God. Fate. The Universe. Coincidence. Destiny.
It matters not which one of these forces was at work when I received an email asking about taking three boat-loads of NSU college students on a wetland tour a couple weeks ago.
What matters is that Patti the Potter was on one of those tours and was introduced to me as someone I needed to meet. I was told we have a lot in common, and she once worked in the oil field.
Most of the students that boarded my boat that day were just that–college kids, except Patti. Patti was a college woman close to my age. Between tours, I got to know a little more about her. She’s a senior art major, who specializes in pottery. She was in need of a red fish for a top-secret art project that was percolating in her brain. I just happened to have a nice red on ice over at Camp Dularge. So, off we went to get her a fish or two for her project.
She was as happy as a crawfish in mud; and when I found out how much she likes to fish, I was just as happy. Could it be I had finally met a fishing buddy who just might be able to get away occasionally and fish with me?
When I called her one night this week, she jumped at the invitation to fish with me the next morning. My boat was already in the water from a tour of New York college students the day before, so we just hopped in and took off.
There was an area that my sister and I had scouted a month or so before that I wanted to try again. Turns out Patti used to visit a fishing camp near that very area. Perfect!
Even though it had been about five years since she had been there, she recognized some of the land and water marks, and I could tell she was right at home. She was handy with a rope and anchor and was so passionate about being out on the water, I knew we would get along great.
We wound our way up a curvy bayou, looking for fishy water, and around the second curve she spotted a fishy-looking current line running from the western bank across the middle of the bayou. We drifted in, and not long after she slung her bright yellow popping cork, it disappeared below the surface.
“F I S H O N!” Patti yelled with as much enthusiasm as a die-hard football fan screaming “TOUCHDOWN!”, and I was as happy for her as she was about reeling in that yellow-mouthed speckled trout.
She continued as she unhooked the trout and measured it, “Oh man that felt so good. You just made my year!” And unless you’ve been bit by the fishing bug, you just won’t understand that feeling.
After her bobber disappeared subsurface and reappeared bearing keeper trout a couple more times, I knew it was time to give up on my tight-line rig and switch over to my rod rigged with a popping cork.
We continued to pull in fish every few minutes at that spot until boat traffic scattered the fish, making them too spotty to find. Trolling on up the bayou, we cast around a few points that looked like ideal spots for trout to be hanging out waiting for bait fish. However, none of those spots were as profitable as our first stop.
Once we traveled to the end of my GPS bread crumb line, we tested the waters. Nothing. We looked for cuts in the marsh, where the bait-filled water flowed into the bayou, carrying the unsuspecting bait to the bigger fish that awaited. We fished a couple of those spots without much luck.
Off in the distance, though, a little boat sat in a spot where we wanted to fish. I tried to get up the courage to troll up there and get beside them; but I just couldn’t do it, mainly because I hate it when I’m fishing a spot and someone gets right next to me.
Reluctantly, Patti and I turned our hats around and headed back the way we came to try again at the “Patti Trout Curve” where we caught fish earlier. As we idled along, me still trying to make myself go back and horn in on those guys, here they came–two men in a little metal boat with a tiny engine.
They told us they caught a few “trouts” that were chasing “minners”. They didn’t even have an ice chest for their fish, which made me doubt they were the serious trout fishermen we were; but I just had a feeling we needed to go back up there.
We approached the spot and threw down the Cajun anchor while we looked over the area for current and drift. We took a couple test casts, and a submerged crab trap reached out and grabbed my popping cork and held it hostage while another fishing guide idled by.
I tried to act nonchalant about being hung up on the invisible snag as he recognized me.
“Hey! Y’all caught anything?” he yelled across the water.
“A few” I answered offhandedly (thinking “yea, a crab trap”).
“That’s good” he answered and sped away.
After Patti removed my hook from the crab trap, we trolled through the way that charter boat had just come. Patti spied a nice drift line on the edge of a cove, just off to the right of the center of the bayou.
Rather than troll around, we decided to anchor right there and fish that line for a while. Within five minutes, we could not believe our eyes. The surface of the water began boiling with fins and tails of trout in a feeding frenzy. If this is what the guy was referring to as “trouts chasing minners”, well, he definitely played it down.
Neither Patti nor I had ever witnessed such a frenetic trout-feeding frenzy in all our years of fishing combined. She had seen reds do it, and I had seen small school of trout in a lake do it, but nothing this ferocious and widespread. It was nothing short of amazing.
With our adrenaline pumping, we cast our baits into the fray and continued to do so for the next two hours.
The pattern was this:
The trout would seemingly go somewhere to “round up” the school of minnows and then attack, roiling the surface of the water. Then, the water would be still for about eight to ten minutes before they were back, snapping and slapping the surface.
Many of the fish we caught were literally spitting out minnows as we slung them into the boat. At the height of each catching mayhem, we dropped them on the floor of the boat–putting them in the ice chest later during a lull.
The fishing trip ended almost as abruptly as it started, though.
Two men in a small boat trolled around a curve while we watched for the next bout of “minner dinner”. They trolled within about twelve feet of us and anchored. They asked us what kind and color of baits we were using, as they tried unsuccessfully to catch using popping cork rigs. Even though we were tight lining (no cork), they continued to cast their popping corks as far as they could. At one point, one man cast his bobber right over my line, which I quickly pointed out to him, addressing him as “hey dude”. Nothing worse than a rude fisherman.
Truth was, we were in the prime position; but hey, we were there first, right?
If they had only been patient enough to sit and observe the pattern for a while, they would have seen that the fish were widespread and often passed within easy casting distance of their boat. Instead, they were focused on what we were doing and where we were fishing.
Not content that we were still catching fish on almost every cast while they weren’t, they picked up anchor, trolled right across that imaginary “center line”, and trolled right into the cove where the fish were most concentrated during a frenzy. They sat there for about ten minutes, casting their lines into the still waters.
And what do you think happened next?
How many fish do you think they caught?
I’ll tell you: nothing and zero.
The damage done, they slowly trolled back around the curve from whence they came. I could not help but think they just didn’t know any better, while Patti wondered aloud if they trolled over the fish because those two good old boys were not going to be out-fished by two women who talked to the fish and joked with abandon while doing so.
Your guess is as good as ours.
With the bite shut down, and about two hours of daylight left, we thanked the water and the fish, then pulled up anchor and turned the bow toward home.
Two triumphant women ended the day with almost two limits of trout, a golden-colored red drum, and smiles that could not be wiped off. Not too shabby for two mid-life moms who spend most of their time trying to make ends meet for their families.
Before she left, Patti gave me a generous gift and said, “Girl, you don’t even know how you have made my year. Let’s do it again soon!”
Tight lines, everyone,