Redzilla Does Exist!

REDZILLA … Is it a myth? Is it a legend? Is it real? Scientists discount the very existence of the creature but I know it’s out there. In fact, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve even got video of its incredibly large tail. I’ve battled it a couple of times with my fly rod but I’ve never gotten to look it in the eye and smile back at it…until now.

Sunday, I made a trip down to the Louisiana marsh…a place where I had last encountered Redzilla about a year ago. From what I recall from that trip, I did battle Redzilla but I lost… again. So the myth continued…until this past Sunday. This trip was supposed to be with a young man who might as well be my son. He and my son have been best buds since they were born and we have spent lots of great times together. Well everything was a go until he called me and said he would have to bail on me. His fiancé had been displaced because of Hurricane Irma and she needed him to bring her to the airport for the trip back to Miami. I checked the wind and tide again and decided to go it alone, without any backup. I’ve learned not to pass up a good opportunity. With our crazy weather, one never knows when that opportunity will present itself again.

Sunday morning began like a Stephen King novel. I launched early in the morning and true to form, I realized that I had left:

  1. my 8 foot push pole (I brought my old 6 foot)
  2. my rod holster that I use to holster my rod when I’m poling through the marsh
  3. most importantly (or so I thought)…my landing net :

I did have a boga grip (actually the Rapala $29 version instead of the $129 version) so I figured I could land my fish with that. I pressed on.

The conditions:

Tide – higher than normal and slowly rising all morning
Water Clarity – dirty
Wind – started flat, then started pushing 10+ after 11 AM.

I began my morning casting a popper around points and areas where I knew there were oysters. Like I said earlier, I hadn’t fly-fished the marsh since June so I was rusty when I missed my first blowup. By 8 AM, however, I saw my first redfish. I put the popper about 2 feet in front of it and it slammed it. A short fight later, and I had a 22-inch redfish on the end of my boga grip.DCIM100GOPRO

I decided to keep it because I have a colleague at the high school who has chickens and will trade me fresh eggs for fish fillets. I saw a few more redfish in that area but I wasn’t able to get a cast to them. On the way out of that “duck pond,” however, I got a huge blowup over another oyster-ridden area. I waited a second to feel it before I set the hook but I missed it. Then, about five casts later, I saw one come out of the water and ride the top of the water column like a torpedo as it snuck up behind my moving popper. It just kind of slurped it but again, I pulled the popper right out of its mouth.

I was losing confidence as the sun continued to rise and I noticed that not only was the water extremely high, but it was dirty too. During the summer, the area has a lot of aquatic vegetation. Sometime in August or so, the underwater vegetation dies off and leaves the water with dying residue. The area still holds fish but it’s very difficult to sight cast for them.

Anyway, I push-poled myself into this area that I know has oysters on the bottom. It’s a small cut that leads to another small pond that’s about the size of my living room. I have caught numerous redfish in that pond in years past because there is no exit out the backside and they usually trap baitfish in there and gorge themselves. Only this time the water was high and there would be a small trenasse leading out of the pond. My plan was to cut through and exit on the backside of another large bay. Well, as I was poling through the first trenasse, I spotted it. The water was only a couple of feet deep but there was no doubting the massive body and girth of REDZILLA! Insert diabolical music here.

I had my TFO Lefty Kreh Pro loaded with the popper in my hand and I made a perfect cast to it. The beast wasn’t even amused. I tried again. It didn’t notice the popper at all. My legs were shaking! My heart was thumping! The beast turned and headed toward that pond I spoke of. It hadn’t seen me…or so I thought.

I put my rod down and picked up my secret weapon. It would take a beast to tackle a beast. So I unleashed the Kraken! Again, you can insert action music here

UnknownActually, the Kraken is attached to my TFO Mangrove 9 wt. and I had tied on my “old faithful,” gold spoon fly. Now I was poling my kayak toward the little pond, looking for signs of the beast. I spotted it again but I couldn’t get a cast in front of it before it exited out the pond and into the trenasse that led to the large bay. I knew that if I waited too long, it would emerge into the large bay…never to be seen again. Lucky for me, when I turned the corner to enter the trenasse, I saw that it opened into a small 15 foot diameter pond and in that pond was REDZILLA. I would only have one chance before it would spot me and…well…I was fishing alone so they may still be looking for my body 🙂 I made one beautiful 20-foot cast and watched the massive beast pounce. I took in the little slack I had and strip set!

I wish I could say it splashed and tore through my backing like a bat out of hell but in reality, it felt like I had just stuck my fly into a floating log. It didn’t even budge when I strip set the hook in it a second time, just to be sure. It seemed like it was angry but it still wasn’t making much of a ruckus when it started heading toward me. It passed right under my kayak, in spite of my attempts to bang the side of the boat with my paddle to deter it the other way. I frantically got my kayak turned around and the darned thing came back at me. I’m telling you. I thought it was trying to eat me 🙂

Again, it passed under my kayak and I had to get my rod tip up high to get the line around the other rod that was in my rod holder behind me. I actually was hoping it would exit the trenasse and head into the open water in that large bay I mentioned. Well, it doubled back on me a third time. This time it went around me instead of under me and I got the kayak turned quicker. I let it take more line out and started following it out of the pond and into the original trenasse. It took me out of the broken marsh and into another large open body of water. I now put some pressure on it and it started running. Sometime during the early part of the battle, I looked at my watch. It was 10:10. The whole time I kept thinking to myself, “Doc, don’t screw this up!” Should I try to film it? Definitely not! I’ve lost numerous fish in the past because I was fumbling with my camera. I was determined not to mess this up. I gave it lots of line and then used the paddle to somehow gain on it and take some line back up. I let it tow me so it would tire itself out. My forearms were burning and starting to cramp up! I had no idea what I was in for! Neither did it!

Finally, I felt like Iwas gaining on the creature when I remembered…I had no landing net. What am I talking about! They don’t even make landing nets big enough! I let the wind push me to the edge of a bank and I fought the fish for the last five minutes or so from there. There were crab traps, oyster poles and other obstacles that I had to deter the beast away from but it all came together. As it turned on its side I was able to get my boga grip locked into its jaw. I nearly tipped my kayak over as I pulled it into the boat. Wow! What a feeling! Not only did I prove the existence of Redzilla, but I had enticed the creature to eat a fly that I tied myself while fishing from a kayak!IMG_1602Here are the numbers:

  • The fish measured 38 inches (my estimation because it was about two inches longer than my measuring board)
  • It weighed 22 pounds.
  • The fight lasted 45 minutes
  • It towed me over .3 miles (verified on Google earth)

Here are some more pictures:IMG_1617DCIM100GOPRO

All joking aside. This was probably a lifetime fish for me and I am thankful to the Good Lord for allowing me to enjoy it. It sure beat the heck out of staying home and watching the New Orleans Saints play football 🙂

 

 

 

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Mission Six Fly Fishing Tournament

I have to start this blog entry with the disclaimer that I really don’t get to fish many tournaments. First of all, with my busy work and family schedules, it’s hard to commit to a date weeks in advance. Second, because I nearly 100 % fish with the fly rod, it’s hard to compete in a tournament against others who can use conventional tackle and even live bait. While I know that might sound like “sour grapes” on my part, I’m not a gambler. I never play the lottery and I detest casinos. I do, however, fish the Massey’s CPR tournament, which is a year-long event (I can fish at my leisure and not have to commit to a specific date) and it has a fly rod division.

Recently, a non-profit organization called Mission Six decided to host a salt water, fly fishing tournament down near my old stomping grounds in Point aux Chenes. Mission Six is an organization dedicated to support veterans and first responders. Point aux Chenes is a spot that holds fond memories for me back when I was in my late teens and early 20’s. I used to do a lot of “blast and cast” trips where we would duck hunt in the morning and follow that with a fishing trip to the sulfur mine. While I have fished the area from a kayak in recent years, I had never fished the designated area for the shotgun launch. The format of the tournament was very simple: The $60 donation would qualify a two-man team. $10 of that would go to the charity and the rest would go into the pot for cash prizes awarded to the anglers who could weigh in the two heaviest redfish. There would be a kayak division, a motorboat division, and an all-around division. I asked my buddy, Glen, “Catch” Cormier if he would be my team partner and he agreed.

Since I had never fished the specific area of the tournament, I figured it would be in our best interest to get a day of pre-fishing in. After a week of iffy weather, Glen and I were able to meet at the launch site Friday morning to try to simulate what was going to happen Saturday. We lunched at 6 AM and were greeted with a beautiful sunny morning with breezes running 5-10 mph. The morning started very slow for me. I don’t think I even saw my first redfish until after 10:30. Meanwhile, Mr. Cormier (they don’t call him Catch for nothing) had seen four, caught two, and had lost another. We decided that since the wind had picked up, we should try the broken marsh that could provide some lee-side water where we could spot a few fish. I saw and spooked my usual number of fish but I also managed to catch two small, slot-sized (the Louisiana slot is between 16 and 27 inches) redfish. I saw a bunch of sheepshead, several stingrays, and a few alligators to making the morning memorable. I headed back to the landing around 2 PM without a huge feeling of confidence. I had seen several redfish but most were in the small range…a perfect eating size but not tournament worthy. I spent the drive back to Baton Rouge contemplating why I was even fishing this tournament and what my strategy would be Saturday morning. After all, it was Father’s Day weekend and my daughter; her husband and my beautiful granddaughter were coming in town to see us. I actually looked for some sort of excuse to not have to drive the 2-and-a-half hour drive back down to Point aux Chenes the next morning. I checked to see if maybe the wind had picked up… no chance. The weather man predicted sunny skies with a light 5-10 mph wind. But how could I miss being with this princess?
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Well, I decided I wasn’t going to stand my fishing buddy up so at 3 AM Saturday morning, I was back in my truck heading down to Point aux Chenes. Most people don’t know this, but when I go fishing, I use the experience to talk to God. I usually pray my rosary on the drive down there and I meditate on the blessings I’ve been given. This morning I was really praying for the health of my dad who was having some medical problems.

As I was nearing my destination, I was meditating about the peaceful and healing aspects about experiencing the awakening of the marsh and a beautiful sunrise down in South Louisiana…wait…that’s not the sun. There are…sprinkles on my windshield!! ARGH!!! I know, maybe the car in front of me was using its windshield washer to clean the early morning mosquitoes off. Nope…”That’s rain!” I mumbled to myself, as I approached the actual launch. The rising sun showed itself just barely through the heavy cloud cover. Surely this would quickly move north and we would get those predicted light and variable winds. Ding! Ding! Ding! Nope! Wrong again. The bright American flags at the launch site were blowing straight out. It was, however, good to see some familiar faces at the launch. I saw another fly fishing buddy of mine, Chuck Miller (Snake Doctor) from the BCKFC forum, Dustin, and a few other guys I’ve had the pleasure of running into, either on the water or on the forum.

Officials from the tournament were super-nice. Eddie and his wife, who run the kayak rentals and the launch were also very friendly and helped everyone get launched in a save, clean, environment. After a brief captains meeting, (we named our team, “Team St. Michael” because I teach there and Catch’s children graduated from there) we had our kayaks in the water and were heading out to the marsh where we had seen the most fish the day before. I consider myself to be a pretty strong paddler, but that morning, I think I had put too much ice in my ice chest (22 pounds) and the weight in the back was slowing me down. I would later be glad to have the ice, though.

Anyway after a 30-minute sprint on the water, Glen and I were easing our kayaks into the broken marsh and we were targeting fish on the leeward side of the broken marsh. I saw some “nervous water” and cast my gold spoon fly right in the middle of where I saw the commotion. Two casts later, and a bullet of a fish had slammed my fly and then peeled line off my reel. I turned the fish twice before it finally spit my fly. That was encouraging. I continued to work a stretch of marsh that was brand new to me and then the weather turned worse. The wind was now blowing 10-15 mph and it started to rain… and rain…and rain some more. It probably rained fairly hard for about 10-15 minutes. I tried to blind cast but I figured it was fruitless so I figured I should hydrate and rest up for the long day ahead.

After the rain stopped, it seemed the wind died down for about 5 minutes. That’s all I needed to get on the board. I was push poling my way down a marsh and I heard the tell-tale splash of a feeding fish. I pulled around the corner of a point and spotted a redfish in about 8 inches of water. I quickly stuck my push pole in the marsh to stop my kayak and grabbed my fly rod that I have holstered to my side. One accurate cast and I watched (I just LOVE watching them eat) a small slot redfish aggressively attack and consume my fly! I landed that 20-inch fish and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was on the board.

The wind picked up again and the cloud cover didn’t break. I knew that sight fishing was going to be extremely difficult. The only good thing I did have for me was the fact that the water wasn’t dirty and the redfish were a bright orange pumpkin color. At least, that’s how they showed up with my Costa polarized sunglasses. 🙂

About this time, thoughts about calling it a day kept creeping up in my head. I was soaking wet from the downpour we had experienced and I couldn’t keep that sweet grandchild off my mind.
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I decided that I couldn’t catch fish by complaining about the weather or by not putting a fly in the water. I decided to do some blind casting and tried casting my fly as parallel to the grass as I could, which was not an easy task given the strong wind. After one errant cast that put my spoon fly in the marsh, I flipped it out about a foot from the bank. An 18-inch redfish came out of the water and smashed the fly on top. That was fun. Now I had two fish on ice and even if Catch scratched (which wasn’t likely) we had two fish for the weigh in. In hindsight, that should have given me a clue for a new tactic. I thought about tying on a popper, but I thought the water was too choppy for that so I continued to fish the fly I have the most confidence in, my spoon fly.
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The pressure was off. I continued to weave my way in and out of the cuts and small duck ponds in the marsh, looking for tails, backs, or fleeing bait. I nosed my kayak into a small six-foot opening and noticed some fleeing shrimp at a point in the marsh. One quick cast and BAM! Fish on! I could tell right away this one wasn’t a small slot. It made a long run away from me and then charged right at my kayak. It ended up going under my kayak and was now making a beeline back behind me. It was giving me a Cajun Sleigh Ride in reverse!! I couldn’t get my kayak turned around. The darned redfish got stuck in some marsh, right around a corner. I finally got my kayak turned around and it made another long run and then came off the hook. I was so dejected!! I knew that was a “money fish.”

At that point, all kinds of thoughts go through one’s head. I pondered what could I have done differently. Should I have tried to horse it out and not let it take out so much line? Should I have set the hook harder? Should I head back to Baton Rouge? Just then, I get a text from my brother asking me how I was doing. I texted back that I had just lost my money fish and that the weather and conditions were not good. I picked myself back up and continued to work the area.

Then it happened. I was working a small pond and had just made a right turn into a new area where the pond was about to make a dead end. That’s when I saw the orange mass of scales and fins cruising toward me. I can’t tell you how many times that scenario has played out before only to have the fish see me and spook without me even getting to make a cast toward it. I was able to stop my forward motion with my push pole and the fish turned away from me. IT HAD NOT SEEN ME!! I worked quickly and quietly as I picked my rod up from my “holster” and put my spoon fly about 2 feet out in front of the moving fish, which wasn’t that hard to do since the fish was only about 15 feet out in front of my kayak. I stripped it slowly so the fish would intercept it and BAM! FISH ON!! This time I was determined not to let the fish win the battle. I frantically grabbed my paddle and turned my kayak as the fish went south of my direction again. However, this time, I was able to get my kayak turned and I put a little pressure on the fish to turn it away from going into the next small duck pond. I had a money fish on the end of my fly line and I had it in open water. Advantage Doc!

I’m sure I kept talking to myself. No, take that back I was talking out loud to anyone who could hear me in the vicinity. Fortunately for them, that was no one 🙂 Finally, what seemed like 10 minutes (which was in actuality only 5) I had the fish in the net and in my kayak. It was a beauty! The only question now, “was it going to measure in at under 27 inches?” When I pinched the tail, the fish’s tail just barely touched the 27–inch mark on my bump board. I knew that if given some time on ice, this fish would shrink and come in to the weigh in at under 27.
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The Money Fish

I continued to fish the rest of the morning and spooked a good number of fish. I was really never ever able to cast to a fish. I did do some blind casting, but when I called Glen and found out that he had caught 9 fish on poppers and two of those were 25 inches, I had a good feeling about our chances of placing in the tournament.

Catch and I showed a bit of quiet and calm excitement as we neared the weigh scales. When Eddie saw my fish (6.4 lbs), he remarked that it was definitely the largest of the day and our combined total weight of 11.4 was the winning stringer. We still had a half hour left until the scales closed but we felt confident that we would be in the money somewhere.

I know this has been a long read, but you have to understand that I’ve never won a tournament…ever! I led the Massey’s CPR tournament for about 9 months in its inaugural year, only to come out second in the final weekend of the tournament. Another year, I actually tied for first but had to settle for second because I lost the tiebreaker. All this is really OK for me. While I do take my fishing seriously, I don’t take myself or tournaments seriously. Competition in and of itself if good if one puts it into perspective. After all. Did Beethoven, Mozart, or Bach have to win competitions or tournaments to prove to the world that they were the masters at their craft?

So for fishing the inaugural Mission Six Fly Tournament, Team St. Michael placed first in the kayak division and first overall. I earned a first place award (a box of flies) for biggest fish as well. The win came with a $300 cash prize, an Allen Kraken fly reel for each of us (each reel valued at $250 each) and another $100 worth of salt water flies. That’s close to $900 in cash and prizes. What do you think “Team St. Michael” did with the cash? We returned it to the charity, of course 🙂 Glen and I were more excited to win those quality Allen reels! Anyway, I think I can make this an annual event. A special thanks to the team at Mission Six and for what they do for our veterans, our police, firefighters, and other first responders. Also thank you to the great sponsors of this event, including Jackson Kayak (I own one), Allen Fly Rods and Reels (I own a rod and now a reel), Zook Designs, Scientific Angler, Orvis of Baton Rouge, Allen Simon Flies, and Eddie Mullen of PAC Kayak Rentals.

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Memorial Day Weekend

So, it’s the first weekend of my summer break and where do you suppose I’m spending it? For the past three years or so, the end of school for us has marked the beginning of our summer fishing period. I say “our” because a colleague of mine who keeps a camper-trailer down in Grand Isle for the summer and I have spent the past three Memorial Day weekends fishing around the Grand Isle area. We usually have options…do we fish the gulf side? The bay? The marsh north of Grand Isle? Upon our arrival Thursday evening, the wind forecast didn’t look good for Friday morning. With predicted winds of 15-20 mph, I decided that the fly rod wasn’t going to be an option so I pulled out my baitcaster (I did bring one) and rigged it up to fish with live shrimp in the morning.

Well, wouldn’t you know it…the weatherman actually got it right for a change 😦 The wind was blowing hard out of the south when we purchased 50 live shrimp. We launched our kayaks on the bay side and I tied off of a navigational pvc pipe. It wasn’t long before I caught my first fish, a small sand trout. Not my targeted species, but at least I had a slight tug on my line so I wasn’t going to be shut out. About 10 minutes later, I reeled in a slightly larger fish – a croaker. OK, again not the targeted species but still some action. The entire time I’m fishing, I was thinking about what was my next plan of attack. The wind was howling and the water was dirty. There was no way I was going to be able to sight fish for reds. That’s when I hooked up on something very big and heavy. Initially, it took out drag on my reel. Then it stopped and felt like “weight.” I knew it wasn’t a redfish. Maybe it was a big drum?  When I finally got it to the side of my kayak, I saw that I had caught my personal best….STINGRAY!! Yuck! Anyway, I decided it would be prudent to cut the line and not gamble with the business end of that thing, so I re-tied and decided to move to an area where I’ve caught redfish before.

I paddled on over to my buddy and told him to follow me to a spot that might offer protection from the wind. We got there and he quickly caught two small, 15-inch redfish. I got in on the action too but it looked like all we were going to catch were the 15-inch variety. I did have an exciting blowup as a big redfish tried to eat my cork. A few casts later and I put a 17-inch redfish in my cooler. That was it for the morning because I didn’t screw the cap on my bait tube down tightly and I lost about 15 live shrimp. Oh well, when you don’t fish live bait enough, you’re bound to make mistakes. At least I hadn’t tried to put that stingray in the yak 🙂

So, Saturday morning; this morning, we woke up to very overcast and windy conditions. I guess I’m just not “mad enough” at those fish to go after them in the same conditions as yesterday. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to entertain myself. It’s always fun to go over to Bridgeside Marina and watch the boats come and go. There are always a mix of personalities at the marina. There are the guys who fish often, who can generally turn their boat on a dime and maneuver it just about under any condition. There are the weekend warriors, those who THINK they can turn their boat on a dime and maneuver it. There are also those who are very proud of their boat. They are just like the little boy in grade school who always had to “one up” the competition. You know…the “my boat is bigger and badder than your boat” guys. While those guys don’t impress me, their boats sure do. 🙂 Then there are the guys who always seem to  have one or two very pretty girls who dress in bikini tops and short shorts just so they can get the attention of all the older boat captains and fishermen, like myself. 🙂 Then you get the guy in the old broken down-looking boat who dons an old t-shirt and pants that just don’t fit as he bends over and moons you while he mixes oil in an old McDonald’s cup with his gasoline. Wow! Anyway, it’s quite entertaining but I do get mad at the all-to-confident young guy who pulled up this morning with his young son (looked like he was around 10-years old) who was standing on the bow of the boat without a PDF while he was trying to dock his boat. Yes, your son was probably not a rookie and he does this quite frequently. However, you can’t predict what the yahoo with the McDonalds cup is going to do when he finally gets his old Mercury cranked up, guns it so it doesn’t kill, and then bumps your boat, causing your son to fall into the water or worse.

So, although the fishing wasn’t very good (I did get a report that a friend of mine limited out in his big boat), it still was a fun way to begin my summer break.

 

School is Almost Out!

Yep. It’s getting to be that time of year. The bass have spawned out, the bream and sacalait are just about spent, but the speckled trout fishing is about to get good in the surf. I’ve made some poppers that I hope will be the ticket in the murky green water down in the Grand Isle/Forcheon area.

Meanwhile, I was able to get a couple of hours of bass fishing in my neighborhood lake. I like fishing the post spawn here mostly because the fishing pressure has backed off. However, this time of year also offers some special fishing if one gets there right at first light when the shad do their summer spawning rituals.

This Saturday proved to be one of those special mornings. I put my kayak on the cart and walked a couple blocks to where I put in. Right when I got there I knew that the action had already started because there were about 8 or so white and grey herons battling for position along a bank where the shad were boiling. As I launched my kayak, I heard the sound of bass feeding. Some were just boils while others were splashes that sounded like someone’s dog had just jumped into the lake. Anyway, while the thought of tossing a popper into a school of hungry bass might seem like child’s play, it really isn’t as easy as it sounds. With such an abundance of fresh, live bait in the area, it can be a challenge to get a bass to eat a fly. Luckily, I have an answer for that. It’s my crease fly! (see prior post).

I had my first hookup around 6 AM, but it jumped and I lost it. Bass – 1. Doc – 0.  I have found that some bass follow the schools of shad around the bank as they move, picking off unsuspecting ones as they are more interested in procreating than watching their backs for predators. Those are harder to fool on the fly. It’s a numbers game…too many options for the bass to chose. I have, however, found that it is easier to fool a bass once the fast excitement has died down. The numbers then favor me. AND, if I put my fly real close to the bank, near the grass where some of the shad have decided to stay and hide, I’ll spook them from their hiding place and the scurrying of 5 or six stragglers will prompt a strike from a lurking bass. You see, my crease fly just doesn’t see to scurry as fast as the real thing, thus making my offering look like an easy meal. At about 6:15, I was able to land my first bass of the morning. It was a nice post-spawn bass that measured 19 inches. She probably weighed 4 pounds or more when she was full of eggs. GOPR3643.jpg
Just look at how big her mouth was! She actually stripped line off my reel and I had to fight her like a redfish. I can’t recall having a bass strip line off my reel like that in years 🙂

My next two bass were 12 and 15 inches, which were nice fish by any means on the fly.  I began fishing for bream around 7:30 and I managed a few small ones that wanted to play. Before heading back home, I decided to try an area that is lined with big Louisiana Irises. I have found that baitfish hide in the leaves of these plants and the bass hangout nearby to pick off any stragglers. Right at that moment, two guys in a small bass hunter boat passed near me and said hi. Before I could answer their, “Having any luck?” question, I had another big bass explode on my crease fly. I was determined to land this one (especially with my audience) but it was a jumper. I was lucky enough to land her though, even after 5 or 6 big jumps. She measured 17 inches.GOPR3645.jpg
You can actually see the line of lilies in the background of this picture where I caught her.

Anyway, it’s been raining for two days so the water will be dirty the next few days. However, the water will be flowing over the dam in the morning so I expect I’ll head over there for a half hour before school starts to see if I can get any fish to play before coffee and exams. 🙂

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Redfish Rumble!

No, I didn’t fish the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s tournament, “Redfish Rumble” this weekend, but I did have a rumble of my own down Highway 1.  After several trips lately to Cocodrie, Hopedale, and Reggio, I was determined to hit some of my “old stompin’ grounds” to get some of the “skunk” off me and to once again feel the pull of some redfish on my fly rod.

This morning was just what I needed. I was determined to experience that “thrill.”  My adversary, the poisson rouge, is a very worthy opponent. This apex predator of the shallows feeds on shrimp, small crabs and unsuspecting baitfish in our vast Louisiana marsh. The “thrill” is to be able to push pole my way through the marsh among ducks, shorebirds, otters, and nutria while I look for signs of my adversary. Sometimes it’s as subtle as shrimp making a dash as they try to elude that king predator. Sometimes it’s just a dark shadow that looks out of place in the shallow water among the clumps of oysters. Other times, it’s being able to actually spot the pumpkin-colored mass of gills and scales before it spots me. To be able to sneak up on this predator without being noticed, cast a fly about the size of my fingernail to it, and then watch it turn and eat it is the “thrill” I seek. Nothing else in sport makes my heartbeat rush or causes my knees to shake like the moment I put that fly six inches in front of a redfish and watch him eat.

Back to this morning’s fishing report. I fished today with one of my lifetime fishing partners, my brother, Keith. We were greeted with one of God’s most beautiful mornings! I think the temperature was 58 degrees when we launched. The wind was blowing just enough to keep the gnats off us and the cloudless sky was something to behold. However, things looked bleak a first because it looked like someone had pulled the plug on the water out there. The water was lower than I’ve ever seen it and it was dirty. I went to a couple of my trout spots and managed to pick up two 11 inch disks on a chartreuse Charlie under a VOSI.

So, with the dirty water, I figured it just wasn’t going to be a “trout” day. I began poling around, looking for signs of redfish. There’s nothing like that first one to get your groove going. I imagine it’s the same for a big league pitcher when he gets through his first inning without giving up a run. I saw my first redfish of the day around 8 AM. The sun was up and casting a shadow over the marsh grass and all I saw was a dark shadow moving ever so slowly parallel to the bank. I cast my gold spoon fly about four inches in front of it and watched it eat! GOPR3596.jpg
It was a perfect eating-sized redfish so it went in the cooler. You can see the small ripples in the water in the background and you can tell that the wind still was light.

My next redfish sighting was in a cut a little further down and like a rookie, I set the hook on it too hard and broke my tippet. I hate loosing fish, but I hate loosing flies even more. I had just lost one of my hand-tied gold spoon flies. No problem! I had several! Or so I thought. Yikes! I only had 2 gold spoon flies in my box. 😦 After I quickly retied, I  was soon on the prowl, looking for more fish. Experience and this blog, which serves as my fishing journal, has told me that the redfish would be hanging out by oyster beds and grass looking for an easy meal. I began thoroughly scanning every oyster flat and grass flat I could find. The grass wasn’t thick but there were oysters everywhere. Soon, I had redfish #2 on and it it too, was a perfect eating size. GOPR3602.jpg
Say ahhhh 🙂

Redfish number three ended up being the fish of the day. It seemed like every spot that should yield a fish, did yield a fish. This one was facing away from me and my adrenaline started pumping fast when I saw how big it was. I put a couple errant casts toward it but the third one ended up with a textbook EAT! The fish ran several times and I thought for a while that it was going to take me into my backing. After a good long fight,   I was able to guide it into my net. The fish measured just a tad bit over 29 inches. I estimated it weighted around 10 pounds. Anyway, it was returned to go make babies. GOPR3610.jpg
Notice I took my white rubber boots off and went bare footed this trip 🙂

I made a call to my brother to see how he was doing and he was struggling with his bait caster. He caught several redfish but they were all undersized (except for one) and he was mostly blind casting. I spoke with him twice while I was fishing and both times, I had to hang up on him because I saw a redfish either tailing or with its back out of the shallow water. I picked up another 26-inch fish.GOPR3624.JPG
Notice this one ate one of my odd colored spoon flies. I lost both of my gold spoon flies so I tried this one and I caught two on it before it got crushed by redfish teeth and had to be retired.

The morning kept going like it started, even when the wind picked up. I caught another.GOPR3627.jpg

Then anotherGOPR3629.JPG
Shoes were optional 🙂 Don’t try this at home unless you put on sunscreen. 🙂

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AnotherGOPR3633.jpg

And yet, another. I landed 9 redfish today. I had 3 break my tippet and I lost another one because of a poor hook-set.

I wish I could say my brother had a good day but he ended up with just one 16-inch redfish. Today was just one of those days when I could do no wrong. I probably spooked another 20 fish or so. There were some that refused to eat, but of the 13 redfish I hooked today, all were sight fished, meaning I saw them and put my fly within their reach…the “thrill” I spoke of earlier! Because of the dirty water, I had to put the fly about 4 to 6 inches from their mouths. I had a lot of fish that I spooked because I actually hit on the head with my fly.  A couple of those got a second chance and I got them to eat. Hopefully, those that I spooked will be back in the area the next time I go and they too will want to play.

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And here’s the latest Musicdoc video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfKRiuqxrBc&t=39s

 

In-creasing your odds

I was recently featured in an article in the Louisiana Sportsman Magazine about the popularity of the crease fly. This fly has been my “GO-TO” fly the past year-and-a-half and I’ve caught over 100 bass on it in a year. The really cool part is, I don’t like spending money on a lot of flies. This fly is:

  • Durable – I haven’t kept count, but I’ve been able to catch 30 or so more bass on a single fly as long as a big one doesn’t break me off 🙂
  • Inexpensive to make – Hobby Lobby is my friend!
  • Quick and easy to make – Here goes

First, let me write this disclaimer. I did not invent this fly, so it’s not mine. I actually have to give most of the credit to Bill Laminack for showing me how he tied his and for turning me on to the beauty and simplicity of Lame

Materials list:

  • Gamakatsu B10S (stinger) hook in a size 2
    Thread (any color will do)
    The thin white craft foam with peel back sticky side (I measured mine and it was about 16th inch. It’s probably labeled in mm in the stores)
    The next size up craft foam (1/8 in)
    Craft fur (or buck tail)
    Pearl Lame (to imitate baitfish scales)
    Super glue (thin and gel)
    Mirage stick-on eyes (easy peel 7/72″)
    Permanent markers to color your fly
    Your finish of choice (Sally Hansens, epoxy, delta satin varnish)
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Step 1 – lay down a thread base, tie in a small amount of craft foam (or buck tail)  and secure with thin super glue. You don’t want the foam to spin around the hook when the big bass eat. If you don’t have thin super glue, you can use Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails.
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Step 2 – tie in about a 1/2 by 1/4 in piece of the thicker foam to the front of the hook. I believe this serves two purposes. It gives the finished foam more surface area to adhere to and it helps to make the front of the popper more buoyant. Whip finish and cut your thread. That’s all the tying you will need to do.IMG_0999
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Nothing Pretty Here. Doesn’t Need to Be!

Step 3 – I created a teardrop shaped templet out of card-stock to create the body of the foam fly. Trim the foam to the dimensions of the templet and remove the backing paper. Firmly adhere a piece of Lame and trim.
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Step 4 – fold the foam in have and cut a small piece off the tail to allow the tail material to pass freely.
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You Can See How This Material Imitates the Scale Pattern of Baitfish

Step 5 – carefully superglue the foam body over the hook to form your crease fly. It is important NOT to put too much glue or your foam will not stick and you will end up with a mess and probably glue your fingers to the fly. 🙂

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If you have trouble getting the foam to stick you can try using some mini clamps. (did I tell you that Harbor Freight is my friend too?)
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Step 6 – use a bodkin to apply stick on eyes, use a marker to color them up, and seal it with several coats of your favorite finishing product, being sure to coat it where the lame meets the foam.IMG_1008.JPG
IMG_1009.JPGI find that Sally Hansens is durable enough to do this with several applications but if you want to really break a record, by all means use epoxy, a very strong tippet, and this may be the last fly you’ll ever need.  AND you’ll catch hundreds of these. GOPR3548.jpg

IMG_1012.JPG           Here’s my saltwater version, jointed and measures 4 inches from tip to tail.

Putting the “Fat” into Fat Tuesday, part 2

Part two actually begins Monday evening Lundi Gras when Glen and I pulled up to a local restaurant, Tunks Cypress Inn, to drink a celebratory beer and chow down on some hot boiled crawfish. The placemats there have a map of Kincade Lake. We planned strategy as we ate and noted the weather report for Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) was calling for very high winds from the south. After hashing over it for a while, we decided to launch our kayaks in Kincade the next morning and target big chinquapin (red-ear sunfish) and sacalait (crappie). The hills and big camps on the lake should provide us a little relief from the high winds.

We began our morning by chunking small poppers in shallow water. Surprisingly, we caught lots of bream early on. I managed a couple chinquapin that were around the 8-inch mark and I decided to put some on a stringer to have a fish fry for Ash Wednesday. The morning was actually slow for me and I tried to keep close to Catch so we could communicate but I kept going back to this one spot where I caught a nice big fat bluegill, knowing there had to be some more there. At about 11:30, Catch whistled over to me and I saw that he was heading back to the launch. I figured he was tired of fighting the wind and he had had enough. I had five fish on a stringer, including a pretty nice sac alit that I caught on a hare’s ear nymph. When I got back to the launch site, Catch was excited and mumbled something about me staying there to watch his kayak while he went to buy ice. He said,”I found ’em, I left ’em biting, and I’ll be back with some ice.” I went over to take a peek in his fish bag and I was blown away by the huge bream (chinquapin) and sacalait he had in there.

Let me tell you something about Glen. People don’t just call him “Catch” for nothing. He has caught more fish on a fly-rod than any one else I’ve ever met. Now, I haven’t met Lefty Kreh yet, but Lefty is 92 and Glen is only…well, I won’t tell. 🙂 Catch tells me what fly he was using (a green fluff butt in a size 10). Naturally, I don’t have any of those but Catch gives me a couple and says he’ll be back shortly.

When he got back, we proceeded to head back into the wind to the little secluded finger lake, or protected cove and we started fishing where he had caught his earlier. I was stripping an olive colored fluff butt without a strike indicator when I got my first hit. It felt like a speckled trout bite and not like any bream I’ve ever caught. When I asked Catch why he wasn’t using a strike indicator, he said the fish wouldn’t hit it with the indicator on. He figured the water was too clear (we had about 5 feet of visibility) and the fish were spooked by the strike indicator. Once again, I had to sit there and watch Glen catch fish after fish, while I caught one or two every now and then. My luck soon improved and I was landing fish like this:GOPR3541.jpg

and even some like this:GOPR3542.JPG

We both remarked at how these strong fighting fish would actually pull our kayaks! We called it the Kisatchie Sleigh Ride. Not only did they pull us around, but they pulled us agains the wind too. It was a ton of fun on my five weight!

Meanwhile, Catch kept on with some more like thisIMG_0711.JPG

and even a monster crappie that measured 16.5 inches! (sorry, the picture was taken on his camera and I don’t currently have a picture of it)

When the day was over, we had iced down about 15 fat sacalait, about a dozen fat chinquapin and about another dozen fat bluegill. This is a large 48-quart ice chest. IMG_0725.JPG

My stringer looked like this. That’s minus the 5 I had put in the ice chest in the car before we left out for a second time. IMG_0714.jpg

My largest chinquapin was over 10 inches and was bigger than my hand. IMG_0722.jpg

And here are a couple of Fat Tuesday slabs:IMG_0719.JPG

This was definitely the most productive fishing I’ve done in the Kisatchie area with Glen. I’m already looking forward to another chance to not only fish these waters but to fish them with such a fun-loving, nice, gentleman, who has a zest for life and a passion for fishing like I do.