A few times a year I get the chance to travel to interesting places for work. Earlier this month, I joined my team in New Orleans for a week of time spent working together on projects and exploring the sights, sounds, and deep cultural history of this amazing city.
On some of these work trips, I pack along a rod and a small box of flies and seek out another side to the cities. The soundtrack for this post is an older arrangement of House of the Rising Sun, performed by Lead Belly. He was born in Lousiana, and his early folk style really feels like the Crescent City to me.
Anyone who has ever gone a road trip with me knows that I typically do rise with the sun. Regardless of the season, or the locale, or even the influence of jetlag and timezone differences – as soon as the sky starts to light up, my mind awakens and I often wander.
While packing for the trip to New Orleans, I hadn’t even considered bringing any fly gear along. A city nestled between the mighty Mississippi and a large lake didn’t really seem like a place one could walk off and cast for a bit. But some searching online revealed that City Park, a few miles from our AirBnB, apparently was a popular spot to fish.
Since I had never really experienced Urban Fishing or fishing in a swampy locale at all, I was quite excited to pack up a 3# rod, and a minimal set of flies for the trip.
So the first morning, like clockwork, I woke before the sunrise and went on a walk to find City Park. The place is massive, approximately 50% larger than the famed Central Park, measuring in at over 1,300 acres. The expanse of the place struck me immediately as I crossed City Park Ave and was greeted by a grove of giant Oak trees.
The park was devastated during the floods following Katrina 11 years ago. I would find myself envisioning up to 10′ of water that flooded parts of the park, toppling over 1,000 of these majestic oak trees. After crossing under the Interstate 610 that bisects the park, I discovered some relics of the park that used to be prior to Katrina.
Much of the park has been renovated in the decade since the disaster, but finding these old buildings kind of gave the place a post-apocalyptic feeling. The ruins juxtaposed against the swampy waterways I would fish in was surreal – like nothing I had experienced before – and a far cry from the cold trout streams I frequent here on the West Coast.
I eventually found a spot that had enough clearance from trees, and felt fishy, so I assembled my rod and started to fish in the breaking dawn light. The fishing was slow, but eventually stumbled upon a home-grown bugger pattern and retrieve technique that fancied the resident bluegill.
The real catch of the morning though was getting to experience City Park, and really the soul of New Orleans that rebuilt after the floods of Katrina. Every corner of the park seemed to be steeped in history… and a 24 hour beignet and coffee stand kept me coming back almost every morning during our stay.