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There's always a chance in Hackberry

Jan. 19, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 18, 2014 at 7:19 p.m.

Guide Bobby Stansel of Hackberry Rod and Gun inspects a mature, late-season marsh pintail.

What does a hunting and fishing guide do with a few days off? Jumps in his truck and heads east across the Sabine River to the marshes of Cameron Parish and hunts and fishes.

You can say I love what I do.

It's an annual journey for me to Hackberry Rod and Gun. I roll over there for a few days; then, the Stansel boys roll over here for a few days of goose hunting.

My exit strategy for retirement is to buy a place in Hackberry and spend my last days chasing big speckled trout on Calcasieu Lake and ducks in the famed Louisiana marshes. I haven't sealed the deal with my bride yet.

The marshes the HR&G team hunt are only about an hour east as the crow flies, where I cut my teeth in the marshes of Chambers County. Tuesday morning, the weather was so clear we could see Texas refineries in Port Arthur and Orange.

Late-season marsh duck hunting is a weather-driven affair. Sure, you will get your scattered teal and other puddlers at daylight, but without wind and weather, it's over by the time most people are walking into the office.

We had one of those days Tuesday, but we still respectably scratched a dozen ducks; however, Wednesday morning welcomed a 10-knot northwest wind, and that changed everything.

First light was not a barn-burner, since the bright, nearly full moon had burned all night. By 8 a.m., action picked up with wads and wads of green-winged teal buzzing the cane. Then came pairs of pintails locked with tucked tails. Throw in Louisiana's bread-and-butter gadwalls, and all we needed was three ducks to jump in the boat and head back to camp for gumbo.

That's when the flight really began. Pintails, gadwalls, wigeons, teal and a few mallards began exiting the nearby Sabine National Wildlife Refuge as the moon rose overhead and attacked our pond in bunches. Two volleys, and we were done.

As our mudboat headed back to the launch, little black dots against the blue sky careened into the cattails and immediately began grubbing on wigeongrass and spikerush.

Great morning.

But it wasn't over.

Guy Stansel asked if I wanted to try to pop a healthy Calcasieu sow late-afternoon as the moon rose and the sun fell. I had left Bay City in such a haste I didn't pack a rod, but a camp like HR&G usually has an extra among the regular 15-20 boats they run.

It was definitely a Corky day as we waded in soft mud on the north end of Turner's Bay. I pilfered one of the new pink MirrOlure Soft-dine created by Paul Brown (inventor of the Corky).

These are the days when you catch a big one - days when you really don't plan to fish. But, I did have a pair of waders.

We knew it would probably be a "one bite" afternoon, but that bite could be the big one.

On a baseball field, the ball normally finds the one weakness you are trying to hide in left field - an "ugly-finder" in dugout terms.

On this afternoon, I was in left field, and the ball found me.

The majestic fish thumped the slow-sinker; the stiff rod bowed. She dashed right, drag peeled, and all I got back was a perfectly severed piece of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Conservatively - 9 pounds. Probably more.

Now, I know what the Texas Rangers felt like in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain (binkgrimes@sbcglobal.net).

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