The Dog Days of Summer Continue Through the Fall???

We are officially in the fall season, but don’t tell that to mother nature. It’s been a hot summer for everyone and any fishing I’ve been able to do has been early morning shots and get off the water by 9 AM. Now that school has kicked in, I’ve been even more busy than ever because we have moved into our new facility. I’m still unpacking and trying to figure things out. On top of that, we’ve started a bathroom remodel on the home-front, so my free time has been limited, to say the least. However, all work and no play, make for a very dull “Doc” and I’ve been hungry to get on the water…somewhere.

I’ve been seeing reports of good redfish action down in the marsh, so I’ve been looking for a chance to head south. The forecast for this weekend, however, looked too hot and windy (10-15 mph) for my blood, so I decided to take a quick pond trip nearby to feed my fishing hunger before church this Sunday.

I wasn’t disappointed. I was treated to a beautiful morning with lots of wildlife to help distract me (I missed about a half dozen good strikes). There were ducks, doves, and an early morning fox that visited me. Sorry, no pictures. As far as the catching, well, the action was pretty darned good. I was able to catch and release 21 bass on a deer hair popper by 9 AM. The popper was one I still had tied on from my last trip and I figure I’ve caught over 40 on that same bug by now.

 
Poor fellow only has one eye, but it still caught fish 🙂


This is one of the chunky bass I caught this morning.

I brought my camera and I was able to get some good video. I have some editing to do before I post it so it will have to come in a later post. Meanwhile, I’ve got more demo work to do, sanding, and painting. Tight loops and tight lines everyone!

Musicdoc

 

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My most challenging fishing

People might ask, “Why would anyone want to climb Mount Everest? Why would anyone want to white-water raft a class 10 rapid? Why would anyone want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?”  Most of these questions could be answered, “Because it’s not an easy thing to do.” So why would I drive five hours to Arkansas to sight-fish for a fish that’s arguably much more intelligent than bass or redfish? Because it’s not an easy thing to do. I would learn that lesson though, the hard way when I joined a fellow kayak fisherman and friend, Drew Ross, near his home waters in Arkansas this past Tuesday. Drew is fortunate enough to live near water that holds a “target-rich” environment of very large grass carp and acres and acres of shallow flats in which to sight fish for them with dry flies! 65967758_2537927943092798_7904278775846666240_o.jpg

So here are some of the reasons why I am so intrigued by these fish.

  • They are big. Some of these bruisers can sometimes weigh between 15 – 20 pounds and will straighten or break hooks and tippet at the snap of a finger.
  • They are smart. Smarter than bass or redfish.
  • They aren’t aggressive eaters and will not track down prey or flies. While they must eat to grow to the enormous sizes you see, they do not readily attack flies and lures like most other gamefish.
  • They are easily spooked, which means in order to be a successful fisherman, one must be very stealthy.
  • They aren’t considered to be good table fare, which means very few fishermen target them.
  • They will eat a dry fly
  • They will eat a dry fly
  • Oh, did I mention, they will eat a dry fly? 🙂

So, spoiler alert..you aren’t going to see any photos of me holding a massive carp in this blog post. I can tell you I never worked so hard to get “skunked” in my life but I had a blast and I look forward to getting a chance to go again.

First of all, Drew is a super nice guy and was probably more disappointed than me that I didn’t land a carp. Because we were going to be sight-fishing, we had to first pick a day that was forecast to be mostly sunny, with very little wind. The good news was, I didn’t have to leave my house at 2 in the morning to get out there at the crack of dawn. I left at 6 AM and made it to his house a little before 11. The bad news was, it was going to be very hot! No problem there, because my mom didn’t raise a wimp!

For the first hour or so, Drew pointed out fish to me. I quickly began spotting fish on my own and was tossing a small dry fly to cruising fish. I soon learned the importance of being very accurate with my casts. That’s when you realize just how intelligent this fish is. As a fly fisherman who frequently sight-fishes redfish in shallow water, I thought I would be able to cast a foot or two in front of a fish and “intercept” it. I would make a “perfect” cast and watch the fish swim right under the fly without even budging. Sometimes they would swim around it like they wanted to avoid it all together. When I practice my casting, I try to land my fly in a 14 inch circle (actually and old drum head from school). It became apparent to me that I was going to have to present my fly to a moving fish, with a slight breeze to contend with, in a circle about the size of a pancake. What a humbling experience!! I struggled! All this time, Drew had not even made a cast. I told him, one of us had catch a fish so I eventually talked him into casting to a few fish for himself. I just wanted to see if it could be done.

Well after about 15 minutes, I heard a loud commotion and saw that Drew was indeed hooked up. It, however, only lasted a couple seconds because the fish straightened his hook out. Meanwhile, my presentations were getting better but twice I missed opportunities because an aggressive bream ate my fly just when I thought I was getting a carp to rise.

Drew and I kept push-poling our way through the flats and I probably cast to over 50 carp in about 5 hours before I got my first fish to eat. I saw a loner heading toward me very slowly and I put a legitimate “perfect” cast out about 6 inches in front of its nose. I watched it rise and its “kissers” opened up and sucked my fly in. I set the hook and….I missed!!! (Insert explicative of your choice here). I was distraught, but I was encouraged that I got and eat. Then I watched Drew get another eat (another straightened hook) and another… this time landing the pretty fish:GOPR0197.jpeg

We were running out of time when I got my second eat. I let the fish actually take the fly down before I set the hook and again, I came up empty. I actually got a third fish to eat my fly and this time I actually felt some weight when I set the hook. Drew heard the commotion and thought I had actually hooked one, but I missed again. Oh well, these are times when I just have to chalk things up to Cormier’s Rule #1 of Fly Fishing: Fish make the rules; not the fisherman.

So, as I sit here waiting out this tropical storm, I am tying a few dry flies of my own to target these beautiful fish the next chance I get and although it was a very humbling experience, I know I learned a lot and will use what I’ve learned to be better prepared the next time I give it a shot.

Summertime fun

Summertime fun

Each summer, I look forward to putting all those flies I tied during the rainy winter and spring to a field test. Last week, I spent a lovely week in Florida with my wife and we spent four days in St. Augustine. St. Augustine is the oldest city in America and it’s full of historical venues and a few newer “watering holes” to boot. We toured the Basilica, the Castillo de San Marcos, The Fountain of Youth, and more. Here are a couple pictures from that trip.IMG_3796.jpg

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Now before you exit my blog, let me get to the fishing report. As you see in the pictures, I wasn’t allowed to bring my fly rod, so I have to make up for it this week. 🙂

I took a quick look at the weather forecast and figured that my best opportunity would be Tuesday, because the wind, clouds, and rain were in the forecast for Wednesday through the weekend. AND…I start with one of my camps next week. I decided to revisit PAC (Pointe aux Chenes) and do a little sight fishing for sheepshead and redfish.

Since I planned on doing some sight fishing, I decided I didn’t need to get there at the crack of dawn so I left Baton Rouge for the 2 hour journey at 6 AM. I was on the water and fishing by 8:45. Now, I periodically get to fish with a fly fishing icon. Most people just call him “Catch” and that’s because he knows how to catch fish. He has been my fishing partner for the past three years in the Fly Fishing For the Mission Tournament. Anyway, at this year’s event he caught 6 or so sheepshead on the fly! So, I tied up a couple of the shrimp patterns he was using (a tan colored Lafleur’s Charlie) and made sure to tie one of my first rig. On the second, I put a crab pattern. GOPR0183.jpeg
You can see the three flies I used today on the pool noodle to my left.

Today’s conditions were good for sight fishing except, the water was extremely high and dirty. The fish were going to have to make a big mistake for me to see them in that water. I even went to my usual spots which have a lot of grass, thinking that the water would be cleaner there but it was just too high. I think the incoming tide was bringing dirty water from the shrimp boats. From about 9 AM until just before noon, I had the shrimp pattern and the crab pattern on. I was able to spot a few misguided redfish and sheepshead but they were 1) very spooky and 2) they just wouldn’t eat. I made several perfect presentations and watched as the fish followed the fly but something didn’t look right and they just would not eat. Finally, around noon, I figured I had better change tactics. I refuse to get skunked, so I tied on my  trusty spoon fly.

Right away, I spotted a trio of big sheepshead. Great! They hadn’t seen me. So I put a cast out to the left of the group…I didn’t want to put it right in the middle of them because I figured I would hit one of them in the butt and then they would all scatter. As luck would have it, one of them peeled off and took a look at the spoon. Come on…Eat it!!  Eat it!! Nope 😦

Of course, by now the wind had picked up to around 10 mph but I can deal with that as along as I can fish the lee side of the marsh. I spotted a pretty redfish but an errant cast that landed on its snout didn’t work out so good for either of us. Ahh, “there’s another one,” I thought to myself. Maybe I’m finally in a target-rich area. No sooner had I gotten those words out, the fish chased my spoon fly down and gobbled it up. After about a 5-minute or so battle, I landed my first fish of the day. It measured 21 inches and I let it go. GOPR0181.jpeg

After I released the fish I paddled back to my “target-rich” spot. I spied another redfish in the shallows and put one cast toward it. BAM, fish number two! It was a fun little fish but noticeably smaller (probably 17 or 18 inches).GOPR0182.jpeg

I went back to my spot but the “target” had moved on. About 15 minutes later, I was cruising a bank with the wind to my back, when I spotted two really nice sheepshead. I was able to put my push pole in the water and stop my kayak. I placed a couple really nice casts out to the fish but when it was looking like it was interested…BAM! A redfish swam in and smoked my fly! I fought this one for a while and was getting it close to the kayak when it took one more big run and spit the hook.

It was getting to be about 2 PM (my self designated time to start heading back in) when I saw a very large dark shadow. At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me but when it turned, I saw the telltale stripes on its side. Well, what do you know? I finally got a big sheepshead to eat my spoon fly! We engaged in a battle that lasted a couple of minutes. It too spit my hook back at me. That’s one of the things about sheepies. They have that mouth full of teeth. It’s hard to find a spot in there to get a hook in.

I know I say that any day on the water is a good day. It’s just some are better than others. Today was not one of those great days. The water clarity was poor, the water was high, and the wind picked up to make things even more challenging. The two fish I did land were beautiful. I’m going to have to rethink PAC for a while. I think my next trip south will be to Grand Isle. In the meantime, I may take a trip up north to try my luck at some big carp.  I’ll leave you all with a few closeups of these beautiful fish.

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Fly Fishin’ for the Mission

Fly Fishin’ for the Mission

I fished the third annual Fly Fishin’ for the Mission Tournament this past weekend at Pointe aux Chenes. It’s a team tournament open to boats and kayaks but limited to fly rods only. My teammate, Catch Cormier and I won the tournament out right in its inaugural season and placed again last year in the kayak division. We were both looking forward to placing in the leaderboard again this year.

But first, a little information on this tournament. It is a fundraiser for Mission Six, a nonprofit organization started by Mathew Roberts to support our vets and first responders. Matt and his buddies take a lot of vets out on our waters and get them in a place where they can relax and gain some relief from the stress of PTSD. Some of these vets were also wounded physically in Afghanistan or Iraq. For many, this event offers them a chance to catch redfish on a fly rod, which most of them have never even thrown before. The tournament is a two man (or woman), two fish (redfish) tournament. You simply have to weigh in the two largest slot fish you can. Oh, by the way, there is also a side pot for sheepshead…more on that later.

So, I showed up at PAC Kayak rentals, 58689276_2277981275601513_4740110522739851264_n.jpgowned by Eddie and Lisa Mullen, on Friday to do some pre-fishing for the tournament, socialize, and get some pastalaya. As my luck would have it, the wind was blowing too hard for me to get out on the water, the pastalaya was late getting cooked…so I just did the socializing thing and called it a night. Catch had done some scouting and it looked like we were just going to fish our spots that had produced well for us in the past.

Saturday morning was gorgeous. The skies were cloudless (perfect for sight casting) and the wind was blowing only 5 – 10 mph. We got to our usual spots and I was disappointed because there wasn’t much underwater grass growing. It’s the grass that keeps the water clean and remember Cormier’s Laws for Fly Fishing number 2?  Clear water favors the fly fisherman. Well it meant we would have to paddle further back in the marsh to find clear water. By then, however (around 10 AM), the wind had picked up to 10 -15 mph. No problem, I can cast in wind. Catch had already caught a nice 23-inch redfish and had seen quite a few others. I, however, had not seen but one redfish before 10 AM. Things did change and I was able to get my first redfish to eat a gold spoon-fly.GOPR0160.jpg
24 inch redfish…not bad but I’ll need to upgrade if we want to be “in the money.”

My next redfish could have been a twin my first one, although it was feistier and took me into my backing. I was having to fight the fish and the wind at this point. It kept darting behind pockets of marsh and the wind would blow me the other way. It was a bit comical to watch me with one hand on a rod and the other frantically trying to maneuver around with a paddle.

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I then hooked a “money” fish but the darned thing broke my tippet off where I tie it (loop to loop) to my leader. That’s the first time that’s ever happened. I continued to catch and release fish until about 2 PM. I lost six and landed six so the redfish and Doc ended up tied for the day 🙂 On the paddle back to the landing, I saw this 20-inch guy cruising the bank so I had to see if he was willing to eat my gold spoon fly and he did.

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That picture is very deceiving. Look at the water. Although it’s dirty, it looks calm. I was on the lee side of a set of barriers put there to help with erosion. On the other side of the barrier were white caps!

The paddle back to the marina was brutal. Not only did I have to fight the wind, but the tide was ripping in and I needed to paddle about a quarter of a mile against it. It probably took 25 minutes to paddle against the wind and current but I made it back. My partner, Catch, hadn’t caught a redfish over 24 inches so it looked like we would have to weigh my two fish only. He did, however, catch 8 sheepshead on the fly, included the sheepy pot winning fish of 5.8 pounds! Uh, that’s nice Catch, but remember it’s a redfish tournament. 🙂 That’s OK because last year we had to measure both of his redfish to place in the money. Oh, and speaking of “in the money,” Catch and I always donate our cash winnings back to the organization so I’m sure they are happy to see us win. 🙂 Anyway the guy who won the thing was a vet who had never cast a fly rod until he took some instructions the night before. His best redfish was 26.75 inches! That’s a money fish!  🙂

Anyway, kudos to Eddie Mullen, Matthew Roberts, and the rest of the team at Mission Six for putting this on. Next year, maybe I’ll have to cook the pastalaya so it will be cooked on time 🙂

 

 

Things are starting to warm up!

We have had one weird winter in south Louisiana. We must be the only place in America where you have to run your air conditioner during the day and your heater at night. It can be 83 degrees at 2 PM one day and 37 degrees with a 25 mph wind the next morning. And then, there’s the rain! I was looking forward to having the week off to do some fishing during my Mardi Gras break. The weather was cold, windy, and wet the entire week!

So, I’ve been filling my free time with getting some “honey do” projects done around the house and I finally found some time to get on the water this past Sunday. My plan was to head south and try to catch some trout and redfish. The weather was predicted to be sunny with a high around 75 degrees and winds from 5-10 mph. This is were I usually have to report that the weather man got it wrong again, but I have to say he was spot on this day. Well, the wind probably got up to about 12 or 13 mph at times but it was still fishable.

I met a buddy of mine around 5 AM and made the 2 hour trek to our spot. Plan A was to fish for trout. We arrived a little later than we had intended but I was just glad to be on the water and enjoy the beautiful sunrise. When we got to our spot we saw there were no fewer than 8 motor boats already around our spot. I picked up my first trout around 7:30 on a pink Charlie under a VOSI.GOPR0119.jpg
Right away, I thought we would get “into ’em” but that was the lone trout either of us caught that day. So, it was off to plan B to search for redfish in the shallows.

We poled off to some nearby broken marsh and began sight fishing the leeward sides of some small islands and duck ponds. I saw a good bit of redfish but honestly, they saw me before I could get my rod up to make a cast. I was spooking a lot of fish when I finally got one to slip up. My first redfish ate my gold spoon fly.GOPR0129.jpg
It was a nice 24-inch fish that I decided to harvest (I trade fish fillets for fresh farm eggs with a colleague of mine).

My morning continued about the same way. I lost a big one (weak hook set), another monster (set the hook too hard), and a third undersized fish before I was able to land this 27-inch beauty.GOPR0133.jpg
After releasing it back to the Louisiana marsh, I figured I had better try to find my buddy. I  caught up to him  about a half hour later and learned that he was having similar luck with his bait caster.  I was seeing more and more redfish so I was determined to get another one to my kayak. I was treated to one more beauty before we called it a morning.GOPR0139.jpg
These “Louisiana Pumpkins,” as we like to call them have a gorgeous bronze luster to them. Their big brown eyes are a sight to behold too.

It was good to be on the water with an old friend, witness a beautiful morning in the South Louisiana marsh, and have a redfish take me into my backing once again. I’m going to be unable to fish for a couple of weekends but after that I’m going to have to get down to the marsh again to get my fix of Louisiana Pumpkins.

The Purists are going to Hate Me!

I’ve learned that fly fishermen are a different breed. We look at nature from a different perspective. We typically are more aware of conservation. We constantly think about tight loops, back casts, etc. and we look at all materials, both natural and synthetic from a different perspective too. So, over the Christmas holiday, I saw what appeared to be a large earthworm on the floor in my living room. Now, with a two-year-old granddaughter, nothing surprises me anymore. However, upon closer examination, I saw that it was a broken ponytail rubber band that had belonged to my daughter (the two-year-old’s mother). I just knew I had to put that thing on a hook and give it a shot one day.

So, I tied it on a 2/0 hook, put a small dumbbell eye on it and colored it with a sharpie to make it look like one of those purple plastic worms that I cut my teeth bass fishing with. Last weekend, while I was fishing my favorite bass lake, I found an opportunity to do some “research” with the fly. Now before some of you storm out of here mad as a hatter, know that I do call this a “fly.” Sure it’s made with synthetic materials but if one can catch fish on spoon flies, foam flies, and other streamers made of synthetic brush material, then “Doc’s Ponytail Worm” is a legitimate fly.

So, I told myself I would only fish it for about a half hour and if I didn’t get any bites I would change it out for something else. It took me about 15 minutes before I hooked this beauty. worm fly bass.jpeg

I have since tied up a few on Eagle Claw weedless hooks. Now it’s time to do some more research on them. IMG_3550.jpg
Tequila sunrise, olive green and the Bill Dance Blue. 🙂