Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Red State

A sultry August sunrise over the bayou near Cocodrie, La.

The v-shaped wake coming at us was a bit daunting. As murky water pushed my way, I could only imagine the size of the creature stirring up the marsh. It looked like a submarine preparing to break the surface, only it never did. It just pushed water ahead of it in a fashion that can only be described as ... deliberate. This fish was on a mission.

Then reality hit me. I was fishing, not just admiring the scenery. I could feel my heart racing in my chest, and the sticky humidity of the Deep South stole the breath from my lungs. I froze.

"Make that cast," Capt. Blaine Townsend said from the poling platform. "Put it right in front of him."

Coming to, I managed to load the 8-weight rod and put the gold-and-blue spoon fly about five feet ahead of the waking redfish.

Capt. Blaine Townsend
"Too far in front of him," Blaine said calmly, obviously coming to grips with the short-cast trout specialist standing in the bow of his flats boat. "You need to put it on his nose. He's hunting. If you put it there, he'll take it."

I lifted the line from the dark water and somehow managed to put the fly right on top of the cruising fish. All hell broke loose.

"You got him," Blaine said calmly, reliving a scene that likely runs over and over again on and endless loop in his mind, and sure enough, I did. The light tightened, and whistled through the guides of the stout fly rod. I channeled what little saltwater acumen I could summon, and performed my best strip-strike, setting the hook. I pulled back against the big fish. Hard.

In that split second, I experienced the sheer power of a south Louisiana redfish, and the attitude these fish display when they come to realize the meal they just snagged from the dark, brackish water of the marsh is really a cruel ruse. My fly line stretched straight, and when the 20-pound tippet snapped and the line boomeranged back toward the boat, I knew I'd fouled up the best shot of the morning.

As a fly fisherman, I'm used to making mistakes. It comes with the territory. But, nine times out of ten, the mistakes are mine and mine alone, not to be shared with the world, not to be put on display. At that moment, standing atop the casting platform, flaccid fly line stretched out across the bronze water of the swamp, I felt like a puppy awaiting a good scolding. After all, I'd just peed on the white carpet. Or maybe I'd just chewed a new pair shoes. I knew I was in trouble.

I looked at Blaine with my best "let me have it" expression. And to his credit, he just shrugged. No stern words. No disparaging glance. I knew then and there that all was well on this day. I'd fish. Maybe I'd catch a few. And maybe not. The man poling me around the marsh would put me on fish and let me do what I do best–learn from the mistakes I'd undoubtedly make.

And I'd make a few more, to be sure. But I'd feel that power again, that brute determination. I'd look a redfish in the eye this day and earn a taste of respect. These fish certainly earned mine.

Stay tuned. More to come from the Sportsman's Paradise. 


  1. Ah, my 'learning style' is failure. But makes that eventual 'look in the eye' all the better...

  2. Yeah, baby. Sight casting to redfish! I doesn't get much better. Have a GREAT time in the bayou, my friend!

    And I'm with Erin - my learning style is failure too. Good call, girl.

  3. I always think I'm eventually going to get it... and after an hour or so and who knows how many missed shots, I do get better at it... but, I think to really get it, I have to do it more often. Wonder how to make that happen...

  4. When you find out, let me know...

  5. sounds like a great learning...if at first you don't succeed...

    nothing like those red states :-)