Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

February 21st, 2005

Signs of Life

There are signs of the spring in the air.

Though it's only late-February, reports from around the state indicate that the first tentative movement of bass, bream and sac-au-lait into the shallows has been noted, particularly in restricted impoundments where water runs clear. Unfortunately, the Atchafalaya River Basin, my area, remains high and muddy.

Still, robins are prancing around my backyard, a great sign that spring is nearing in south Louisiana. None too soon. Over the last three months, I refurbished two rods. One, a little Montague I wrote about previously. The other was one I have had for some time, an unknown rod, probably a better-grade Monty or H-I, that had more sets in it than my handwriting. I spent several evenings straightening it over a heatgun. It's not perfect, but it's a darned-sight straighter than it was. I wrapped on new guides and found it is a real cannon with a seven-weight line. Only one tip, but the rod was a freebie so I'm not complaining.

Spring. Ah, the lovely sound of it. A dearly departed friend of mine once wrote, "Oh my, the winter, no matter how mild, has been much too long." I am longing for water. Last weekend, I drove the truck down the Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee to Lake Fausse Point. On the northern border of the lake at the levee, large rocks were piled to slow erosion. I sat on one of these for an hour or so. The lake is high and the color of chocolate milk. Under a good fifteen mile per hour wind, small whitecaps raced from Bird Island Chute to the channel that empties the lake, eventually, into Bayou Teche and finally to the Gulf of Mexico. Good catfishing water, but I haven't fished cats in years, don't have any tackle heavy enough any longer either, spin or baitcast.

But the lake was there, churning, powerful. There are places in this world where power is oh, so evident. One of those places is Poverty Point, in northeast Louisiana. A massive earthworks more than 3,500 years old, the central point of the site is a mound ninety-six feet high, shaped like a bird with outstretched wings. To reach the summit visitors walk up the tail of the bird, a ramp, to its shoulders just below where the head once was. The head was demolished a century ago by farmers. At the top of the mound, built by Poverty Point Period peoples who mysteriously abandoned the site almost overnight, power swirls and blazes like a storm. It is almost overwhelming. The state's largest site within the following local archaeological time period, Tchefuncte, is but a stone's throw from Poverty Point, but oddly, not a single Poverty Point artifact - and there are millions of them, often lying on the surface - has ever been found on the Tchefuncte site. It's as if the Tchefuncte people were wary of it, avoided it. A Caddo prehistoric burial found a few hundred miles away revealed human remains buried with Poverty Point artifacts. The individual in that grave was someone of note, probably a medicine man judging by the things buried with him, and the Poverty Point artifact in his possession probably gave him high esteem among his people.

Lake Fausse Point is such a place, just a couple miles from my home. It was once part of a giant network of lakes running more than seventy miles, but the levee intersected and has nearly destroyed it. The historical photograph from 1893 shows what this wonderful world of water looked like then, and the following shows it today.

Yet there is still power here, and I see it broiling in whitecaps and great brown swells of water across the surface. In a few weeks, perhaps a month, I know it will calm, and clear, turning that marvelous green-black color that denotes good fishing. For a month or two after that, I'll haunt it at every given opportunity, not only for fishing, but for recharging of my soul from it's power after a long winter. When that time is over, the lake will recede, become horridly shallow, thin, emasculated by the levee to but a shadow of its former self. Sometimes I feel like this old lake and I are aging toward a certain mortality together. Like we are approaching death arm-in-arm.

But that's too heavy to consider with spring right around the corner. I'll probe its depths in search of bluegill and bass, and perhaps find erudition as well. I'll skim its surface in the boat, looking for a nice cove or point of cypress trees to cast Clousers, and perhaps note an eye in the sky from a thunderbird peeking out from a storm cloud. This is my home, has been for eight thousand years before I was even born.

Spring. Like the rest of you, I am awaiting it with eager bliss. ~ Roger


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