It’s overcast, and the fibrous limbs of the crepe myrtles in front of my childhood home on 977 Athania Pkwy are stretching like rubberbands due to their top heavy canopy. It also doesn’t help that the Greater New Orleans area has just been hit by an unusually late spring front which is accompanied by 20 knot north winds. But like most young adults, fostered by a brazen/bulletproof attitude, I utter the following, “Hey Pops, you want to go wade the surf tomorrow?”
“I’m not so sure Son,” he replies in a “are you crazy” undertone. “I think the wind will have the water too low and dirty, and what little incoming tide we have, I don’t think will come in because of the stiff north wind.”
“But that’s the thing Pops, the winds out the north and although it’s pretty strong, it’ll be laying down by tomorrow afternoon, which means if we have clean water, the only place it will be is on the beach,” I said confidently.
“Man, I don’t know buddy. I know you want to fish since you just finished finals, but this might be a little much.”
“C’mon Pops, its Thursday in early May. Think about it, the full moon is Saturday and we’ll have the whole place to ourselves, since most everyone else will be in school or at work.” “You know as well as I do that it’s that time of year, when those wall hangers start roaming the beach.”
Like my pop often does when he wants to go but doesn’t agree he says, “It’s up to you Son…if you want to go, I’ll go, but just to be with you.”
As if I just won a pot at the poker table, I say with a calm exterior, “I’ll hook up the boat…let’s go make some memories…don’t forget the camera.”
As we departed for 441 Martin Lane in Happy Jack, LA. The orange groves and Roseau cane that line highway 23 looked like recent casualties to an infant hurricane season. And as if branches on the ground weren’t good enough, the smoke stack at the BP Plant in Myrtle Grove ran parallel to the highway.
When my dad see’s the smoke stack, he says, “Man I don’t know.” But I quickly downplay its negative indications by saying, “but look where its pointing…offshore.”
“Alright,” he says begrudgingly, “but if it’s blowing like this in the morning, you’re going by yourself.”
When we finally reach the camp, we launch the boat and pick it up in the sling under the camp and put the charger on the trolling motor batteries. Although it was uneventful, we couldn’t help but don another fleece and accelerate our actions to get into the warmth of the camp.
That night I was anxious. I remember questioning my sanity and hoping that I made the right call, and although he’d never admit I think my dad was just as anxious. I could hear him tossing and turning, which is pretty unusual. So instead of sleeping till the alarm went off I woke up and started the coffee pot.
“What’s the verdict?” I hear coming from the dark hallway.
“I don’t know pops, I haven’t looked…sit tight and I’ll let you know.”
As I opened the side door which faces south, I couldn’t help but notice the chill followed by a quick gust that wrapped around the corner of the porch.
“Damn dude, it’s still blowing, but it’s still out the north. One thing though…its cold!”
“Well,” he pauses, and I’m thinking he’s going to go back into the room. “Looks like we’ll have to wear waders! Let’s go get ‘em”
Rejuvenated by his response, I pour a quick cup of coffee and head downstairs to put the boat in the water.
As we idle down the canal, we talk about which route we want to take and it becomes evident that Grand Bayou to Tony’s canal, then down Bayou Huertes to the back levee canal is the best and safest way to get to Chaland Pass. Although it’s a longer route, 40 mins in total, there is very little open water, except in No Mans Land, but if the water’s low the back levee canal can be very tumultuous due to shifting sandbars.
As we anticipate, No man’s land is a little choppy but not too bad, but our good fortune ran out as we had to push off of 3 sandbars on the back levee canal which made us about an hour late to the spot. However, once we turn the corner and see the laid out Gulf, we notice something in the distance we didn’t expect to see…a Hunter Green Back Country Flats Boat, and a single wader in the barely present breakers on the right side of the pass.
When we saw the boat, it was as if the joyful patience balloon busted and a flame thrower of disgust ingnited in the boat.
“Are you kidding me,” my dad says, “Who is sicker than us to come out here on a day like this.”
“I don’t know, but I say we park next to him and work toward the pass.”
As we’re getting the boat situated, we notice Darren Angelo, a local marina owner, walking back to his boat.
“How’d you do?” we ask.
“Redfish,” he says, “I got my five already and I’m going in to check on the Marina.” “Good luck guys, I thought I was the only crazy person out here to be fishing in this,” He chuckled.
Excited that fish are present, and a fading outboard earmarked for Delta Marina in Empire. We start chucking MirrOlure Top Dog’s at the second set of breakers, and in short order, both baits explode as if cement just fell from the sky. To prevent our lines from tangling we start doing the redfish tango, since these bruiser redfish are hitting two at a time, and I glance to my right and say, “this is going to be a great day Pops.”
He agrees and for the next hour we witness each other’s Top Dog getting assaulted, until…the artillery from the redfish turns into a more subtle kinetic… big trout.
Our fortune changed when a 20” trout inhaled my plug and joined my 5 redfish in the fish basket, but it didn’t stop there. My dad and I spent the next 5 hours in 55 degree weather, walking the dog and wading the surf, catching trout up to 7lbs. By no means was it every cast, but the decreasing north winds and the gentle incoming tide turned the water into the infamous trout green, and the image of my chrome sided, blue back Top Dog darting side to side, falling behind the white water of a breaker and seeing a swirl as the wave subsided, never leaves my thoughts. Unfortunately, I hope it never does, because as my dad went to capture the end result with a picture, the battery in the camera wasn’t so much up to the task, but that’s ok.
It’s been slightly less than 14 years since this trip, and although little has changed in my angling passion, a lot has changed in my life. As I reflect on those earlier trips through the lens of wisdom, I’m glad the camera didn’t work. The memory of standing next to the boat in the surf with a red fleece on next to my dad admiring the 46 huge trout and 10 reds we just caught on topwater, is way better than 100 likes or shares on social media. It’s a trip we bring up every now and again, but its bonding to know that he’s the only person that cherished it as much as I did. I remember him laughing when we got on plane after we pushed off our third flat, and he remembers my voice shaking after I caught my first 7lb trout.
So as we move into a world that seemingly gets faster, I encourage you to forget about the social media post and savor the moment for what it is, with the people you love.
For me the negatives, seared into my memory for this album are simple. A father and a son, two trout fishing fanatics, 3 sandbars, early May, Chaland Pass, 46 trout and 10 reds lying on the blue carpet floor of the boat on a day that “never” happened.
Tight Lines and God Bless.