Bass Thumb?

Bass Thumb?

The Robert Palmer’s song goes something like this: “Doctor, doctor, give me the news. I’ve got a bad case of …. BASS THUMB!”  Haha. I had a Saturday morning free so I headed to my buddy’s lake for the first time this year to chase some bass on poppers. When I got there, I saw one of my former students, his dad, and some other hunters, who were making a late season rabbit hunt. It was cool to be fishing in a kayak while listening to the dogs work. Every now and then, the silence was shattered by the sounds of shotgun fire, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the peaceful solitude, and the constant blowups on my deer hair poppers.

I probably had my first blowup about five minutes after getting on the water, and as one might expect, I missed it. I thought to myself, “I’ve got to get my bass mojo back.” My next blowup resulting in a large 15-inch bass doing acrobatic maneuvers out of the shallow water. After a substantial fight, I gently lipped it, snapped a picture, and sent it back to the water to continue its annual spawning ritual. GOPR0060.jpeg

After that, I began to catch a lot of 12 and 13-inch bass. I kept hearing gun shots from the rabbit hunters and I thought to myself, I’ve got to keep up with them 🙂

I was up to bass number 7 (all caught on a frog pattern deer hair bug) when I got a HUGE blowup. I didn’t have a chance! Note to self, after catching 7 bass on the same fly, you MUST RETIE!! When I inspected the line, I saw the line had been frayed by the tiny teeth bass have. Those teeth act like sandpaper. When I spend a morning constantly catching and releasing fish, those sandpaper-like teeth will gnarl up my thumbs; thus bass thumb. Well, one can imagine what it does to fly tippet too.

So I retied, this time with a fire-tiger popper and was treated to some more action. GOPR0079.jpeg
Fire-tiger catches big bass.

The top water action slowed down and I tied on a new fly that I tied a while back that I’ve been wanting to try. One day while cleaning my house, I saw one of my daughter’s hair rubber bands laying on the floor that had broken. I tossed it into the garbage and notices that it had an uncanny resemblance to one of the earthworms I see that make it into my pool. I fetched it up out of the garbage and put it on a hook in my vice. I’ve been saving it for a moment like this when I could do “some research.”  I told myself that I would fish it earnestly for about a half hour before changing to something else. 15 minutes later, I hooked into the largest fish of the day. Sorry, I don’t have a picture. I only have video that I’ll have to try to add to this post at a later date. I will also do a step-by-step on the “hair rubber band worm fly.”

I tried fishing the worm fly some more, but I was catching grass and algae (it’s not weedless) and I heard some commotion over by a nearby woodpile. I new I had no chance with the worm fly so I retied my popper.

I think it was my second cast when I connected with another 17-inch fish. GOPR0072.jpeg

Again, a couple quick pictures were taken and the fish was released.

I was getting hungry and so I decided to call it a day. I met up with the hunters at the truck and asked how many rabbits they killed. They kept up with me 🙂  They killed 20 rabbits and I caught 19 bass. I guess they had shotgun shoulder but I wasn’t complaining…I had bass thumb 🙂

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Slabs in the neighborhood lake.

While catching large bass, bull redfish, and speckled trout are fun, nothing gets me excited as when the crappie (sacalait) start biting down south. These fish are some of the best tasting fish in fresh water and can provide some good fun on a 5 weight fly rod. I heard during this past summer that our neighborhood homeowners association stocked the lakes with bass, bluegill, catfish, and sacalait following our flood of two years ago. I recently caught a random catfish but I hadn’t had any luck with the “sack of milk.” I did catch a couple of small (up to 10 inches) ones early this winter during a scouting trip, just to get on the water. That all changed this week.

We recently welcomed into this world my new grandchild, a grandson, Benson Philip Wijay. I have been so excited and the joy of welcoming him into our family (no I haven’t officially bought him a fly rod just yet) has been the only thing on my mind. That all changed early this week when my daughter (Benson’s mom) was rushed to the hospital with some major postpartum complications. The good news is, my daughter is now home with her children and her health is not in danger. My wife has been in Texas with them and we’ve been communicating via cell phones and texting for the past four days. Now that things have cooled down, I was in need of some some stress relief. IMG_0653.jpeg
Big sister is counting his toes and checking him for ticks. 🙂

The relief came earlier this week when I was home early (about 4:30) and figured I’ll walk my kayak down to the lake to try a little afternoon fishing. I was armed with one fly rod with an olive fluff butt tied to the end of it. I took a moment (like I usually do) to  make a quick pass around the launch area and clean up some of the trash that the recent winds have knocked into the water. After that, I began hitting the banks, looking for some big bream, sacalait, or anything else that might be fooled by the marabou jig. The fishing started off pretty good when I hooked into a 12 inch bass. Then I fished around a stretch of water that usually holds bass during the summertime. I immediately hooked into what I thought was a big bass. Come to find out, it was a 13.5 inch sacalait! Hold on, now. I usually practice “catch and release” when I fish freshwater, but when I catch big chinquapin or sacalait, I practice catch and release…into a skillet of hot grease :).  A few casts later, and I had another one on. I noticed that these fish didn’t fight like normal crappie. Once hooked, they took off like a missile. They didn’t jump out the water, but they fought ferociously. I ended up having one straighten out an old hook (no kidding) and two break off my 6 lb. tippet. I frantically tied on some stronger tippet and was down to my last olive fluff butt. I finished up my stringer of 7 fish.GOPR0056.jpeg

I can’t remember fresh fish tasting so good. I had to fillet them because they were so big and I ended up eating three for supper. The other four will be frozen for a supper in the near future (lent is coming soon).

So I gave the fish a day off and my schedule freed my up two days later. I was in luck because it was the day before a cold front was predicted to hit Baton Rouge. I got out earlier this time and went to the same spot I caught fish earlier in the week. This time, I rigged two rods; one with a black and chartreuse fluff butt and another with an olive fluff butt. I was going to see which one was more productive.

Within the first couple of casts, I was fighting an angry slab of fish, caught on the black and chartreuse fluff butt. GOPR0047.jpegAfter two of those, I switched to the olive. I caught four quick fish before switching back to the black and chartreuse. By now, the action had slowed and I think I caught one more on the black and chartreuse to bring my total to 7. I left that spot and searched a few other promising areas but didn’t get anything else except a few small bream. I did manage to catch two sizable chinquapin (one touched 10 inches) before heading back with a neighbor to my original spot. He wanted to see me catch one with the fly rod and I promptly caught two more to finish my stringer (those last two were caught on the olive pattern). I left him to fish with a black and chartreuse beetle spin but I don’t think he got any hits. It was starting to get dark and I had fish to clean so I bid him farewell and walked my kayak home.GOPR0052.jpeg
Nine fish were all I felt like cleaning tonight, so I left them biting 🙂

Anyway, the fishing sure was therapeutic and came at a perfect time. I’ll give those fish a rest and try some new water next week. According to local reports, it’s on like gangbusters right now…and the next full moon isn’t for a couple of weeks. Time to get some fish for those Friday Lenten Fish Fries. By the way, I was able to land 6 fish on the olive fly and 3 on the black and chartreuse. I think I need to do a lot more research 🙂

Persistence Pays Off

Persistence Pays Off

After weeks of looking for an opportunity to head south to fish the rich marshes of southeast Louisiana and not having any luck, it finally looked like I was going to hit the jackpot with a “picture-perfect” day. Winds were forecast to be 5-10 mph, and the sun was going to shine brightly all day. Add to that, the temperatures were forecast to start in the low 40s and I had dreams of catching bull trout in deep holes on some fast sinking clouser flies. Insert dream sequence music here:

So, Friday night, I set my alarm to wake me at 3:30. I was packed, I checked my list twice to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, and I even slept on the sofa, so I wouldn’t wake my wife up when I got up. I was as giddy as a school girl (no offense to school girls). I tossed and turned all night and dreamed of what would be plan A, plan B, and heaven forbid, a plan C. I think I even dreamed about tying flies…all while I sang music in my head that we had rehearsed in class this week. There’s my tribute to Count Basie. All I’ve got to say is, thank God I can operate on little or no sleep 😊

At 3:30, my feet officially hit the floor and I was in my truck and on the road by 3:50. My excitement would build as I made the over two-and-a-half-hour drive to my plan A. The temperature on my car read 37 degrees and I saw nothing was a star-studded, clear sky. As I got closer to water (Highway 1), I noticed just how calm the wind was. The water was literally slick as glass and I began to wonder if I had packed my Victoria’s Secret, Amber Romance to ward off those nasty No-see-ums (biting midges that aren’t bothered by deet insect repellants). I pulled over at a gas station to empty my bladder and I saw that yes, indeed, I had remembered to pack it. Everything looked like it was going to be perfect!

I was greeted to one of the most splendid predawn sunrises ever. The colors, which were magnificent, reflected back on the smooth-as-glass water. I wanted to get a picture but I knew that there would be a lot of competition at my combat launch spot so I didn’t want to slow down and jeopardize my chance of being the first kayak on my favorite point. When I crossed the high rise overpass in Leeville, I noticed there was a slight chop on the water and I looked at my outside temperature gage on my truck, which read 48 degrees. I murmured to myself, “Where did that wind come from?” “What happened to my cold temperatures?” Then, I noticed a cloudy haze developing in the east. I thought, “that’s not good.” However, my attitude changed when I got to my launch spot when I noticed I was one of the first people there. I was shaking in anticipation as I tied on a deep water clouser. I paddled out to my point, dropped anchor and fished…and fished…and fished some more. WHAT?? Nada! I moved around and noticed a few other cars pull up and out came the roadside fishermen and a couple of other kayakers. No one stayed very long, no one caught a fish, and I decided to opt for plan B.

Plan B was to move further east and fish the marsh for redfish. Surely that haze was just fog and I was going to be able to sight-fish for Mr. Poisson Rouge. Well, of course, the haze never lifted and by now the wind was blowing 10-15. I push-polled my way through the marsh and spooked many redfish that surprisingly, were in fairly shallow water. After a couple hours of this, I was thinking about Plan C.

Those of us who fish the marsh know all too well the sign of a spooked redfish, drum, or sheepshead. They leave behind a ball of mud in their escape path. I kept seeing these balls and I decided to begin fishing points and cuts that looked fishy. I even tried casting to escaping fish but unless I was going to hook them in the butt, I wasn’t going to be successful. I was just about to head to the truck when I stuck a big girl. I was leaving a small duck pond and I saw a couple wakes about 20 feet in front of me. I waited for them to settle down and I made a cast out about 40 feet in some deeper water. That’s when my line went tight and I strip set the hook. I knew it was a big girl because she was dragging my kayak all over the place and she took me down into my backing twice. Not knowing how well it was hooked allowed me to play the fish for about 10 minutes before I noticed I was being pulled close to the stakes that hold down the power poles along the highway. I decided to put my stakeout pole in the mud and fight the fish from there hoping neither  the fish nor I wouldn’t get tangled in the barnacle-encrusted wire. My plan worked and a few minutes later, I had the big fish securely in my fish grips. I was able to get a few pictures and revive her before releasing her (she was full of eggs) to go make babies. I was reminded of a valuable lesson I learned a while ago. Never give up. Your next cast could be the cast to turn a skunk into a winner 🙂 GOPR0043.jpeg

 

 

 

The Perch Float Popper

The Perch Float Popper

I was asked by members of my fly fishing club at the high school to teach them to make some bass poppers. They wanted to tie something that they could use during the approaching bass spawning period. I started thinking about what I could teach them to do that wouldn’t a) break the bank and b) be easy enough for beginners to complete. I came up with two possibilities. The first was the Froggy Fly, which you can read about in my previous entry. The second was the “perch float” popper. So here is how we do it.

First, get a bag of Comal Tackle perch floats ($1.00 will make 8 poppers). For this tutorial, I purchased some with the slit already cut in them. You can purchase the others and cut your own slits (for your hook).
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I begin by lightly sanding the color off the corks. I guess one could just put a few coats of white spray paint but it may eat away at the cork. I don’t know because I haven’t tried that yet:
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Next, I cut them in half with a hobby saw:
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After that, I do some more sanding and I create the head angle:
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Once I have the angle, I use a dremel tool to make a “cup” in each head. This helps with the pop when the popper is fished:
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Next step is to put a thread base on a Mustad 33903BR, size 2 kink shank popper hook:
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Once that is done, I glue the hook to the popper by using a super thin CA glue or a very thin super glue:

When the glue is thoroughly dry, I use a little water based wood filler (I use Elmer’s) to smooth out the hole where the hook was glued and then I use a bit to fill the hole in the perch float by the hook eye:
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When that is dry, I do a little more sanding and then I add about five coats of a white under-coat of hobby paint. Here I use a metallic pearl:
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Once that step is completed, it’s time to paint the poppers. You can use acrylic paints from a craft store or any other method you prefer. Here I used a COPIC sprayer. Eyes were added from stick ons that I had in stock, but you can paint them on using different sized nail and needle heads. Here are the poppers ready for a 30 minute epoxy coat:

Pictured next are the heads on a home-made dryer. You can use alligator clips to dry them but you have to flip them over every 5 minutes or so. I made this dryer for about $5 or $6 several years ago:
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Once the popper heads are dry, all there is left to do is tie in the tailing material. I used several different approaches here to show different styles and effects, all of which should catch fish:

 

 

 

A simple froggy fly that catches fish

I don’t tie foam flies very much anymore but when I used to, I would catch a ton of bass and bluegill on a “froggy fly” made of simple craft foam, a bit of bucktail, and some rubber legs. Recently, I taught some of the members of my fly fishing club at St. Michael High School how to tie this fly. It’s an easy fly to tie for beginners.

The materials are very simple:

Hook Gamakatsu 2/0 finesse wide gap hook 230412 or 230912 (weedless)
A small clump of bucktail
Thread (I use 210 denier for strength)
Rubber legs (use spinnerbait rubber skirts)
Craft foam (Hobby Lobby, Walmart, or Michaels

Recipe:

Start by putting down a thread base.

Then add small clump of bucktail and some of the rubber legs

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Cut the foam in a strip about width of the hook gap and trip the tip to make a triangle to have a tie in point.

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Work your thread to about an eye length behind the eye and tie down the foam.

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Then fold the foam back over itself and tie in the front rubber legs.

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Trim off the tail end of the foam to your liking, whip finish, and add a drop or two of some sort of head cement on the wraps and the underside to make it more durable.  Then use markers to make it look like a frog. IMG_3412.jpg

One More Trip

I know I’ve already posted my end-of-the-year report, but I couldn’t resist just one more short outing to my neighborhood lake. It began when my brother called me and said he’s trying to get his dog to learn to sit still in his pirogue while he fishes so he wanted to launch in my lake. He met me at my house a little after 3:30 and I hadn’t really planned on fishing with him. The weather has been real cloudy and dreary, plus my daughter, her husband, and my granddaughter have been in town for a New Year’s visit.

I helped my brother unload his pirogue and we walked the block and a half down to where I normally put in. When I got there and saw just how calm and pristine the lake looked, I just couldn’t resist. I hustled back home, put my kayak on wheels, grabbed my fly rod, and joined him on the lake.

It was neat fishing with my brother and we reminisced about old times fishing and hunting together. We were both avid hunters when we were younger but now we both enjoy fishing and the beauty, peace and relaxation that it brings. My brother brought one rod and fished a swim bait for bass. I brought a 5 wt rod with an olive fluff butt. My brother is and artist and has a great eye for things that would make a great painting, so he was snapping pictures most of the time. I, however, proceeded to catch about 8 small bream and two sacalait. We only fished for about an hour but it reminded both of us what really matters…family, friends, and the grace and beauty of God’s wonderful creations. Happy New Year to all those of you who follow this blog. I hope to get on the water more often in 2019. Funny thing is, I just realized I started the year off with a sacalait (crappie) and I ended it with one as well. 🙂

Tight loops and tight lines to you all!

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The Year in Review

It’s time, once again, to reflect on this past year’s fishing’s memories, successes, and lessons learned. First of all, I’m so blessed to be able to enjoy the outdoors and to be able to do so very close to my home. Most of my freshwater fishing is either a short walk to my neighborhood lake or somewhere within an hour’s drive from my house. My salt water marsh trips, although a couple hours away, are still doable for a day trip. Along the way I am always treated to the God’s beauty from the moss-covered trees to the deer, waterfowl, racoons, nutrias, alligators, and otters I encounter each trip.

Here’s a pictorial review of the past year:

It began with fellow kayakers and fly fishing enthusiasts, Glen “Catch” Cormier and Sarah Giles as we fished for sacalait in Lake Cotile.180122 doc sacalait.jpg180122 sarah sacalait2.jpg

As the weather warmed up, so did the bass fishing. IMG_2209.jpg
Catch with one of Lake Valentine’s nice bass.

I even got some great lessons on how to cast in a kayak IMG_2221.jpgIMG_2222.jpg
That’s a tight loop there!

If I had to sum up my fishing in one word, it would be deer-hair bugs. I know that’s technically, more than one word but I have gotten good at tying them and the fish love to eat them. There were the little ones:GOPR3909.jpeg

The big girls:GOPR3846.jpeg

And lots and lots of fish in-between.GOPR3885.jpgGOPR3878.jpegGOPR3877.jpgGOPR3912.jpeg

I was able to place in a couple of tournamentsIMG_2422.jpg26850532_1811142835623389_6288145374840920564_o.jpg

And even put a few in some hot greaseGOPR3841.jpeg

I caught some ugly ones:GOPR3831.jpegGOPR3947.jpeg

And some pretty ones.GOPR3870.jpg

Merry Christmas! I hope your 2019 is a good one! Tight Loops and Tight Lines!