I was looking for an opportunity to get down to my beloved Southeast Louisiana Marsh and the weather looked to be outstanding this past Saturday. I called my buddy, Chuck, up and we met at our favorite combat launch in Hopedale at 7 AM. A strong cold front earlier in the week had me psyched to be able to sight-fish for some redfish. As we launched, I noticed that the weatherman had finally gotten it right. We were greeted with calm winds and bright skies…perfect for sight-fishing. I really needed this trip. It’s been a busy, stressful, semester with work, health issues of loved ones and family and other “roadblocks” I’ve had to go around. I started to tell Chuck about some of it and he stopped me and said, “Relax buddy.” Thanks! I needed that!
It was a gorgeous morning. I noticed the usual suspects as we peddled our way to our first fishing spot. There were herons, kingfishers, a descent sized alligator, a few “French ducks” and a small group of teal. The teal brought back many great memories as I watched them zig zag their way over the marsh grass. It’s been at least ten years since I went duck hunting, a passion that I enjoyed for many years. Reduced limits, more posted lands, expenses, and a growing family have kept me away from my shotgun. I make up with it by fly fishing.
I got to my first spot, and I stood up to see that the water wasn’t as clean as I had wished. In fact, visibility was quite poor. I push-poled my way through the marsh and looked for action in cuts in the marsh with no luck. As I poled my way, I heard some drumming. I looked and saw that I had spooked a redfish as I saw it’s wake plow away from me. That was redfish number one. I continued to work my way along the bank, and I saw redfish number two. It too spooked before I could get my rod into a good casting position. Thank goodness it was a calm morning. I saw a large splash about 100 yards away from me. I knew it had to be a redfish, although there were a lot of large mullet in the area. One couldn’t assume that every splash or boil was a redfish. Well, I thought it was a redfish until I saw a large heron fly away from the spot. I then deducted it was just a splash from the feeding shorebird. So, I continued on. I got to some more grassy area and the water cleaned up a little bit, but nothing to get too excited over. If I was going to spot fish, they were going to have to be feeding in the very shallow areas which were clear enough for me to see them before they spotted me. That’s when I saw another large boil and the tell-tale wake of a big redfish in the same area I saw the commotion earlier. I push-poled my way over there, stopping about 60 feet in front of where I saw the commotion. I was determined NOT to spook this fish, so I patiently waited to see if it would show itself again. Water was slowly trickled out of a cut in the marsh and the water was dirty so again, I didn’t want to through away my chance by rushing in. My patience paid off because about five minutes later, I saw the tail of the fish as it chased baitfish nearby. I poled about 10 feet closer, and I waited for my shot. Then I saw it. It was moving about 40-50 feet away from me and it hadn’t seen me. I placed my spoon fly about two feet in front of it and it turned on me. Darned. I knew I didn’t spook it, so I just waited some more. A couple minutes later, I saw its tail again and I put my fly ahead of it again. No eat again. I told myself, “This is supposed to be relaxing. Come on, Doc.” I could feel my heartbeat race as I anticipated the eat. I relaxed and waited some more and about a minute later, the fish made another pass close enough for me to put my fly two feet in front of its nose. Strip. Strip. BAM! It was on! I made a good strip set and I hung on. Determined not to lose this fish, I let it get on the drag quickly and I let it do its thing. The fish angrily fought and fought, picking up grass on my line as it went. I actually thought at one point that I had foul-hooked it in its belly but that was just grass holding my line down. When the fish changed directions, the grass fell off and I was able to keep its head high enough to keep it from digging down in the grass again. About ten minutes later, I was easing the big redfish into my net, which by the way, isn’t big enough AND the weight of the fish pulled one of the rings out of the net handle. Santa Clause is going to have to get me an upgrade.
The redfish was what we call a “baby bull,” that is, one that’s over the slot limit of 27 inches. It was fat, heavy and long at 28 inches.
After a couple of pictures, I let her go because I personally don’t like to clean or eat any over about 24 inches.
That was the last redfish I would see all day. The wind picked up to a steady 12 mps and that, combined with high dirty water, made sight-fishing nearly impossible. We peddled over 8 miles, and I can tell you I’m quite sore even two days later. I got back to our combat launch around 2 and I was disgusted by what I found. I had noticed when we put in that there was a large amount of trash that had been left by bank fishermen. It’s embarrassing to have to admit that I’m from Louisiana at times. You just don’t see this in the streams in other states! I picked up enough trash to fill a crawfish sack and that didn’t even put a dent into the mounds of trash. That put a damper on what otherwise was a relaxing, fun day.
Most of the time, when people down south begin to celebrate crisp cool mornings with bluebird skies and temperatures in the low 50’s, it backfires on them and they end up with just a tease as the high temps creep up to 90 degrees within a few days. I cringe just to say it out loud, but I’ll do it anyway… I think fall has arrived in south Louisiana. We hit several mornings with temperatures in the low to mid 50s and I took advantage of a free morning to visit my favorite little piece of paradise close to home. I actually had to wear a sweatshirt out on the water as I slipped my kayak in the calm cool morning. I learned one thing from last week’s outing. The bass were only active very early in the morning. I was hoping the cooler weather would have them more actively feeding today.
I must have slipped my kayak in the water at 6:35 and by 6:45, I had landed my first big bass of the morning. I was going LSU colors or nothing today.
Within fifteen minutes, I had landed three bass and I thought it was going to be a stellar morning. Well it was stellar. I mentioned the crisp clear air and the calm winds. I heard the tell-tale cracks of several shotguns from hunters who were also taking advantage of the cool morning to try their luck at the opening day of squirrel season. From the sound of things, they shot enough to have a nice squirrel gumbo. I spent some time after my third bass looking around for that alligator but I didn’t see it this morning. I did see an array of birds from white herons to red-headed woodpeckers, to those whistling ducks and a pair or two of wood ducks. Of course it was futile to try to get pictures of them with nothing but an iPhone. Anyway, the disappointing news of the day was I didn’t get another bite after about 7:05. I get asked by my students why I’m so successful at catching fish on my fly rod. I’m probably not all that successful when it comes down to it. However, I do ramp my chances up by getting an early start…a very early start. Most teenagers sleep in on Saturday mornings so they miss the bite.
There was some more excitement this morning as one of the gentlemen who hunts the land behind the lake harvested an 8-point deer with his bow. I got to see the deer in the back of his truck and it was a nice-sized one. I marveled at the perfectly-placed shot that went right through the lungs and probably the heart too. It’s always good to see a deer that has been harvested cleanly, with a good shot. It really disappoints me to hear about the ones that get shot but the hunter isn’t able to find the downed animal.
Anyway, I’ll leave with a picture of the fish of the day, a big bass that was nearly 19 inches long. Until next time…tight loops and tight lines.
With the birth of a new granddaughter, Aniston Kate Andry, school in full swing, and other family obligations, I am the true definition of a “Weekend Warrior.” I look for opportunities to get on the water for a couple hours to enjoy a bit of solitude, watch nature do her thing, and try to fool a fish or two into finding my flies attractive. This Saturday, I found a couple hours to visit my favorite freshwater lake and I wasn’t disappointed. I arrived at dawn and slipped my kayak into the warm water (I found it to be quite warm for September 24). A pair of wood ducks whistled over my head as I began to toss one of my favorite deer hair bugs, the LSU diver, toward the bank…and why not…it was Saturday morning and the highly favored Tigers were set to host New Mexico State that evening.
Shortly thereafter, I got my first strike. It wasn’t one of those big splash strikes which makes fishing poppers so exciting. No, it was a quiet, but confident, slurp of a big fish. I say big, because it measured 17 inches on the ruler on my paddle, which put the fish around 3 pounds. Not bad at all for a fly rod bass and it looked like this morning was going to be stellar.
A short while later, I was lipping my second bass of the morning. This one only measured 13 inches but it jumped and fought like it had something to prove.
The bite slowed, so I paddled toward the back of the lake to get to some of my favorite water. I have a couple students who actually work for the gentleman who owns the property and they told me of a fish (shad) kill during all that rain we had last month. It was good to see some shad flopping around up against the bank near the grass. It was also good to see some bait balls which I assumed were baby shad from this year’s spawn that didn’t perish during the fish kill. I was also told about a six-foot alligator that had been spotted toward the back of the lake too. I actually did get to see the alligator but I didn’t get a photo of it. I was pedaling toward the back when it saw me, and it made it a point to put distance between itself and me before I could get my camera out the dry bin. I continued to fish but the action slowed. By now the sun was completely up and I figured the bass were leaving the shallows to get to some deeper water to escape the heat. I did manage one more bass on the LSU bug, a healthy fish that measured 15 inches.
I spotted the alligator once more and I watched as it swam nearly the entire length of the bank I intended to fish. Any self-respecting fish probably swam away for fear of being breakfast. I tied on a shad imitation streamer (Musicdoc shad fly) and I targeted fish in deeper water.
I also ran across three female whistling ducks with young broods that looked very concerned about the lurking alligator and this crazy dude in the light blue kayak. Sorry, no pics here either 😦
That’s when I noticed some stirring at the boat dock. Two colleagues of my buddy had arrived to do their morning workout routine. It’s a great workout that targets the arms, shoulders, legs, and core. If you guessed water skiing, you’re a winner. My friend had the lake dug because of his passion for water skiing. He only put fish in it as an afterthought. Nowadays, he probably fishes as much as he waterskis.
Anyway, my morning fishing was over and I felt a bit of redemption from my outing last weekend when I landed three bass and missed five strikes. This morning, after spending a little less than three hours on the water, I went three for three. While that might not seem like much to some people, it was just what I needed after a stressfully busy work week, the excitement of new life in the birth of my granddaughter, and stress from health issues of dear family and friends. I am thankful for my “weekend warrior” opportunities but I am truly blessed with a beautiful family and wonderful friends and I close this post out with some of my most prized blessings.
I figure it’s been two months since I have been on the water. It’s been a) too hot, b) too wet c) too busy with work and family commitments d) all of the above. Of course, the answer was d. With a new granddaughter being delivered today and being right in the middle of marching band season, I have had little time to fish or tie flies.
I was able to fish for an hour-and-a-half yesterday before church and I decided to try to test some new foam (crease) flies I tied earlier this summer. As I slipped my kayak quietly into the upper lake in my neighborhood, I observed that the morning was super quiet and there was a dense fog advisory issued. Both of those conditions are perfect for fishing a popper in the shallows. When it’s that quiet, I can actually hear fish feeding in shallows and I can target them. The fog (or overcast conditions) keeps the fish in the shallows longer. About 5 to ten minutes into the morning, I had my first blowup on my popper. I felt the fish on but my hook didn’t stick it and I was left empty handed. No worries. I figured it was fisherman error. Five minutes later, I missed another and this time I never really “felt” the fish. It took my popper down and when I set the hook, my popper came flying back to me. This went on two more times before I told myself, “enough is enough!” and I switched to a more tried and reliable deer hair popper. I didn’t get as many strikes with my frog imitation and I actually missed my first on the new popper, but on my second strike, my hook found its mark in the corner of the fish’s mouth and I lipped a nice 14-inch fish into my kayak. I quickly released it and continued to fish. I struck up a conversation with one of my neighbors and I watched him land a nice 3-plus pound fish on a whopper plopper. Meanwhile, I noticed there was a large concentration of small baitfish (probably fingerling shad) in the area and I saw a small bass go airborne after some bait so I decided to switch to a small shad imitation. A short time later and I was lipping another fish into my kayak.
It was good to get back out on the water and I plan on doing some more fishing once the weather cools. As for the foam popper, I have not completely given up on it yet. It’s going to take more “research.” I love research 🙂 I do think I need to make these with a larger hook gap though. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments section.
Many of you who are into the fly fishing sport are aware of Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO rods). I actually own three of their rods and one of the reasons I purchased TFO was because of their outstanding warranty. When I initially purchased my first TFO rod, I believe the process involved placing the broken rod in a rod tube and mailing it along with $40 back to TFO and within a week, you would have a replacement section for that rod delivered to your door. I have had to use this several times before and I have never had a complaint. I believe once I had to return a rod that had been discontinued and they sent me a brand new rod in a comparable line of quality.
Most recently, I broke my two-piece, Lefty Kreh Signature 3 wt. This easy to cast, fun little rod has provided me with hours and hours of fun “ultralight” fishing for warm-water species and I have even landed bass up to 3 and a half pounds on it. The service fee for warranties has gone up to $50 so it was still going to be worth it to pay that and a shipping fee to get a replacement section for a rod that probably costs $150 + for a brand new one. Well, just like I expected, I received my replacement rod, which was delivered to my front door about one week after I mailed it to TFO. The only problem was, someone in the shipping department had not stapled the little plastic caps on the cardboard rod tube and when I went to open the tube, the rod had fallen out, and probably stepped on or crushed by other packages. I called FedEx and they filed an investigation report for me and they said they would look into it. I tried for a couple days to reach TFO but I must have called at bad times because twice, I had to leave a voicemail and I never received a callback from them. My third time was the charm and I was able to speak to a nice lady. YEAH! Not a computer! She looked up my account and she said she would refer it to her manager. I thought yeah, right, we will see. Well, that was on Monday and by Friday, I received another TFO rod tube with a brand new Signature 3 wt in it. I can’t tell you just how thrilled I am with their customer service and I would recommend TFO to anyone out there considering a new rod.
Today’s fishing report is brought to you bye the game, Never Have I Ever. In today’s pop culture, I understand it is a drinking game. From what I understand, players sit in a circle and someone says, “Never have I ever…and they fill in the blank with something they have never done before. Anyone in the group who has done the “thing” must drink. So, I’m starting this blog entry with Never have I ever and let’s see if you have to take a drink. It can be coffee, tea, water, or any beverage of your choosing.
Never have I ever been on the water in my kayak and seen a water spout.
So, how many of you had to take a drink? I’m sure some of you have been on the water with one of these. I have seen several of these over the many years I’ve been fishing. They really are quite beautiful. This one was probably 30 -50 miles away from me, out in the Gulf. This next one, from 2013 was a little bit closer. I didn’t take the pictures, someone else did and it is quite menacing.
Back to my fishing report. I passed on a trip with my buddy yesterday because I saw the radar and it looked like a mini hurricane was going to be hitting Delacroix right around the time I planned on getting there. It was probably a good call for me to stay in Baton Rouge but my buddy did land 8 redfish between squalls. After hearing that, I decided to get up early to beat the rain and headed to Delacroix myself. Herein lies my “never have I ever” number 2 or my never have I ever for the day.
Never have I ever had so many redfish REJECT a gold spoon fly! Conditions were quite favorable. There was virtually zero wind and I had a full sun until noon. The water was dirty (even where there was grass) but the redfish were feeding on crabs. I love sight-fishing for redfish but today, I had to rely on my ears. I push-poled my way through the flats and I would hear a big splash. I would then head toward the area where I heard it and I would wait for the fish to make its presence known. More times than not, this tactic worked for me. I saw a few redfish angrily come out of the water as they chased down bait. I later realized the “bait” they were chasing was baby crabs. The crabs were all over the place.
My first and only good eat came early during the day (actually while I was still monitoring that water spout). I saw a fish chasing bait in the shallows near a broken island. I pushed poled my way over to the fish and I slowly and stealthily eased my way up to where I had last seen it. I noticed several times during the day, that as I approached a feeding fish, I could hear my own heartbeat in my head. It’s absolutely nuts what adrenaline can do. I imagine that’s what happens to a bow hunter as he/she draws his/her bow on a big buck. As I got closer, I saw my pumpkin-colored adversary. I put my spoon fly about a foot in front of it…strip…strip…strip…bam! The fish immediately dug down in the grass. I tried to keep my rod tip high to keep the fish from digging into the grass but It was fruitless. The redfish had about 5 pounds of “salad” attached to my leader. I reached my hand in the water several times to strip the grass off my leader so I could work the fish. I would pull grass away and add a little pressure to my line. Then I’d feel the fish shaking on the other end so I knew it was still on. I guess having to fight a kayak and several pounds of grass zapped the fight right out of the redfish. After what seemed like 10 minutes (it probably wasn’t that long), I was able to get the fish in my net. I felt like I had really earned that fish with all it took to sneak up on it, get it to eat, and then fight it without it breaking my tippet.
I was on the board. I usually don’t keep anything over 24 inches and this one went 25. I had a hard time trying to revive it and after about five minutes of trying, I decided to put it in the ice chest. My daughter and the grandkids will be here this week and I know they love Nanna’s redfish courtboullion.
Little did I know it but that was the last eat I would get all day. I saw lots of fish. I spooked lots of fish, but never, ever, have I seen so many fish reject the spoon fly. I tried casting 2 inches away from their nose. I tried a foot away. I tried two feet and then strip the fly across their path. They either spooked and took off or they ignored it completely. I had two or three that actually followed the fly for several feet and then they decided not to eat. I got several multiple shots at fish that didn’t even see me. Oh. I forgot to ask. How many of you had to take a drink? I’ve had fish reject my fly before but I guess I had about 20 fish just say no to the gold spoon fly.
So, I changed tactics…and flies. I tied on one of my crab imitations. The problem with my crab flies is, I use a small lead dumbbell weight to turn the hook point up. While this works just fine, it sinks too quickly and I end up catching grass on every cast. The spoon fly wobbles on down and can actually be fished in a way where I rarely have to clean grass off it. Well, after I had two redfish follow my crab imitation and decide not to eat. I switched back to my spoon fly. This pattern continued all morning long. By noon, I saw several small squalls heading my way, so I decided not to be a statistic and I headed in. Wind, rain, and clouds don’t work well when sight fishing. So, now I’m a man on a mission. I will work on tying a crab fly that isn’t so heavy. That just means I’ll have to do some more research. You all know how much I like “research.”
I’ve had a little time on my hands as I prepare for upcoming time with my grandkids and then band camp. So, I’ve been trying different types of foam flies that 1) would be easy for my students in my fly fishing club to tie and 2) would catch fish. I tried a different version of my last “crease” fly and I finished with these:
I don’t mind trying other people’s ideas, as long as they catch fish. Well, here’s proof of concept:
That last bass hit around 8:30 PM and it was getting dark, thus the blurry picture. I almost didn’t see the bass slurp the fly and had me laughing out loud as it tried to jump, but it just flopped and plopped on the surface of the water. It’s always nice to know that the neighborhood fish are eating well and are looking healthy. I am hoping the weather cooperates tomorrow and I get to get my 8 wt out to try for some marsh redfish.
This is just a short addendum to my last post. As I mentioned there, I bent the hooks a bit to widen the hook gap. I got to do some “research” after the monsoon rain we had this afternoon and the bass didn’t disappoint. I did miss three strikes but I think it was because of poor hook sets by the fisherman and not the fly. I did manage to land these two and you can see the hook was lodged firmly in the side of each fish’s mouth.
I think I have some more tweaking to do (like getting that hook eye closer to the “belly” of the fly). I can’t wait to improve on this one and teach it to the students in my fly fishing club at school. It can be tied with inexpensive foam, inexpensive Mustard hooks (size 2/0) and some stick on eyes. A little craft fur for the tail, stick on eyes, epoxy, and these flies will be ready to catch fish.
As a fly fisherman and someone who loves the challenge and thrill of catching fish on flies that I tie myself, I am always looking for new fly patterns, new color combinations, and new materials to tie. I recently stumbled on some beautiful flies on social media that were tied using craft foam. These were basically crease flies but crease flies on “steroids.” I have tied crease flies in the past and I had some success catching fish on them, but I found my hookup ratios weren’t as good as those on deer hair poppers and divers. After seeing these beautiful I thought I would tie a few of these up myself. These are ties by Carl Harris (you can find his work on facebook). I think he ties these in size 5, probably for big pike, so I wanted to tie a few in a size 2 for bass. Another motive I had for trying to tie these was to be able to teach an easy pattern to my high school fly tiers next year. They looked pretty easy enough. 🙂
Well, I came up with these.
Boy, they sure look pretty, don’t they? Well, it was time to do some “research” in my neighborhood lake. I got up early this morning and put my kayak in our upper lake. I was fishing with the shad colored one and I got an early blowup before the sun had even come up. My first missed fish. About 15 minutes later, and I missed another fish on the popper. I also had a lot of small bream that snapped and missed my fly. No worries because they were my target fish anyway. This pattern of missed fish continued until I had missed four bass. Well that was enough “research” for me. I cut my foam imitation off and tied on one of my deer hair bugs. In a hurry, I didn’t tie a good knot. About four or five casts with that diver, I had a big blowup. My hook found its mark and I had a nice bass on for about 3 seconds when it popped my leader. Had tied a bad knot, but luckily, the fish spit my dahlberg diver out and it was floating about three feet from where I had lost the fish. I quickly retied, making sure to secure my knot well. Ten minutes later, I had a big bass roll on the bug but it didn’t eat it. Two casts later, its little brother couldn’t resist and I landed a feisty little largemouth bass.
I was back at my house before 8 AM and I had to do some thinking about those foam flies. First of all, I realized my hook gap wasn’t wide enough.
I actually threw that fly in the garbage and I decided to widen the hook gaps on the other flies I had tied.
So, now I have to do some more research. My goal is to come up with an easy pattern for my club members to tie with inexpensive foam they can purchase at a local hobby store. I’ll do some tweaking, some more research, and I’ll post my results here. Research is fun!!
I am truly thankful for all the good gifts that God gives me every day. I thank Him for life, for my family, my health, and so much more. I am also thankful for some of the good friends I’ve made through my love of the outdoors and fly fishing/kayak fishing. When I was going through some of my photos on my computer, it occurred to me I had only made one trip to the Southeast Louisiana marsh this current calendar year. There are numerous reasons for this from family obligations, to work commitments, to poor weather conditions, but as weird as it may be, the planets lined up perfectly for me Wednesday. I was able to witness this in person as I drove down to Delecroix Island to target my favorite fish, le poisson rouge.
Of course, I texted one of my New Orleans fishing buddies, who has been my guide lately as I am learning new water that is only a two-hour drive from my house instead of the usual two-and-a-half to three I have been taking down south of Golden Meadow. I don’t know if he would want me to mention his name on this blog, so I’ll just say that he has a blog that I list as one of those I follow. He has fished out of Hobie kayaks for a while and he’s a valuable resource to have around. I have learned a lot from him in the few trips I’ve made with him, and he’s been such a tremendous help answering questions like: “What’s this extra gadget on my Hobie for?” “Where do you stow the pedals when you’re standing to sight fish?” “What’s the best way to strap the kayak to your truck?” and of course… “Where can I find the clean water?” He was a Godsend yesterday when we were peddling away from our launch site and he commented, “Have your rod ready to toss a fly at a redfish if you see a big swirl on the way to our first spot.” I replied, “Sure, I’ll…wait…no way…I’ll…on my!!” I left my rod on the bank at the launch! So I peddled back the nearly quarter mile or so to retrieve about $600 in fish-catching gear. Oh, I know what you’re thinking…No, I didn’t spend that on it but I won the $250 reel in a fishing tournament and I won the $350 rod in a raffle. I know I needed to work up a sweat anyway. I was reminded just how good God is when I turned around to face the east again and I saw this.
So, I fiercely peddled to catch up to my buddy. Thankfully, he was doing some blind casting to structure to kill some time while I caught up with him. We stopped to fish a point early after that sunrise and I caught my first fish of the morning, a nice marsh largemouth bass. I was told that Hurricane Ida took a big toll on these marsh bass. I assume it was because of the inundation of salt water to the brackish water. I released this one to go make babies for future generations.
I was told that we would be peddling about a mile from the launch to our redfish spot. The wind had kicked up in the bay and even though it wasn’t howling, the combination of a shallow bay with 5 – 10 mile winds made it a difficult and wet peddle. It’s times like this that I purchased my Hobie. At my age, I need to work smarter and not harder. While I am a strong paddler, my leg muscles are a larger group and common sense tells me I can cover more water using a larger muscle group. Covering more water lately is becoming a necessity these past few years. I think I’ve written on my blog before, that I think one of the reasons it’s harder to find fish in areas that used to be so productive, is simply due to the popularity of our sport. It seems everyone down here is fishing out of kayaks. These days, it’s not uncommon to see 100 trucks and cars carrying kayaks on LA 1 between Leeville and Grand Isle on a summer weekend. Now imagine if everyone one of those fishermen are harvesting 3-5 redfish a trip. That’s a lot of redfish being harvested within a mile of the launch. Now, add to that the popularity of big redfish tournaments and bow fishing and you can understand why places I used to catch up to 25 redfish in an outing are becoming hard to come by. I find I’m having to explore water further and further from the road, thus the addition of the Hobie to my plastic navy.
Anyway, back to my fishing report. When I got to our predetermined, spot number one, I saw some commotion in the shallow water. I made a few casts and I determined they were bass chasing bait because I saw a bass go airborne like it was shot out of a cannon. I couldn’t get my fly in close enough to where the action was because of all the grass and I was actually cleaning the grass off my spoon fly when I saw a big swirl about 20 feet ahead of my kayak. I was able to get a good clean cast out there and bam, fish on! That redfish took off like it was shot from a submarine (it didn’t get air like the bass). I still had my peddles in so I was able to maneuver my kayak and let the weight of the kayak help to act as drag to wear the fish down. A around 27 inches (I left my bump board at home but I have a ruler on my paddle), it was way too big to harvest so it is still swimming today.
About an hour later, and I was now standing and push-poling my way through some very “fishy” water. I was thinking, I’m one for one. Spotted one caught it. Then I spotted redfish number two. It was cruising the edge of a grass bed with about 3 friends. I made an errant cast, or so I thought, which landed the fly about six feet to the left of the school. This guy was so aggressive, it looked like it was determined to beat his buddies to the easy meal. My, was it surprised when it found out that that shiny piece of gold spoon had a hook in it! It made several angry dashes and after a long fight, I eased redfish number two into my landing net. This one measured about 28 inches on my paddle ruler so it was released too.
I need to vent now. Here’s what happens when you don’t fish often enough. So, I already mentioned I forgot my rod on the bank. I bring two and you can see my spare on the ice chest on my photo. I never had to use it this day. I put the other one down on the bank because I’ve learned not to put the rods in the kayak until I’ve gotten the boat in the water. I’ve actually flipped a kayak over on the bank in my neighborhood lake and it flipped over two rods. Thankfully, neither of them broke but I’ve learned my lesson. After landing my first redfish, I had about 15 feet of line still in the water with my spoon fly. I began to peddle to get away from a shallow weed bank and I ran over my line. Of course, my fly got caught on one of the blades. I thought if I’d pull it up, I could retrieve my fly. When I pulled it up, I lost one of my gold spoon flies. No worries, because I had four gold ones, a crab colored one, and several black spoon flies. I also caught my fly on my rudder. When I tied on a new fly and I tossed it into the water, the wind blew me over my line and it got tangled. Another reason I bought the Hobie Compass is because it’s very sturdy. I was able to turn around and reach over my ice chest and under the bottom of my kayak to grab the line, retrieve the fly, cut it off, pull the line through the rudder system and retie…all without falling in. Yeah!!
OK. Back to the fishing report. So I was two for two. Sighted two fish. Caught two fish. I was feeling proud of myself…shouldn’t have done that, Doc! The next redfish I saw didn’t go so well. A bad cast by me in the wind and it spooked. So now it’s Doc – two. Redfish – one. I’m still winning. Well that didn’t last long. I spooked probably another 15 fish before my next hookup. I didn’t even get to cast to most of them. They would see my boat or my rod when I would lift it up for a cast and they would bolt out of there, drumming as they scramble away. By that way, if you haven’t heard the sound of redfish drumming in the marsh, you aren’t fishing shallow enough. That’s why they are in the drum family. There were actually times when the redfish saw ME before I saw them. The reason I knew is because I heard “the drum” and then when I looked I spotted the fish as it was swimming away from me. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about…I would assume it’s similar to what a squirrel does when it sees you and it starts barking at you.
Well, I was able to connect with my third redfish. This one was another “baby bull” and I was playing it perfectly, except it kept on collecting “salad.” I was having to play the 8 pound angry fish along with 3-5 pounds of wet sea grass. Just when I thought I was going to win the battle, the fish took one more hard run and broke my line. Oh well, at this point, I had quit keeping score so we won’t talk about it, but it’s like gambling. The house always wins and with fishing, it’s the same analogy. My ice chest was still empty.
My wife loves to comment when I do get home after a day-long fishing trip, “where are the fish?” My reply is usually, they were hard to find today or I only caught the big ones today. So far, by answer was going to have to be the latter. I texted my buddy and he had caught a 31-inch redfish. Yep, neither of us would be bringing home fish for supper this day. But seriously, I began to look for smaller fish. I made a few casts to groups of fish, trying to target the smaller one in the pack. I thought about when I used to duck hunt…don’t shoot randomly in the flock…pick one out first…and I did! I saw a group of about 4 to six redfish working their way away from me and I cast to the smallest one in the group. It didn’t disappoint. A few minutes later, I landed one around 18-19 inches long.
When I went to unhook this fish, I saw that it had destroyed my spoon fly.
Anyway, now I had one that was a perfect size for grilling so my wife won’t hound me when I get home. Well, yes, she did ask about all the fish I caught. I had to honestly tell her, “they were too big, honey.”
Anyway, the day had been great. I had gone through all four of the gold spoon flies I had in my box and Oh no. I was out of gold spoon flies. I decided to try an experimental spoon fly that I colored to look like a small blue crab. After getting two refusals; I mean, both redfish I cast to looked at it, followed it, but didn’t eat it. That was all I needed. I tied on one of my black and gold Charlies. I knew in this murky water, I would need some flash. I also thought about what another good friend of mine, Catch Cormier, says about redfish flies, “A redfish will eat any fly, as long as it’s gold.”
So, we were heading back toward our launch point and to get there, we would have to peddle through a small cut in the marsh to get to another large pond. I spooked a nice redfish and I alerted my buddy that it was heading his way. It was just deep enough to use my peddles and then I would paddle when it got too shallow. I spooked a large redfish and it headed back behind me toward my buddy. I hollered to him to be on the lookout for it. Then I spooked another small one and I told myself, I need to be standing so I can cast to them before I spook them. Every trip provides me with a lesson to be learned and this trip had already taught me a thing or two about what NOT to do. I was about to learn another valuable lesson. When I stand to fish, I usually remove my pedals in order to clear the front cockpit and eliminate things that might tangle my fly line. I began pushing myself with my paddle through this narrow (maybe 15 feet or so wide) cut in the marsh. It was muddy and surprisingly had some redfish and lots of mullet in it. I got to a point that widen up and I spooked another redfish. I watched its wake move into some deeper water. I went into super stealth mode and creeped up to where I last saw its wake. Then I saw the telltale amber side of its body slowly moving away from me. I put a cast out two feet in front of it…strip strip…bam. This one wasn’t the smaller one I was chasing earlier. I gave it a good hook set and watched my rod bend over. I could tell it was heading for my kayak and it would probably go under my boat. I thought about those fins so I thought to myself, “if I can just keep it from going under my boat.” Then I looked down to see my fly line entangled in the pedals. Now my thoughts changed to, “if I can just get this line untangled before it really realizes its hooked and makes a huge run.” It seemed like slow motion. I got one loop untangled from one pedal with my left hand, while maintaining pressure on the fish with my other hand, and then I felt it take off. I started letting some line slip between my fingers and the rod until no more slack line was left, except what was wrapped around that last foot pedal and…snap. I watched futilely, while I saw the escaped redfish send a large wake far away from me. Lesson learned…if I’m going to stand and fish, get the pedals put away before casting. This isn’t a big problem when I’m sitting because the line falls harmlessly in my lap.
We push-poled our way in another productive area, but the redfish were cruising below the marsh grass and by the time I would see one, there was no opportunity to cast without getting caught in salad. I had gone through one large bottle of water and four bottles of sports drinks. Being satisfied with the fact that I hadn’t cramped up, I wasn’t bleeding anywhere, I hadn’t fallen in, and I was able to do battle with five redfish and land three, I decided it was a great day and it was time to head to the truck. My buddy felt the same way and we paddled back to the launch together. We each had one redfish to take home for supper and we decided to catch a burger and a beer on the way home. I thank God for the beauty of nature, the ability to pursue my sport, and for good fishing buddies.
Here are a couple more pictures from the day.
I know I titled this post, The Tug is my Drug, but in reality, my grandkids are my number one so, Their HUG is my drug!