Sisters, swamp dwellers and surprises!

My sister’s visits don’t come often enough to meet my need for close female companionship, but we take what we can get and cram every minute with as much life as we possibly can.

This visit was no different.  And in some ways, it was more special than past visits–mainly because we didn’t work on Camp Dularge and we weren’t cleaning up from flood mud from a hurricane.

Saturday morning drew us out for a ride down the bayou when a phone call came from Bayou Fabio wanting to show us his big garfish.

Bayou Fabio 10This hard-working wetlander we lovingly nick- named Fabio, for all the obvious reasons, lives to fish and fishes to live–literally!

He is a commercial gar fisherman who makes his living and provides food for his plate from the marshes here.  When he’s not doing this, he’s crabbing or fishing for redfish with a rod and reel.  Often he has a marine pen in the water near this dock where he keeps marine life for his own enjoyment and that of his eight-year-old son.

In the above photo, just over Fabio’s left elbow, is the top of the cabin of a white boat where Fabio lays his head at night.  He assured us the mosquitoes are only bad at sunset and just before sunrise–no need for screens or doors.

Just as we were leaving, his older brother and nephew pulled up in their boat, laden with pans (bayou speak for plastic crates) full of select blue crabs.

Crab Pan

Townspeople special order these large crabs and are willing to pay the price for hand delivery of these blue delights.  This crate will sell for $150.  As you might have guessed, Fabio’s older brother is a commercial crabber.  Tamer  than his younger brother, Curt lives in town in a house with his wife and children.

Readied for a fishing charter that canceled the night before, my pontoon charter boat was waiting at the slip further up the bayou.  One person’s change of plans is another person’s chance for opportunity, and we were ready–two sisters, separated by 300 miles, joined this day by a shared desire for whatever these wetlands held for us.

In the howling wind, we headed down a usually productive inlet only to find muddy water and slack tides–not the best fishing conditions.  Not wanting to waste precious time, we braved the waves and headed across the brackish lake to our only living cypress grove and calmer, fresher waters.

Cypress knees
Photo by LilSis

Awakened that morning by a dream about bass being plentiful around the cypress knees, I decided to fish around them in search of those sweet-tasting green trout.  Please don’t tell anyone, but I caught more submerged branches than actual fish–not something a prideful charter captain likes to admit.

Using the trolling motor, we inched our way under moss-drenched cypress and bright green swamp maples, enjoying every moment of this fine spring morning.  With muddy waters and uncooperative fish, my sister soon swapped her rod and reel for a Nikon and a zoom lens, while I continued stubbornly casting into the silt-laden shallows.

As we rounded a curve in the bayou, our quiet commune was interrupted by loud voices.  Trolling closer, we spied a small band of swamp dwellers telling stories on their dock.  Just as we were greeting them, a mudboat came flying out of the swamp behind us.

It was two nutria hunters returning from a bounty hunt, and I recognized the one driving the boat.  As they docked, he invited us to “get down”, which in bayou speak means get  out of your boat and step down onto the land.  Without hesitation, we accepted his invitation, curious to hear about the hunt.  He said they only got six because the weather was getting too hot, adding that it was the last weekend of the nutria bounty hunt, anyway.

Commenting about watching us from a distance while we (unsuccessfully) bass fished, the one they called Earl wanted to, like all great fishermen, show us his catch of the morning–caught despite the high winds and chocolate water.

Freshwater Catch
From the top down, they are sac au lait (SOCK uh lay, also called white perch or crappie), 2 bass, and 3 bream

Adequately humbled, I couldn’t help but internally observe how diverse these waters are when only a couple miles separate the habitats of salt and freshwater species.

Soon, our hosts were gathered round their rickety glass table, (which in retrospect must have seen a million card games over the years), pulled up their chairs, and anteed up their quarters for a game they called “31”.

Swamp fellers“Come on. Y’all wanna play some cards?”

“No, thanks. I don’t play cards. My great grandmother said they would burn my fingers” I replied with a grin.  Quite honestly, neither one of us had ever heard of the game before.

“Well, y’all can watch and learn and anytime you want to jump in, just say so.”

With her keen intellect, LilSis caught on to the game quickly, but since neither of us had any hard, cold quarters, we would have to take a rain check on challenging these swamp fellers at their own game.

One of the swamp rats pointed out a redfish playing along the opposite bank.  Grabbing the rod rigged with my favorite gold spoon, I made a couple quick casts from the dock, until my lure hung up on a submerged obstacle. At that moment, adding insult to injury, a boat came down the narrow bayou, and all I could do was hold my rod up to show them my line was hung.

Passing slowly under my line, they chuckled at my bad luck, or was it lack of skill? I thought maybe they would be gents and unhook it for me but no such luck.  Are some men still chauvinistic when it comes to fisherwomen, or did they just have their own fish to catch?

This would be the last snag of the day for me. Try as I may, the hook would not turn loose of its sunken prey. Valiantly, the head nutria hunter stopped playing cards long enough to motor over in his mudboat to free its purchase.

Alas, the monofilament came up too easily, dancing freely in the wind, as though teasing me with nothing to weigh it down.

“Dog gone it!” I cursed at no one in particular. “That was my favorite spoon.”

At $4 a pop, stronger language might have been appropriate, but even though I’m a fisherman, I’m still a lady–at least in the presence of seasoned swamp dwellers who share their stories, cards, and food as quickly as their smiles.

Not wanting to wear out our welcome, we expressed our thanks and headed back the way we came. As we motored slowly past the spot where we had fished earlier, one more swamp dweller spied us with great interest and without apparent fear.

My heart leapt when I realized what I was seeing–a sight seldom seen in broad daylight in this particular swamp.

Quick on the draw, LilSis handed me the camera, loaded with the correct lens to seize the moment.

Night HeronThe Louisiana Wetland could not have graced us with a more meaningful end to a day laden with the richness of its inhabitants–a yellow crowned night heron.

Night heron in flightAs the heron sent us off with a brush of its wings, and the sillhouetes of our new swamp friends blurred in the background, we both heaved a sigh of utter contentment, expressions of a perfect ending to a perfect day in the Louisiana wetland.

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  1. WOW, I loved this story!!! My mantra, lets go see what we can see/also known as/when the theme park we just drove 200 miles to venture is closed, its a great opportunity to see what else Dallas-Ft.Worth treasures there are to find!!! lol. Sometimes the best plans are the ones altered at the last minute and what a wonderful way to spend time with your sis. I admire your opportunities and your abilities to share them with us. Thanks BW

  2. Double dippin here….as far as your cleaning the bayou, one lure at a time lol….I truly believe a bad day fishing far out weighs any day at work!!! The chance to be out on the water, the wind, the abundant wildlife all around you…heaven….it recharges my battery, grounds me, and helps me be able to walk back thru the doors where I spend way too much of my time.

  3. Oh wow. What a story, BW. Your life on the bayou is so rich and diverse, you much feel overwhelmed with riches every day. Even hurricanes can’t make your bayou a poor place.

    The bird is beautiful, and the fish photo should be a poster. Wonderful post.

  4. That 1st photo of the Blue Heron is beautiful! It’s almost as purty as those BLUE CRABS! I think I’ll turn a few “red” Friday for supper. LOL!
    BW, Granny Sue may have inadvertently given you another project to consider. Photos of Fresh and Saltwater species lined up. Hang them at Camp Dularge as decoration and it lets your renters know the possibilities out there. Others may be interested in making a purchase. Especially poster size. IF I had a camp, you can bet it would be decorated in this fashion.

    1. Steffi – there are only so many hours in my day and they are pretty much filled to the second! But I’ve already purchased the 8×10 frames but have not narrowed the photos down all the way yet to which ones I really want to hang where. Also, I am waiting on some custom made cypress frames for a couple of the more special photos I plan to hang. As far as species go, I have some gorgeous posters from LDWF which need framing, but they’re rather large and expensive. So that project is on the back burner. Further, artist Ellen is bringing more of her original artwork to place, and I want her to have first choice of places to display. All in good time, my friend!!!

  5. I am trying really hard to not mapquest the distance between here and there so I can join in the fun too! It’s supposed to SNOW here in Oklahoma on Saturday. Guess I will have to turn the AC off and the heater back on!

  6. I want to live these kind of days with you my friend. I am glad that you found some enjoyment from your sisters visit… 🙂 great pictures as always!!

  7. Wendy~ you take my breath away with your stories of adventures sharing the Beautiful Bayou fishing trips with your sister!
    How fortunate you are, as I am too, to have a sister that loves to spend time with me!
    The photos are truly grand! You could actually publish a Photo Book of them……they would sell!

    FABIO <—- hunk a luv!!!!

    Liz in PA

  8. It was a grand day – fishing, photoing, and fellowship – dudn’t git any better than tha-yut (that’s my “yankee” accent the swamp dwellers made fun of 😉 ).

  9. What a wonderful set of pictures! Thanks esp for the pic of the crabs. Marvelous. I have never heard of the game either but it sounds like any time hanging with that bunch would be fun!

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