This house is where I take my natural rest, but my home is out there, beyond the back door. óAlbert "Salmo" McClain

The thing about it is, I havenít been able to do near as much fishing this year as I would have liked.

I havenít been to Grand Avoille Cove since May, I guess. Havenít fished freshwater since then except for a few trips in the pirogue that were largely unproductive. While my saltwater trips have been a blast, Iíve not had a chance to recharge my soul as can only happen on Cokítangi, which the Spaniards named Grand Avoille Cove some four centuries ago.

Year before last, I think I fished about 320 or so days out of the year. Last year, after my world-famous trip to Montana I got a bad case of the blues and didnít fish much that summer, and of course, the August and September hurricanes shut me out for the duration, including this season.

Now, you may not think this is a big deal, but it really is. You have to understand that fishing is a means to an end, not the end itself. Thoreau probably said it best: "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."

Some time in May, the little electric trolling motor on my little wooden bateau that my dad built gave out at last. It was pretty old, a small eight-pound-thrust Minn Kota Dad had put on it at least in the early nineties. Nowadays, when trolling motors of 30 pounds thrust are considered small, itís impossible to find motors that size. I ended up last week breaking down and getting a new 30-pounder, which may actually get my little boat on step. Soon as I get the chance Iím going to mount it and maybe get a chance to go out and see whatís going on at Cokítangi. Get a recharge for the soul, at least, if not a bluegill or bass or two.

If you donít use it, you lose it, is a popular adage regarding not exercising skills both physical and mental. I was afraid I wouldnít be able to cast my fly rod anymore, but last weekend I took one into the yard and, sure enough, itís just like riding a bike. I wonder why the English language is so full of contradictions. Haste makes waste, but a stitch in time saves nine. Itís easy as falling off a log, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but familiarity breeds contempt. You get the idea.

I find the older I get the more I long for distance. Distance from work, distance from noise, distance from others except a select and privileged few. The best thing about Cokítangi is thereís no place to plug in a phone or a clock, and a wind-up timepiece would rust out. My cell phone might work if I take it, but even then, there are dark, thin places at the back ends of some canals that fizzle signals, confound transmission and scramble reception. Those are the places I look for when I go fishing 320 days out of the year, and if thereís a fish there willing to take a No. 10 Accardo Spook or a Jitterbee, all the better.

There was a little pond I knew about that, at first, few others did. Eventually the maroons found out about it and, within six months, emptied it of all life with rods thick enough for tarpon fishing and five-gallon buckets. But for the first year and a half I nightly harassed the most innocent, uninitiated and willingly enthusiastic bass I have ever known. Iíd go out an hour or so before dark and the surface would be alight with sparkling rings of rising fish. Sometimes Iíd be so enamored of it I would sit on the bank and lay my rod over my knees and just spend the hour or so watching the rises, watching the snapping splashes, the sudden v-shaped wakes rushing at bait, the quiet of it all. Now and then ducks would visit, usually in pairs, and I scared up a woodcock or two walking to the pond. Iíd leave when it was too dark to see, never having made a cast, but completely satisfied and saturated with it.

It dried up last year. Thereís less than a foot of water in it now, even with all the rain weíve had this season. What few fish the bucket-carrying miscreants missed couldnít have survived. Willow trees are sprouting where there was once four or five feet of water. There was a patch of the most incredibly vivid yellow flowers in one corner of the pond, and in the fall they opened their faces to the sunset. I managed to save a few cuttings before the pond dried up, killing that plant too, and have it in a galvanized washtub at home. Iím going to transplant it to the bayouside where I hope it enjoys a wetland resurgence.

But thereís been none of that lately, and even Bayou Teche beyond my back door is good for only runt catfish, but the dog and I sit out there anyway, watching the line where it vanishes into the murky water. The fishingís better farther downstream, past where the locks allow the basin to flow into the Teche when necessary. But itís okay. Like Thoreau, itís not really fish Iím after, though I would differ with him in that it sure wouldnít hurt my feelings if a couple bit the hook now and then.

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. Ė A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)