As I said in the previous post, “to be continued“, and now I’m keeping my promise. Plus, those of you who have been here awhile know that I’m a bird nerd and no trip is complete without a post about the birds I saw.
That Friday morning fishing trip started out with a beautiful sunrise, just beyond the cypress trees. Corey Wheat, my bass fishing guide for the morning, turned out to be quite an eco-tour guide in his own right. We talked about how folks who don’t have the good fortune to live in such wonderful places don’t get to see the beauty of the water, the trees, the plants, and the birds. He impressed upon me how, as avid bass anglers, he and his team always take time to appreciate the things Mother Nature provides while they are out and about fishing. Well, I don’t have to tell you know how much that impressed me.
As we trolled the banks of Lake Verret in search of bass, we talked about different things we see on a regular basis while fishing. We also talked about how he, too, loves to fish speckled trout in Lake Decade in the winter months. There’s no doubt, that at some point, we crossed paths while fishing trout on that lake over the past few years, which makes me again realize what a small fishing world it is down here.
Before long, we fished away from the landing and the dense clump of fishing camps toward a few more solitary houseboats, nestled among the cypress trees. As we trolled among the cypress knees, Corey pointed out a single adult osprey perched on a nearby branch.
From somewhere also nearby came the excited calls of other osprey. The adult osprey continued to sit, still as a statue, not making a sound. We looked around for the source of the desperate-sounding osprey calls and in short time located the source.
It also didn’t take us long to assess the situation. Close by, a large nest topped a cypress tree. There fledgling osprey sat atop the nest, obviously disturbed that their parent was ignoring them. Corey and I surmised what was going on and started a running dialog among the siblings as we observed their behavior.
Parent Osprey’s stern silence sent the message loud and clear, “NO! I’m not feeding you breakfast. Fly out and get your own!”
We watched as Sibling No. 1 and No. 2 left the nest landing on cypress branches, not far from the parent. But they continued to call out to their parent, as though begging for breakfast. Refusing to be persuaded, Parent Osprey sat stock still, barely blinking an eye.
No. 1 and No. 2 sat in silence, as though waiting for instructions from their parent. However, no instruction came. Parent Osprey continued to ignore her hungry offspring.
Meanwhile, Sibling No. 3 continued to screech, flitting from one side of the nest to the other. The scene turned from one of our waiting for them to catch their own breakfast to seeing if this last fledgling would ever take flight. We trolled, fished, and watched, trolled, fished, and watched.
We caught a couple more bass, and just as we trolled near a power line which led to a houseboat, Corey said, “Look. The last osprey finally left the nest, and it’s sitting on that power line. It’s looking into the water like it’s about to catch a fish.” Sure enough, the young osprey sat on the wire, gazing down into the water, then it looked at us, moving its head from side to side as though trying to get our attention. I imagined it saying, “Hey you guys! How about sharing your fish with me?” Nah, I don’t think so! Mama said to go get your own.
Shortly thereafter, a green heron joined Sibling No. 3 on the wire, and they hung out, staring down at the water together, until we trolled right under them, scaring away both of them. Forgetting about the hungry birds, we turned our focus back to some serious fishing along the edges of the swamp.
Vibrant in varying shades of green, the bald cypress surrounding Lake Verret speak to a simpler time–a time of the pat-swoosh of a pirogue paddle, of trot lines laden with catfish, of the swish of a gator sliding into the water, and the splash of a big bull frog hopping off a lily pad.
One could easily get lost in the swamp, mentally and emotionally, as well as spiritually. The silver Spanish moss evokes a hush of tranquility and a palpable reverence. We fished among these cypress sentinels, not speaking, worshiping the silence and grateful for the sanctuary. Speech wasn’t necessary, because in its silence, the swamp spoke volumes to our souls. This is a place where nothing else matters, and troubles are vanquished.
Neither annoyed by or afraid of our presence, yet another green heron joined us in our quest for bass. Going to and fro, he flew from the cypress knees to the bank in search of minnows in the shallow water.
We continued to cast toward the bank, fishing in symbiosis with Green Heron, until he decided that the plastic frog on the end of Corey’s line looked much more appetizing than a minnow. Before Corey could reel back in, Green Heron swooped down and grabbed the artificial frog in its beak. It happened very quickly, and I feared the poor bird to be hooked in the beak.
Much to my relief, the bait was much bigger than the bird’s beak, and Corey deftly jerked the frog from Green Heron’s mouth, no harm done. This could’ve gone badly, because even though wading birds seem so docile, they use their beaks as weapons, and retrieving a hook from Green Heron’s beak would’ve been a very low point to another otherwise delightful fishing trip.
Corey motored us back across the lake with the promise of showing me bald eagles. Where I live, only about 40 miles southeast of Lake Verret, the eagles migrate away to the north in May. I shared that fact with him, secretly doubting his accuracy in thinking he could show me eagles on this lake in August. But I have to hand it to him. I was wrong, and he was right! We saw several perched high in the tops of the cypress trees. Later, during a quick break at a quaint place on the water called Gros’ Marina, he pointed out eagles soaring above us, riding the thermals. I thanked him for the cold drink and the newly-found knowledge that bald eagles, do indeed inhabit Lake Verret year-round.
When we first left the landing that morning, I honestly didn’t think I would be able to fish until our prearranged time of noon to meet back at the landing. But before we knew it, it was time to return to the dock. Along the way, Corey wanted to hit a few more spots that historically held larger bass, around the three-pound mark. Try as we may, the bass didn’t cooperate, and then we tried one last spot just a stone’s throw from the landing.
The spot appeared to be a very small island of sorts, covered in bushes and trumpet creeper. I quickly spotted an immature green heron among the branches and pulled out my camera, hoping for some good closeups while Corey fished around the perimeter. Because of the thick foliage, my camera couldn’t focus in clearly on the little heron. Then Corey pointed out another green heron, and another, and another.
Abandoning his fishing pole, he trolled the boat around and around the island, counting all the green herons. We counted over a dozen birds and spotted three nests. It hit us both at the same time: “This is a green heron rookery!”
We watched the young clumsy herons trying to hide from us among the dense foliage, their awkward movements amusing us both. Corey noted aloud that during all the times he had passed this island to go fishing and had actually fished around it, he had never seen the herons before.
Before departing the island, we decreed that this would henceforth be called “Green Heron Island”. He vowed that he would pay closer attention to this little island from now on.
Fate guided me this day by pairing me with this talented fishing guide, also a nature lover. A different guide may not have been as patient with my constant swapping of rod and reel for camera and taking up valuable fishing time to snap photos. But as Fate would have it, Corey and I made a good team, and before parting ways, we made a plan to fish together this winter in my lake of choice, giving me the opportunity to share the beauty of my fishing grounds with him. I’m looking forward to it.
“to be continued . . . . again”