I had planned on fishing our Paddlepalooza Kayak Tournament when I received a better offer from my wife on Thursday morning. We were invited to my cousin’s camp in Dularge for some well-need R and R. I knew that I would have to bring my kayak along for good measure :) We drove down Friday after work and were treated to a delicious fried speckled trout dinner and a gorgeous sunset over the marsh from the back of their camp. The plan was to take the ladies out on their Ranger and do some scouting or a “soft trip,” as we like to call it. We knew the winds were forecast to blow 15 – 20 mph and there would be little or no tide. I knew that the girls wouldn’t be getting up at the crack of dawn so I decided to paddle out to some grass flats behind their camp to do a little scouting of my own for redfish.
The minute I eased into the area I was going to fish, I saw a couple of large “backs” cruising within a hundred feet of me. The wind was surprising flat so I pulled out my fly rod and began stalking them. They disappeared into some deeper water but I was able to track one down by the slight ripple its tail made every now and then. A couple of close casts, and I finally put one 2 feet in front of the redfish…Bam! Fish on! The redfish took off like a freight train and stripped line off my reel. However, it was too much for me and it broke my tippet. :(
I push-poled my way around the area and didn’t see any more fish. I was treated to some of the beauty that gets overlooked by so many who live here. I wish I would have taken pictures…I know, next time, I promise! There were the usual gulls, great white egrets, grey herons, coots, and a pair of wood ducks and another pair of blue-winged teal. As I rounded one small corner, I heard a weird sound and located its source as a very young alligator tried to hide from me. I thought to myself, “How cute,” but then thought, “What if his mommy comes barreling out of the marsh grass?” I quickly vacated the spot and continued my search for redfish. I didn’t see any more redfish in that particular area but there were garfish everywhere! And, they were spawning! I did see a couple of redfish blow up on some bait in the outer perimeter of the grass flats that I was fishing and I proceeded to cast a plastic ribbit frog through the area. I got one HUGE blowup and a miss before I received a call from the camp saying that breakfast was hot and the wives were ready to get on the water. I didn’t need to be told twice, as I really wanted to spend time on the water WITH my wife this trip.
After a ten-minute paddle back to the camp, I was boarding my cousin’s 23 ft. Ranger bay boat. We took the half hour ride to lake Mechant and took in all that the marsh has to offer. (I also saw numerous alligators). By now the predicted winds were picking up. We had a hard time positioning the boat so everyone int he boat could cast by Neil did a great job and was rewarded with the first speckled trout! I followed with a nice slot-sized black drum. We fought the wind and finished the morning with 13 nice trout in the 15-17 inch range and two drum.
After a terrific lunch, we relaxed and watched the LSU baseball game. When the Tigers had put away with the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 9th inning, I headed back to my redfish flats spot in my kayak. I push-poled around looking for fish for about an hour before I saw my first tail…and boy was it huge! By now the wind was whipping close to 20 mph and I would have to cast toward the fish INTO the wind! I decided to pole around the area where I last saw the tail and come at it with the wind and sun to my back. Well in the process I managed to loose it completely. So I figured the redfish were only working the edge of the grass flats so I stuck my push-pole in the water and anchored myself in an area where I could fan-cast the edge of the flats. I managed to catch, tag, and release a 16-inch redfish on the ribbit frog. I was getting ready to call it a day when I saw the big tail again! It was at the edge of my casting range but I didn’t want to lose it by relocating and moving closer to it. I put about three casts in the area, which was very difficult in a stiff crosswind, but the third cast produced a strike that looked like someone had dropped a hippo in the water! I felt the fish on and slammed the hook home. The line stretched. My rod bent. I was determined not to lose this fish. I held my rod tip up and released the kayak from the stake-out pole to get ready for the cajun sleigh ride of the century! Not long into the fight though, the redfish dug into some of the thick vegetation and got off, leaving me with about 6 pounds of salad and no fish!
Oh well. Can’t catch them all. I paddled back so I could clean the fish we caught from earlier in the day before the sun went down. We had a delicious grilled chicken dinner and we turned in for the night with great memories and a full stomach.