Spring Break Pond Hopping

Spring Break normally affords me several opportunities to get on the water. With a band trip to Disney schedule for the back half of the week, I made sure to get as much fishing in during the front part of my break as I could. I started with and after school/Good Friday trip to the lake behind a friend of mine’s house. The wind was a bit strong but I was determined to find some sacalait. I targeted the usual downed limbs and stumps and was able to land two nice ones on a fluff butt. FullSizeRender
On Good Friday, I was determined to catch a few more to fry for supper. I was able to catch one 14-inch sacalait and an 8 inch bream so Lisa and I had more fish than we really could eat. I caught and released dozens of small bream but wasn’t able to get one bass to play.

I woke up Easter Monday with the intention of trying to go down to Leeville for some speckled trout and redfish action. When I got up though, the wind was blowing just a little bit too hard for my taste, so I decided to hit the dam by my neighborhood lake to see if the bass wanted to play. After the heavy rains for Easter, there was a considerable waterfall by the dam. For about 20 minutes the bass action was crazy! It was like someone had thrown feed in the water. The “feed” was actually schools of tiny shad. I tied on a crease fly (Bill Laminack version) and was able to fool three hungry bass.

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This one was about 19 inches and was pretty close to three pounds!

Later that morning, I found myself up to my ears in work for school but I put everything down, decided not to answer any more emails or texts from band parents, and I went to my cousin’s house to fish their neighborhood pond. That pond has been “money” for me during past spring breaks. It was a very slow afternoon of fishing, but I did manage three bass, one sacalait, and about a half dozen nice bream.

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Shows pond bass

Tuesday morning, I decided to try a new fly that I had been working on. I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to “match the hatch” with these shad and I came up with this
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I had a hungry bass eat my new creation on about my fourth cast! I then hooked and lost a really nice one. The bite wasn’t as fierce as Monday’s (the water was only at a slight trickle) and I ended up breaking my fly off on the concrete dam itself. No worries, because I had the rest of the morning to explore the upper lake to see if the chinquapin bite had started. They weren’t plentiful but the six I did keep for supper were chunks. Three were over 9 inches and three were 10 inches plus! With the predicted rain for tonight and tomorrow, my spring break fishing is over for 2016. Time to take my band to Disneyworld for competition! Hmmm, maybe I can bring my fly rod!:)

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Slow Spring Bite

I haven’t been able to get my usual spring freshwater bite going. Heavy rains and severe flooding have muddied all the nearby freshwater systems. When all else fails, I can usually rely on my neighborhood lakes to provide some solace from work but even those have been very high and muddy.

I did manage to get out Saturday morning and test a new crease fly that I tied to match Bill Laminack’s version. It is tied with a lip in the front so I dives and darts. Well, the fly needs some modifications because I had three blowups and didn’t stick one fish. I think I need a bigger gap in the hook. I did modify these and will be trying these soon.

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Anyway, I also was hoping to get on the bream bite but even that was very slow. I did, however, manage one nice bass on a fluff butt to avoid the skunk. I got off the water right as the wind changed and started blowing hard from the north.  Hoping to get some spring break action in soon!

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Fun Day in Hopedale

Our friend, Merriam-Webster defines fun as: “what provides amusement or enjoyment.” He also define’s the word, challenge, as “a difficult task or problem.” To say that this past Saturday’s fishing trip in Hopedale, Louisiana was a challenge, would be somewhat of an understatement. To say that I had fun and enjoyed every minute of it…well let’s just say I can’t wait to go back!

For any of you who know me personally, you will know that I am driven by challenges. I thrive on them and I jump at the chance to come out on top and defy the pundits. It goes with my teaching and it also goes with my fly fishing. Saturday morning looked on paper to be a stellar day of fishing. The weatherman predicted sunny mild temperatures with light winds. Well he got it right for a change:)  Allow me to backtrack a little.

First of all, I’ve been wanting to make a fishing trip with a buddy of mine who is in Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club. Chuck (Snake Doctor on our forum) is an avid kayak fisherman who loves fishing with a fly rod. In addition to being avid fly fishermen who fish out of a kayak, we actually share a lot more in common. Chuck has earned his Ph.D. and is an educator (he teaches at Tulane University). We ended up placing first and second in this year’s Massey’s Outfitters Catch, Photo, Release tournament. Oh, if you’re wondering, he earned first place and I earned second. Anyway, after many futile attempts to fish together, we finally found a day that worked for both our schedules and the weather wasn’t going to stop us this time. The plan was for me to meet him at his selected launch site in Hopedale at 8 AM.  As I was nearing Reggio, I noticed people walking on the side of the road swatting in the air. It hit me right then that they were swatting at the most pesky creature that God has put in our Louisiana marshes, the hated no-see-ums. These gnats (biting midges) can swarm by the thousands and can be so bad, that you will actually leave fish biting and take shelter! I find that deet products and skin-so-soft are not effective on these creatures. The best defense is gloves, a hat, a buff, long sleeved shirts and pants, and Victoria’s Secret Amber Romance, which you have to keep reapplying all day. As I type this, I am trying NOT to scratch all those bites I received.

When I met Chuck at the launch site, I realized that I had left my buff at home. Thank God, he had a spare. After unloading our kayaks and applying several doses of Amber Romance we began our paddle to the marshes of Hopedale. We were greeted with very low water and poor water clarity. We found some moving water and bait but the predator fish just weren’t around. Chuck caught an 18 inch redfish while blind casting in a cut that led to a sizable duck pond. Speaking of duck pond. We spooked about 300 ducks from that one pond and they were all puddlers, mallards, gadwalls, and teal! What a beautiful site as they got up and circled us and fussed at us for  interrupting breakfast. We decided to paddle a bit further away from the trucks (we probably covered 6.5 miles) to find some deeper, cleaner water.

From 8 – 10:30, we were attacked by hoards of gnats. Finally at around 10:30, the wind started to pick up and that provided some relief from the bugs but it was making poling around searching for reds all the more difficult. While Chuck and I share a lot of things in common, I noticed that we have two distinct styles of fly fishing from our kayaks. He spends most of the time sitting and has the patience (which I lack) for doing a lot of blind casting. Although he is blind casting, he does it as an experienced angler because I watched him hit little cuts and pockets time and time again. I spend most of my time standing and sight casting for redfish. It combines my love for hunting with fishing. Anyway, I don’t think I saw my first redfish until around 10:30. With the poor water clarity, I found that I spooked a lot of fish. By the time I would see them, I couldn’t get my anchor pole down in the water and my fly rod out in time to make a cast at them before being busted.

Just when it looked like I was going to get skunked, I saw a commotion ahead in a shallow inlet and there was a monster redfish patrolling an area about 30 feet away from me. Great. It hadn’t seen me. I was able to get my park ‘n pole in my scupper hole to anchor my kayak and keep me from drifting up on the fish. I made a perfect cast about two feet in front of it and it attacked with vengeance. I watched as it flared its gills open to eat the fly and in my excitement, I set the hook way too hard. Let’s just say that redfish was able to wear some jewelry in the form of my gold spoon fly for the rest of the day.😦  After tying on another spoon  fly and spooking a few more redfish, I came across another fish that was unaware of my presence. This one was moving away from the bank and toward deeper water when my fly intercepted it’s path. It slammed the fly and the next thing I knew, my line was tearing through drag. After a 10 minute fight and one heck of a sleigh ride, I landed my best redfish of 2016. It was a perfect “tournament” redfish…very fat and measured right at 27 inches. If I had been fishing a tournament that fish would have shrunk in an ice bath and would have been 26.9. Well, it was that fish’s lucky day. All I did was put a tag in it and sent it off on its way to go make babies. I did get a couple of pictures though.

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Big one of the day!

 

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Going to be an upgrade to my Massey’s CPR tournament

By this time, Chuck had made it around to me and he told me that he had caught two redfish and a bass. There were some clean pockets of marsh in the area we were fishing and we figured that there wouldn’t be any areas worth paddling to that morning that would be more promising than where we were. Then it was like someone switched on a light. Within five minutes of our conversation, I located another cruising fish and I was fighting a 20 inch redfish. From about 12:30 to 1:30, I sighted another 9 fish and was able to cast to three. The largest of those had it’s back out the water about 30 away from me. My first cast ended up about 5 feet in front of it. Oh, did I mention that the wind had picked up to about 10 mph by now? Well, I thought my errant cast would work to my benefit because the fish was heading to my fly. I let it sit there as the fish neared. Then I lifted it off the bottom to get its attention but it had turned around and was heading back away from my fly. I cast to it again but this time, I put the fly right on its back and I was busted!! I did manage to catch a 24-inch redfish to close out the day.

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24 inches

Five redfish between the two of us fishing only with fly rods is not a bad day at all. We both missed fish but that comes with the territory. Sure we could have caught more numbers in the murky water if we had brought along spinnerbaits but that’s no challenge.  On the paddle back to the truck, Chuck apologized for our lackluster day but I told him I had a blast. Some days, it’s all about the challenge, and that, my friend, is MY definition of fun!Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.12.01 PM

 

Fishing before “Stormageddon”

I actually didn’t know what to title this post. Fun in the neighborhood lake? Making lemonade out of lemons? Fun on my 3 wt. Anyway, we got the day off of school today because of the forecast violent, stormy weather. As I type this, I’m listening to the TV weatherman report sightings of tornados, funnel clouds, and water spouts. A tornado did actually touch down about ten miles as the crow flies from my house. How was the weather here? Well, I got out on the lake with little or no wind early this morning before the rain started.

I fished the upper lake in my neighborhood and landed 7 bass and five chinquapin that will hit some hot grease this Friday:) All my fish were caught on a fluff butt under a VOSI on my 3 wt.!!  I tried to target bass but couldn’t get a hit on normal bass flies. When I changed to the fluff butt (to target chinquapin) that’s when I began getting big bass bites.

Since it was my first trip in our neighborhood lake, I took the opportunity to “reel in” some of the trash I found. What a mess! I noticed that most of it was light plastic that simply blew off decks and backyard patios. IMG_3472

I did reel in some of these:IMG_3473

and 7 of these:

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The largest was 16.5!IMG_3471
I had 2 big ones break me off on some structure too. I’ve got to get on my vice and replenish my fluff butt inventory.
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Spent the morning with a good friend

Well, the weatherman heard my complaints and provided us with a simply fabulous morning. It felt like spring with a sun-filled sky that started off at about 45 degrees. Things quickly warmed up in the mid 50’s by the time I arrived a a good friend’s house with 18 shiners, an ultra light rod and reel, and my 3 wt.

For several years now, I’ve been telling my friend that he is sitting on a gold mine of a fishery, for in his back yard lies the best sacalait fishing per acre that I have ever fished! I usually fish there once a year during my spring break and I’ve caught some of the most beautiful slabs within a hundred yards of his back door!

Merriam-Webster gives this explanation of the word sacalait,  “Louisiana French sac-à-lait, by folk etymology (influence of French sac bag, French à to, for, and French lait milk) from Choctaw saki trout”) So the literal translation is bag of milk. This refers to the white fillets of these fish, which make it some of the best-eating fish in fresh water. The rest of the country just calls them crappie.

This morning, I set out to teach my buddy how to catch these fish on ultra-light tackle and on the fly rod. You know the old adage, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and…his wife can get rid of him for weekends at a time.:)  After about 45 minutes of explanation about flies, strike indicators, knots, hook sizes, depth, and many other things to consider (like is it too early to bring beer with us) we set out in his two-man $50 john boat. My plan was to find them with the live shiners and then catch them with flies. It should be easy enough. Right?

Well he goes and breaks the ice by catching one on a beetle spin. It was lots of fun on his little ultra-light and we estimated the fish to be about a 14-inch slab!  Meanwhile, I figured we had found them and I began chunking my fly rod and he puts another one in the boat on the beetle spin. I actually had a live shiner in the water while I fished with my fly rod and right about then, my cork disappeared. We had three nice slabs flapping on the bottom of the boat and no bucket, stringer, or anything to put them in. No problem, since we are still about 50 yards from his back door. After getting a stringer, we got back on them and I caught another one before he hooked some structure where we were catching them and the bite shut down. We paddled down about 20 yards from our initial honey hole and I started catching more on shiners. So, off with the beetle spin and on with a hook, lead split-shot, and a cork and my buddy was soon catching fish. Things slowed down a bit until we eased on over where that structure was and we put three more big ones on the stringer.

So the morning’s catch looked like this:FullSizeRender

13 nice slabs. By the way, I weighed the stringer and we had over 12 pounds of fish there! We enjoyed a beautiful morning on the water. The camaraderie was great and my friend was ecstatic that he now knows how to target those gamefish in his back yard. He and I plan on hitting some water south of Houma soon to target some more of these “bags of milk.” Stay tuned!

A Bad Case of Bass Thumb!

You know that feeling when your thumb is scraped raw and feels like sandpaper? Well, I have a bad case of it right now…and it feels awesome!

One of my students invited me to fish a lake in St. Gabriel with him this morning. While the lake was dug out mainly as a water ski lake, it has been stocked with bass, bluegill, and striped bass. The weather man (not my favorite guy/gal this year) had forecast a cold start to a day that was supposed to warmup considerably. We got on the water early, a little before 7 AM and the thermometer on my truck said it was 45 degrees. I was hoping to catch some bass on the fly rods, as I hadn’t caught one yet this year and it’s nearly mid February!  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the fish were not going to be looking up so I ditched the poppers and went with what is probably the most fish-catching fly ever tied, the Clouser minnow.

It didn’t take long for me to find some hungry chunks and I had my first bass of the morning shortly after 7. Actually, my first bass of 2016!

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So, repeat and repeat all morning long and, well, you get the picture.
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The wind picked up considerably and I decided not to fight it. I took a break and fished off the bank.
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And it started getting warmer. I lost the coat and I’m in my turtle neck with a long sleeve t-shirt under that.

 

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Now I assume the temperature is around 70 and things were getting downright warm. I picked up my largest of the morning at 16 inches. It weighed 2.25 lbs.
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It was getting close to 11 AM and I was thinking about packing it in when I hooked a monster that broke my tippet. I retied quickly, thinking that it may have been a striped bass. Ten minutes later, I was battling my very first striped bass. I fought it like a champ and got it right up to the kayak. (I had gotten back in the yak). But…like an idiot, I tried to lip it and swing it in the boat. BAD DECISION!! It slashed back and forth in the water and broke my 6 lb tippet. Nooooo!!! I’m 56 and have never caught a striped bass in my life! Here I find one that wants to eat a clouser minnow and I try to lip it like Bill Dance.

Oh well. There will be other trips to this lake. No, but I have until noon. By now the wind is howling and I decided to fish my way back in. Bam! Another bass (number 15). Then 16. Now 17. I found a bunch schooling up right near a drop-off near some grass. Then it happens again. Something hits my fly and snaps my tippet like it was a piece of sewing thread. On a hunch that it was another striped bass, I take the time to tie another three feet of tippet material on my leader. Boy, did it take some time too. The wind was blowing probably 15 mph with higher gusts. It’s hard to tie a double surgeon’s knot when the wind isn’t blowing, much less in those conditions. After what seemed like 15 minutes, I was back in fishing form and had just had a ferocious strike and a miss. I cast back out to the same spot and BAM!  Fish on!!  My buddy commented immediately that it was a striper. After about 10 seconds, I concurred. It dug in and was stripping off line. I wasn’t going to make my same mistake twice, so I played this one out perfectly and landed my first striped bass. It was 19 inches and weighed 3.18 lbs.
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Notice that by now I had gotten rid of my coat, my turtle-neck, and my hat.:) What a fun morning. I went through my stock of freshwater closures. I actually had three break-offs. You know I’ll be back at my vice tying some more and looking forward to another morning out there!
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First Marsh Trip of 2016

After a second place finish in the Massey’s CPR Tournament, I was determined to get some fish entered early this year. I tied for first place last year and lost the tie breaker because I didn’t catch my fish soon enough. This fall and winter has seen some extreme weather conditions in south Louisiana. It’s been raining or very windy every day that I have been off of work. I finally saw a break in the weather pattern this past Martin Luther King holiday and I hooked up with one of my young fishing buddies, Austin, and headed south looking for a cold water trout bonanza. I planned on fishing early at a spot known as the telephone post hole, a deep sand pit right next to the highway just past Forcheon on the way to Grand Isle. I believe 4 of the top six speckled trout caught on fly rods have been caught there.

Austin and I arrived around 7 AM and I quickly tied on a deep water Clouser minnow on a sinking fluorocarbon leader. Right when I got there, I noticed a fellow in a kayak anchored right on the point I wanted to fish and he was catching trout after trout on a fly rod! I tried to get as close to him as I could without getting in casting range. After all, he had gotten there first and I didn’t want to infringe on his morning. Speaking of morning…the weather was absolutely gorgeous! The half moon gave way to a beautiful blue sky with a good breeze. The thermostat was around 39 when we launched and the water temperature was a cool 53. While on the water, I spotted two other fly fishing buddies of mine who were sporadically catching speckled trout.

Austin and I tried to maneuver into a spot where we could fish the drop off. I managed to catch and tag three undersized redfish and one 12 inch trout. Austin caught his first speckled trout ever on a fly rod but it too was undersized.

At about 9 AM we decided to leave the hole and drive south a few miles to fish the Bay Laurier area. I was hoping that the sun would warm the water up enough for the big redfish to cruise the shallow water. We push-poled around for quite a while before I spotted the first redfish. The water was so shallow that these fish were easily spooked. I did manage to spot one nice redfish that had its back toward me. It never saw me as I placed my first cast about two feet to its left. It didn’t see my gold spoon fly either. So, one more cast before I would be busted…bam… an eat! I played it perfectly, choosing to remain standing while I fought it until I had it very close to the boat and ready to be landed. It was a beautiful fish that measured 24.5 inches. Not bad for my first entry in this year’s CPR tournament. Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.05.37 PM

Austin and I scouted around and spooked a few more redfish but the wind really made it difficult to sneak up on a fish and stop in time to put a cast out in front of it.

I know some people would think that only one keeper redfish would be a bust of a fishing trip. Sure, I know I could catch numbers up in Leeville on plastics or live minnows. Why just this past Saturday, over 1,000 pounds of fish were caught in BCKFC’s Minimalist Challenge tournament. I get my thrill by enjoying the chase, if you will. Sight fishing is where its at! I also was blessed with a beautiful day and a great fishing partner for the day. It just doesn’t get much better than that!