Soon after construction began on Toledo Bend Reservoir, George Pickett decided to build the best lodge on the lake-to-be. To this end he searched for just the right land and found it outside the community of Six-Mile. Surrounded by the gorgeous, Sabine National Forest, as is much of the Texas side of the lake, the hilly, wooded acreage presides over the best part of the lake for fishing and boating.
Construction on Fin and Feather began before the lake was completed. Before water was visible from the lodge, the boat stalls were in place as was the deep water boat ramp. When the lake filled, there turned out to be a minor miscalculation - it was higher than originally anticipated by the builder. The roof over the boat stall had to be raised because no one could stand up on the docks! However, the misfortune with the roof proved to be a blessing with the boat ramp. The ramp had been set up for a lower lake level and, on the occasions since that time when the lake level has dropped, this ramp has remained useful when most others were "high and dry".
Legendary local fisherman and professional guide, Mr. Lloyd Lacy, moved to the area shortly after the lake opened. He speaks of the times when he fished the lake while the leaves were still on the trees in the lake because they hadn't died yet! The newly opened lake was "one of the best I ever saw", according to Mr. Lacy.
After the lake opened in the late 60's, the 70's proved to be the heyday for the Fin & Feather. "The business was incredible.", Mr. Lacy says. There were upwards of 60 fishing guides working through Fin & Feather - many working 250 - 300 days a year. Lacy recalls a time when he didn't have a day off from guiding for 45 straight days, "and this went on summer and winter... all year 'round". Today there probably aren't 60 guides, including part-time guides, working on the entire lake.
"Well, a new lake gets more business just because it's new", Lacy explains. There are more fish in a new lake and they're easier to catch. The lake has far fewer fish now, but the fish are also a lot bigger now! "You would have to catch 100 or more bass just to get enough over the size limit to make your creel limit for the day". Today, even with the popularity of the lake with numerous tournament fishermen, Lacy says Toledo Bend is "possibly the best lake in the U.S. that is heavily fished".
Fin & Feather attracted a lot of fishermen, and people who didn't know how to fish, but wanted to. There was a huge amount of business for guides because in those days not as many people had boats - so they used a guide who also provided the boat. Of course, in those days, the main draw for Fin & Feather was oilfield businesses entertaining clients. "They used to fly 'em in and bring them in by the bus load.", Lacy recalls. Often 100 or more businessmen would come at one time. Each guide would take a couple of them out fishing, and that would immediately require 50 or more guides, often for several days, as the groups stayed four or five days at a time. Tackle sales were brisk, too. Often the "fishermen" showed up with no tackle whatsoever.
Times change, though. And they changed radically in the mid-80's. Between the oil crisis and an extremely slowed economy, times started getting tough for many businesses. According to Lacy, Fin & Feather was probably getting 80 percent or more of their business through corporate accounts as entertainment and with "no limits". Changes in the tax laws as related to entertainment deductions and the economy hit the Fin & Feather as well.
In the late 80's a square dance hall was built at Fin & Feather to try to capture business, but that didn't work out very well. The late 80's and 90's were a period of problems for the Fin & Feather and it experienced a decline. But, the beginning of the new Millennium is seeing the rise of the Fin & Feather Lodge, again. The resort long-renowned as the biggest and best on the lake will soon find itself in that place again. And the legend of the Best Lodge on Toledo Bend will continue!