Usually, the month of November marks the beginning of my favorite time to be in the marsh with my fly rod. I leave the baitcaster at home and force myself to be stealthy, smart, and patient! This usually provides me with a relaxing, memorable trip where I soak in the experience and marvel at the beauty that God has provided in our Louisiana marshes. With a week off for Thanksgiving (one of the perks of being a high school educator) I can always looks for a couple of days of relaxing on the water. This year’s Thanksgiving proved to be a bit challenging. With some nasty weather at the beginning of the week and some of the coldest and windiest days of the late fall season, I was held landlocked until the Black Friday.
My plan was to fish some of my favorite marsh area around Leeville on Friday and drive to Dularge that evening to spend the night at my cousin’s camp and pick up my Tarpon 120, which has been there since the summer. I was greeted with very cold temperatures Friday morning and VERY low water. It was a tough paddle through the shallow ditch that I put in at and I knew that my early thoughts about catching speckled trout or redfish on a popper just would not happen in cold, shallow conditions. The thing I did have going for me was the fact that the wind had died down considerably from the 20 mph winds we had earlier in the week. However, that constant wind from earlier in the week had left the water dirty and I was beginning to wonder if I should have brought my baitcaster with me. I am constantly reminded of Cormier’s rules for fly fishing and Rule #2 states: Clear water favors the fly-fisherman.
After an early, 6:30 launch, I was only able to manage a couple of undersized redfish and a spec by 7:30. I decided to change my tactic of targeting speckled trout and focus on sight fishing for redfish in the very shallow water. One of the advantages of fishing during very low water conditions is you get to see where all the oyster beds are. These are the bends and shorelines that hold redfish when the water rises! After an hour or so, my nephew and one of his buddies met me out there.
I caught my first redfish around 8 AM on a spoon-fly. I saw some action and the back of a really nice fish near a cut where the water was falling out of the marsh. I couldn’t get the big one to eat, but his little brother at around 18 inches couldn’t resist my offering. I kept poling around the flats looking for signs of more fish. Let me remind my readers of Cormier’s Rule #1: The fish make up the rules…not the fishermen. I assumed that when the sun got higher, the water would warm up and the redfish would prowl the flats. Ha…no such luck. I managed to locate a school of finger mullet that were being chased by a couple of big guys. I quickly paddled over to the action and placed my fly in the middle of the swash of bait and redfish. I didn’t think I would have a chance, since the commotion had muddied the water so very much. I was rewarded with the strike of a very fat 22 inch redfish. I guess my fly was moving just a little bit slower than the fast baitfish so it looked like an easy meal!
After that, the tide switched and started to rise. I poled/paddled around looking for more fish. I did manage to see some redfish along some deeper canals near the grass but had trouble getting them to eat. Plus, by now the wind had picked up to around 10 mph and it was hard to be able to see the fish. I fished some new water and managed to catch another redfish that went right at 24 inches, so I kept him for supper.
Remember earlier in this report, I said that these kind of trips, it pays to be stealthy, smart, and patient? Well, all three of these virtues were tested on this trip…and, although I didn’t completely FAIL at these three virtues, I was challenged. While trying to be smart and stealthy, I came across several big redfish that were completely unaware of my presence. However, before I could get a fly to them, the wind would push me either on top of them or too far away to get a good cast toward them. I was successful on one occasion (redfish #3) but missed on several other attempts. I did have two encounters with redfish that looked to be over 30 inches in length; bull reds, which broke my tippet! One encounter worth mentioning was when I was working one area of shallow water near some oyster beds. I was being pushed by wind over the area when I first saw him cruising slowly toward my yak. I grabbed my rod and was ready to make a cast when he angrily spooked and bolted. Only after a couple of stop-and-go attempts to escape my presence, he settled down about 30 feet from me. I put a perfect cast on him and watched him angrily charge and eat my fly. I strip-set the hook at the same time he shook his head and he cut my line like it was nothing. Patience Kevin!! Had I been patient, I probably would have let him ease away and let the hook penetrate his mouth on its own. Anyway, I learn something from every trip I take. My final count for the morning was ten redfish (seven undersized) and three keeper trout.
Speaking of which, I spoke with my nephew and his buddy and they found some nice keeper redfish in deeper water. I guess my idea about targeting them in the shallow flats was not the smartest but it still provided me with some fun.
Some of the things I learned from this trip:
- Never discount casting into a school of baitfish. It’s like the lion and the gazelle. You don’t have to be the fastest gazelle in the herd to escape the lion. You just have to be faster than the slowest one. If you work your fly slower than all the fleeing baitfish around you, it will get eaten!
- When setting the hook on a big redfish, let the fish set the hook for you. Too many times I’ve broken off by setting the hook too hard! Be patient! Once the fish is hooked I will have a better chance of letting the rod tire the fish.
- In cold, shallow conditions, don’t forget to check the deeper water for redfish.