They Weren't Biting Here.
These anglers, competitors in the 2014 Felsenthal Breamfest on Saturday, May 24, are fishing for the scrappy bream. They elected to try their luck in a growth of water vegetation, a sensible tactic since bream prefer a bit of cover from larger predators. As much sense as that made, the catch here was zip for the anglers. It was just the opposite for the photographer.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Pine Buff, Arkansas
Nirvana at the End of the Road.
In a town where the most grievous public transgressions may be one’s dog barking too loudly and too long, or the muffler of a four-wheeler malfunctioning to an intolerable decibel attack, life moves along at a very desirable pace. That town is Felsenthal, Arkansas, home to 150 or so souls. A driver doesn’t go through Felsenthal to get somewhere else. The town is located at the end of the road, which might sound dismal. But in the case of Felsenthal, the remoteness is a definite plus.
Felsenthal sits in the big middle of some of the finest wetlands in the nation. Its next door neighbor, the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge, is a natural wonderland teeming with critters.
The northeast side of town comes to an abrupt halt at the shores of Grand Marias Lake, a large impoundment formed by the Ouachita River Navigation System. The lake is home to schools of very desirable freshwater fish. Although the average Joe probably has never heard of Felsenthal, thousands of anglers and hunters have most assuredly heard of it. To the outdoorsman, Felsenthal is near Nirvana.
On Memorial Day weekend, the town is host to the Felsenthal Breamfest, a two-day event named in honor of a feisty little fish that is legendary for its tenacious opposition to being landed in an angler’s bucket or boat. It’s also legendary as delicious table fare.
Bream is pronounced “brim” — and don’t you dare say the word like it looks.
The event kicked off on Friday night with a baggo tournament and the appearance of a band, “White Mustang.” Unplanned activities included meeting old friends, new friends, hanging out, perusing exhibitor offerings, and munching on goodies from food vendors. Although the town’s population swelled exponentially from the influx of visitors, the cypress trees on the lake still outnumbered the people by thousands to one, a condition most attendees find to be one of the reasons they come.
Saturday’s activities revolved around the signature event, the bream fishing tournament. Other special events included a pageant for every age from “not been here too long” to “ready for the big time,” a horseshoe tournament, and other stuff. Nikon and I were on the lake during the entirety of the pageant, so alas... no pageant pix. What follows are a couple of pix from Friday night and a bunch more from the fishing tournament.
A Sad Country Song
The band has warmed up and is holding forth with George Straight’s “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind,” in which the singer laments his paramour’s defection to another in Dallas.
The Main Attraction on the Dance Floor
This couple twirls to the tune. The crowd was eyeing them until I showed up and they switched their attention to the guy with the camera. When I left, the couple resumed their main attraction role. One thing about having the floor to yourselves, bumping into fellow dancers is not an issue.
It'll Be a Big 'Un.
While it appears that this guy is talking about the “one that got away,” he is actually bemoaning the fact that he has yet to boat his first bream.
Part of the fun is the “ud-n, ud-n” syndrome which, I believe, is a DNA component of most Southern males, this one included. Behaviors are manifested with the throttle of internal combustion engines and include throwing spray on the water — and gravel on levees, backroads, and pig trails.
This couple just ahead of our boat is motoring toward the cypress citadel they hope will be their source of the scrappy fish. The wave behind the boat is exaggerated by the long lens. The boat was not taking on water.
There Be Bream under the Cypress Trees.
This pair, with the look of kinship, is nosing into the cover afforded by ample cypress growth. The shoreline is not far in the background. Bream like these environs for cover and snacking on smaller prey. Notice the waterlines on the trees.
They'll Be Bitin' Soon.
This dude has the look of confident comfort as he has nosed his boat into prime area. He would probably tell you he was “gettin’ in there amongst ‘em.”
A Precarious Balance
You can rest assured that a game warden, AKA “Wildlife Enforcement Officer,” had not observed this boat with five adults aboard. Though this group appears to be of the responsible ilk, one person getting frisky under these circumstances can precipitate a capsize in a heartbeat.
No tournament is complete without at least one pink bikini.
The Water's Fine.
Dangling one’s feet is one the delights of being in the front the boat.
As I was making my way to the truck and an eminent departure from Felsenthal, I was hailed by this group, destined to be immortalized in pixels. Since the whole idea is fun, who was I to argue with people who wanted to gather, grin and be photographed doing their deal? They were part of the Felsenthal Forumla of Fishing and Fun.
There you have it. Felsenthal’s formula: Fishing and fun. Hard to argue with that.
See more fishing and fun
at Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,
including brindle Bubba on the boat,
plus baggo, a clown, water slide,
the weigh-in, a youthful goblin
and a cuppla others. Click go and dig it!