The Tug is My Drug

The Tug is My Drug

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.

Not my photo, but I did see it πŸ™‚

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.

Beautiful Delacroix Sunrise. Pictures on an iPhone just don’t do it justice.

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.

This beautiful marsh bass gave me an acrobatic display after it sucked down a gold spoon fly.

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.

My first redfish of the day

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.

Not only long, but thick 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.

Take a closer look at what this little guy did to my spoon fly

When I went to unhook this fish, I saw that it had destroyed my spoon fly.

All the “spoon” was crushed off this 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.

Ready to launch
Another photo of the sun beginning to make its appearance
Yes, the tug is the drug.
Those of you who know him…well, you know him. Thanks to my fishing guide and buddy.

Epilogue

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!

There’s this little guy
This little angel
And this one who will be starting kindergarten this fall.

My heart is full!!

Summer Brown-lining (or ditch pitching)

I recently heard the term ‘brown-lining’ used by some buddies of mine in the Red Stick Fly Fishers Club. I kind of had an idea what they meant because I knew what blue lining was. Blue lining is fishing small, cold water creeks for trout. You look on a map of the area and you hike on out to the “blue line.” Since we don’t have any cold water creeks in south Louisiana, we do the next best thing…brown lining, or what I used to call it…ditch pitching. I guess brown lining sounds more sophisticated? or not??

Anyway, now that I’m through with camps, I wanted to get a mid morning trip in. My buddies said that this kind of fishing is fun, because you never know what you’ll see or catch. This morning’s trip was that sort of trip. I pulled my truck over to a drainage ditch that I had actually fished many years ago with a former student of mine. I remembered catching a lot of bass, bluegill, and what I consider the most beautiful and colorful fresh water fish in Louisiana, the long-eared sunfish. That was my target species for the morning.

We have been in a mini drought here in south Louisiana and I was prepared to see very shallow, but clear water. I would have to look for deeper cuts in order to find fish. I began with a hare’s ear nymph and I quickly began casting to some pretty spooky fish. It didn’t take long for me to realize these fish were looking up, so I tied on a yellow foam fly. No sooner than I had made the switch, I landed a pretty bluegill. I also quickly landed a small largemouth black bass, but I lost my fly when I tried to set the hook on another fish and it got caught in the tree behind me. No worries because I had a whole box of foam flies. I tied on a black beetle and quickly caught several more bluegill.

This bluegill sucked in a black beetle

Soon there after, I landed my target species, a long eared sunfish.

Look how pretty this little guy was

And another and another. This went on for an hour or so until I got tired of catching these. I then spotted a garfish sitting still in about 10 inches or so of water. I tied on a squirrel-tail jig pattern that looked like a leech or a small crawfish. After several bad casts, I managed to get one close to those sharp teeth. It turned on my presentation and crushed the fly. I actually got the hook to stick (miraculously) and I had to figure out how I was going to land it without a net. I worked it down to an area that looked like I could ease it over a mud bank. Well, that hook set eventually worked itself out and the garfish casually swam away before I could snap a picture.

One of the cool things about this kind of fishing is you really never know what you will see or what you will hook into. I saw a catfish but I couldn’t get it to eat. I then began sight fishing to garfish. I hooked three more but each one ended up either getting off the hook or cutting my line. It was fun anyway. I figured I had had enough with the garfish so I tied up another foam fly that my friend, Drew Ross ties for trout and carp. I picked up several more fish on that fly before I called it a morning.

I have to remember to bring a net and some good hiking shoes next time. I hyperextended my big toe trying to climb up out of the ditch and I’m icing it down as I write this 😦

Here are some pictures from the morning:

These fish are so pretty, they look like they belong in an aquarium.

There were many other things to see this morning included great white herons, geese, a multitude of turtles, and one small water snake. If you haven’t tried “brown lining ” or “ditch pitching,” then you should give it a try.

Tight loops and tight lines πŸ™‚

Memorial Day Bass

The beginning of summer marks a time for me to get as much fishing in as I can. I do have to balance family, and prep work for upcoming camps, but after a rough week, I was looking forward to the peaceful tranquility… wait a minute…who am I trying to fool. I was looking forward to feeling the tug of a chunky fish on my 6 wt!

I arose early Sunday morning and headed to my “go to” lake. It was a beautiful morning with an early foggy mist on the water. The unusually cool morning temperature of 64 degrees was cooler than the temperature of the water so visibility on the water was actually limited early. It didn’t take long for that fog to lift and when it did, that’s when I got my first explosion on one of my crawfish colored deer hair poppers.

This early morning bass sucked in my crawfish colored deer hair popper.

By 6 AM, I was lipping my third bass of the morning.

You should be able to see the crawfish popper imitation in this photo. You can also see the fog is beginning to lift.

Another chunky bass on the crawfish imitation

You can barely see the popper deep inside this bucket mouth.

I have to keep reminding myself to check my tippet though. After battling several fish, my tippet gets frayed and I usually loose fish…and my popper 😦 Yes, after landing my first 5 fish, I had one break me off. What a bummer, because I think that’s my last crawfish imitation popper. Luckily, I know how to tie more πŸ™‚ The sun was coming up pretty fast now and I thought I’d stick to my crawfish theme. I found a diver in my box that had an orange belly, so I tied it on and tried my luck. I was treated to a sight I don’t see very often. I watched about a 2 lb bass go completely airborne after a dragonfly by the tall Johnson grass near the bank. I quickly tossed my newly tied deer hair bug but I didn’t get any hits. By now it was after 7 AM and the bass seemed to be leaving the shallows for deeper water. I had a choice to make. Either stick with my topwater approach or try a subsurface fly. Topwater is always more fun, so I decided to keep on keeping on.

When people ask me about strategy for targeting bass on a fly rod, I often use a baseball analogy. I can hit anything a pitcher throws at me as long as I know two things…when it’s going to get here, and where is it going to be. The same thing applies to fly fishing. I can catch ’em if I know when they will be there (very early in the morning or very late) and where they will be (within 10 feet of the bank). That’s where the fly fisherman has the advantage. Once I clear the first 10 feet of the bank, I can just lift my fly up and put it back within a second. There’s no need to reel in all my line and cast again like you would with a bait caster. That means, I can keep my bug in the sweet spot a lot longer with poppers on a fly rod than I could with traditional tackle. So, did my theory work? You bet it did. I was able to entice a few more to eat my offering before about 8 AM, by which time, the bite had just about shut down. I did try a subsurface fly, but I didn’t get a bite. No worries, because it was starting to get hot and I had had enough for one morning (I landed 9 bass)

I do get to meditate while on the water and I thought about a dear friend who lost his two-year battle with cancer this past week. This trip was for you, Ronnie! I also thought about the true meaning of the Memorial Day Holiday. I am thankful for all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can live here and enjoy the bounty that our Lord has bestowed on us. Happy Memorial Day to all of you.

My Memorial Day photo (I nearly always bring my flag with me)

Here’s a good picture with that Dalberg Diver (with the orange belly)

School’s Almost Out for Summer

For many, there are four hallowed words that are heralded around the country by students and teachers alike. “School’s out for summer!” Well, it’s almost out for me. I have had several spring concerts, convocations, baccalaureate Masses, graduation performances, but as I check each one off the list and the list gets shorter, I find I’m more able to get my fly rod out and hit the local neighborhood lakes for some relaxation and some, hopefully, fishing action. I have even flirted with the opportunity to head south to do some sight fishing for redfish, but the conditions have to be perfect for me to warrant spending $60 on gas just to get there and back. Call me cheap, but my daddy raised a frugal man.

Anyway, the fishing in my neighborhood lakes have been hit or miss. I have had some hits like this.

I had a good morning a week ago and caught these two slabs on a fluff butt.

Some misses, (no pictures of misses of course) and what I call a grand slam…landing four species in one morning; a bass, several sacalait, bluegill, and even a spotted garfish.

An early morning 3 pound plus bass on the musicdoc shad fly

Crappie on the music doc shad fly

A bluegill on a fluff butt

And even one of these prehistoric-looking guys full of sharp teeth.

That garfish ate my shad imitation and when I released it, it reared back and its teeth sunk into my pants leg. Thank God I was wearing long pants or I would be wearing battle scars from that encounter.

By the way, I think that big crappie (aka sacalait) was probably my personal best at 15.34 inches

That’s probably my personal best sacalait.

Of course, now that school is nearly over, you can bet the weather will be ugly. The winds will blow 15-20 and there will be lots of clouds and thunderstorms. Oh, well. I certainly will make the best of it. I want to do a float trip for some spotted bass and I’d like to try some small stream fishing in the Florida parishes. Too much rain may put a damper on that though. I’ll post reports if I do though.

Tight loops and tight lines. And happy summer!

I’ve been searching and searching…and then I found you :)

I have been trying to find a consistent sacalait bite in our neighborhood lake all spring, but I have fallen short on several occasions. Then there were other obligations like school, family, and weather events. So, I don’t post the trips when I go out and I skunk (rarely happens) or I only catch a few bluegill or a bass or two. I guess I need to post those reports too, so I look human πŸ™‚ However, I took the opportunity to walk my kayak over to the neighborhood lake this afternoon after chores (repairs to the chlorinator) and supper and fish for an hour.

I met a young man and his dad at my “put in” spot and we struck up a conversation. I watched him (a 5th grader) reel in a small bass on plastic. I tried to lure him over to the “dark side,” the fly rod, and his dad said he remembered his grandfather trying to teach him to catch fish on the fly rod and how much of a thrill it was to catch fish on a fly rod. After about 10 minutes or so of chit chat, I finally launched my kayak and was paddling over to one of my spots that had produced sacalait in the past. I was fishing with one of my black and chartreuse fluff butts for about 10 minutes when I saw my strike indicator disappear beneath the murky water. I stiffened up my fly rod and I found myself doubled over with a slab sacalait on the other end. The young man was very impressed on the bank.

My first nice slap on the fluff butt

Five minutes later and my 5 wt was doubled over again. I eased another 15 inch crappie (sacalait) into my kayak. The little boy was so excited now. I think he and his dad were heading over to Bass Pro to purchase a kayak and a fly rod. LOL!

slab number 2

So, you get the picture. Cast, strip, repeat. Cast, strip, wait a while. Repeat. Cast, strip… watch the strike indicator disappear, set the hook and ease another slab into the kayak.

I know. This is getting monotonous

After about an hour of this, the bite stopped, but by then, I had put a half dozen on my stringer. For those of you who don’t know this (I’m sure most subscribers to this blog do), crappie, or sacalait like we call them down here (Native American/French translation = “sack of milk”), is one of the best eating fish that swim in fresh water. When I got home I put some of them on the measuring board.

14.5 inches
Just under 15 inches

This was the largest in the bunch

I sent these pictures with a message to the members of my fly fishing club and I’ll repeat it here. There is so much joy and peace in God’s good outdoors. Get off the couch, throw the gaming devices in the garbage, and get outside and experience the beauty that God has created for us. It is the best therapy out there, it’s less expensive than a psychiatrist, and it can provide you with dinner too. πŸ™‚

Tight loops and tight lines to all of you!

When the Good Lord Provides

It’s been a windy spring down here in south Louisiana so the fishing chances have been slim. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten a few chances to hit the water between storms. As the title of this post eludes, “I love it when the Good Lord provides.” He provides me with a wonderful family, good health, and yes, even the windy days we have been having. But this is a fishing blog, so let’s get down to it. As our spring break approached, I looked for opportunities to get on the water of my local neighborhood lakes to a little “catch and eat.” I needed some fish for those Friday fish fries. The sacalait just haven’t shown themselves yet, except for maybe a couple here and there, but nothing that would be worthwhile to keep to put in some hot grease. So, I changed tactics and I decided to tie on a hare’s ear nymph and see if the bream and chinquapin would be willing to provide dinner. My hunch proved to be correct one afternoon as I was able to sight fish to some chinquapin and bluegill that were stalking the shallows.

This fat red ear (chinquapin) went for the hare’s ear.
Another large chinquapin
And a few bluegill made it to the fish fry

After a successful afternoon trip, I decided to wake up early Saturday morning to see if I could replicate my luck. I was able to catch a few chunky bass in the morning and then I managed to put a few more big bluegill and a couple sacalait on the stringer.

The LSU popper is still the color of choice around here
These joined the Friday lenten fish fry too.

Well, fast forward to Good Friday morning. I knew my three grandchildren would be heading to Baton Rouge later that day and I wanted to fry fish for them for supper. We had a good downpour overnight so I figured the water would be running over the dam from the upper lake to the lower lake. I got out early to see if the shad were doing their thing at the base of the dam and sure enough, they were in numbers that attracted a lot of bass. I hooked a descent bass early on my musicdoc shad and I then changed my retrieve to allow the fly to work lower in the water column. I was able to land four slab sacalait before the bite stopped. I was just in time to walk my kayak back home to greet my grandchildren. My granddaughter was more than happy to take a picture of Poppie with his fish.

The smile on his face says it all. BTW, the fish weighed a pound and a half.

So, after lunch, I dug up a few worms and offered my three-year-old grandson an opportunity to catch a fish of his own. He had a ball and he caught his first fish ever on his Mickey Mouse rod and reel.

Proud young fisherman
Fish number 2

We had a wonderful Easter with the grandkids and we were sad to see them go. Our weekend was fun of tractor rides, Easter egg hunts, kayaking, dancing, and a crawfish boil. So Monday rolls around and I’m looking at the winds and weather for this week…my off week. Wow. 15-20 mph winds Monday and Tuesday. That’s no good. My wife and I walked the neighborhood Monday and we came on a stash of blackberries. I rode back there later with a gallon ziplock bag and managed to pick about 10 cups of berries, which I turned into some good blackberry jelly.

That’s a gallon sized bag
Which we turned into blackberry jelly

Like the title of this post says, the Good Lord does provide. Oh, and speaking of providing, I got up early this morning before the winds kicked up and I managed to catch 5 nice bass on the LSU deer hair popper. No sacalait though, but that’s OK. These bass were released to go make babies (one was full of eggs)

Things are Poppin’ ‘Round Here.

Spring is about to crack open its delights down in south Louisiana. That means the oak trees are starting to create those little “popcorn” hulls that fall in my pool. The small song birds are busy collecting twigs to build nests. The crane flies have begun their mating ritual, the Canada geese are chasing each other, and the blackberry bushes are beginning to bloom. So, what does that have to do with fishing, you might ask? Lots. The bass are fattening up and are getting ready to sit on their beds. The crappie and the bream won’t be far behind them.

We have had some unusually warm weather (in the 80’s) the past couple of days and I was wondering if the water had warmed up a bit in our neighborhood lake. I checked and it was still in the upper 50’s yesterday. This afternoon, it was 61, so I decided to make a quick hour-and-a-half trip after work. I began by trying my go-to spots for crappie (we call them sacalait). I didn’t get a bump. I then decided to try hitting the banks for some bass with my old, and I mean old (beat up) LSU deer hair diver. I saw a swirl about a foot off the bank and one nice cast later, I was fighting a 3 pound bass.

I could tell she had eggs so I put her back in the water quickly.

About 5 minutes later, I hooked into another bass about the same size, only to watch it disappear under my kayak after a brief struggle. By this time, I had company. A couple of fishermen (friends of mine from the neighborhood) were trolling around in a small bateau. We struck up a brief conversation and I found myself hooked into another chunky bass.

Another one over 3 lbs

After seeing me land and release that fish, my friends trolled over to another end of the lake/pond to try their luck. A short while later, I saw a slight commotion in the water near the bank ahead of me and I let out a lot of line to try a very long cast. I was rewarded when I saw a huge swirl and the back of another bass came out the water to inhale my popper. Another one that went over 3 lbs.

It seemed too easy for a while. I paddled a little further and I saw another swirl near the bank. This time the fish bolted toward my kayak and I couldn’t get a really good hook set in it. I watched it disappear beneath my kayak too. Now, I was really satisfied by this time and I didn’t care if I caught another fish or not. That was when the biggest one of the afternoon sucked down my popper.

Another one that was eager to take my LSU Popper.

I caught three more dinks that were around 11 inches long and I was totally content to begin heading back in to cook supper. The fish had other ideas and I was able to land two more on the beat-up popper.

They all looked like carbon copies of each other. What a fun afternoon. I know it doesn’t always happen this way, but it’s way cool when you hear that you caught 7 (four over 3 pounds) and the guys in the other boat only caught 2 on conventional tackle. I’m hoping the sacalait begin moving over cover to spawn in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, it’s good to know the bass are “popping” around here.

Tight loops and tight lines!

Getting my Mojo Back

It has been a long time since I had a good day “catching” fish down in our South Louisiana Marsh. Any trip in our marsh is indeed, a blessing; whether I catch fish or not. Being able to experience the beauty that God created for us is worth the price of gas (whew… it keeps getting more expensive to enjoy). Yesterday’s trip was one for the books when it comes to enjoying the beautiful creation that too many of us take for granted.

I joined my friend and fellow fly fisherman, Chuck (Snakedoctor), for a trip to Hopedale, Louisiana. We knew we should have good fishing conditions (good sun, low winds, some tidal movement) and we hoped the fish would cooperate. I was breaking in a new kayak…yes, I have gone over to the dark side and I purchased a Hobie Compass, and I was looking to “slime” it. Chuck fishes nearly exclusively out of a Compass, so I was also looking for tips from him on how to load and unload the kayak, how to secure it to the bed of my truck, and how to fish out of it without getting my fly line stuck in the pedals. Right away, I started getting my line caught around the pedals and Chuck showed me how to secure the pedals in a way that would make casting easier.

I guess the biggest help Chuck was to me was, he taught me not to be so stubborn with my sight fishing. He showed me that quality redfish can be caught on the fly rod without having to sight fish for them. If any of you follow this blog, you know that for me, nothing beats sight-fishing for redfish in the shallows. I’m always searching for the perfect day with perfect conditions…low, clear water. However, with the cold water temperatures we have been experiencing, sight fishing the way I traditionally do has been out of the question. The shallow water, although gin clear, is just too cold and the only fish I’ve seen in the shallows the past two trips have been mullet and garfish. Chuck caught a couple of bass early on and I caught and released a 12-inch speckled trout. I figured I would have to do better than 12 inches if I was going to have to clean any fish today (sorry dad and mom). We decided to try our luck with speckled trout by fishing in deeper water. Chuck was the first to catch a speckled trout. I saw him with a big curve in his rod and he was getting the net. He said it was an upgrade to his Massey’s CPR Tournament. Anytime you catch an 18 inch trout on a 6 wt. fly rod, you have a reason to be excited.

Chuck smiling with an 18 inch trout

I snapped this picture of Chuck and his trout and I continued fishing. I then hooked into something that I thought was a small redfish, because it pulled hard and stayed down…not the traditional tell-tale head shaking that most trout do. I soon realized it was a huge trout! I netted it and measured it on my paddle at 20 inches. After weighing it (2.9 lbs) I realized I had just caught my personal best trout on the fly rod.

At 20.5 Inches, this trout is my personal best on the fly rod.

We continued to fish that stretch of deeper water and we each only picked up another trout, which was nothing worth sticking around for, so we headed off to some other areas in search of redfish.

Chuck was the first to hook into a really good “tugger” that measured 26 inches on his spoon fly. He caught it in deeper what (not sight fishing)

What a beautiful redfish! But who is the masked fisherman? πŸ™‚

I decided to forego sight fishing in the shallow flats and I began to “blind cast” certain points and the edges of the grass flats in deeper water. That was the ticket for me. I hooked into an energetic 27-inch red that took me into my backing. After a long fight, I got that one to the net.

I think we’re going to need a bigger net.
27 inches released to fight another day.

We continued to pound the deeper water around cuts and ditches in the marsh and Chuck connected on his third redfish of the day.

Anyway, I don’t want this post to get too long. I’ll do a review of the Compass (maybe during the halftime show of the Superbowl LOL). The day was actually incredible. We saw tons of wildlife included diving and puddle ducks, numerous other marsh hens, herons, and other birds. I did look for the alligator that roams this area (it’s about 8 to 10 feet long by now) but I didn’t see it. This should hold me for a while…honey do’s to do πŸ™‚ Until next time. Tight loops and tight lines.

You can’t catch fish sitting on your couch :)

To say I’ve been a little stir crazy lately is an understatement. There are only so many movies you can watch on Netflix and the Disney Channel. I am really not interested in NFL post-season (except for Joe Burrow’s Bengals). I’ve been tying flies for weeks now. So, with season-low temperatures in the air in South Louisiana, something had to give. Why not go south and see if conditions would allow me to do some sight-fishing for redfish?

I made a couple of phone calls and texts to buddies of mine and I finally decided to try Hopedale. Some of the other options I looked at were Leeville and Highway 1 between Forcheon and Grand Isle. I know the water has been very low there and there isn’t much vegetation. Chances are, the water was going to be very low and dirty. I knew that a Sunday afternoon trip would allow things to warm up. I also figured I would be able to find clean water in Hopedale because of the vegetation. Plus, I had talked to a buddy of mine who had fished there the day before in the BCKFC Minimalist Challenge.

So, to be honest, my heart wasn’t really into it. I woke up to 22-degree temps Sunday morning. At around 9 AM, I started putting my 8 wts. together with the reels and it was still around 35 degrees. About 15 minutes later, I told my wife I wasn’t going and I disassembled my rods and put each one up in its case. 15 minutes later, by buddy was prodding me on the phone saying, “It would be a good afternoon out there. And not that cold.” “Most people did not catch anything until after 10 yesterday.” “the water is 50 degrees but will warm up on the flats.” So, I changed my mind again. Yes, my wife thinks I’m crazy but she’s been married to me for over 38 years so I guess she comes to expect it by now πŸ™‚

I pulled up to the combat launch on the side of the road around 12:20. I had quickly slipped my kayak in the water and began the mile paddle to where I’ve caught fish before. I also planned on trying out a couple new patterns that I tied this winter including a new paddle-tail fly (see this video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlg3yQ-1vEs&t=109s

After the half hour paddle to the lagoon I was going to fish, I immediately saw the water was nearly gin clear in spots. I stood in my kayak and poled around (oh, that’s another story…I guess I lost my push pole after my last trip in October). I could clearly for large stretches of water. There were NO FISH 😦 I push poled around for nearly 2 hours and didn’t see the first redfish or bass. So, I decided to try to find some deep water and work my paddle-tail fly slowly. About 10 minutes drifting in a deeper bayou, I got my first strike. It was a 13 and a half inch trout. Good! I wasn’t going to get skunked. I wondered, should I keep it? Would I catch more? I decided to toss it in my ice chest. I haven’t eaten speckled trout in a year or so. About 10 minutes later, I had another head-shaker heading into my landing net. This one was 14 inches. Things were looking up. I thought I had found a pattern. I continued to drift that canal and work the spots where I had caught those two previous fish. About 20 minutes or so later, I caught my third trout, but it was just under legal size, so it went back in the cold water to grow some more. I didn’t get another bite. I had a couple more spots I wanted to explore, so I paddled over there to see what things looked like. I did some blind casting down some deeper duck hunter ditches but I didn’t get a bite.

That is all I have to report. Like my title says, “you can’t catch fish sitting on your couch,” so I made the trip anyway. Here are some of the positives I got from the trip: I did catch fish on my new paddle tail. (I’m going to have to post a picture at the end of this) I saw some amazing wildlife, especially the hundred or so ducks (mostly big ducks) that I spooked in one spot. I got back home without swamping my kayak. (especially good with the frigid temperatures). I got a good workout in (I probably paddled over 5 miles). On the negative side. I forgot my camera, I found out I must have lost my “park n pole” after my last trip in October, and I only caught two keeper trout, which won’t feed the two of us. But it was a great day!

Tight loops and tight lines.

The bottom one saw action this weekend. It kind of reminds me of the Chicken on a Chain plastics I used to fish with. The middle is my “smoke” cacahoe version.

First Fish of 2022

First Fish of 2022

It’s been over two weeks since the start of the new year and I’ve been able to get on the water of our neighborhood lake twice. The first time, I was completely shut out. Since the new year, we have had cold, damp, windy weather…well except when I’m at work. I have really been looking for an opportunity to get down to our Southeast marshes but the weather…did I mention the weather?

Martin Luther King’s holiday was looking like it might provide me with an opportunity to head to the marsh, but the latest weather report forecast a very cold morning with winds blowing from 10 – 18 mph, which is too windy for me to be in a kayak with a fly rod. So, I decided to get some cleaning done at the house and tie a few deer hair bugs to pass the time. We have a couple of conclaves coming up this spring and I’m going to be donating some flies for the gambler’s draw. I guess you could say I was feeling kind of froggy πŸ™‚

My wife and I went for a walk in the neighborhood and when the sun warmed things up a bit, I decided to put the kayak on wheels and roll on over to the neighborhood lake. I tied on a fly designed by a good buddy of mine, “Catch” Cormier, he calls the Coma Cocahoe. I knew it would be heavy enough to get down to where I was hoping the fish would be in this cold water. About 15 minutes into my afternoon trip, I thought I had hung the bottom, but I soon realized the “bottom” was moving. A short fight later and I was lipping a fat female bass full of eggs.

I did have my scale in the kayak and this girl weighed 3.6 lbs

Hopefully, that was a good omen for 2022! The very next cast, I caught her baby brother.

You can get a good look at the Coma Cocahoe

I fished for about another half hour and I did get a massive strike that nearly pulled my rod out my hands but I never got a good hook set in that one. Anyway, the wind was still blowing pretty hard and the sun was going down behind the trees so it was getting a little too cold. Here’s to a healthy new year to everyone. I pray we put this pandemic in our rear view mirrors.

Tight loops and tight lines to you all!