Dog Days of Summer get you down? Pandemic get you down? Then, check out my latest video. I spent 2 hours at a friend’s lake/pond and I was able to entice a few bass to eat a deer-hair frog popper. The days are actually getting shorter and I think there is a little bit of thermal cooling taking place. That, coupled with some afternoon showers, is gradually cooling the water enough to get them to come back to the shallows to feed on frogs and baby bream. Enjoy!
The rainy weather is keeping me from going to the marshes so I’m going to make the most of it by staying local and fishing for bass and bream. Oh, and I’ve been tying a few flies too. I’ve been venturing away from my deer hair bugs and I’ve been tying with foam lately to target bluegill.
So, this report will cover two morning fishing trips. One in my neighborhood lake and the other at my buddy’s private lake. The private lake is my go-to spot when I really want a quiet morning that us going to be 90% productive. So Monday, my body clock woke me up at 5:30 again and I walked my kayak a block-and-a-half to our neighborhood lake. I’m really blessed because we actually have two lakes that are adjacent to each other…separated by a small concrete dam. We call them the “upper” lake and the “lower” lake. To get a change of scenery, all I have to do is either fish the upper lake or the lower lake. I find that the upper lake, which is more shallow, provides a better fly fishing experience (mostly with poppers). The lower lake is deeper, it is much larger, and it has more numbers (and probably has larger fish). I have heard reports of local kids catching 8-pound bass in both lakes though, so there are probably big fish in both. However, I find that the bass can be more challenging to catch on flies in the lower lake. Well that theory went bust, if you read my previous post. I caught five nice bass in the lower lake.
I was wanting a change of scenery Monday, so I slipped my kayak in the water around 5:50 in the upper lake. I noticed that the shad were no longer spawning near the banks but I still had confidence that I could get a couple of takers on poppers. Much to my surprise, it was a very slow morning. I did catch a nice bluegill on a size 1/0 popper and two 12-inch bass.
I decided to hop the levee and fish the lower lake, the one where I had success on the previous trip. I didn’t even manage a bite. All was quiet. My biggest catch of the morning was this. I always pick up any trash I find in the neighborhood lakes and dispose of it appropriately. Hard seltzer and Coors Light?? You’ve got to be kidding me! 🙂
So fast forward a couple of mornings. I had the kayak loaded in the back of my truck and I was armed with two 5 wt rods; one with a deer hair popper (to imitate the crawfish the bass have been eating) and the other with a Musicdoc shad. I made the 35 minute run to my buddies lake and I slipped my kayak in the water just before 6 AM. Immediately, I saw some bait working the shoreline (spawning shad) and a few big swirls of fish feeding. After a few misguided casts, I finally was able to get a nice one to eat. It was a healthy 14-inch bass that I released. I had to work the shoreline pretty hard before I caught my next bass on the popper.
My buddy has instructed me that if I want to continue to fish his lake, I have to harvest everything under 15-inches. He wants to make it a trophy lake. So, this little guy went on the stringer. I noticed that the herons and egrets (I wish I would have taken pictures because I saw at least 4 different species) were having a lot more success than me and were gorging themselves on the shad that were flittering and fluttering near the shore. I decided to switch to my rod with the shad streamer on it and I soon had a nice hookup.
I kept looking to see if I could identify a specific pattern. In previous trips, I’ve been able to sight fish for the bass by watching for them as they work in groups of two or three to “herd” baitfish up against the bank. I never saw that this morning. I did see an occasional single fish eat near the bank but by the time I paddled over there, it had most likely either moved or gotten its fill. It has been well documented that summertime bass fishing is tough. Large bass seem to know that they have to get a lot of bang for their buck. They need an easy meal, one that will fill them up so they don’t have to feed as aggressively throughout the hot day. I figured that was why I was only catching smaller fish. Most of the bass were in deeper water. I began to fish my shad fly about 10-15 feet from the bank and that’s where I had my most success.
I managed to catch seven bass, which is normally a good morning. However, this lake usually produces double-digit numbers of bass for me. I decided to call it a morning around 9:30 and I headed home to get some work done for school. I did catch an 18-inch fish that had the mouth of a 4 -pound fish but the body of a 2-and-a-half pound fish. (I actually weighed it)
I did harvest six bass in all and I was surprised to see that all of them had empty stomachs. I guess the summer heat has them lethargic. Oh, well, you know what that means, right? More research! 🙂
Tight loops and tight lines!
That’s not a typo…Happy July 5th…well.. I mean, I had a happy trip to my neighborhood lake this morning. My body clock woke me up at 5:30 so I grabbed a cup of coffee, put my kayak on wheels, grabbed two 5 wt rods and my 3 wt. and I carted my yak a block and a half to my neighborhood lake. My goal was to relax and just catch fish. I began with a hare’s ear nymph under a strike indicator and I started catching small bluegill.
It was a bit foggy and there was a slight mist on the water. I heard a few splashes from some feeding bass, so I switched over to a deer hair popper in one of my frog patterns. I was working some water near some overhanging brush in the water when I caught my first bass, a feisty 10-inch fish. I quickly released that fish and began to wonder if maybe a pattern would develop. Two casts later, I was fighting a very feisty 14-inch bass that went airborne several times.
If you take a closer look at the photo, you can see the overgrown brush by the water’s edge. I began to think that the bass were sitting in the shade, waiting for an easy meal. So, I continued to work that stretch of water. After about 10 minutes or so, I found myself stripping my popper parallel to the edge when a massive explosion of water struck my fly. I set the hook hard and I knew right away it was a big fish. This bass dug down and took off for deeper water at first. It started pulling my kayak and then it doubled back toward the cover where it probably was initially hiding in wait for an easy meal. I tried to turn it but it dug down into a bunch of cover and my line had wrapped around the branches of a sunken tree limb. You know that sinking feeling when you know you’re about to lose a good fish? Well I had that feeling. I’m sure at that point I started talking to that fish, calling it a few names I won’t repeat here. That son-of-a-gun was a smart fish! I didn’t quite know how to approach this. If I tried to horse it out, it would surely break my tippet and the fish would be gone. So, I gave it some slack, thinking it might unwrap itself and head back out to open water. That didn’t work. My third idea was to reach my hand down and grab the limb and pull it up toward me. I thought I could land the limb and the fish. I started pulling the heavy branch up but the best I could do, was get the fish closer to me where I could see its size. I nearly tipped my kayak over a couple of times trying to pull the limb up while I kept tension on the fish. Finally, I worked my fingers down the tippet until I found the branch it was wrapped around and I was able to snap the branch. The fish took off…still hooked! By this time, one of the the people who lives on the lake had seen the commotion and he walked over to the water’s edge to see if I would land it. As long as I could keep it in open water, I felt like I had a chance. Finally, what seemed like forever (well maybe 5 minutes), I lipped the fish and brought it over the side of my kayak.
I wish I had a scale with me. My last digital scale got soaked and it doesn’t work anymore. I would conservatively estimate that it was between 4 and a half to 5 pounds, but I’ll never know for sure. Maybe I’ll catch it again some day. By now, I thought I had found a pattern. I had caught three bass in a 50 yard stretch of water within a half hour of each other. I continued to work the same bank and 15 minutes later, I had caught another bass. This one wasn’t as big as the last one but it was a descent fish at around 14 inches.
It was around 8 AM now and the sun had burned through the early morning fog. I wasn’t getting any more action with my popper, so I switched back to my hare’s ear nymph. I continued to catch bream and must to my enjoyment, I was able to catch bluegill, a red-ear sunfish (chinquapin) and a pumpkin-seed sunfish.
I had a few more areas I wanted to try, in search of bull bream but the big bluegills and chinquapin just haven’t shown themselves since the flood of 2016. Since I had caught three different species of sunfish (well 4 if you call a bass a sunfish) I thought I’d try to see if I could catch a crappie and make it five different fish. I tied on a chartreuse and black fluff butt and began working some downed timber and the posts to a bridge that I have had some success in previous trips. I didn’t get any crappie to hit but I did get another descent-sized bass to eat my fluff butt.
Well, It was nearing 10 when I decided to call it a morning. I had grass to cut and other honey dos to get to before the rain comes this afternoon. It was a “happy” and productive morning. I hope yours was too.
Tight loops and tight lines to you all!
Wow! We have already gone through the month of June and I haven’t added much to this blog. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been fishing…well not that much. I did manage one trip to Delacroix with a buddy of mine and I managed to catch two 21-inch redfish. Not a new species for me, but I had these two pictures I had to share. 🙂
Now for the new species. For quite some time now, I’ve wondered why some fly fishermen travel hundreds of miles to remote areas to catch 5 and 6 inch trout. Some of these fish have names like Apache trout, Gila trout, etc. I get why they like fishing remote areas. I love people. I just don’t love having to share my fishing hole with bunches of them while I fish. As for new species, I recall the thrill I experienced three years ago when I caught my first Chicken Dolphin on the fly rod. I brought my 8 wt. with me on an offshore trip I made. You can read about it here. (https://kevinandry.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/redefining-the-word-epic/) But those fish were three-to-five-pound fish and they pulled hard. Well it’s taken three years since that trip for me to finally get got an opportunity to catch a new species on my fly rod..and while the fish were relatively small, the experience of catching a rare fish for the first time was totally cool. Last week, my family took a trip to the Texas hill/wine country to do some relaxing with my three beautiful grandchildren. We spent three days in a cabin on the Blanco River and I was able to “sneak” out with my fly rod one drizzly morning. I said, “sneak,” but I really had planned to do some fishing at least for a few hours one morning during this trip. I was having so much fun with my family, (I did mention Texas Wine country too so there was plenty wine consumed during this trip) that I didn’t feel the urge to wake up early without the grandkids and fish without them until the very last morning. To be perfectly honest though, the first two days I spent on the water with the grandkids provided me with opportunities to scout the area near our cabin for fish. We waded, swam with “floaties, and we even rented a kayak one morning to explore the area. By the third morning, I had a good idea what areas would be holding fish.
The morning I ventured out, the weather didn’t look too promising. There were lots of showers in the area and it was already drizzling. I knew this would be my last chance to fish the Blanco, so I wasn’t going to let a little rain keep me off the water. We had used all the ziplock bags for leftover food and such, so I had no way of keeping my phone dry and I definitely didn’t want to risk soaking it if I stepped into deep water (which I did) or if I slipped and fell (which I also did). So, I realized that any fish I did catch would not get photographed. I began the morning with a foam dry fly that a buddy of mine uses for trout and carp. I use the fly for big bluegill by my house and I figured I’d catch a few bluegill, and maybe a small bass or two on it. About five minutes into my fishing, I placed a perfect cast by a submerged log and I got a good eat from a feisty Rio Grande Cinchid. Although it wasn’t the first time I’ve caught a Rio, it was the first time I actually caught one in Texas.
My next species was a very small black bass. Not a new species either, but nevertheless, I was catching fish on a dry fly in the Blanco River. The next few fish I caught, however, were brand new to me. In fact, I had to look the species up on the internet to confirm what kind of sunfish it was. They were a type of sunfish called the red breast sunfish. This sunfish has a “long ear” but doesn’t have the beautiful coloration of the long ear. I also noted that the mouth on these little fish is quite large, somewhere between a regular bluegill and a warmouth (which we call goggle-eye in South Louisiana). I probably caught 8 or so of these fish which ranged from about 3 inches to maybe 7 inches for the biggest one.
The most exciting new species for me, however, was the rare Guadalupe bass. I landed three of these little guys, with the largest one going about 11 inches or so. I’m so used to catching largemouth bass, the coloration of these guys caught me by surprise at first. I had read about people catching this subspecies of bass so I kind of had an idea there were a few of them in the Blanco. Plus, I had seen a couple large ones (probably 1.5-2 lbs) when I was in the kayak the previous day. The water was so clear, it was obvious they weren’t largemouth bass.
I don’t know if I’ll ever find myself chasing Apache trout or Gila trout, but I can check the Guadalupe bass and the red breast sunfish off my bucket list. I have to invest in a waterproof phone protector because I don’t have any real “photo” evidence from this trip but there is a silver lining to this. We found a great winery in Fredericksburg and my daughter and her husband joined their wine club, so we have an excuse to go back soon…YES!!!
Now that we are in the thick of sweat-fest 2021, and the summer thunderstorm pattern has developed, I’ll probably have to limit my fishing to early morning jaunts out to local ponds and lakes. If the weather looks like it will be conducive to sight-fishing, however, I’ll probably head to my beloved South Louisiana marshes to chase the “spot-tailed Elvis,” as a good friend of mine calls him.
Happy Fourth of July! Tight loops and tight lines to you all.
The Neighborhood Lakes, Revisited 🙂
Based on the fact that my last post here was a “revisited” post, and we’ve had all this rain lately, I did want to share a small story about the benefits of this rain during the months of April, May, and early June. During those months, the shad in the neighborhood lakes begin to spawn. They look for floating debris (weeds), foam, and shoreline and they do their “morning dance,” as I call it every morning from about a half hour before sunup right to sunrise. When the rains come and the water overflows from the upper lake, over the dam, to the lower lake, the morning bite can be spectacular! It’s nothing to see over a thousand shad “fluttering” by the bank edges, but they especially like the moving water and the foam it creates as it cascades over the man-made dam. When this happens, one gets to witness the feeding frenzy that the bass and sacalait have for one special half hour in the wee wee hours of the morning.
I made the 6-minute walk a couple days last week and I was treated to this special phenomenon…and a few fish. All fish were caught on my shad-fly, which I think I have finally perfected. One morning I caught 5 sacalait and three nice bass. The very next morning, I caught 3 sacalait and three bass. The bass were all released back into the lakes. The sacalait will be released into a skillet of hot grease very soon. 🙂
Doc’s Sheepie Shrimp Revisited
After my success with the sheepshead on my last trip and with all this rain, I decided if I cannot fish, I can tie flies. I was putting together a presentation for my high school’s fly fishing club when I realized that my last “how to” post on this fly needed a bit of clarification. I have since modified the fly so here is my “improved” version.
Step one- put down a thread base on a size 2 saltwater hook. (I use shrimp colored 210 denier)
Step 2 – tie in the shrimp eyes. I am using stonfo plastic eyes V type in this example but you can make your own mono eyes. Notice that I tie them at the curve in the hook so that they are facing down. We I tie in the weight, this fly should ride hook up so the eyes are facing normal.
Step 3 – tie in the rubber legs and the javelin mane for antenna. Notice I have the stems of the mane bent in this photo. I will fold them back over my original wraps so it doesn’t slip out when a fish hits. I also tie in some flash. Here is what I’m after.
Step 4 – tie in some Krystal flash Chenille (medium) in bonefish tan
Step 5 – Now palmer that up and tie in some dumbbell micro lead eyes.
Step 6 – tie is a shrimpy brush. I make my own but I’m sure you can purchase one or dub your own “shrimpy” body material with some “legs” in it. Notice the flash and the tiny rubber legs in the brush.
Step 7 – palmer that up to the dumbbell eyes and trim.
Now flip the fly over in your vice, tie in the craft fur, whip finish, and put some bars on it with a brown permanent marker.
Here is the finished fly. This fly will catch sheepshead, redfish, drum, speckled trout, and probably flounder too (maybe with a heavier dumbbell eye).
Tight loops and tight lines!
I have been looking for a chance to get down to my beloved Southeast Louisiana marsh to do some fishing for (as a good friend of mine calls him)the spot-tail Elvis, also known as poisson rouge. It seems nothing has worked out for me between my busy schedule and the all-important, weather. We have been experiencing flash flooding and other crazy weather phenomena. So, in the meantime, I keep my fishing obsession in check by going to my neighborhood lakes and chasing the fish by the dam after a heavy rain. My best morning was a 40-minute trip where I caught 5 bass and 3 slab sacalait
I also made a few trips to my friends private lake and had a blast trying different variations of deer hair poppers on the bass and bream.
So, when I finally got a break in the weather and I was off of school, I decided to join my brother for a trip down Highway 1 toward Grand Isle. The wind was forecast to blow 5-10 and for once, the weatherman got it right. However, (and I HATE the “howevers”) we found the water to be high and very dirty. That meant our plans for sight fishing would probably have to be scrapped. I went the entire morning without even seeing a single redfish. Then, around noon, I finally saw an upper-slot redfish in the murky water. Of course it was about two feet from the bow of my kayak and when I was able to grab my rod, it nearly bumped into my kayak and took off. I was able to catch a small trout in some moving water, so at least my trip wouldn’t be a total skunk.
I knew where some water with grass would be so I paddled to a few spots in search of clear water and some action. A little after noon, I spotted a very nice sized sheepshead, AKA, the cajun permit. These fish are a challenge on the fly rod and in my experience, they don’t chase down too many patterns. One has to really entice them to eat by putting the fly right in front of its nose without spooking it. This fish was cruising the bank looking to grab a snail or two off the stalks of the marsh grass. I probably made 10 or so casts with one of my shrimp patterns before it finally decided it had seen enough and this invader to its domain should get sucked into those humanlike teeth. Bam! Perfect hook set and the fight was on until it got caught in some grass. A short time later, I was posing with a nice cajun convict.
A short time after, I saw a healthy redfish cruising that clear water too. I was going to be heading to Houston in the morning to spend time with my wife (who was already there) and my daughter’s family (three grandchildren). I was given instructions to bring a fresh redfish to be baked in my wife’s red gravy. My heart started racing when I saw that redfish! I told myself to FOCUS and remain calm…my first cast…horrible…my second cast…the darned redfish had just changed directions…my third cast…the CHARM! I watched a perfect eat in that clear water. When I set the hook, the redfish turned in an angry burst of water and weeds and just like that, my spoon fly came flying back at me. I was totally dejected. I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong. That is, until I got a closer look at my spoon fly. The doggone redfish actually snapped my hook in half. The fly was dangling by the little bit of epoxy that held it together.
I was not ready to give up yet. I saw one more redfish and I kept poling through the marsh trying to get it to eat. It didn’t want to have anything to do with any of my offerings and I figured it was the same redfish I had hooked earlier, so I moved on. Then I saw another pair of sheepshead. Again, I had to make several “offerings” to the fish before it decided to eat my shrimp fly.
Having landed two nice-sized sheepshead and running out of options for clear water, I decided we were going to have to find another fish option in Houston with my grandkids. I headed home with a big smile on my face though. I had caught and released not one, but two “cajun permit.” There will be more chances to face Mr. Redfish later this summer 🙂
I’ll close this post with a humorous short, unedited video of me trying to get that second sheepshead up for a picture. 🙂
I sent a few pictures to a buddy of mine who is in my opinion, THE fish whisperer, and he commented back, “Don’t you just love this time of year?” With commitments these past three weekends, it has left me stuck in my neighborhood to do some quick fishing. That means, when my schedule allows, I am only 10 minutes from literally being on the water. I’ve been testing those waters these past three weeks or so and I have caught a few bass, here and there, with that one Saturday morning where I caught the 3.5 and the 4.1 pound bass. Other than that, I’ve caught a bass or two on nearly every outing but nothing really big…and the elusive sacalait (aka crappie or white perch) have been non existent. That is, until this weekend.
I heard from one of my students that a few people had been catching sacalait at a nearby lake so I loaded up my kayak and made the 7 minutes drive to my spot. I checked on Google Earth and it’s about a half mile hike to get to the lake, while carting my kayak on a crushed limestone path. With that kind of effort, I was not going to do a half-hearted morning trip. I worked my tail off and I caught 4 bass and four big sacalait for my efforts. I got home a little after noon and after a quick lunch and a few chores around the house, I was ready for another trip to my neighborhood lake, which is only 1 tenth of a mile to and from my house 🙂 I was using my fluff butt under a vosi and on my third or fourth cast, my cork slipped under the dark clear water. Enough for “catch and release.” That one was going to get released into a skillet with hot grease…and the next one and the next. By the time the bite stopped I had caught 20 (I only kept 13 of the nicer ones)
So Sunday afternoon, I was itching to get back on the water but I wanted to try a new spot, also in my neighborhood. This lake is deeper than the first and it seems to hold larger fish (especially the bass) but they are much harder to find because there is so much cover. It took some doing but I found a few big sacalait that wanted to play (the biggest going a pound and a half). I only caught six before I snagged the sunken tree that they were holding next to and that ended the bite. I searched the rest of my “spots” in that lake but I had no luck. So, I carted my kayak to the lake where I had caught 20 just the day before. I was greeted with a nice fatty and ended up catching four more before I called it an evening.
Take a close look at these next two pictures. One was taken on Saturday (I’m wearing jeans and tennis shoes) and the other is Sunday afternoon (in the sandals and shorts). I didn’t adjust the fly for the picture. It’s exactly where the fly was lodged in the fish’s mouth. I think nearly ALL my fish were hooked in exactly the same place.
Another thing I learned this weekend is, you can never have enough fluff butts and VOSIs in your box 🙂 I lost several over the past two days. I see we have rain forecast in the days ahead so I’m going to get on my vice and tie a few more of the chartreuse and black up. I think the fishing should be great for the next two weeks leading up to the next full moon. Tight loops and tight lines 🙂
We just experienced a record cold snap down here in the deep, deep south. Photos of fish kills in the gulf have surfaced everywhere. We have had some family issues so it’s probably been a couple of weeks since I’ve even thought about fishing. Well that changed this morning. My “internal alarm clock” woke me up at 5:30 and I ventured out to my neighborhood lake. I brought three rods with me. One with a deer hair popper, one with a fluff butt under a VOSI, and another with a small baitfish pattern. I wanted to target bass, bream, and sacalait.
The morning was absolutely beautiful. In fact, I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Songbirds were everywhere…singing, courting, and busy building nests. The squirrels were doing the same and I saw many little bucks chasing females as others nervously cut pine branches for nests. Then there were those magnificent Canada geese. They too were interested in courting and there were females being chased as they flew low over the lake. So, with all this love in the air, I thought, “surely the fish will have love on their mind too.”
I quietly worked the banks without any luck until I saw some action near some submerged branches about 100 feet in front of me. I quickly paddled over and I was greeted with a perfect eat on my popper. This fish quickly got me on my reel and I worked it carefully to the kayak. I was determined not to loose any big fish this morning.
After releasing that fish, I continued to work my popper, occasionally switching to my baitfish pattern and my fluff butt. I did manage to catch a couple bream over 7 inches and I let a little 3-year-old boy on the bank get a chance to “reel” it in. He was so excited. I think that made my morning. I did catch a couple more bass and one of them was a PIG! It’s so cool when you see the wake of the fish as it approaches your popper. It takes an enormous amount of patience not to set the hook too soon. This one was a perfect eat and I did everything by the textbook. It too took me to my reel fairly quickly and was a “jumper.”
I weighed her (4.18 lbs), I took one more good picture, and I let her go. I did creep up on a few pairs of pretty decent-sized bass that were either guarding beds or getting ready to spawn. They would not eat anything I threw at them. In conclusion, I suggest everyone get on the water and tie on a popper. I have a club meeting this week with my high school fly fishing club and I’ll be instructing them on how to catch bass with a popper.
So it’s already half past the second month of the new year and I haven’t posted anything here yet. Let’s see…well there was the fiasco at the nation’s capitol, and now record cold in the deep south. I have lost friends to this darned pandemic and I’ve gotten some bad news lately on the health of some close family..but wait…I only write about the positive and boy do we need positive right now. Sooooo…..I did welcome the birth of a brand new granddaughter (Angeline Rose) who is doing great (3 weeks old already) and both she and her mom are well. I have gotten a few chances to get out in my neighborhood lake to do some fishing and I have had some limited success.
All those fish were caught on flies I tied myself. The top three were caught on a scaled-down version of my shad fly so that makes me happy. In fact, with my wife out of town helping my daughter out with my (now) three grandchildren, I had to catch supper one night and so the bluegill, red-ear (chinquapin), and sacalait (crappie) all made it to the stringer and hot grease for supper. Other than that, I have nothing else to report. I am hoping the weather gets milder and I get a chance to get out for a fishing trip or two before the summer heat sets in. Otherwise, I will have nothing to report except for trips to my neighborhood lake in the evenings after school. But even those can be very fruitful. Here’s to 2021 and I hope things get better for all of us.