Red Stick Fall Catch and Eat

Each year, the Red Stick Fly Fishers Club hosts a fall “catch and eat” weekend. Members travel south to Leeville and have opportunities to fish from Golden Meadow south to Grand Isle. I don’t get to go every year but this year I was able to join the guys for a day of fishing and food.

After a late Friday-night playoff game, I was heading out in the dark at 4 AM to my fishing destination because I wanted to get in on what I expected to be an early morning top-water bite.  I planned on meeting up with my fishing buddy, “Catch” Cormier and see if we could put some fish in the cooler. I didn’t look, but I think we were actually on the water by 6:30 and after a short paddle, my expectations were fulfilled. I saw a couple of schools of nervous baitfish near a point and I started casting my popper. Immediately, I began getting explosive hits! The trout were going airborne to eat it. The trouble is, most of them were small. Also, if any of you have ever seen speckled trout eat top waters, they tend to try to kill the baitfish first and then come back to eat it so it’s hard to get regular hookups. This makes it a bit frustrating, but the action is so constant, it’s a lot of fun!  I landed my first trout and she was a beauty. FILE0001.jpg

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The top-water bite continued for about another 20 minutes before it shut down. I then switched to a pink Charlie tied under a strike indicator. I chose pink because in about 5 weeks, we will be welcoming into this world our first granddaughter! That fly continued to produce all day. I lost count but I conservatively caught 40 speckled trout. The only drawback was, only 12 were keeper size.

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After we cleaned up, we enjoyed a great meal with some exceptional fly fishermen. Not everyone caught fish but everyone everyone enjoyed the fried fish, fried shrimp, okra, etc.

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Fall fishing has begun!

I finally got to get some productive marsh fishing in. I actually made a trip down to Hopedale a couple of weeks ago with a buddy of mine but we both skunked so there was nothing to report. Sunday, I got a late start but was on the water near Bay Laurier by about 9:30 AM. The weatherman had predicted 5-10 mile per hour winds but it was already close to 10-15 when I launched and it remained steady until around 1 PM.

I love fishing the fall because when the weather cools a bit and the first few cool fronts blow through, the water begins to drop in the marsh. Usually this means the water gets clearer (remember, clear water favors the fly fisherman), and the redfish seem to sense that in a few weeks, the water will drop so low that the bait will leave the shallows for deeper canals and bayous. This in turn starts a feeding frenzy that I don’t see throughout the winter, spring, and summer.

I began push-poling my way through the marsh when I heard the sound of a feeding fish. I located the commotion and I began casting to that area of marsh. I assume it was a lone sheepshead because I didn’t see or hear anything after that. Just then, I heard another larger splash just ahead of me around a point. I saw the wake from the area where I hear the sound and then I saw what I believe is one of the most beautiful sights a fly fisherman can see. There was a pod of about a dozen feeding redfish heading toward me.

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I placed a cast right in the middle of the pod and watched as three redfish all made an attempt to devour the shiny, gold spoon fly. Naturally, the smallest of the three actually ate it and I had my first fish of the day on. The pod broke up but one larger redfish stuck around and followed my hooked fish. I tried to get another fly on him with my backup rod but I couldn’t get it out the rod holder and cast it in time to get a double. No worries, because I had a great 19-inch redfish in the kayak and I was taking fish home for dinner.

I debated whether or not to try to locate the pod of fish that had now broken up and dispersed but I chose to try another spot that has been “money” for me the past few years. I wasn’t disappointed. As I was poling my way through the flats, I spotted a couple redfish that were swimming away from me.The wind was pushing me too fast and I ended up spooking them. Deciding not to fight the wind, I stuck my push-pole in the water and decided to anchor up and wait for some more redfish to pass my way. A couple minutes later, I was hooked up and a nice redfish. Ugh, it spit my hook. No problem, I knew I was in a fishy spot so I just would have to be patient. I started blind casting over the flats because I knew there were redfish cruising the area. Within ten minutes, I was hooked up again and this one had shoulders!  It started taking line out so fast that I was quickly into my backing. Then everything went limp. It too had gotten off.

Now it was redfish 2, Musicdoc 1. I spotted another redfish heading my way and I put a perfect cast out in front of it. It ate and when I set the hook, I watched it shake its head violently and spit my fly back at me. Redfish – 3, Doc 1. This happened once more before I said, “enough is enough” and I made a move out of that area to try to locate some more fish. I spooked a bunch of reds along the way (the wind was absolutely brutal) before I got to one of my favorite oyster-laden cuts in the marsh. I quickly hooked up on a fish but right away I knew it wasn’t much. I did land this one, an 8-inch sand trout. I caught another sand trout before I hooked a nice speckled trout. I fished that cut for a while longer but didn’t get anymore bites.

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It was getting close to my predetermined “quitting” time when I spotted a stationary dark shadow that didn’t quite look like the marsh grass around it. As I got closer, I identified it as Mr. Poisson Rouge. I got within about 40 feet of it with the wind in my face and I knew I hadn’t spooked it. My dilemma was: “how do I get close enough to put a good cast on it without spooking it?” The fish wasn’t moving and it was nosed up in the marsh grass. I decided to creep up a little closer, stick my park-and-pole in the sand, and hold myself stationary by putting it under my left arm. I made a practice cast about 5 feet to the right of the fish to judge my distance and then I let my gold spoon rip. It landed with a quiet splash about 8 inches to the left of the fish. When the fish sensed something else was nearby in the water, it turned away from the grass just in time to see my spoon fly flutter down in the water column. It made one quick lunge at my fly and then I watched as its gills flared open and it inhaled my fly. The fight lasted at least five minutes and I took care to do everything by the book. I wasn’t going to be denied this time and I was able to land another “perfect for the grill” sized redfish to finish my afternoon trip.FILE0002.jpgIMG_0263.JPG

On a sad note, the lake where I had been catching those hybrid stripers this past summer suffered a massive fish kill during the great flood of 2016. On the bright side, now there will be less competition for food so the largemouth bass should hit a major growth spurt.🙂

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The Great Flood of 2016

I haven’t been able to post anything here because I haven’t been fishing. Well, I did make one trip to my favorite private pond but the fishing was slow (only two largemouth bass and two nice hybrid stripers). That same day, I planned on making a float trip with a good fishing buddy of mine up the Amite River. When we got to our “take out” point, we noticed that the water was a bit high and dirty, so we did a walk in trip nearby. The fish did not cooperate so we called it a day, ate a sandwich, and drank a couple of good brews. Little did I know what would come the following week. The following is typed up from some notes I jotted down in a notebook during this past week:

It’s been 6 days since we got the message on the radio that school had been cancelled due to the eminent threat of flooding in our area. That was Friday. My initial thought was that this would last a day, people who lived in flood prone areas would flood, and then that would be it. The world would just go on as normal on Monday. I took the time Friday morning to get caught up on my school paperwork. I completed 2 weeks of lesson plans and I even created an online “homework” assignment so we could claim that day as a full day.
Later that night, I received a frantic call from my cousin’s husband asking for help to put his furniture up on cinder blocks. My wife and I promised to go over there Saturday morning to help them. During the day, I learned that my 26-year-old son had spend the day rescuing people stranded by rising waters with his shallow drive boat, a boat that is built for this kind of work but is still treacherous in the raging waters and current of a flash flood. Nothing could make me prouder! I personally spent time rescuing people with a friend on mine on Sunday.
The media calls this the Great Flood of 2016. I imagine tens of thousands have lost everything (I later learned that an estimated 110,000 homes had been flooded). My emotions have run the gamut, from guilt (we didn’t experience flooding in my house), fear, anxiety, and sadness. I just can’t list all the emotions I’ve felt. The main good thing I guess is…I continue to feel. I feel for those who had to swim out with their children on their back. I feel for those who did not have flood insurance. I feel for those who have lost everything…house, vehicles, and businesses. I feel for those who will have to bury loved ones.
Monday, after the flood waters began to recede, I helped ferry people back to their destroyed homes to survey the damage. That was difficult too. I had to watch proud fathers cry when they first saw the damage. I watched mothers sob when they realized they had lost one-of-a-kind family photos. Photos of deceased family. Photos of a deceased first-born child. I’ve seen panic attacks and more! I’ve had to try to console people and tell them that their “things” can be replaced and that the lives of their loved ones are all that matters. Stupid me! They know that!! I just don’t know what to say!
For 5 days in a row, I helped lead a team of faculty members into the homes of our dear friends, family, students, and colleagues. We gutted 11 homes in five days!   I am exhausted. When I ask God why was my family spared? I hear “I’m just granting you the answer to the prayer you pray multiple times each day. I pray, God help me to use the gifts you’ve given me to the best of my ability. My son is pulling people out of harms way, some of whom would not have survived had he not been there. My wife is working night shifts to help manage the disaster from the state level.
And through it all, I do what I pray. I use my God-given gifts to the best of my ability. I plow on through achy bones, joints, and extreme fatigue. The most difficult part for me has been my inability to help people. While I’m working to rid one house of soaked flooring and drywall (what an oxymoron right now), I get phone messages and emails with names and addresses of others seeking help. One of the things that has gotten me through this is humor. My colleagues and I have continually ribbed each other and joked around through this. I laugh to get me through the day and I cry for ten minutes in the shower at the end of the day.
As I talk to God about this, I have tried to get quiet and listen. What I hear is Him telling me to keep going. I really think my family was spared from this thing because God knew we could help so many. It doesn’t, however, mean that just because our home didn’t flood, we still aren’t traumatized.
So to my friends and family members whom I’ve seemed to ignore these past few days, who’s group text messages have aggravated me to the point where I seemed disrespectful, I say that I do love you with every fiber of my heart. If I sound tired, I am. If I sound overwhelmed, I am. If I sound frustrated and cross, I am. It doesn’t mean I love you any less. I do know that I will get up early tomorrow and do it again because there are people that need me.

Our Oregon Experience!

Sometime around Christmas, 2015, my cousin, Pam, and her husband, Neil, were having a drink with my wife and me and Neil declared that this year be called the “year of fun.” We decided right then and there to plan a summer fun vacation to a place in our beautiful country that we haven’t been to yet. Our choice…Oregon!  My wife and Pam had both been there on separate occasions for work and both of them thought to themselves that this would be a great place for us to go for fun.

We did some research and found out that there would be some cold water fly fishing opportunities along with hiking and touring multiple breweries and wineries. Fishing, wine, beer, and some of the most breathtaking scenery in our country!! I couldn’t wait!

We flew into Portland and went to the car rental place only to find out the mini van we were supposed to have had a nail in its tire, so the only thing they could give us was an Escalade!  Hum, let’s see an Escalade for the same price as a mini van? You bet. Our first stop was on the Columbia River. We had gotten there at the wrong time of the year for the steelhead run but we did run into a few Native American fishermen who were cleaning their catch, canning, and smoking salmon. IMG_0057

The guy I talked to said that the scar on that fish was probably caused by a seal when it was out in the ocean. These were the fish they couldn’t sell to market and were keeping for their family. We went up the road a bit and purchased some smoked salmon to snack on in the car. Talk about delicious!!

Along the way we visited Wahkeena Falls and Multnoma Falls. It was beautiful hiking through the green canopies. Here’s a picture of Lisa and me at one of the falls.IMG_0048

It was almost like a rainforest. Along the path, they put up big cable wire meshing material to protect people from falling rocks. I joked that it was put there to keep the velociraptors away. What do you think?IMG_0054

So our first stop for lunch took us to our first brewery of the trip in Hood River.IMG_0066

Our view of the river from out table.IMG_0061

Beer flights.IMG_0062

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After leaving Hood River, we headed to Bend, OR to visit some more breweries. I learned what growlers were. The thing about growlers is, you have to drink all 62 ounces in one sitting because it will go flat once you’ve opened it. Check out this picture of what I called the “Wall of Fame” from Crux Brewery. IMG_0075

We enjoyed some more beer flights here and got to see some of the brewery equipment up close.

We spent the evening in Bend and visited our third brewery for the day. The following morning we went to Crater Lake. Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful National Monuments in the United States. It’s the deepest lake (at over 1,900 feet) and is the cleanest. We did the nearly two mile hike down the rim to the water and did the 2-hour boat cruise down there. Here are some pictures from there.

IMG_0102Here is a large picture of the view looking down from the hiking trail. It’s the bluest water I’ve ever seen and visibility has been reported to be a record 141+ feet!
Here’s a picture of “Phantom Ship,” a rock formation left over from the volcanic eruption that caused the lake.IMG_0109
You will notice some of the many beautiful colors of lichen on these rock formations:IMG_0110

One more picture before leaving for Klamath Valley and our guided fishing trip.IMG_0088

By the way, the temperature that morning was in the low 40’s. They actually had snow on the mountain the day before we got there.

I wish I could show you some beautiful pictures of some of the rainbow trout we caught the next morning but we were very disappointed in our guided trip. I’m not going to mention the name of the guide service here, but I will mention that our guide for the day was a very nice fellow from Vermont who had only been fishing Oregon since April of this year! We did manage to catch 5 ‘bows but we had to work very hard for that and Neil’s 22-year-old son nearly stepped on a rattlesnake along the way. Here are two pictures from the day. One is a picture of the best fisherman on the river and the other is a picture of a cool nymph that we were using.

We were disappointed in the fishing but we were able to chase those thoughts with a few more of these that evening. The fresh squeezed was my favorite IPA from the trip!

One of the things that stung a little hard was the fact that our wives did a spa day while we were fishing and they said the physical trainer there said he knew where we could catch 20-plus inch rainbows on the nearby Williamson River without a guide and without a boat…on public land. Oh well. Our next day began our trek though wine country. Oregon is famous for it’s Pinot Noirs. I think we visited four wineries in two days and did some tasting there. Gotta love the Oregonians and their sense of humor.IMG_0137

And we took a tour of a fairly new winery that had some mighty tasty wine.IMG_0141

Toward the end of our week we got a condo on the beach (Lincoln City) and were treated to some beautiful sunsets and viewed some grey whales. I couldn’t get a picture of the whales but I did get these.

More scenery

One our last day, the guys decided to do some of our own fishing on the Siletz River. We caught around 15 resident cut throat trout.IMG_0167
Love the different colors of these trout. The one above ate one of the nymph patterns I tied before I left Baton Rouge. The one below ate a black wooly bugger.IMG_0166Neil caught this small sucker fishIMG_0165
Flying kites is a popular pastime on the Oregon Coast.

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On the last evening, Lisa and Pam cooked us a fantastic meal of fresh salmon and Dungeness crabs. I wish I would have taken a picture of that! They used a variation of a barbecue shrimp recipe but without all the butter. It was probably one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten!

On the last day, we did a little more hiking and visited one more brewery before heading to the airport.

Oh, did I mention the Oregonians’ sense of humor? Maybe this has something to do with it?IMG_0169
Yes, pot is legal in Oregon. Oh, and Lisa and Pam found this energy drink that they bought for their husbands. I better not post the picture on here because I teach at a Catholic high school and I have students that subscribe to this blog I could get into a bit of trouble.🙂

Anyway, one more picture of Mount Hood from our plane as we headed home. I am looking forward to next year’s trip. Remember, Neil called it the year of fun. I’m renaming it the DECADE of fun!IMG_0176

 

Fishing with Glen, the Gobbule Getter :)

Each year, I try to make a trip to the frigid north (that’s anywhere north of Alexandria, LA for those of you not from Louisiana) and fish with a good friend and fly fishing buddy of mine, Glen Cormier. Most people just know him as “Catch Cormier.”  I may have posted this on an earlier post but it’s worth mentioning again that Catch first got me into the sport of kayak fishing.  I taught his daughter for four years at St. Michael High School and he would sometimes pick her up from after school band practice with one or two kayaks strapped to the top of his car. I was a bay boat fisherman at the time and I asked him what were the kayaks for. He told me that he fished out of them and I asked him where? He promptly replied, “just about anywhere I can.” After pestering Glen for some time about what kind of kayak to buy, he helped me pull the trigger on my first kayak, my Wilderness Tarpon. I used to call it Doc’s Yellow Submarine. It’s a great kayak that paddles very fast and tracks well.

Anyway, I kept trying to set up a trip to fish with Glen so I could pick his brain (he is a walking encyclopedia about fishing and you’ve probably seen me reference some of Cormier’s Laws about Fishing on this blog) but we couldn’t agree to a date until I decided to jump in and purchase a fly rod. I think it’s no coincidence that Glen finally made his calendar clear when I offered to fish with him and leave the “Commie” tackle back home. By the way, Commie tackle refers to anything NOT related to the fly rod.🙂 Well, we’ve been fishing buddies since then.

As long as I’m explaining a few terms here, the word gobbule, as defined by Catch himself, means: Any sunfish.  The term sunfish is too passive for this hard-fighting members of the Centrachid family.

Last week, I ventured to Glen’s home in Boyce to fish the Kisatche lakes (Valentine, Cotille, and Kincaid). Since I was getting there the last week of June, our expectations weren’t very high for bass, but we hoped to get on some of the great bream or gobbule fishing those lakes have to offer. It took us a while to find them but when we did, we were rewarded with a bunch of these hard fighters
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Many of these fish would have been “frying pan” worthy, but we were just releasing them this week and thanking them for the fight. Speaking of fight, there were several bream that made Catch’s 6 wt. double over. You can only imagine how much fun it was to catch these “bream with an attitude” on a 3 wt!

Another thing that makes fishing with Glen is the scenery. Glen and his wife are now retired and they have some of the most picturesque waters and woods in their back yard.

Even in the extreme heat, I was able to land one nice bass on a crease fly popper. It’s the largest bass that I’ve caught in PUBLIC waters this year, which means that it is…well would have been eligible for the Massey’s CPR Tournament. Sad to say, that after I took this picture, it flopped back into the water.

 

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Nice bass on the crease fly

Here are a couple pictures from the rest of the trip
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Chinquapin!
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Glen used his son’s Jackson. It looks like we’re on Pro Staff for Team Jackson!🙂

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Enjoying South Louisiana’s Bounty

I’m actually combining three recent outdoors adventures into one. After two weeks of teaching camps, I was finally in the mood to do some serious fishing. I cancelled a kayak trip Saturday because my son wanted to take me frogging to celebrate Father’s Day. I have to admit, fried frog legs are probably my favorite meal! I was super excited to spend some quality time with my 26-year-old son and one of his buddies in the Atchafalaya Spillway.

We launched the surface drive boat around 10 PM and after about a 10 minute drive, my son was pulling the boat over and pointing out a big fat frog. I was apprehensive about using my right hand (my wrist is still broken) so I was using my less dominant (left hand). First attempt as a lefty…bingo! First frog in the box. This went on for quite some time with only a few missed frogs. Actually more misses came because I frankly didn’t seen the darned things and we would cruise right over them.  The evening was absolutely gorgeous! There was a near full moon in the swamp and the the light show from a very distant thunderstorm lit up the sky every now and then. Although it was warm and humid, it wasn’t totally unbearable and I made sure to take in all the sights and sounds that were around me. Now, let me say right now that my son frogs in style, in his surface drive custom aluminum boat with country music blaring on the speakers. I don’t guess the music scares the frogs because they caught 298 of them in two boats on opening night🙂  Every now and then we would stop the motor and turn the music off to listen to the swamp. That’s some kind of music! To hear the symphony of sounds of the swamp (the deep thumps of bull frogs, crickets, owls, and thousands of tree frogs) is something I hope everyone can experience at least once!

Anyway, we frogged until 2 AM and ended up with 35 nice toads! People ask me if we use gigs. Frankly, my favorite way is to use my hands. Sure, I’ll miss a few and I have to keep a watchful eye out for alligators and snakes but that makes it fun. Here’s a picture we took of a few of them adorning our ProDrive motor:
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I have to say, that my son, Dustin, has a knack for spotting bull frogs. He was able to distinguish frog eyes from all the other little rays of light that you see at night with a Q-beam on our heads. That includes all kinds of floating spiders, baby green tree frogs, and of course all sizes of alligators. By the way, we easily saw over 100 of those that evening! Dustin has a gift. I think being a little color blind makes him able to distinguish a bull frog eye from everything else in the swamp. His buddies agree with me. They have never seen anything like it. I tell you, I won’t go frogging without him! I bet we wouldn’t have even caught a dozen had he not been there to spot them for us.

Anyway, my second excursion of the week had me hoping to make a trip up to Central Louisiana to fish with a buddy of mine but when my iPhone suddenly died Sunday, and the only reservation I could make with the Apple Store was for Tuesday afternoon. It was a good thing I didn’t procrastinate because unbeknown to me, I only had two days remaining on my warranty. I was able to get a brand new phone without being charged!🙂

So, my fishing options meant that I would have to remain close to home. No problem because I have a couple of productive lakes in my neighborhood and I have students and former students who have invited me to fish their lakes. I took a trip Tuesday to what has become my favorite fresh-water fishery. I’ve been making a bunch of crease flies lately and the fish have been more than willing to come out and play. I’ve even made some to pattern some fingerling bass because I think these bass are feeding on fry from this year’s early spawn. Between the crease flies and my shad fly, I caught and released 15 nice bass. Ten of those were 14 inches or bigger and three of them were 17.5.

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Crease fly bass

Here are some more pictures from that trip:

I think about half were caught on the crease fly popper and the other half were caught on the shad fly. I did notice that I had more hookups and fewer misses on the shad fly. I love to watch a bass explode on a popper but it causes me to react too soon and results in plenty missed opportunities. Other times, when I to hook one, it heads toward me so fast I cannot get a good hook set in it. When I’m fishing a streamer, I feel the fish on first and I’m able to strip set, thus making my chance of landing the fish much better.

At about 9:30 I decided to see if any of the hybrid bass would be willing to come out to play.  I replaced that shad fly with a chartreuse and black Clouser minnow. I cast the fly out in deep water and counted to ten to let the fly get down deep enough. On my first strip, I felt weight and set the hook. I knew right away it wasn’t a largemouth bass because this fish had some extra power. I was right! It was a hybrid striper!

I tried to catch another one for about another half hour before calling it a morning. There was no need to stay out there in the hot June heat past 10 o’clock!

Well that afternoon, I got a new iPhone and saw all my missed calls and texts. There were the expected Happy Fathers Day messages but I got a four-word text from my cousin’s husband that got my interest. It was, “Can you fish tomorrow?” My cousin has a 24-foot bay boat and I suspected that he was itching to do some fishing in the Gulf for some speckled trout. A quick phone call confirmed my suspicions and we found ourselves heading to his camp in Theriot after supper. We left at 5 AM Wednesday morning and headed to one of the barrier islands off the coast of Dularge. I brought my fly rod but the wind was blowing just a bit too much (forecasts were 5-10 but the morning started off closer to 10) to risk hooking my partner in the back of the head so I just stuck to my conventional tackle.

The morning was absolutely perfect. A near full moon gave way to a beautiful sunrise. The ride out to the barrier island was a bit choppy but both of us had fished in higher seas than that. On my second cast of the morning, I got a nice blowup on topwater. A few casts later and I was slinging a nice chunky trout in the boat. Meanwhile, my buddy, Neil, had put 3 or 4 nice ones in the boat on soft plastics. The big girls had definitely come out to play! I decided to make the switch and for a couple of hours we put some nice fish in the ice chest. It wasn’t gang busters but the bite was just consistent enough to keep us from moving from our spot. We saw a couple of guide boats in the area and one of them stopped pretty close to us. They caught only one and then left. By then we had twenty-eight trout that measured between 15-18 inches each on ice. The bite had slowed down considerably so we hopped decided to hit a couple more rock jetties. We were just about ready to call it a morning when the bite picked up again. This time, the fish were considerably smaller and we had to cull out a few 11 inch trout but by the time we called it a morning at 11 AM, we had boxed up 44 speckled trout. The ride back in was less choppy and we both had a celebratory beer! I couldn’t have asked for a better day…great company, great weather, and great fishing! We cleaned fish (two full gallon bags of fish fillets), cleaned the boat, and took a nap before making the drive back to Baton Rouge. The only regret I had was in my haste to leave the house, I forgot to pack my cameras so I didn’t get any pictures. Uh, NO, I didn’t bring my new iPhone and risk getting it wet🙂
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