I’ve been trying to get down to do some coastal fishing on the South Louisiana marsh but every time I get a free weekend, the weather gets bad or the wind picks up. Then, of course, when the weather has been favorable, I’ve either had an engagement party to attend or I’ve had to work. Experience has taught me that it just isn’t worth making the nearly three-hour drive south to fish if conditions aren’t going to be favorable. I’m lucky that I live in a neighborhood that has a couple of lakes with bream and bass that can pacify my when I cannot get to the marsh. Well this past Saturday, the stars lined up as I had a Saturday off and winds were predicted to blow from 5 to 10 miles per hour. To top that off, there was going to be good tidal movement.
I had a late football game Friday night but I had planned early and had everything loaded so all I needed to do was get a cup of coffee and jump in the car when the alarm clock rang at 3:30 AM. I was really stoked because I had gotten a few descent reports of lots of redfish down the Highway 1 corridor.
I launched right as the sun was coming up around Bay Laurier and paddled north to the broken marsh. The water was high and the tide had already begun to fall. After a ten minute paddle, I saw the tell-tale sign of feeding redfish as something was busting bait up against the grass. A good cast with a gold spoon fly and I had my first fish of the morning pulling me around the marsh. I was determined to get some video but fooling with the camera and two minutes into the battle the redfish broke my tippet and the score was redfish 1, Doc zero. No problem because it was early and there were signs of feeding fish everywhere. Five minutes later I was targeting a nice red against the bank but my fly came up short and got eaten by a hungry 14-inch rat-red. I continued to work the bank and about 15 minutes later, I intercepted another feeding redfish with my gold spoon fly. It too made a strong run and broke my tippet.
I couldn’t believe it! After about an hour on the water, I had only landed one small rat red and the action had stopped. I continued to push-pole my way around but the only redfish I saw were those that I spooked as I passed over them in my kayak. I made several blind casts over some of the oyster beds and decided to paddle over to some deeper water to try for some trout. Along the way, I kept spooking redfish as I passed over them. Again, I tried to blind cast a spoon fly over some oyster beds but I didn’t get a bite. Finally, I heard some big splashes in a small duck pond way in the marsh and I knew where I was going to get my first keeper redfish. I paddled through a small trenass (small cut in the marsh were water flows from a smaller body of water to a larger one) and I saw a nice keeper redfish sitting on some oysters in about eight inches of water. I put my spoon fly about six inches in front of him and watched him eat. In my excitement, I set the hook way too hard and lost my third gold spoon fly of the morning. My frustration was building and to make matters worse, I realized I was out of gold spoon flies. I had some black and some blue and pink but no more gold. A wise man once told me that a redfish will eat any fly as long as it’s gold. I did have 3 of my black and gold Charlies so I decided to give that a try.
So picture this scenario. I’m trying to tie another fly on my tippet as I hear redfish crashing bait in the nearby duck pond. Well, my fingers and forearms were cramping up. You know what it feels like when you’re dehydrated and you cramp in your legs? I was having that problem with my fingers and my forearms. I realized that I didn’t drink enough water the night before (my hot and very humid football game). All I had after the game was a beer and then I had a cup of coffee on the drive south…all diuretics. I chugged the rest of my Powerade and a liter of water as I struggled to tie the fly. It was about five minutes before I was even able to cast my fly again but this time I was rewarded with my first keeper redfish of the morning. I took my time and let the fish tire itself out before easing him into my kayak. As I fought the fish, I noticed there were about six other redfish in this small duck pond and my kayak was blocking the only exit for the fish. After I put the redfish in my ice chest, I continued to work my fly toward the feeding redfish. They were very reluctant but after about 10 minutes or so, I was able to coax another redfish into eating the gold Charlie. I eased my second redfish into the ice chest and tried my luck to see if I could possibly fool another redfish in that duck pond into joining his friends for an ice bath. After about 20 minutes and no takers, I decided to leave that duck pond and work some more broken marsh. After poling my way around I came across a perfect spot that had “redfish” written all over it. There was a little cut coming out of the marsh and the area was riddled with oysters. Sure enough, I saw several big wakes and one fish had its back out of the water as it was gorging itself on baby shrimp and crabs. I was thinking to myself that I was going to be able to fill out my five-fish limit in this one spot.
I got one to eat, only to have it spit the hook five minutes into the fight. I wasn’t going to let this get me down. I told myself to be patient and enjoy the moment. After all, I hadn’t fished the marsh since July. I circled my way back to the same spot and looked for another redfish to make a mistake. I was targeting one fish on my right without any luck when all of a sudden I spied a big bronze blur about six feet on my left. I just dropped the fly about a foot in front of the fish and watched it flare its gills and eat. I enjoyed a really nice Cajun sleigh ride before easing the beauty up over the side of my kayak. It ended up being the largest redfish of the morning at a little over 24 inches.
By now, the tide had dropped nearly a foot and with three redfish taking an ice bath in the back of my kayak, I just knew that if I continued to target fish over the oyster beds about 5 feet from the grass, I should be able to finish out my limit of five before the heat would send me back in. The fish were getting real picky and were either ignoring the gold Charlie or fleeing in a panic. I lost another fly but this time it was to an oyster and not a redfish. I decided to try a black spoon fly, but again, I couldn’t get any takers. As I fumbled through my fly box, I found one more gold spoon fly. My guardian angel was looking out for me because no sooner had I tied it on, I was tossing it toward a feeding fish. Shortly thereafter, it too was swimming in my ice chest. I must have worked for another hour to try to get my fifth fish but the fish had definitely gotten a case of lockjaw. Exhausted and out of water, I decided to make my way back to the car. I did, however, decide to make one more visit to the water where I began the day. I worked up the left bank of a dead-end canal that’s really shallow (silted in from years of tropical storms). It was loaded with large mullet but no redfish. I was just about out of real estate on the right side when I saw the most beautiful sight for any shallow water fly fisherman. It was a pod of feeding redfish! A pod is like a school of fish, in this case, about a dozen or so of them. They seem to collaborate and work together as they work the shallow water stirring up crabs, minnows, and tiny shrimp. I could feel my heartbeat quicken as I quickly paddled ahead of the pod to position myself for an ambush. I snapped a few pictures with my Kodak Playsport. (I left my GoPro running and the battery had died. I checked this morning but the pictures didn’t come out. :( ) Then, they seemed to vanish into some deeper water. I thought to myself. “Oh no. Trying to take pictures was going to cost me again!” Then they made themselves visible again, only they had done a complete 180 degree turn and were heading the other direction. I put my last gold spoon fly about 12 inches in front of the lead fish and only had time to make one short strip before I was culling a nice 18-inch redfish from the pod. Much to my surprise the rest of the pod tried to follow my hooked fish for a while before they saw me and departed. After I landed the fish, I tried looking for the pod again, mostly out of curiosity. I found them about 25 yards further down on the other side of the canal. Again, a well-placed cast and I was culling another feisty redfish from the pod. I took my time to enjoy the thrill, put a tag in him and released him back to join his buddies. By now it was about 1:30 and I was extremely hot and dehydrated, so I decided to pack it in.
Any day on the water is a good day and this one was no exception. I also caught and released two sheepshead and I saw more stingrays than I have ever seen in the marsh! I wish I would have found some trout but the season is early and the trout don’t really get in the marsh until November anyway! Not all my pictures came out. With the glare, I wasn’t able to get the pictures of the redfish pod. I guess the biggest thrill for me is to catch a limit of fish on flies that I tied myself. I was reminded by my friend, Catch, that it’s a good thing too because spoon flies can cost up to $10 each. I lost three of them and a Charlie but I can make them for a fraction of that cost :)