For quite some time now, I’ve been looking to upgrade my Wilderness Tarpon. Well, a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a Jackson Cruise. I’ve been looking for a light SOT kayak that I could stand in to sight fish and the Cruise is just the ticket! I actually broke it in last week in my neighborhood lake and caught a couple of bass in the process. The seat, which is more like a folding chair is very comfortable and the front is uncluttered with hatches and latches so there is less for my fly line to get tangled around.
I got in touch with a friend of mine, Ben Roussel, who happens to be a Jackson rep and he talked me into fishing with him and a buddy of his, Blake LeBlanc, down in Empire Louisiana for the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s “Redfish Rumble” tournament. We got an early start (3:30 AM) from Baton Rouge and made the long drive down Highway 23, which follows the Mississippi River down all the way to Venice. We were greeted with higher-than-normal water and a stiff wind that blew from 10-15 all day. Actually, early on it wasn’t that windy but the winds did pick up around 7 or 8 in the morning.
It took me a while to get used to standing and fishing out of my kayak. Early in the process, I recognized the potential this boat has for some real epic fishing. It’s just that the conditions Saturday did not favor the fly fisherman. Cormier’s rules state that “clear water favors the fly fisherman.” Oh well, I had a lot to learn about my new boat anyway.
First, I had to get used to standing and paddling, which isn’t a problem since I’ve had much experience push-poling pirogues through the marsh in my duck hunting days. The real problem I was having was to keep my stealth mode up when I would see a fish. First, with the strong winds and the dirty water, I wouldn’t really see a fish until I was right on one. Then, I had very little time to clip my paddle on to my belt and reach down for my rod and make a cast. I spooked a very nice redfish early on because of this. I have to figure out a way to get to my fly rod quicker. I’m going to experiment with a rod holder in the RAM ball toward the front of the boat. I’ll report how that fares in future fishing trip 🙂
My first fish of the morning ended up being my personal best sheepshead on the fly. I saw it making a ruckus in the marsh and I push-poled my way into striking distance. It took three casts to get the fish to eat but when it did, it put up an angry fight until I got it netted.
My second fish was a 16-inch redfish that I caught blind casting to a point in the marsh. My third fish was text book sight-fishing from a kayak. I actually heard the splash that sounded like a feeding fish. When I saw it, I had to make a cast on the other side of a small island that I was behind. I got the fish to eat and landed my first black drum of the day…which is my first drum on the fly rod! I actually had to drag the fish over the little marsh island to land it.
Toward the end of the day, I explored an area of marsh that looked like a flooded field. I sight casted to several more drum and landed three more. As we were just getting ready to head in, my buddy Ben caught a 25 inch redfish on one of my spoon flies that I gave him.
You can see what I meant about that area looking like a “flooded field” from that picture.
I have a few setup kinks to iron out with my boat, like what to do with extra rods so that I don’t step on them or sit on them…oh yeah…that reminds me. I did take a swim Saturday! I was having trouble poling around in the marsh grass with my rod sticking a couple of feet out in front of the yak. You can see in Ben’s picture that the rod sticks out a couple of feet. Well, my line kept getting caught up in some of the blades of grass and it would pull my line off the rod and eventually (if I wasn’t paying attention) would pull my fly out of the boat and it would get hung up on something. So, to rectify that problem, I put my rod on my seat while I was standing up. When I went to sit down one time, I sat on the rod and instinctively jumped up so I wouldn’t break my expensive rod. When I did that I got my head off center of the boat and…spash! I went in. I did manage not to break or loose anything and my cell phone survived the ordeal.
Well, today I took one of my PVC rod holders off one of my crates and attached it to my ice chest to give me more rod storage options on the water. I plan on moving my RAM rod holder to the front RAM ball so I can grab my rod at a moments notice without taking my off or spooking (hopefully) a fish. I can’t wait for another chance to do some more sight fishing in the marsh!