I am truly thankful for all the good gifts that God gives me every day. I thank Him for life, for my family, my health, and so much more. I am also thankful for some of the good friends I’ve made through my love of the outdoors and fly fishing/kayak fishing. When I was going through some of my photos on my computer, it occurred to me I had only made one trip to the Southeast Louisiana marsh this current calendar year. There are numerous reasons for this from family obligations, to work commitments, to poor weather conditions, but as weird as it may be, the planets lined up perfectly for me Wednesday. I was able to witness this in person as I drove down to Delecroix Island to target my favorite fish, le poisson rouge.
Of course, I texted one of my New Orleans fishing buddies, who has been my guide lately as I am learning new water that is only a two-hour drive from my house instead of the usual two-and-a-half to three I have been taking down south of Golden Meadow. I don’t know if he would want me to mention his name on this blog, so I’ll just say that he has a blog that I list as one of those I follow. He has fished out of Hobie kayaks for a while and he’s a valuable resource to have around. I have learned a lot from him in the few trips I’ve made with him, and he’s been such a tremendous help answering questions like: “What’s this extra gadget on my Hobie for?” “Where do you stow the pedals when you’re standing to sight fish?” “What’s the best way to strap the kayak to your truck?” and of course… “Where can I find the clean water?” He was a Godsend yesterday when we were peddling away from our launch site and he commented, “Have your rod ready to toss a fly at a redfish if you see a big swirl on the way to our first spot.” I replied, “Sure, I’ll…wait…no way…I’ll…on my!!” I left my rod on the bank at the launch! So I peddled back the nearly quarter mile or so to retrieve about $600 in fish-catching gear. Oh, I know what you’re thinking…No, I didn’t spend that on it but I won the $250 reel in a fishing tournament and I won the $350 rod in a raffle. I know I needed to work up a sweat anyway. I was reminded just how good God is when I turned around to face the east again and I saw this.
So, I fiercely peddled to catch up to my buddy. Thankfully, he was doing some blind casting to structure to kill some time while I caught up with him. We stopped to fish a point early after that sunrise and I caught my first fish of the morning, a nice marsh largemouth bass. I was told that Hurricane Ida took a big toll on these marsh bass. I assume it was because of the inundation of salt water to the brackish water. I released this one to go make babies for future generations.
I was told that we would be peddling about a mile from the launch to our redfish spot. The wind had kicked up in the bay and even though it wasn’t howling, the combination of a shallow bay with 5 – 10 mile winds made it a difficult and wet peddle. It’s times like this that I purchased my Hobie. At my age, I need to work smarter and not harder. While I am a strong paddler, my leg muscles are a larger group and common sense tells me I can cover more water using a larger muscle group. Covering more water lately is becoming a necessity these past few years. I think I’ve written on my blog before, that I think one of the reasons it’s harder to find fish in areas that used to be so productive, is simply due to the popularity of our sport. It seems everyone down here is fishing out of kayaks. These days, it’s not uncommon to see 100 trucks and cars carrying kayaks on LA 1 between Leeville and Grand Isle on a summer weekend. Now imagine if everyone one of those fishermen are harvesting 3-5 redfish a trip. That’s a lot of redfish being harvested within a mile of the launch. Now, add to that the popularity of big redfish tournaments and bow fishing and you can understand why places I used to catch up to 25 redfish in an outing are becoming hard to come by. I find I’m having to explore water further and further from the road, thus the addition of the Hobie to my plastic navy.
Anyway, back to my fishing report. When I got to our predetermined, spot number one, I saw some commotion in the shallow water. I made a few casts and I determined they were bass chasing bait because I saw a bass go airborne like it was shot out of a cannon. I couldn’t get my fly in close enough to where the action was because of all the grass and I was actually cleaning the grass off my spoon fly when I saw a big swirl about 20 feet ahead of my kayak. I was able to get a good clean cast out there and bam, fish on! That redfish took off like it was shot from a submarine (it didn’t get air like the bass). I still had my peddles in so I was able to maneuver my kayak and let the weight of the kayak help to act as drag to wear the fish down. A around 27 inches (I left my bump board at home but I have a ruler on my paddle), it was way too big to harvest so it is still swimming today.
About an hour later, and I was now standing and push-poling my way through some very “fishy” water. I was thinking, I’m one for one. Spotted one caught it. Then I spotted redfish number two. It was cruising the edge of a grass bed with about 3 friends. I made an errant cast, or so I thought, which landed the fly about six feet to the left of the school. This guy was so aggressive, it looked like it was determined to beat his buddies to the easy meal. My, was it surprised when it found out that that shiny piece of gold spoon had a hook in it! It made several angry dashes and after a long fight, I eased redfish number two into my landing net. This one measured about 28 inches on my paddle ruler so it was released too.
I need to vent now. Here’s what happens when you don’t fish often enough. So, I already mentioned I forgot my rod on the bank. I bring two and you can see my spare on the ice chest on my photo. I never had to use it this day. I put the other one down on the bank because I’ve learned not to put the rods in the kayak until I’ve gotten the boat in the water. I’ve actually flipped a kayak over on the bank in my neighborhood lake and it flipped over two rods. Thankfully, neither of them broke but I’ve learned my lesson. After landing my first redfish, I had about 15 feet of line still in the water with my spoon fly. I began to peddle to get away from a shallow weed bank and I ran over my line. Of course, my fly got caught on one of the blades. I thought if I’d pull it up, I could retrieve my fly. When I pulled it up, I lost one of my gold spoon flies. No worries, because I had four gold ones, a crab colored one, and several black spoon flies. I also caught my fly on my rudder. When I tied on a new fly and I tossed it into the water, the wind blew me over my line and it got tangled. Another reason I bought the Hobie Compass is because it’s very sturdy. I was able to turn around and reach over my ice chest and under the bottom of my kayak to grab the line, retrieve the fly, cut it off, pull the line through the rudder system and retie…all without falling in. Yeah!!
OK. Back to the fishing report. So I was two for two. Sighted two fish. Caught two fish. I was feeling proud of myself…shouldn’t have done that, Doc! The next redfish I saw didn’t go so well. A bad cast by me in the wind and it spooked. So now it’s Doc – two. Redfish – one. I’m still winning. Well that didn’t last long. I spooked probably another 15 fish before my next hookup. I didn’t even get to cast to most of them. They would see my boat or my rod when I would lift it up for a cast and they would bolt out of there, drumming as they scramble away. By that way, if you haven’t heard the sound of redfish drumming in the marsh, you aren’t fishing shallow enough. That’s why they are in the drum family. There were actually times when the redfish saw ME before I saw them. The reason I knew is because I heard “the drum” and then when I looked I spotted the fish as it was swimming away from me. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about…I would assume it’s similar to what a squirrel does when it sees you and it starts barking at you.
Well, I was able to connect with my third redfish. This one was another “baby bull” and I was playing it perfectly, except it kept on collecting “salad.” I was having to play the 8 pound angry fish along with 3-5 pounds of wet sea grass. Just when I thought I was going to win the battle, the fish took one more hard run and broke my line. Oh well, at this point, I had quit keeping score so we won’t talk about it, but it’s like gambling. The house always wins and with fishing, it’s the same analogy. My ice chest was still empty.
My wife loves to comment when I do get home after a day-long fishing trip, “where are the fish?” My reply is usually, they were hard to find today or I only caught the big ones today. So far, by answer was going to have to be the latter. I texted my buddy and he had caught a 31-inch redfish. Yep, neither of us would be bringing home fish for supper this day. But seriously, I began to look for smaller fish. I made a few casts to groups of fish, trying to target the smaller one in the pack. I thought about when I used to duck hunt…don’t shoot randomly in the flock…pick one out first…and I did! I saw a group of about 4 to six redfish working their way away from me and I cast to the smallest one in the group. It didn’t disappoint. A few minutes later, I landed one around 18-19 inches long.
When I went to unhook this fish, I saw that it had destroyed my spoon fly.
Anyway, now I had one that was a perfect size for grilling so my wife won’t hound me when I get home. Well, yes, she did ask about all the fish I caught. I had to honestly tell her, “they were too big, honey.”
Anyway, the day had been great. I had gone through all four of the gold spoon flies I had in my box and Oh no. I was out of gold spoon flies. I decided to try an experimental spoon fly that I colored to look like a small blue crab. After getting two refusals; I mean, both redfish I cast to looked at it, followed it, but didn’t eat it. That was all I needed. I tied on one of my black and gold Charlies. I knew in this murky water, I would need some flash. I also thought about what another good friend of mine, Catch Cormier, says about redfish flies, “A redfish will eat any fly, as long as it’s gold.”
So, we were heading back toward our launch point and to get there, we would have to peddle through a small cut in the marsh to get to another large pond. I spooked a nice redfish and I alerted my buddy that it was heading his way. It was just deep enough to use my peddles and then I would paddle when it got too shallow. I spooked a large redfish and it headed back behind me toward my buddy. I hollered to him to be on the lookout for it. Then I spooked another small one and I told myself, I need to be standing so I can cast to them before I spook them. Every trip provides me with a lesson to be learned and this trip had already taught me a thing or two about what NOT to do. I was about to learn another valuable lesson. When I stand to fish, I usually remove my pedals in order to clear the front cockpit and eliminate things that might tangle my fly line. I began pushing myself with my paddle through this narrow (maybe 15 feet or so wide) cut in the marsh. It was muddy and surprisingly had some redfish and lots of mullet in it. I got to a point that widen up and I spooked another redfish. I watched its wake move into some deeper water. I went into super stealth mode and creeped up to where I last saw its wake. Then I saw the telltale amber side of its body slowly moving away from me. I put a cast out two feet in front of it…strip strip…bam. This one wasn’t the smaller one I was chasing earlier. I gave it a good hook set and watched my rod bend over. I could tell it was heading for my kayak and it would probably go under my boat. I thought about those fins so I thought to myself, “if I can just keep it from going under my boat.” Then I looked down to see my fly line entangled in the pedals. Now my thoughts changed to, “if I can just get this line untangled before it really realizes its hooked and makes a huge run.” It seemed like slow motion. I got one loop untangled from one pedal with my left hand, while maintaining pressure on the fish with my other hand, and then I felt it take off. I started letting some line slip between my fingers and the rod until no more slack line was left, except what was wrapped around that last foot pedal and…snap. I watched futilely, while I saw the escaped redfish send a large wake far away from me. Lesson learned…if I’m going to stand and fish, get the pedals put away before casting. This isn’t a big problem when I’m sitting because the line falls harmlessly in my lap.
We push-poled our way in another productive area, but the redfish were cruising below the marsh grass and by the time I would see one, there was no opportunity to cast without getting caught in salad. I had gone through one large bottle of water and four bottles of sports drinks. Being satisfied with the fact that I hadn’t cramped up, I wasn’t bleeding anywhere, I hadn’t fallen in, and I was able to do battle with five redfish and land three, I decided it was a great day and it was time to head to the truck. My buddy felt the same way and we paddled back to the launch together. We each had one redfish to take home for supper and we decided to catch a burger and a beer on the way home. I thank God for the beauty of nature, the ability to pursue my sport, and for good fishing buddies.
Here are a couple more pictures from the day.
I know I titled this post, The Tug is my Drug, but in reality, my grandkids are my number one so, Their HUG is my drug!
My heart is full!!