Recent trip was a step back in time
It seemingly always began as an indirect invitation meant for me to hear. We grew up next door to the Fullers and as far as I was concerned, Stella Fuller was the First Lady of Fishing. She was as comfortable wading for bass and bream in a back lake off the river as she was monitoring a popping cork in the middle of Sabine Lake and she would have done it every day had it been possible. I think she cherished the role, but like it or not, she was my fishing mentor all the way through my early teens.
Early in the week during the summer months she would occasionally ask my mom as they drank coffee, always within earshot, “If he doesn’t have baseball or something going on, do you think Dickie would like to go up to the creek with us this week?” The final decision would be made only after my dad got home from work and all the begging in the world only weakened my position.
Missing church on Sunday morning was generally the sticking point as they usually left on Friday afternoons after Jack Fuller locked the doors on his Texaco station and did not return until late Sunday evening. For that reason alone, I always knew that a mid-week excursion held greater promise. The invitation was today’s equivalent of being asked to go peacock bass fishing in Brazil and a thumbs up from the executive committee resulted in total euphoria.
The anticipation of the upcoming fishing trip was exceeded only by the arrival of Christmas. To Preston and Patti Nan, Phillip had yet to arrive, it was old hat as we would began loading their Pontiac sedan around noon. We knew that too much rain could change everything, but that decision would be made once we turned off hwy. 87 onto the two mile stretch of red dirt road leading to the camps.
Four wheel drive pick-ups were about as common as cell phones back then and there were those rare occasions when you just could not force the issue in the family car. I can recall that happening only once and it was traumatic. We returned home and Stella took us fishing in a lake of Old Hwy. 90 the following morning, but it wasn’t Cow Creek!
I could still hear those childhood voices echoing across the sandbars as I climbed out of my truck at Frank Beauchamp’s camp last Saturday morning. All of the camps are on the same side of the creek, but each family had unofficial ownership of the snow white sandbars on the opposite side. Each bend in the creek belonged to another clan.
Not everyone came to fish as evidenced by the shrieks of pure delight as the other kids rode the current on inner tubes and launched their bodies into the chilly water via knotted ropes dangling from over hanging limbs. Well before you finished unpacking you knew if the McClellands, Garretts, Davids, James, or Glendes had already arrived.
Most of those camps have been maintained through the years and are still there along with only a handful of other weekend retreats on pilings. Not surprisingly, the majority of them have never been sold outside the original family. Aside from the memories, they afford exclusive access to a pristine public fishery that is still not all that public.
The creation of Toledo Bend has long since had a profound effect on reshaping the small tributary off the Sabine River as flood control has a more frequent and greater impact than local rains. That said, when the water is down and running clear, it is still a relaxing and productive area to float fish or wade.
Armed with ultra-lite tackle, Frank and I did a little of both Saturday morning as turbo charged red-eyed bass frequently interrupted our leisurely recalling six decades of friendship that included this venue. Most log jams and any diversion in the clear running water yielded an explosion and an acrobatic display that only a bass reared in moving water can provide.
Unlike years ago when we would wade from dawn to dusk with a fly rod and a couple of Pecks Poppers tucked away in the front pocket of cut off jeans, Frank and I did wade a little rather than hassle with pulling his small john boat over a shallow shoal. For the most part, however, we were content to rely on the comfort of the small boat and troll motor.
Depending on your launching spot and prospects for getting picked up, a kayak or small canoe is the optimum means of tapping into the bass population on the creek. A fly rod is still an excellent choice as are ultra-lite tackle and small topwaters or spinnerbaits. Just remember before getting caught up in the solitude and steady action, however, that at some point you will have get back upstream!
Frank and I capped the special morning by cleaning a few of our fish and frying them up for lunch. French fries, hush puppies and an ice cold diet coke very nearly relegated us to squandering the remainder of the day sitting in the shade watching the creek hurry its way down river.
I especially enjoyed the step back in time and the reminder that the value of true friendship is immeasurable. While I make my living today fishing in a faster paced more high-tech environment that is far more commercial than spontaneous, it was revitalizing to revisit how it all started. Aside from gender, the only difference in my passion for fishing and Stella Fuller’s is that I did figure out how to do it every day!