My dad wasn't a fly fisherman, but he was an
The overwhelming majority of my adolescent memories
are firmly planted outdoors -- hunting, fishing,
crabbing, trawling. Our excursions were always
in or near water, and more times than not, at least
one of the multiple boats we owned at any given
time was built in our backyard.
As a child, when asked for my address, I was often
tempted to tell the inquirer where our camp was
located near Lake Salvador, since we seemed to
spend more time there than home. But I knew what
they meant, so I suppressed the mischievous urge.
We broke the silence of many a pre-dawn morning
with the drone of an engine, wrapped in layers of
insulated clothes against the biting cold, as we
plied toward duck blinds. Or enjoyed the coolness
of the air that can only be found in the early morning
hours of an otherwise blistering summertime, laden
with rods, reels and tackle, a shrimp trawl or
possibly stacks of crab lines.
It was an idealistic childhood in the vast wetlands
of Cajun country. But I was too young and naive, and
having too much fun, to realize that as much as we fished, our
lives were void of a higher calling -- fly fishing.
That's not to say fly fishing was unknown to my dad.
One of my earliest memories was the discovery of a
long, two-piece green rod with a funny-looking reel
propped in the corner of a hall closet. It was a
fiberglass fly rod, from the Sears & Roebuck catalog,
that dad simply called a waste of time and money.
"Too much line to mess with."
He, like most men of his generation, was a meat hunter.
He enjoyed the sport of fishing immensely but couldn't
fathom such concepts as catch and release, so efficiency
was of the highest concern in the selection of all
fishing tackle. These were the days before size and
creel limits; success was gauged by full ice chests,
not the number of fish. Our reels were spooled with
heavy line, and our freezers never lacked for an
abundance of seafood and game.
Time with my dad on the water was priceless. And even
though we were both "quiet" fishermen, rarely speaking
as we made our casts, I was constantly exposed to decades
of experience, soaking in every bit of knowledge.
His years in the marsh had taught him when and where
to find the fish, and what techniques to use; lessons
handed down from his dad.
As a child, I was always amazed at how he could make
dozens of turns in the seemingly endless marsh and
find his way back, even though the miles of broken
land looked the same to my young eyes. As a guide,
I get to relive that wonder as out-of-state
clients, not accustomed to such expanses of marsh,
constantly scan the panorama forclues to our location.
The look is unmistakable, and it's the one time when I can
actually read someone's thoughts: "You do know the way
Sometimes, they will actually verbalize the question.
It's delivered tongue-in-cheek, of course, but deep down,
I can tell a positive answer would be reassuring.
I can't blame them. The marshes of southeast Louisiana
are massive, spanning as far as the eye can see in
every direction, and beyond. It's been more than 30
years since my first trip into the marsh -- fishing
pole in one hand and a can of worms at my feet,
watching dad twist and turn our boat through the
aquatic labyrinth -- yet I still haven't seen all
of it. I was not only blessed with a wonderful dad,
but also with one of the world's greatest estuaries
as my playground, my backyard, my home.
My transition as a fisherman through the years was
rather typical. On my first trips, I just wanted to
catch a fish. Then I wanted to catch a lot of fish.
Later, as the desire to catch bigger fish became
stronger, the pursuit of trophy-size specimens
became more important than filling a limit. Eventually,
even something as inconceivable to my dad as catch
and release started to make sense.
I still enjoy many a fish dinner, but now I fish for
the pleasure of the sport. If my freezer is well-stocked,
I release my quarry with gentle care and a smile, hopeful
that we will meet again another day. Most of my clients
are the same, only wishing to return to the dock with
photographs of their catches and heads full of memories.
Occasionally, a client will ask me if I'd like to keep
a few of the fish for myself. Often, I will accept a few,
which I bring to my mom.
She loves fish. And the concept of catch and release
is lost on her, too. I can only bring fish to my mom
now since dad is no longer with us. And sadly, we
lost him years before he left this earth -- his mind
and memories stolen by Alzheimer's. Dad never got to
see me fly fish. I began learning the art before his
body succumbed to this world, but not before his mind
was ravaged by this cruelest of diseases.
As my mom told me on the day of his funeral, "He died
a long time ago. We were just taking care of his body."
I wish dad could have watched me fly fish, for the
same reason I beamed as he watched me reel in my first
tiny bream. No matter our age, we want to show our dads what
we learned, what we accomplished, and we want to see
that smile that lets us know he couldn't be more proud.
If he had been granted the mind to comprehend in his
last years, I'm sure he would have approved of my
transition to fly fishermen.
But he still wouldn't understand catch and release.
Capt. Marty D. Authement owns and operates Marsh Madness
guided fishing service in Houma, Louisiana. He is also Lifestyles
Editor of his hometown newspaper, The Courier. He can be
reached at, firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit his Web site at www.marshmadness.net.