One of my favorite places to fish first thing in the morning is Government Ditch, with its commanding cypress trees creating a canopy, the sun peeking through the tangled moss on the branches, and a slight breeze in a silence to be broken only by the quiet sounds of the creatures in the swamp. The long narrow ditch that was once created to help transport cotton from the north to the south is now one of the best spots on Caddo Lake to reel in the trophy bass that are the catch of a lifetime for some anglers. The sun dances off of the landscape as it rises higher and higher. It is almost as if the sun breathes life into each thing as it touches it first thing in the morning. First on the horizon, then the trunks of the first trees, then sun glints through the branches and bounces across the water and into my eyes, and all of a sudden, I have been awoke by the most amazing silence.
The canopy seems impenetrable, but as the sun begins to rise I can feel the canopy part to allow the rays to shine through its massive branches and moss covered arms. I was curled up, in a tiny ball, on the damp seat where I like to sleep in the boat, and found myself guarding my eyes against the sun with my hands pressing against my face. The mist was barley rising off the top of the water, almost as if it were held there, heavy at the bottom, like a tear drop, just hanging above the water waiting for the air to warm enough so that the mist could rise. The bright rays of sun on my face are now warming my blood and waking my senses to the sounds of the catch of the day.
Slowly through the branches more and more light is let in to reveal the tender parts of the very thing itself, nature. The sounds of the ripples on the water softly slapping against the trees as they disappear into the bank are disrupted by a splash at the water’s edge, as a fish is catching its morning meal, and a turtle slides into the water from an old overhanging tree that had obviously been there a while as it had slimy green moss growing on the ends that were in the water. The white herons were walking in the water where they could safely touch bottom, gleaning their feast from the watery depths, and I could hear all of the small marsh animals stirring just out of sight. The fluttering wings of small birds in the trees and the cracking of leaves on the floor of the swamp is a normal sound in the morning. The real catch is the largemouth bass with its long green body and defined stripe down its side, a wide tail that can thrust it fiercely through the water in an instant when needed and a mouth that could swallow prey almost half its size.
The key to fishing this beautiful spot, is to be as calm and quiet as possible. I hear Mike set the hook. It is an unmistakable sound. I can hear the reel as he jerks the rod upwards to set the hook into the mouth of the fish making sure that the fish is secured while fighting it to the boat. That very instant I also hear the line sizz and screech as a small amount of the line is released off of the spool unwillingly because the tension on the spool is set so that if the fish is large enough it would allow line be released rather than to break. Seconds later, I hear a splash in the water, as the fish comes to the surface shaking its head trying to free the hook to gain its freedom. Once again the tenacious fish is gone below the dark water’s surface, and I hear the line surge as the fish makes one more relentless run for it. The attempt at gaining its freedom would be pointless, if we were like others, but we practice catch and release. All of the fish that we catch we release back into the lake, to be caught again another day.
As the sun reaches mid day, the breeze fades and the once commanding cypress trees are now giant timbers that share the sky with the birds and the sun. There is no longer the shading canopy that once sheltered the long, eerie canal from the real world, but only tall cypress trees covered with Spanish moss draped over their limbs and twisted into a labyrinth of clumps that are filled with hornet’s nests and spider webs, all invisible in the mist of the morning.
One of my favorite places to fish first thing in the morning is Government Ditch. If you have the opportunity to visit Louisiana and fish Caddo Lake, make sure you visit Government Ditch first thing to experience the beauty of the morning.