Our friend, Merriam-Webster defines fun as: “what provides amusement or enjoyment.” He also define’s the word, challenge, as “a difficult task or problem.” To say that this past Saturday’s fishing trip in Hopedale, Louisiana was a challenge, would be somewhat of an understatement. To say that I had fun and enjoyed every minute of it…well let’s just say I can’t wait to go back!
For any of you who know me personally, you will know that I am driven by challenges. I thrive on them and I jump at the chance to come out on top and defy the pundits. It goes with my teaching and it also goes with my fly fishing. Saturday morning looked on paper to be a stellar day of fishing. The weatherman predicted sunny mild temperatures with light winds. Well he got it right for a change 🙂 Allow me to backtrack a little.
First of all, I’ve been wanting to make a fishing trip with a buddy of mine who is in Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club. Chuck (Snake Doctor on our forum) is an avid kayak fisherman who loves fishing with a fly rod. In addition to being avid fly fishermen who fish out of a kayak, we actually share a lot more in common. Chuck has earned his Ph.D. and is an educator (he teaches at Tulane University). We ended up placing first and second in this year’s Massey’s Outfitters Catch, Photo, Release tournament. Oh, if you’re wondering, he earned first place and I earned second. Anyway, after many futile attempts to fish together, we finally found a day that worked for both our schedules and the weather wasn’t going to stop us this time. The plan was for me to meet him at his selected launch site in Hopedale at 8 AM. As I was nearing Reggio, I noticed people walking on the side of the road swatting in the air. It hit me right then that they were swatting at the most pesky creature that God has put in our Louisiana marshes, the hated no-see-ums. These gnats (biting midges) can swarm by the thousands and can be so bad, that you will actually leave fish biting and take shelter! I find that deet products and skin-so-soft are not effective on these creatures. The best defense is gloves, a hat, a buff, long sleeved shirts and pants, and Victoria’s Secret Amber Romance, which you have to keep reapplying all day. As I type this, I am trying NOT to scratch all those bites I received.
When I met Chuck at the launch site, I realized that I had left my buff at home. Thank God, he had a spare. After unloading our kayaks and applying several doses of Amber Romance we began our paddle to the marshes of Hopedale. We were greeted with very low water and poor water clarity. We found some moving water and bait but the predator fish just weren’t around. Chuck caught an 18 inch redfish while blind casting in a cut that led to a sizable duck pond. Speaking of duck pond. We spooked about 300 ducks from that one pond and they were all puddlers, mallards, gadwalls, and teal! What a beautiful site as they got up and circled us and fussed at us for interrupting breakfast. We decided to paddle a bit further away from the trucks (we probably covered 6.5 miles) to find some deeper, cleaner water.
From 8 – 10:30, we were attacked by hoards of gnats. Finally at around 10:30, the wind started to pick up and that provided some relief from the bugs but it was making poling around searching for reds all the more difficult. While Chuck and I share a lot of things in common, I noticed that we have two distinct styles of fly fishing from our kayaks. He spends most of the time sitting and has the patience (which I lack) for doing a lot of blind casting. Although he is blind casting, he does it as an experienced angler because I watched him hit little cuts and pockets time and time again. I spend most of my time standing and sight casting for redfish. It combines my love for hunting with fishing. Anyway, I don’t think I saw my first redfish until around 10:30. With the poor water clarity, I found that I spooked a lot of fish. By the time I would see them, I couldn’t get my anchor pole down in the water and my fly rod out in time to make a cast at them before being busted.
Just when it looked like I was going to get skunked, I saw a commotion ahead in a shallow inlet and there was a monster redfish patrolling an area about 30 feet away from me. Great. It hadn’t seen me. I was able to get my park ‘n pole in my scupper hole to anchor my kayak and keep me from drifting up on the fish. I made a perfect cast about two feet in front of it and it attacked with vengeance. I watched as it flared its gills open to eat the fly and in my excitement, I set the hook way too hard. Let’s just say that redfish was able to wear some jewelry in the form of my gold spoon fly for the rest of the day. 😦 After tying on another spoon fly and spooking a few more redfish, I came across another fish that was unaware of my presence. This one was moving away from the bank and toward deeper water when my fly intercepted it’s path. It slammed the fly and the next thing I knew, my line was tearing through drag. After a 10 minute fight and one heck of a sleigh ride, I landed my best redfish of 2016. It was a perfect “tournament” redfish…very fat and measured right at 27 inches. If I had been fishing a tournament that fish would have shrunk in an ice bath and would have been 26.9. Well, it was that fish’s lucky day. All I did was put a tag in it and sent it off on its way to go make babies. I did get a couple of pictures though.
By this time, Chuck had made it around to me and he told me that he had caught two redfish and a bass. There were some clean pockets of marsh in the area we were fishing and we figured that there wouldn’t be any areas worth paddling to that morning that would be more promising than where we were. Then it was like someone switched on a light. Within five minutes of our conversation, I located another cruising fish and I was fighting a 20 inch redfish. From about 12:30 to 1:30, I sighted another 9 fish and was able to cast to three. The largest of those had it’s back out the water about 30 away from me. My first cast ended up about 5 feet in front of it. Oh, did I mention that the wind had picked up to about 10 mph by now? Well, I thought my errant cast would work to my benefit because the fish was heading to my fly. I let it sit there as the fish neared. Then I lifted it off the bottom to get its attention but it had turned around and was heading back away from my fly. I cast to it again but this time, I put the fly right on its back and I was busted!! I did manage to catch a 24-inch redfish to close out the day.
Five redfish between the two of us fishing only with fly rods is not a bad day at all. We both missed fish but that comes with the territory. Sure we could have caught more numbers in the murky water if we had brought along spinnerbaits but that’s no challenge. On the paddle back to the truck, Chuck apologized for our lackluster day but I told him I had a blast. Some days, it’s all about the challenge, and that, my friend, is MY definition of fun!