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!

Last Fishing Trip of 2015

I took the opportunity to get on the water yesterday (December 29th) for the last time before the new year. With a two week vacation, I had been looking for a break in the weather to get some Louisiana marsh fishing in. The forecast for no rain and 5-10 mph winds made Tuesday the only day in my two-week break that I could fish. I was hoping to be able to do some sight fishing for redfish and maybe catch a few trout too.

I saw that the tide would be high and would be falling all morning so I left Baton Rouge a little later than I normally would. I arrived in Leeville to a beautiful morning and I was pumped because the sky was clear and the wind was blowing just hard enough to keep the gnats off. The only problem was the water was dirty and high. Oh well, I knew the water would fall fast with the north wind so I planned on waiting it out until conditions got good. As I was assembling my fly rods on the bank, I couldn’t find my big fly box. I thought I had put it under my seat on the Jackson Cruise before I left home. I assumed that it had somehow worked its way out the back of my pickup truck and was sitting on the side of the road somewhere.  That meant that all my deep water Clousers, Charlies, and crab flies were gone. I searched my other fly boxes and was relieved to see that I did have my spoon flies with me (redfish crack) and I had some other flies that I had tied a while back that I had never used. I decided to tie this little fly that looked like a Charlie but it had a mylar skirt on it. It looked real “shrimpy.” I began looking for trout and I had three willing participants on that little shrimp fly. They were, however, all short of 12 inches and after catching three, the bite stopped all together. I paddled to a few of my other trout spots but couldn’t catch a keeper. At about nine, I began my search for redfish but the increasing cloud cover was making sight fishing difficult. I did catch an undersized redfish in a spot where I’ve caught reds before. It too was undersized so I tagged and released it.

At about 10:30, I was thinking that today would be a bust. By now the wind had picked up and the sky was completely overcast. I was poling my way down a marsh bank near some deeper, moving water and I saw the tell-tale sign of a feeding redfish about 30 feet in front of me. I quickly stuck my ParkNPole in a scupper hole and put a good cast with my spoonfly about a foot from the grass but about two feet behind the redfish that was quickly approaching me. I stripped my fly past the redfish and it attacked my fly viciously. The fish ran toward me and I frantically stripped line in and banged on the side of the kayak to keep it from swimming under my kayak. Now picture this. I have a very sizable angry redfish on the end of my line and I have about thirty feet of fly line sitting on the floor of my kayak. That’s a recipe for disaster! I was standing when I hooked the fish but I sat down to fight the fish (as I usually do with big redfish) so I don’t end up on the cover of the Aquatic Club Magazine.  When I bumped the side of my boat, the fish took off and began taking up all the slack line very fast. The doggone line had gotten wrapped around my water bottle (no problem because I was able to quickly untangle it) and wrapped around my boot…big problem because I couldn’t untangle it quick enough and the big redfish had no trouble breaking my tippet. 

I knew that my window for sight fishing was just about closed but the water was dropping and I had found some gin-clear water. I reached under my seat and found…my supposedly lost fly box.  So I decided to tie on one of my Black and Gold Charlies. This is the fly I’m tying for a Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club fly swap so I wanted to get a picture of a redfish on it for the guys who are participating in the fly swap. As I poled my way through some clear water, the sun made a short appearance in the middle of the cloud cover and I was able to spot a nice redfish in a small break in the marsh. I watched it gulp the fly and quickly, I had my third redfish of the day on. I made sure not to repeat my mistake from earlier in the morning and I was able to land this nice redfish.

I began heading back to the car to see how my brother had been doing when I had my next encounter of the day. As I passed a large indention in the marsh that was protected by the wind (shallow water by now) I saw a tell-tale splash and wake of a large redfish. I have to tell you, I have seen more sheepshead this past fall than I can remember in quite sometime. They are very spooky and I sometimes mistake them for redfish as they smash next to the marsh grass. This was no sheepshead though. I could see the light blue tip of its tail as it moved over a small 20-foot area of the marsh that it seemed to claim as its own. I made a couple of presentations with the Black and Gold and it didn’t seem to see it. By now the wind was blowing closer to ten-miles-per-hour and I was having difficulty getting the fly in the kill zone. Patience Doc! Patience! One more good cast…BAM! Big fish on!! I made sure to get this one on the reel quickly and I played it like a champ. It made a couple of good runs and pulled my kayak around the marsh on an epic sleigh ride. Then, all of a sudden it was gone!  All I can think is it cut me off on some of the oysters in the shallow water. Oh well, that happens. I estimate it to have been over 26 inches and I wouldn’t have kept it for table fare anyway. I fished for about another hour without any luck before I called it a day. I did meet up with my brother and he had caught a nice limit of redfish on swim baits. I was happy for him because on our last trip, I had out-fished him with my fly rod.

Happy New Year to you all and may your lines be tight in 2016!

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all who follow or stumble upon this blog. I hope you get to explore the real meaning of Christmas. It’s not about the presents. It’s about your presence…spending time with your loved ones, family and friends.

But this IS a fishing blog, so I have to give you my fishing recipe for a Merry Christmas.

First, you have to have a little red.GOPR3118.jpg

Then you add a little green.FILE0007_2.jpg

Put some gold shiny stuff on it.FILE0013.jpg

And wrap it all up in a pretty ‘bow.IMG_3258.JPG

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Enjoy my latest video too!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLOwlbtrXZc

Happy Thanksgiving! Let’s Fish!

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 9.45.02 PMI took advantage one one last opportunity to fish before rehearsals and concerts make it impossible to fish until the week of Christmas. After a week of strong winds and dirty water, I made a morning trip back to my spot in Leeville with my brother, Keith. Keith fishes “old school” out of a pirogue that he has rigged up with a trolling motor. He also fishes with conventional tackle only. (mostly plastics)

Our morning started out with both of us chasing diving birds. I could tell early on that I wasn’t going to repeat my performance from last week, as most of the trout were small. I did, however, keep track of all the fish I caught today and I ended up catching 49 trout (only 8 were legal sized) and 4 redfish (3 legal sized).

The morning started with very calm winds and high water. The tide quickly made a change and started falling hard. I caught trout on a popper early on but I then changed to a Charlie under a VOSI and started putting numbers in the kayak. My thoughts of a big limit of trout were waning when I saw a big splash against the bank what was a sure telltale sign of a feeding redfish. By the time I paddled over to the spot (riddled with oyster shells on the bottom), the fish had moved. I made several bling casts around the spot I last saw the fish and I got him to eat a gold spoonfly.

An hour later, and I was poling my way through a small “duck pond” filled with clear water. I spotted my first redfish but it moved before I could get my rod up. I threw a couple of blind casts where I had seen it last but I couldn’t get a bite. I then paddled further to the back of the pond where I spotted two redfish. They were not interested in my spoon, so I tied on a crab fly. I  immediately poled my way back to where I had seen the first redfish and I soon landed my first redfish on a crab fly. I ended up catching four (only three kept) redfish.

Notice the big redfish doesn’t have a spot on its tail!

On the paddle back in (I had to be back on the road for 1 PM) I started seeing redfish all over. The water had dropped a foot and now they were visible in the shallow water. After spooking a few, I finally got a 26-inch fish to eat. It ended up being long enough to submit as an upgrade to my redfish entry in our CPR tournament.

I have so much to be thankful for! Hope all my followers had a great Thanksgiving too!

 

 

DIY Fly Drying Wheel Tutorial

In my opinion, nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment of catching fish on flies that I make myself. My favorite flies for bass are poppers and my go-to fly for redfish has been my gold spoon flies. Both of these flies require time on a drying wheel to cure the epoxy correctly. These commercial drying wheels can be purchased from anywhere form $40 – $100. I was looking to make one on my own for about $15.

Here is how I did it:

First, I disassembled my broken dryer and took the wheel and foam (thin piece of plywood with foam glued on it so I could reuse it. Then I headed to the party store and purchased a disco ball for $15.

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The unit has a colored plastic piece that screws on to a round black base that is then attached to the bottom base that houses the motor. I then predrilled and screwed my old wheel to the round base and then screwed the bottom assembly to a piece of small plywood that I attached to a stand.

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You can see in this picture the small stand where I attached my plywood wheel (I even reused the screws that came with the rainbow light for this). I then predrilled holes on another piece of plywood and attached the base mount to it using the three screws from my old dryer. I made a quick stand for it and I was in business.IMG_3214
I even chose to keep the light which will come in handy when I’m not doing this in our kitchen (don’t tell my wife :) ) You can see old drops of epoxy on the wheel from previous use. I hope this helps anyone considering making one of these. It was a lot easier to assemble than the first one I make years ago. Since it came with that plastic round base (the one that screwed to the plastic bulb assembly, it made the whole project so much easier.