Getting Back to the Louisiana Marsh

1/20/13

I found myself in a quandary this weekend. I had a three-day weekend, my family was out of town, I hadn’t been in the marsh since before Christmas, and I was dying to break in my new 7 wt. TFO rod combo. Everything I look for before making the 2-and-a-half hour drive from my house looked like a go. There was going to be a decent tide movement, winds under 10 mph, and with this cold weather, I should be able to find some clean water. Staring me in the face, however, was the fact that just the day before, at the Minimalist Challenge Kayak tournament in Golden Meadow, only 24 of the 100 registered participants weighed fish. They complained of very low water and few fish. Well, I formed a plan. I would forego the morning trip in favor of an afternoon trip on a rising tide. My plan was to leave right after church, fish the afternoon, and then visit and have dinner with my mom & dad in Thibodaux. That was, until I saw one of my fly-fishing buddies at church who tried to talk me out of “wasting my time.” He reminded me about the poor performance by all those fishermen the day before. Well, the pros outnumbered the cons and I was determined to get out and fish somewhere!  I decided to pass up Bason’s marina, figuring I didn’t want to get near the smell of “skunk” from the previous day’s fishing, and fish further south down in Leeville.

When I arrived around 2 PM, I was very surprised to see that the water was high. I guess the lack of a strong north wind and an incoming tide had helped put water back in the marsh. In fact, there was probably too much water for my taste and it was going to be difficult to see tailing reds or exposed backs. I had this sinking feeling that my buddy may have been right about the fishing.

Well after about a half hour of paddling and blind casting, I came up on a flat with a lot of bait activity, mostly mullet and other skittish minnows. I made a well-placed cast in the middle of the action and I saw a large wake making a beeline toward my spoon fly. When I set the hook on the fish, I was a bit confused because it wasn’t fighting with the muscle of a redfish. After a minute or so, I saw jail stripes, the telltale sign of a sheepshead. This was my first sheep ever on a fly, which made the trip worthwhile already, because flies do not easily fool sheepshead. I know some people keep these for their white flesh, but I just couldn’t keep this one.  After a quick picture, I gave the jail-striped beauty its freedom!

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My next hookup was a fairly large trout that ate my spoon fly. It, however managed to shake off the hook when I was going for my landing net. I continued to work the marsh bank, looking for tails or signs of feeding fish.

One of the things I’ve learned as an angler is to tell the difference between redfish activity and mullet. Although this doesn’t always hold true, most of the activity close to the marsh grass/bank are redfish. The activity 10 to 15 feet off the bank is usually mullet. That was the case with the next nervous water I saw. I saw a swirl (no tail) about a foot or two from the bank. I put my spoon fly about a foot in front to the left and in front of it and I was able to experience the torpedo wake and the explosive eat. This redfish wasn’t going to let my fly get away! I had a blast fighting this beast. It would have been a perfect tournament fish at 26–and-a-half inches and 5.8 pounds. I photographed, tagged, and released it. Remember, I only keep redfish between 16 and 24 inches for table fare.  Since I grill most of mine, a fish over 24 inches is more meat that one person can eat on the “half shell.”

Spoonfly red 1:20:13

Tagged and released this one

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Before witnessing a beautiful sunset, I did manage to miss a few more fish but I caught three more rat reds and another that I practiced “catch-and-release”…that is…catch and release into my ice chest. It was a perfect eating size of 19 inches 🙂

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I had dinner and spent Monday morning with my mom and dad to cap off a perfect weekend. I’m sure glad I went!

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