August 22nd, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Last Day on the Lake!
By Reginald Caillouet III

I cannot remember the exact date of this story, but that matter is of little importance. What I can remember is my last fishing trip with the old man. No folks, it was not my father, but rather my grandfather that it the essence of this story.

We were out for a pleasant day of fishing and for the first time my grandfather was to bring his fly rod while I was in the boat. He was always worried that one of his not so graceful casts would wind up in me somewhere. You see, I was the oldest grandson in the family; and as a matter fact, I am the oldest child of his oldest child. My grandfather and I had spent countless hours fishing together, and I had always had a good time with him. He was a rather large man and had a wonderful sense of humor that all kids can relate to easily. Some of the best times we had were on days that we couldn't get fish into the boat.

Well, on this particular day, the old man was in a very good mood. Normally, as with all of us, going fishing brought a large smile to his face. But today, was the first day of the spring that we were going to be out on the lake. Springtime (what little there is of spring down there) in southern Louisiana freshwater means one thing. Violent Top Water Action, and we were ready for a thrilling day on the water.

The boat ride was rather short, I am not sure whether it was that I was laughing my rear off from the old man making jokes and telling stories, or if I was all too ready to start fishing. Once the motor stopped, I watched in amazement as the old man slowly and methodically put the fly rod together. He showed and told me of all the things he was doing, and I was astonished at all of it. Watching the line gracefully lift off of the water, flow into a perfect loop back cast and without any apparent effort on his part, send the line with leader and fly attached to a soft and gentle landing on the water 60 feet away. I could not believe how easy he made it look.

I sat there just watching him make cast after cast, I could not take my eyes off of him. Before I knew it, he lifted the rod and started yelling he had a nice one on the line. For the first time in my life I heard "Zing" as that bass pulled of more than his fair share of line. I ran to the front of the point and watched the whole process unfold. That first bass was only about 11-12 inches long, but fought like one that was 10 times bigger. For an hour, I could do nothing but watch as the old man caught fish after fish on that fly rod. Watching the bass blow up on that little popper he had was the greatest sight I had every seen. Casting such a small bait and catching so many fish on a rod that seemed to small to really be able to do it was a sight for a child to see.

Then something happened that made us laugh so hard we both thought we were going to lose our lunch. The old man gently made a side-arm cast. This cast made this little yellow popper fly effortlessly under some branches and land without any splash at all. It was like he had reached out and placed it on the water. The little popper sat there for just a second when the water parted and Basszilla swallowed the thing. Not only did the bass inhale this bait, but it threw water about 6 feet in the air as it did so. The old man then said something I had never heard him say before, "Man am I in for a fight now!" He set the hook on this fish, but it wasn't necessary. Right as the old man set the hook the fish decided to jump out of the water with the popper firmly in his mouth. To this day I have never seen a fish jump higher out of the water. This fish jumped straight out of the water, right into the sky shaking its head with all its fury, and promptly landed in the branches of the tree 3 feet above the water. Just as the darned bass landed in the tree and got stuck, the popper fell out of his mouth. The old man and I sat there looking on in amazement at what we had just witnessed. We looked at one another and started laughing. We were not just laughing, we were rolling on the bottom of the boat we were laughing so hard.

I am still not sure how he did it, but as we were laughing, the old man used the trolling motor to get us to the tree with the bass ornament hanging in it. What we found made us laugh even harder. The bass was not just any bass, it was a bass that later weighed in at 10 lbs 2 ounces. We placed the bass in the live well, and did our best to keep him alive. As we had no camera, no one would believe it if we didn't bring him to the dock. After putting the bass in the live well, and ensuring that it was breathing and doing well, it took us an hour to gather ourselves to get back to fishing. By this time, the sun was getting low in the sky and we decided it was time to call it a day.

After riding to the dock and loading the boat on the trailer, we proceeded to go to the local bait and tackle shop to tell our story and have a soda. As expected the locals were skeptical to say the least. As a matter of fact, one of the locals called my father and told him to come pick us up as he thought the old man had been having more than just soda all day! But, once the fish was displayed, things got really quiet. The shop owner had an aerated tank in the back for minnows, and at the sight of the big fish he moved as many of the minnows into a different section so that we could put our bass in to keep him alive. Someone then called the local wildlife and fisheries to report this bass being caught in the area.

As one could expect from a small town, with a fish this big it started drawing a crowd. People still were unwilling to believe that this fish was caught in the way it was. That is until the wildlife and fisheries agent showed up. The agent proceeded to listen to our story, and with the look on his face he wasn't believing us either. This all changed when the agent started to examine and weigh our prize. He raised our fish out of the tank, and after just a second, he placed the fish back into the tank and started laughing. His laughter was so hard that he lost his breath and had to sit down. Needless to say, the crowd that had formed was more than a little puzzled by this behavior. After calming himself, the agent walked over to the old man and shook his hand, and gave me a pat on the head. He then proceeded to take the fish out of the tank and pull out a small section of branch from the fish that the old man and I had not seen sticking in him. The piece of branch was no longer than inch long and was only stuck in him less than 1/16 of an inch. But this proved our story accurate, and everyone had a good laugh.

The wildlife and fisheries agent then proceeded to place the fish on the scale in the shop and came up with the 10lbs 2 ounces weight. Everyone gave a round of cheers and applause to the old man for this beautiful fish. Then came the ultimate insult. The old man was enrolled in a local fishing tournament for the largest fish caught during the month. This fish would have easily won for the month and perhaps the year. But since the fish was landed by the tree, and we merely "recovered" the fish out of it, the old man's fish was disqualified from the tournament. This surprisingly went unchallenged by the old man, merely finding the whole situation to funny to argue.

Now what makes this story saddening for me is the fact that it was the last time that the old man was to go fishing. The next week, the old man got sick and was brought to the local hospital. He was diagnosed with a form of cancer, and was bed ridden for the remainder of his days. My grandfather was a proud, lovable, and caring person that everyone knew.

His funeral was the largest in that area in recent memory. People had come from all over the South East US to attend his funeral. His life was one that touched more people than I can ever dream of. At his funeral, many people spoke of his deeds and his life. Many of the stories dealt with his life as a hunter and fisherman, as these were two of his passions in life. When everyone had said what they wanted, I stood and asked if I could tell a story of the old man. I was escorted up to the front to tell the story of the old man's last fish, and how after all had left from the shop on that fateful day, he took his prized fish to the canal in front of the shop and let the fish go. He had never intended to harm the fish in any way. I looked up and saw everyone in tears, it seems that was how the old man was his entire life. ~ Reginald Caillouet III


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