After three autumn trips to Mississippi which yielded one small redfish, we decided to cure the winter fishing blues by roving over to Louisiana to look for big reds. We planned two trips in January, one of which was a couple of weeks ago. I geared up and flew to Mobile where the Professor and I kept an eye on the weather for a few days. Alas, Mother Nature foiled our plans: no fishing.
So we were that much more excited for our second trip this past weekend, and we were booked with Louisiana redfish guide Travis Holeman. Spirits were high as the trip grew near. Once again I flew to Mobile and the Professor and I started monitoring the weekend weather. Unfortunately we had to pull the plug on Saturday – clouds and wind. But it seemed Sunday would be cold, calmer, clear and hopefully fishable.
Okay, one day of fishing. At least we’d get one day out of the four we’d been hoping for in January.
So wandering anglers that we are, we pointed the truck west and barreled down I-10 toward New Orleans. Only problem? I was on Day #3 of a multi-day migraine and I really thought my skull was going to implode and pulverize my brain into a dusty mass. My apologies to all the fine folks at that diner in Slidell where I almost got sick to my stomach. My head hurt so badly that I literally thought I was going to be ill from the mere presence of food and I spent most of the meal slumped over the table thinking I might faint.
My biggest concern was feeling better in time for my one day of fishing the next day.
The Professor forced me to eat a little – which helped. And strangely the familiar glow and pulse of New Orleans (one of my favorite home-away-from-home cities) relaxed me and served as a surefire panacea as we drove through town toward the hotel. Despite sleeping in the car I immediately took yet another nap and enjoyed the fact that the relentless pulsating tide of pain in my temples was finally starting to subside. Miraculously, I recovered just in time to step out for an early dinner at Galatoire’s.
I love Galatoire’s. Ages ago, I used to make a regular pilgrimage to Galatoire’s with one of my bestest friends and spend about four hours having a wine soaked lunch with every single course. Thrilled to be back, I poured over the menu options, debating between a filet and the specialty chicken but ultimately accepted our waiter’s passionate plea for the pompano, joking to the Professor, “with my luck, this could be the only fish I see all weekend!”
Grilled pompano with crabmeat, garlic french bread and escargot, bread pudding bananas foster. And a touch of red wine. Granted I veered way off my training diet, but before the migraine set in last week I had been a maniac on the rowing machine, elliptical and treadmill, so I felt I could indulge. Hey, it was only a few hours earlier that I thought I was heading toward the light and meeting my maker in a po-boy dive somewhere off I-10 in Slidell Louisiana, so I was going to celebrate my astonishing recovery at one of my oldest and most favorite restaurants.
After a lovely dinner we tucked ourselves away early despite the call of the quarter. We set three alarms and scheduled a wake up call and fell asleep with visions of big redfish.
We ventured out just before light, followed directions we’d been given and met Travis at Penny’s Cafe for breakfast. Unfortunately the clear skies we were counting on were tucked behind a thick blanket of clouds, and Travis calculated the wind chill was going to be about zero. Nevertheless, we ordered veal cutlet po-boys for our boat lunch and swapped fishing stories over eggs and coffee while we waited to see what the weather was going to do. After a full meal the night before I was trying to exercise a modicum of self discipline with my scrambled eggs but I am here to tell you the roasted biscuits that Travis ordered looked sublime. I can’t tell you how many times I almost stuck my fork over on his plate and shanghaied a bite for myself. Next time at Penny’s, I am getting the biscuits.
We grabbed our veal cutlet po-boys to go and agreed to journey on to the marina to assess the weather.
We kicked around the parking lot for a spell but Travis called Time of Death on the expedition about 9ish. It was brutally cold, the wind was whipping and the clouds were locked-in overhead. As disappointed as we were to lose out on yet another fishing day, we cannot say enough nice things about Travis. He was cool as all get out about it, totally honest and direct about the diminishing prospects and we all agreed to re-book as soon as possible. I was thrilled to get to know him a little and truly look forward to getting on the water with my new friend Travis soon.
Thank God for the pompano. A couple of fishless vagabonds, we hopped back in the truck and hit the trail back to Mobile where we ate our boat lunch on the couch watching Robert Redford in “The Great Waldo Pepper.” New Orleans was great fun, Travis was cool as hell, the po-boy was yummy and my migraine was gone. All good stuff. But when you really break things down, this isn’t exactly the red I though I would have in hand at two in the afternoon this past Sunday.
Winter fishing has driven me to day drinking.