Cenla Fly Fishing & Light Tackle Festival

I attended the Cenla (that’s Central Louisiana) Fly Fishing & Light Tackle Festival this past weekend, not this year as a spectator, but as a participant. I use that terminology because I teach my students that there are two types of people; those who are spectators and those who are participants. Let me explain: There are those who sit at home on their couches and watch fishing and hunting shows and there are those who get out on the water or the woods and experience it first hand. There are those who discuss politics on social media and complain to the masses about how good or bad things are and there are those who get out and do service projects and make a real difference in other people’s lives. There are those who listen to music and there are those who create and perform music. Well, you get the point…so this weekend I practiced what I preach and I served as a speaker and a guest tier at the festival in Pineville, Louisiana.

Lately I’ve been really tying some pretty deer hair poppers so I thought I would feature that fly. I prepared a few in different stages of completion so I could demonstrate from start to finish how I tie these flies. Here’s an example of one of my fire tiger poppers.IMG_1628.jpg
I’ve tied several variations on that fly including shad colored ones, frog poppers, and even some salt water versions. Additionally, I was also asked to give a presentation on fishing from a kayak with an up-and-coming rock star in the fly fishing world, Sarah Giles.  Believe it or not, Sarah catches a lot of redfish from a ten foot, sit-in kayak with a fly rod. She gave the talk on salt water fishing and I added my two cents from my experience as a freshwater fisherman. I thought it was quite informative. We gave the basics of why fish from a kayak, how to rig your kayak (including milk crates, rod holders, anchor pulleys, “the pool noodle is your friend” tip), and how to cast while sitting or standing from your kayak. Oh, and we also gave the all-important point to WEAR YOUR PFD at all times!!

When it came to explaining why we fish from this minimalist perspective, Sarah gave the best reason, in my opinion, of why we fish from a kayak. I’ll paraphrase and embellish it a little, but it went something like this:

There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you stalk your prey; in this case, a big redfish and you’re at its level. It’s that stealthy approach that gets you sometimes within 10 feet of Mr. Redfish. You and he make eye contact with each other as you watch him flare his gills and smash your fly. Most of the time, this fly is no bigger than your thumbnail! Then you strip set your hook and spend several minutes (sometimes in excess of 20-30) to coax the spot-tailed beast into your landing net. Once you’ve successfully done that, you get to admire your adversary up close, snap a picture or two, and release it unharmed back into the marsh to continue to do its thing. 

Well, after that explanation, I’m sure there will be several people going to their nearest outfitter to purchase a kayak and experience that thrill that we all enjoy so much! Remember the participants 🙂

At the end of the day, we headed to Catch’s house in Boyce and we enjoyed a fabulous home-cooked gumbo prepared by Catch’s wife, who by the way, is a pretty accomplished fly fisher-lady herself.

The next morning we were itching to get on the water to do some fishing because we were enjoying some of the warmest weather we’ve had in over a month. Because Sarah is in the market for a new sit-on-top kayak, she fished out of Catch’s 14-foot Native. Catch and I fished from his canoe. Even though the temperature of the air got into the upper 60’s, the water temperature was still in the lower 40’s. We didn’t know if the fish would cooperate. We were pleasantly surprised as we caught 8 nice crappie (also known as white perch or sacalait) and Catch caught a couple of red-eared sunfish (shell crackers, lake runners, or chinquapin). The fish all ate some variation of a fluff butt. I’ve attached a couple of pictures. By the way, Sarah later told us that this was her first sacalait on the fly rod. We may have created a monster 🙂

180122 sarah casting.jpgNice tight loop there from a sitting position.
180122 sarah sacalait2.jpg180122 sarah sacalait1.jpg
Sarah was all smiles with her first two crappie on the fly rod. 180122 doc sacalait2.jpg180122 doc sacalait.jpg
I managed to catch a few in the front of the canoe too.

Check back here for a post in about three weeks when the water warms up a little and the fish really turn on. I plan on making a trip back to CENLA during our Mardi Gras break!

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My First Report of the New Year!

My first blog entry for 2018 is…well…not a fishing report. What?

For years now, my son, Dustin, has been kidding me, asking, “Why in the world would anyone go fishing during hunting season?” Well, after putting my waders and shotgun up for, say 10 years, I decided it was time to spend some quality time with my son on the water.

Dustin has really been doing well the past two weekends and texted me Saturday that they had each shot a limit of nice puddle ducks that morning. After a full day of work for me (all music related), I decided to make the hour and a half drive to the camp to join him and one of his hunting buddies. This hunting camp is really nice and the wildlife décor really got me fired up to get out and shoot a few birds.

IMG_2072.JPGTo be honest though, I was secretly hoping that I would shoot well. I haven’t popped a cap in a long time. Was I going to embarrass myself among those “20-something-year-olds?”

To get to the blind, we mounted four-wheelers and made the ten-minute ride to the edge of the flooded timber and hard bottoms. The morning temperature dipped below 20 degrees so that ride, even though a slow one, was a very cold one. From there, we waded about another ten minutes through thigh-deep frigid water to get to the blind. I was really glad to be able to borrow a pair in insulated chest waders because we were breaking ice nearly the whole way until we got to the open water where the blind and decoys were. We got situated and were treated to a gorgeous sunrise.IMG_2075.JPG

The second reason I wanted to make a hunt with Dustin was to watch his three-year-old lab, Duke, work. Duke is a “cracker jack” retriever who absolutely LOVES to hunt. Here are a couple pictures of him “on point” as we positions himself on the ramp and eagerly awaits one of us to put a bird on the water.IMG_2077.JPGIMG_2093.JPG

Right at daybreak, we had some birds buzz us but we didn’t get a shot off. We nearly pulled the trigger on a drake spoonbill, but we thought we would experience the kind of morning that they had the day before. About five minutes later, we had a group of diving ducks buzz and I connected on my first shot. I was happy to know I could still shoot 🙂

Insert sound of crickets chirping here!

Well it took us a while before we were given an opportunity to pull the trigger again. We knocked down the first of two gadwalls and Duke made a great retrieve on both of them. I took my cell phone out to get a picture of him in action but the cold weather caused my battery to freeze up and I lost power for about 15 minutes until I could get the phone warmed up again. I did get a picture of half our decoy spreadIMG_2078.JPGIf I was a duck, I would sure want to land there. Anyway we didn’t do too bad for a slow day. We finished with six ducks between three of us. We winged a couple more that even Duke couldn’t catch up to. Did I say it was cold?IMG_2095.JPGThis hat and several layers of clothing were key! We were even able to fry up some deer sausage for breakfast.IMG_2094.JPG

I really enjoyed spending time with my son, doing one of the things he loves best. I won’t wait so long to go back with him. For now, I’ll leave you with some more pictures from the morning and I promise my next entry will be a FISHING story.IMG_2086.jpgGreen wing tealIMG_2083.JPGGadwall (grey duck)IMG_2046.jpgPintail (from a previous hunt but oh so pretty)