This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

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Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Believing Sunrise

Sometimes you can look at the river sunrise and wonder if those colors could really be true. So far no one has been able to Photoshop the real thing, so we can believe in those colors. They come, the daybreaks do, in so many different moods. One morning it’s raining and cool, and late. It feels kind of close on those mornings, like things need to kept out of sight that day. Like life that day is not to be shared except with the special people. Next morning there is a brilliant golden light that fills the eastern sky with hope for the coming day. It is a day to go out into the world and find the life that comes from others that you meet. Everyone wants to make your life a better thing that day. When you see that bright sun and the layered clouds around it you get a resolve somehow to do well. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to let that happen, but mostly it’s our own sluggish acceptance that prevents it.

The first day I ran tightlines in Raymond’s Cove was one that began with a bright sun and all the pastel shades of pink and orange and blue and green. I had set tightlines in the cove the day before for the first time. It was November 1973 and cold, and the water had come up in an early rise, causing us to abandon the open water of Grand Lake and move into the sheltered swamps away from the strong currents. I had never set tightlines before and I was acting on the advice of my friends from Myette Point. It was a serious issue because I was now depending on fishing for my complete income, and as yet I had no reserves built up. I had to catch to eat.

It felt strange setting lines in a totally new way. I had been used to fishing in deep water with some current, but this was very different. You find a tree that is sturdy enough to hold a line tied to it and stretched tight to the next tree about fifty feet away, and then on through the swamp to the next tree, and on, until you have put out all of the line you want to use. The main line is set about six inches above the water with the foot-long stageons hanging down from it about every eight feet. That day I had baited with cut bait, mullet I think. Now it was morning of the first run on the new line. I was very apprehensive. Did I set in the right place? Was the water too deep? Too shallow? Exciting to look forward to the answers, either way.

The sun was just breaking over the trees as I came into Raymond’s Cove through the narrow cut between the willow trees and rounded into the open water of the cove itself. I could see the near end of the line from a distance and I imagined I could see the line moving. But as I got near I saw no movement. Surely, there would be some fish. I killed the motor and drifted to the first tree. Still no movement. I took the line in one hand and started to move along it. And there it was, fish on the third or fourth hook. And then further down the line dipped and dove into the water, once, twice and was still but dripping with drops. Heart thumping I came up to the first fish. It was a blue cat about three pounds. It looked as big as a…as a something big. The next few hooks were bare but then the line dipped down again and I saw a very big fish about five hooks out. The closer I got the more the fish dived and ran as far as the line would let it go. Finally I got close enough to get my hand under it and lift it into the boat. It was another blue cat and this time it was about ten pounds. Wow. Maybe I did it right. Feeling pretty good I followed the line, I think it was about 300 hooks, baiting and taking fish off. I ended the day with about 100 pounds of catfish – mostly blues but some channel cats too. In those days that was enough to make me about $25 and it was enough to help with the groceries and rent. I did feel pretty good on the way home and I remembered what the sunrise had looked like. It was golden and pastel, full of bright feelings of success. I do believe in sunrises. Even the dark daybreaks are welcome, just in a different way.

The river is down to about 16.1 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, falling slowly to about 15.5 by midweek next. The Ohio and Mississippi are both falling slowly, according to the plan for the high waters and low.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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