Saturday, April 30, 2022
I got up early, fixed some coffee and listened to some birds not far away. Although I couldn’t tell what they were, they sounded big. Looking at Google Maps, I saw a big lake or inlet next door. There was also a creek close to my camp. No wonder there were mosquitoes. I drove out of the park, turned right and followed South Railroad Avenue going behind my camp site. There was a train track on the other side of the road.
As I slowed down to look at the big estuary, a man got out of his car in front of me. I pulled over behind him, thinking I would take pictures of some egrets or something similar, but there were none. The man started rigging up a fishing rod, so I walked up and asked what he was going to fish for.
In his mid-sixties, he put a Hula Popper on as he told me he came here every morning for an hour’s fishing while his wife slept. He said he sometimes caught sea trout, flounder, largemouth bass and drum. “OK”, I thought to myself. “I think I’ll hang around and watch.”
This guy was a pro. He had a Daiwa rod and a Japanese reel, braided line and a tippet he tied onto a loop at the end of the line. As we talked, he must have thrown one of two lures 200 times, and never got caught in the grass once. He could throw that thing a long way with a two-handed grip with the lure dangling 2.5 feet below the end of the rod. He knew the currents and the wind, so he threw it past and left of a point. The current would carry the lure right past the point. It was pretty-much high tide, his favorite time to fish.
Fish began jumping to our left and further out. I suggested he needed a boat. “Ahh, I used to have one, but now I’m too old and sore to pull it out. I sold it last year.” The jumping fish were bait fish trying to escape some predator. Sea gulls cried above, swooping down to capture some.
Finally, we introduced ourselves. Stephan Champagne (pronounced with Creole accent). He was born and raised in New Orleans, but traveled a lot with business. He worked with the railroad for years, and said this is still a busy line carrying all sorts of goods – whatever someone wanted to have shipped. He worked in Newport News for a while, installing a system for ship building that was a big success.
Finally he got a hit – a good one. He had switched to some 2.5” topwater crawler he gave me the name of, but I no longer remember. It was a very nice trout. He quickly dispatched it with a knife to the spinal cord and threw it into a cooler. “Dinner”, he said with a smile. He said he preferred topwater lures. “It’s just more fun.”
After a few more casts, he looked at his watch. His wife would be getting up, so he started packing up, and we said our goodbyes. I enjoyed my morning with Stephan, and I think he liked having some company. I liked his stories as well as watching an expert fish. He talked about his 40’ mahgany trawler he bought and restored. He and his wife enjoyed traveling in it for about 7 years before he got tired of throwing money at it.
I stood looking at this pretty piece of water, imagining a nice fishing kayak, maybe one you power with your feet. Maybe I could get to the other side where all the fish seemed to be. Then again, maybe Stephan was right. Drive up, throw lures for an hour in the early morning, watch the gulls and maybe take a nice fish home for dinner.