Musicdoc’s Rules for sight-fishing with a fly rod for redfish in southeast Louisiana…from a kayak.

Musicdoc’s Rules for sight-fishing with a fly rod for redfish in southeast Louisiana…from a kayak.

 

  1. Rule # 1 is WIND. Check the wind BEFORE you head out. You want winds less than 10 mph. (I can fish the lee-side of a broken marsh once the wind picks up but a light chop on the water makes it nearly impossible to see the fish before they see you and spook. Not to mention what it does to your casting accuracy.
  2. Rule # 2 is SUNSHINE. Clouds create a glare that makes it nearly impossible to see the fish before they see you. Pick a sunny day.
  3. Rule #3 is WATER CLARITY. I need clear water, and preferably, shallow water. Dirty water makes things difficult. Fishermen have no way to predict water clarity.
  4. Rule #4 POLARIZED SUNGLASSES. Have a good pair of polarized sunglasses. I use Costa del Mars
  5. Rule #5. GEAR. Have the right gear. More on this at the end of this post.
  6. Rule #6 REDFISH RECOGNIZITION. Know what to look for. This is something that I’m still working on, but here are a few important pointers. Sometimes all I see is a dark shadow that looks out of place in the shallow flats. It looks like a mini submarine slowly cruising the shallows. Other times it the tell-tale swirl and splash that a feeding redfish makes when it’s chasing food. (I don’t get to see this that often these days) Sometimes it’s the tail of a ‘tailing’ red. Then sometimes it’s just tiny shrimp and baitfish leaping out of the water near a grass line. Sometimes it’s the pumpkin color you see (mostly in crystal clear water that has a lot of submerged grass).
  7. Rule #7 CASTING ACCURACY. This isn’t as crucial as if you’re casting to a carp, but it helps to cast about a foot in front of a moving redfish. Sometimes I cast a couple feet out in front and a foot or so further back, so the fish doesn’t spook. Slowly begin your strips when the fish gets closer.

Addendum #1 – Gear.

The ideal way to sight-fish is by standing so be sure when you purchase your kayak, you select one that is very stable. I fish out of a Jackson Cruise, for the stability, tracking, and it’s lightweight.

When I first started sight-fishing for redfish, I had trouble maneuvering my paddle and my fly rod. I would push through the marsh with the paddle and then clip it on my belt. Here’s a good post by a buddy of mine on how to make one of these: https://mountainstomarsh.com/2012/06/04/dawgknots-paddle-holster-belt/

When I would see a fish, I would clip the paddle on my belt, bend over and grab my fly rod, which was laying down on the floor of the kayak and by the time I looked back up, I had lost the fish. My solution was to purchase a fly rod holder or holster. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enmYw0PijDw

That was a game changer for me. Now, I could keep my eyes on the fish while I grabbed my fly rod. I started having more success but the real game changer for me came with the purchase of the Parknpole, by Yakattack : https://www.amazon.com/Yakattack-Parknpole-Stakeout-Push-Pole/dp/B009335UAU/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAt_PuBRDcARIsAMNlBdqutoik1sINV_KEUomHw-O2BT10wKwSsaPXq4ZUkHds_WXEfZkMhM8aAipWEALw_wcB&hvadid=182518131977&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9025395&hvnetw=g&hvpos=1t1&hvqmt=e&hvrand=13129700939419524766&hvtargid=aud-840076997981%3Akwd-69281524443&hydadcr=16032_9870530&keywords=parknpole&qid=1574814226&sr=8-1

Now, I just push-pole through the marsh and when I see a redfish, I grab my rod, which is holstered to my side and in a few seconds, I’m able to present my fly to and unexpecting redfish. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

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Addendum #2 I think my next purchase will be this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGHf6fZTvOA

I like my Smith Creek holster but I see so much potential in this and it’s the same price.

Sight-fishing for Louisiana marsh redfish!

Like my last blog entry said, “Fall is my favorite time” to get to the marsh to do some sight-fishing for redfish. I often get asked how does one “sight-fish” for reds. I made a solo trip this morning (one of my favorite big-league ball players stood me up late last night) to Grand Isle to do some sight fishing for Louisiana redfish. Here are some of the prerequisites for sight-fishing:

  1. I fish out of a Jackson kayak so first of all I need winds no greater than 10 mph. (This morning’s forecast was 3-8 mph until 10 o’clock.) I can fish the lee-side of a broken marsh once the wind picks up but a light chop on the water makes it nearly impossible to see the fish before they see you and spook.
  2. I need full sun most of the morning. Clouds create a glare that makes it nearly impossible to see the fish before they see you. I had full sun nearly all morning.
  3. I need clear water, and preferably, shallow water. Dirty water makes things difficult. The day started out with clear water of about 16-18 inches of visibility. It did dirty up to about 10 inches when the tide started back up.
  4. I need a good pair of polarized sunglasses. I use Costa del Mars
  5. I need some luck and nerves of steel…really…you’ve heard of buck fever? Well can you imagine a pod of four to six redfish swimming toward you? Good thing I don’t have heart trouble 🙂 I have found myself visibly shaking at times.
  6. I need to know what to look for. This is something that I’m still working on, but here are a few important pointers. Sometimes all I see is a dark shadow that looks out of place in the shallow flats. It looks like a mini submarine slowly cruising the shallows. Other times it the tell-tale swirl and splash that a feeding redfish makes when it’s chasing food. (I don’t get to see this that often these days) Sometimes it’s the tail of a ‘tailing’ red. Then sometimes it’s just tiny shrimp and baitfish leaping out of the water near a grass line. I also located a few today just by the blue of their tails in the water. Sometimes it’s the pumpkin color you see (mostly in crystal clear water that has a lot of submerged grass).
  7. It always helps to cast about a foot in front of a moving redfish but they have a knack of turning right when I cast. Sometimes I cast a couple feed out in front of them so I don’t spook them and begin a slow retrieve when they get closer.

This morning’s trip down Highway 1 took me to my favorite water for this time of year. The tide was low, the water was clear, and the wind was a non factor until around 10 AM. Right away, I had two fish chase down my crab fly and I missed the hook set. I thought to myself “this is going to be one of THOSE days.” I got my composure and I just stuck my push-pole in the water so I could check out a feeding raccoon nearby. (sorry, I wasn’t able to get pictures). That’s when I spotted four redfish cruising within 15 feet of my kayak. I made the mistake that duck hunters make when a flock of a dozen or so teal buzz their blind. I cast to the middle of the pod, which spooked them…well all except the lone straggler which couldn’t resist my crab fly imitation. Bam, hook set and I was off on a sleigh ride. GOPR0316.jpeg
This was a perfect little eating sized fish so it went in my ice chest.

I spent the next half hour or so chasing down fish but I wasn’t having any luck. They either would not eat or I would spook them. Finally, I connected with redfish number 2.

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I did some experimenting with camera angles. This kept up for a while.GOPR0322.jpgGOPR0324.jpegGOPR0328.jpg
I was only going to keep three of the smaller fish (my self imposed limit) so I began releasing the big ones. A few of those would have been good tournament-sized fish.

By 1 PM the wind had picked up a little but the water had come up and it was dirty. A redfish was going to really have to make a big mistake for me to see it now. I did manage this leopard red (it had five spots on each side)GOPR0334.jpg

I had one break off my crab fly so I decided to tie on a “purple assault.” I caught several on that fly including the big girl of the day at over 28 inches. GOPR0337.jpg

The only fly I used that didn’t land a fish was my spoon-fly. When the water clarity got poor, I switched over to the spoon. I got a couple of eats and had both redfish break me off. Oh, well…

When I got home, my wife asked how my day went. I told her it was great. I caught 8. Of course, she commented “only 8?” Yes, dear. Eight redfish over 22 inches each and all caught on flies I tie myself is a good day! Not quite epic, but it certainly was awesome.

Fall is my favorite time of year!

Most people who follow my blog or my Youtube channel know that my favorite time for fishing the marsh is the fall. It’s a time when the speckled trout migrate north inside our bays, bayous, and canals and redfish get real…well…stupid. They are like a love-sick, doe-chasing bucks, only they are on a ravenous eating frenzy and they gorge themselves with reckless abandon. This all means that even a novice like myself can catch fish. 🙂 Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work. My first two trips down to the coast this fall have been anything but easy. I had to fight stronger-than-predicted winds and high water with not-so-good visibility. I did manage to catch a few keeper speckled trout but the sight-fishing for redfish just never did emerge.

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I was able to catch a few descent sized trout during my first two trips.

Yesterday, I decided to make a quick trip down to one of my favorite spots down LA 1 in search of some redfish. The weather was predicted to be sunny all day with a 5-10 mph wind, but mostly on the 5 mph side. I made an early pit stop and picked up four keeper-sized trout. By 8:30, I was anxious to get down to my happy place…a place where a guy can push pole through the marsh looking for signs of the “spot-tailed Elvis,” like a good buddy of mine calls it. Whereas my last trip down south I only saw two redfish all day, I saw about a dozen in my first 15 minutes. Of course the winds were blowing closer to 10 mph and I wasn’t able to get a descent cast to any of them but my luck would change soon after. I was able to get a cast off to a redfish I hadn’t spooked and I watched him eat my “purple assault.” So, within a half hour of getting on the water, I had hooked my first fish. Well, after a short fight, it spit the hook.

So, it’s redfish 1, Doc zero. I push poled my way through some winding ditches and came across another of my “money holes.” I made another perfect cast to an unwary fish and bam, fish on. Only it broke my tippet within 10 seconds. Redfish 2, Doc zero! There were more redfish in the area that had followed the first fish and I noticed I was visibly shaking as I tried to find and tie on another fly. I was out of purple assaults, so I tied a tan colored variant of my purple assault. 20 minutes later, I was easing my first redfish into my landing net.

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I continued to fish the broken marsh, which by now seemed to be disappearing out from under my kayak. The north wind, plus the outgoing tide made for some really “skinny” water. This actually was in my favor, as I was able to spot many dark shadows moving in the shallows. Sometimes I was able to get a fly in front of one. Sometime they would ignore my offering. In fact, I don’t remember seeing so many fish simply ignore my flies. I did manage to get some more to eat though. I had two fish take me into my backing. One of those broke me off (I had three fish break my tippet). I finally replaced my tippet with some fresh line and I think that made a difference because I didn’t loose another fly all day. The other fish that took me into my backing was just a little over 28 inches…my first baby bull on the fly rod this year. I was determined not to loose that one and it took me 15 minutes to get it landed. IMG_0680.jpg

Over all, I was able to land 6 redfish, despite finicky fish, steady 10 mph winds, and very low water. I eagerly await the chance to get back out there and try it again.

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Photo fail! 🙂 My go pro snapped this picture right after the redfish wiggled its way off my fish grips.

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Haha. Now that’s the way to pose for the camera 🙂

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By the way, if you look closely at the bellies of the last two fish, you will notice that their stomachs were full. I did keep three fish for the grill and all three were FULL of crabs, baitfish, and one had about a 10 inch mullet in its stomach. I think they are feeding heavily and preparing for the coming winter. I fished a purple assault, a tan assault, a tan Lafleur’s Charlie, a Coma Cacahoe (for the speckled trout), and a crab fly (that’s the one that caught the most fish, seen with the 28 inch red).