As I was fishing yesterday, several ideas for a title to my report came to mind as I fished throughout the day. The title that I ended up with evolved somewhat like this: “Musicdoc gets skunked,” “Musicdoc barely avoids skunk,” “Epic day in the marsh.” After the ride home, I realized that the one I ended up with best suited my feelings for my day on the water.
I have been eying this past week on my calendar as I had a week vacation coming for the Mardi Gras break. However, as the weather pattern for the week emerged, my fishing choices were going to be limited. All the rain squashed my plans for any sacalait fishing so it looked like I would have to make a trip down to the Leeville marsh. Poor tidal movement and relatively strong winds (for fly fishing) were going to eliminate those plans…are were they? I saw a small window of opportunity in a Friday trip. Winds would stay between 5 – 10 mph. I did need some more redfish in my freezer for those Fridays during lent when we want to eat fish but just can’t keep eating fried food.
With the movement of a mild cold front and north winds, earlier this week, my initial plan was to target redfish. I thought the water should be low and the sight fishing would be good. I was greeted with higher-than normal water levels at 6 AM and the tide was forecast to be moving in all morning. So much for sight fishing! I worked it pretty hard for redfish early on in my usual spots but all I got was one fish to even look interested in my spoonfly. I had a big torpedo-like wave make two advances on my fly but the fish did not eat. I did make a mental note of where that occurred and decided to make a pass back there later on in the day.
After an hour and a half of fishing, the morning was becoming a big skunk. That’s when I eyed some birds diving in the distance and I made a decision to paddle over there and try for some specs. I pulled out my second fly rod, which was loaded with a chartreuse Charlie under a VOSI and bam, fish on! I landed a nice 14-inch speckled trout. I took a picture and continued. A couple of casts later, I released a second spec that just didn’t make the 12-inch mark. Then…nothing. There must have been a small school of bait that had passed through the area and the fish moved out with them. Meanwhile the wind had changed directions and had picked up. I continued to work the lee side of broken marsh near some deeper water and I caught another keeper trout. So now, I’m thinking Musicdoc barely avoids skunk would be the headline for my fishing report.
I continued to work some marsh that I had never fished before looking for anything that would give away the signs of a redfish: a tail, a back, skittering bait, a big splash, but I got nothing. Well, I was paddling out of small duck pond and I noticed a pretty large section of oyster shells under the water. I immediately tried to avoid the maze of sharp edges that can scratch the heck out of the bottom of a kayak when I saw a beautiful bronze redfish just sitting right in the middle of that pile. I passed within twenty feet of it and I had not spooked it! I maneuvered my kayak to where I could cast to that pile and on my very first cast…wait for it…I got hung up on an oyster! Well that spooked that fish but it did give me a new plan. I would target oyster beds in the clear shallow water.
By the way, did I mention that I will be getting an upgraded on my kayak this summer. It will be one that I can stand up in to be able to sight fish better.
Within 15 minutes of this new strategy, I had enticed a 22-inch redfish to eat my gold spoonfly! By now, it was getting close to noon and I had one redfish and two specs in the ice chest. Having promised my wife that I would be home by the time she got off work so we could do something that evening, I decided that I had better start heading back. I had ventured out a couple of miles from my initial launch spot and would fish my way back in. Ten minutes later, I caught a 20-inch redfish…yep right in a mélange of oysters! 15 minutes later, I got another one to eat but I lost it trying to get my camera on. By one PM, I was back in water that I recognized and I decided to head to a bank where I knew there were scattered oysters on the bottom. With the wind coming out of the east now, this bank would provide a little protection from the wind and it was where earlier in the morning, I had that big torpedo chase my fly but miss.
One of the cool things about fishing with a spoonfly is that the fisherman can see its action from a distance. Every little twitch with the rod tip or small strip has an effect on the fly as it flutters and dances in the clear water. What’s even cooler than that? Well, when you see a huge wake make a sudden approach toward your fly as it dances in the water. I was at the small point in the broken marsh where I had my only action from earlier that morning. The wake made a sudden stop. I though it saw me and was spooked by my kayak. I stopped my strip to let the fly sink a bit and then I stripped some more. The fish couldn’t resist any more! It aggressively ate my fly. When I set the hook, it felt like I had hooked the bottom, only the bottom was moving…very fast. After a brilliant battle that towed my kayak around for over five minutes, the beast gave in to my boga grip. Redfish number three measured a tad over 26 inches! While I usually don’t keep any redfish over 24 inches, Lisa has wanted me to keep a big one to be baked with a red sauce.
I continued to fish my way back to the car, making blind casts to points and cuts in the marsh. I picked up three more undersized redfish that I tagged and released and a pretty sheepshead.
It was close to 2 o’clock and I was almost at my entry point to get back to the car when I (luckily) made that perfect cast into a small pocket indention in the marsh. I was moving pretty fast in my kayak but I saw a wake approach my fly. I put my paddle quietly in the water to slow my drift, then a small strip. The wake approached again but it didn’t eat. I made another small strip and still now fish. By now, the wind had pushed me past the cut and I couldn’t even see my line. I had my rod completely behind my back and I decided to give it one more strip and BAM! Fish on! I tell people that I have never had a fish take me into my backing. I think that’s mostly because I fish out of a kayak and the kayak acts as its own drag system. However, this angry fish took off and was going the opposite direction that the wind was blowing me. I was going southbound and he was going northbound. I was probably within ten feet of my backing when I was able to finally get my kayak turned around to chase the fish. After an epic battle, the fish finally gave up and turned over on its side. I was exhausted too. I hadn’t been drinking enough water and I had cramps in my wrist, forearm, and core muscles. I bet I was a sight to see as I battled the fish, the wind, and my camera at the same time while trying to keep from falling out of my kayak! That fish measured 27 inches and weighed just under 8 pounds. It deserved its freedom so after a few pictures, I revived it and watched it swim away, still very mad at me!
So, a day that started out as a skunk ended up being an epic day on the water! I thought about this post on the way home but I realized it wasn’t just the “catching” that made it so thrilling. My wife says that I’m obsessed. I may be, but one thing is clear. It was the ability to turn that skunk into a successful day that will only feed my obsession. When the initial plan wasn’t working, I was able to take the clues I had and use them to make the trip successful. Will I target the oyster shells when I go back out? Yes, no, maybe…I don’t know. Next time I go the redfish may be feeding on fiddler crabs right up in the grass. That’s why it’s so fun. No two days on the water are ever alike. Just when you think you know where the fish should be, you get that curveball. Being able to hit that curveball to the opposite field! That’s what makes you an angler!