As many anglers will attest, fishing isn’t just a supplement to life but life itself. It’s a drug that knows no limit and it’s consuming. My addiction, like most of you, started early in life. Except my setting came between the pier post on a family pond in Kiln, MS. As I “Wadefished” with a makeshift flyrod, my only purpose at that moment in time was to get a bluegill to commit to a cricket imitation popper. Visions persist of watching a curious brim emerge from the shadows of the pier, sit motionless under the bait and dare it to move. The pronounced pause I would command from the lure garnered greater curiosity from the predator below. Then with a slight twitch of the rod, the bug responded with a subtle pop - irresistible to the purple hued panfish.
Over time, friends from NOLA would join me. Their versions of fun didn’t consist of sitting a fly, but throwing rocks in the woods or riding the property tractor. Not unrealistic considering we were only 9. For me though, I wanted to do nothing else.
Years later, when my dad and 3 others built a camp in Happy Jack Louisiana, my addiction shifted from bass and bluegill to trout and redfish. Aptly named the NACK, our south Louisiana fishing haven became a safehouse for junkies just like us. Resting on a main bayou, Martin Canal patrons typically gestured a friendly hello to the hum of a filet knife working in the shadows of the camp resting atop cypress pilings. Not surprising since most of the scenic views overlooked some of the most productive waters in the lower 48. Limits of both trout and redfish were common, and an afternoon swing on the porch fueled personal clarity and life reflection.
As a young man, I was lucky enough to sit at a table of greatness. During these invites, I absorbed all I could from the men and anglers I admired in life. They not only shared insight to what worked, but taught me some tips along the way, seared in memory by the smell of crown and coke. This brings me back to the name of the camp...the NACK.
The NACK is a term each of the campowners (Nicky, Alvin, Charlie (my dad) and Keith) strived to possess. It was being so in-tune with the fish that you, and only you, could catch them. In other words, you had the “hot hand” or figured out the pattern. It was measured in production and consistency, and its reward was noble remarks of respect to your fishing ability.
So how does one acquire the NACK you might ask? Simple, be disciplined in your technique and creative in your approach. Never settle for the status quo. More importantly, eradicating the mindset of “well this is what we’ve always done” is a sound place to start. After all lure makers produce a myriad of colors and profiles for a reason. The only problem is the neuron gadget that lies between the ears.
For years now I’ve preached about the shift in mindset of the trophy trout angler. In order to catch larger than normal trout, your vision needs to match the desired result – splendid and lonesome. In other words, look for one bite, and be content with the perpetual failure. Trophy trout purgatory can be one of suffering, but once purified through the glorious gates (holding a giant trout), you’ll realize that turning back to “numbers” is seldom an option.
Having the NACK also means you’ve done your homework. From the subtleties of understanding a tide and bait source to the greater connection of how it all fits together – time on the water, by nature gives you an edge. Angling wisdom isn’t found in a Google word search, but the headshake of a that giant trout you’ve been waiting for has long been saved to your hard drive. Potlicking and spot sharing are frowned in pursuit of the NACK, while “persistence” and “respectable” become more fitting synonyms.
In short, I yearn to have the NACK whenever I go fishing. I constantly challenge myself to think forward, based on the experience validated by my past. From understanding the value of sitting a fly as a child, to suspending a fatboy on the TX flats as a man. My growth of an angler was founded in love for the sport.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve only been told that I’ve had the NACK once. A trend I yearn to reverse. These infamous words were uttered by Alvin, the “A” in the NACK, who just so happened to be “my uncle”.
The setting is seared in my memory by the slanting sun to the west. Light, although fading, was just enough to develop the photo of a big south Louisiana trout engulfing a Top Dog. A fish I would have never caught if I didn’t push the envelope. That afternoon, my uncle and I fished the barrier shell islands on the fringe of Bastain Bay in Empire, LA. With little to show for our efforts in our traditional waist deep water, I ventured up and away from “where we’ve always caught them.” With a low incoming tide, much of the shell islands were exposed. As a result, I could see mullet stacked in the shallow pockets, assessing their gameplan for a growing water column. As I approached the area, mullet flipping waved me in like a 747 taxing to the gate – a perfect landing spot for a bait that imitated their existence. As I clumsily twitched my bait back to the launch point, mullet mocked my imitated approach. Fortunately for them the trout looking at the buffet table “didn’t think it was funny” and ate my bait instead. After some remarkable headshakes silhouetted by a glowing orange sun, I landed my first trout over 5lbs.
My uncle, now growing closer due to the commotion of a bent rod, saw me hoist the fish. Impressed with the results of my efforts, my only wish was to unhook the fish, release her and make another cast. He had other ideas. Instead of casting into that area, he hooked his jig to one of his rod guides, and nonchalantly slung it under his arm. Kind of concerned by his nonverbal’s, I would recently find out that he would validate my rite of passage.
“Chris” he said with a long uncomfortable verbal pause. “Son, I’ve got to tell you, I thought you were wasting your time fishing this shallow. But after seeing you catch that remarkable fish, I can tell you…you got the NACK!”
An unforgettable moment and a testament to never confine your imagination. Instead, uncage your confidence and never be afraid to concede to your addiction.
God Bless and Tight Lines!