This small experience showed me how much I really live to fish, but also the power of fishing for others.
I had spent the afternoon in Bayou Segnette, taking pictures for the swamp tour I once worked at. After all, finding a photographer that could locate wildlife and take pictures of them on his own can be difficult to come by!
I was sure to get the sunset over Lake Cataouatche. After the sun had gone down I idled up Whiskey Canal before making the run back to Westwego, where I had launched earlier.
In short order, the boat was loaded on the trailer and I was rolling back to the Northshore.
But then things got dicey...
The truck ride can be boring driving through New Orleans East, but when blue lights exploded in my rearview mirror I knew things were going to get interesting.
I pulled over, rolled my window down and kept my hands on the steering wheel. Cops like to see that.
After years working in the security business I know I like to see someone's hands. No one is going to shoot me with their foot, after all.
Different infractions ran through my mind. Why was I pulled over?
Honestly, a slew of different things. As much as I preach about boat and trailer maintenance, things still break and need repair on short notice.
Earlier that week I had broken a pipelight on the dock at the marina, so there was only one working taillight on the trailer. Then I remembered that the trailer had no tag on it. Doh!
It hadn't had a tag since 1999. That's a long time to drag your feet!
The state trooper appeared out of nowhere, asking for the usual. I promptly handed him a driver's license (that looked nothing like me with a huge beard in the photo), an outdated insurance card and an expired truck registration.
This guy thinks I'm a soup sandwich.
All my rods, reels and tackle were neatly organized and taken care of, but the administrative things always seemed to elude me.
Just when I'd get time to sit down in the office and take care of paperwork, the wind would lay down and it'd be time to launch the boat again.
He explained to me he pulled me over because I had no trailer tag. Then he disappeared back into the bright blue and white lights, like a alien boarding a spacecraft.
For what seemed like an eternity, but was more like five minutes, he reappeared with a ticket for me to sign. Great. Apparently the license plate light was out, too.
I knew I deserved it and didn't hassle the man. He's just doing his job. I screwed up, got busted and would pay for it.
Events took a turn towards fishing...
Up until that time our dialog had been dry and courteous, just business really. But after I signed the ticket I could see his demeanor change, if only ever so slightly.
"You probably don't want to answer this after I wrote you all those tickets, but what is that big, black thing on the back of your boat?"
What the hell is this guy talking about?
Did I snag a trash can on the way home? Then it occurred to me that he was referring to the Power Pole mounted on the stern.
Well, that's an easy answer!
I explained its purpose and how it works. Doing so brought levity to the encounter and we both lightened up. It was happening, the conversation turned into one about fishing!
It was enough levity I almost demonstrated how the Power Pole worked (I had the remote around my neck) before I realized doing so might hit the trooper's SUV.
Yeah, I don't need that on camera.
Any kind of apprehension or disappointment from the experience was immediately washed away as we began this new conversation. We couldn't shut up. I'm always happy to talk fishing and it was clear this gentleman was as well. He let his guard down and I could see him envision being on the boat, with the Power Pole down, whaling on some speckled trout. He was happy to have a genuine conversation with someone who understands what he is passionate about.
But what does it all mean?
On the ride home I considered our chance meeting and the ramifications of what happened. Fishing is more than "just fishing". It's a powerful experience that reconnects man with where he came from.
There is something primeval about immersing oneself in the wild vastness of Louisiana's wetlands.
There is something awakened that cannot be woken in the concrete, air-conditioned microcosm of the "nine to five".
After all, we are not made for fluorescent lighting and processed foods. We are made to feel the breeze, cast a line and pursue our quarry.