "I have lived on an Indian reservation all my life and worked in Franklin, Louisiana about half of it. I am trying to get to Port Sulphur and have no clue if Iím even still in the right state. Can you help me or should I just turn around and go back to the reservation, assuming I can find it again?"
She assured me that, just down the road, I could get on Belle Chase Highway, a.k.a., La. 23, which would take me where I wanted to go. So I threw myself back into the fray by getting back into the truck, nosing up to the highway, closing my eyes and flooring it. I claimed the center lane of traffic as mine under the right of indigenous repossession of what was taken from us in 1492, and refused to let any other drivers take it away from me again. The center lane became Chitimacha land as long as I was on it!
I actually made it to Woodland Plantation, believe it or not, and missed none of my turns. I saw little damage a year after Hurricane Katrina, but the owner of the plantation told me he had water over the floors of the hall where we were holding our conclave.
When I pulled up, there was my pal Larry Offner directing parking, a job which he quickly abandoned in order to check my blood pressure. As much as I had told him how terrified I was of city driving, Iím surprised and disappointed he didnít have paramedics waiting.
I also got to meet Glenn and Ron, and Alec Griffin, owner of Uptown Anglers, the sponsor of the event. Proceeds, by the way, would benefit Americaís Wetland, the initiative to restore and save coastal Louisiana.
Throughout the day we had dinner and I saw a presentation by a gentleman who fly fishes off the coast of California for Mako sharks to 200 pounds! He called it "fly fishing on the ragged edge" and I believed him. Larry and I agreed that weíd stick with catching bluegill and bass in the swamps and leave the 200 pound sharks to the Californians, with our deepest respect and admiration (wink-wink, nudge-nudge).
We saw casting demonstrations by Flip Pallot and Chico Fernandez, names which probably mean nothing to you, but are well-respected in fly fishing circles.
Hereís the coolest thing about it: In St. Mary Parish, thereís only like four of us that I know who fly fish. I hang out with my fishing friends, all the rest of whom are non-fly anglers, and we talk about fishing and I enjoy the heck out of it. But it was quite different being around dozens of fly anglers and when I say, "I caught a four pound bass on a No. 10 red and black Jitterbee on an 8-foot five-weight rod and a 5x leader," they all know exactly what Iím talking about!
A lot of tackle manufacturers were present, and I was smarter than I look, for once. I know my tackle pretty well, and anytime anyone tried to get me to cast a rod I knew I couldnít afford, I declined politely. I did cast a few rods by Temple Forks Outfitters and its president, Rick Pope, was on hand. TFO is based in Dallas and makes a mighty fine fly rod, a couple of which I fell head over heels in love with and had to be pried loose from my hand. One of these I cast a good 60 feet headlong into a 25 mile per hour wind.
Pallot and Fernandez dazzled us with casting proficiency and helped explain a little about that art which is fly casting.
But finally I had to leave. I stayed the night in The City and headed out for home late Sunday morning. I made a wild, mad dash down I-10 to I-610 back to I-10 and then to I-310, though I havenít the faintest idea how this all happened or even why. It was an hour and a half before the Saints game and there were tons more people coming into town than there were leaving, but it was white-knuckled ride as I claimed my lane under Native American Repossession Rights and struggled not to miss any of my turns, whereupon I might end up in Des Moines or something. I didnít relax until I hit the end of I-310 and was back on U.S. 90 and realized I needed to find a menís room pronto, ASAP, do not pass GO, do not collect $200, pal.
So thatís my story. Itís comforting to know that other fly anglers in Louisiana do exist, and are not just figments of my imagination. Unless I imagined the whole trip Saturday. I donít want to go there, the repercussions are too frightening.
Thank you. This has been, of course, a waterless, fishless fishing column because we were on dry land the whole time, and while we did a lot of casting, nothing bit.