Evolution of a Redfish Fly

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of fishing with a buddy of mine from South Arkansas and his little “leech-looking” fly outfitted my tried and true gold spoon fly something like 4 to one. That got me thinking about tying a better fly. I came up with something that I posted on my last blog entry that worked like a charm until a redfish broke me off. I also noted that the redfish had inhaled that fly nearly all the way down to its stomach. Could it be that the gold spoon fly is just something they instinctively eat because they are mad at it…kind of how I think a bass crashes a spinner bait? Could it also be that the fish really thought that purple fly actually looked like a live baitfish? I’m hoping so. Here’s how I came up with the fly.

First, let me start by saying this fly is probably not a Musicdoc original but it’s probably a variation of some other fly that has been tied before. When I asked my buddy what his fly was tied with he said rabbit…ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! For years now, I’ve tied my bass streamers with white rabbit zonkers because I feel the rabbit just has so much more action and wiggle in the water. I tried to tie this fly to look like a small cacahoe minnow or a finger mullet.

I start off with a size 2 salt water hook. I used a hot pink thread because I want to had a nice head and a “hot spot.” Tie on a small dumbbell eye and then tie in about a 2-and-a-half inch purple magnum rabbit zonker strip. IMG_1772.JPG

I experimented with inverting the strip (because the fly will ride hook up) but personally, I don’t think the redfish mind at all. After that, it’s time to add some flash. I used black crystal flash for this.IMG_1774.JPG

Again, I was trying to imitate flashy fish scales. Then, to add a little bulk, I added some black crystal chenille (might be cactus chenille?). IMG_1775.JPG

It’s black but it also has some green and gold flash as well. Then, I added some green ice dubbing material that will flash iridescent under the purple collar. I used this material that I originally bought to blend my own dubbing material.IMG_1778.JPG

I just used a pinch and put a little on both sides of the fly.IMG_1780.JPG

Then I tied in a purple shlappen feather and palmered it right behind the dumbbell eyes. IMG_1782.JPG

I built up the head, whip finished it, and finished it with my favorite head cement. IMG_1783.JPG

IMG_1746.JPG
I tied these with red dumbbell eyes. Oh, and the proof is “in the pudding.”GOPR3731.JPG

Advertisements

A Chance to Even the Score

Last Saturday, I had the chance to fish with a buddy of mine and while he caught a lot of fish, I didn’t. I jokingly wrote…Redish 20, Doc 2 in my latest blog post. Catch Cormier told me later, “sounds like you had more blown chances than LSU did when they played Alabama.” Well that just didn’t sit right with me, so I was determined to get back out there and even the score up a bit.

My lovely wife decided to travel to Houston to visit my daughter, her husband, and my beautiful granddaughter without me and that left my Saturday free to either do some fishing, cut grass, rake leaves, or watch LSU beat up on Arkansas at 11 AM. Uhh…you can guess what I chose 🙂  The all important forecast called for sunny skies, which is perfect for sight fishing, but windy. Now, it looked like the wind would be stronger the further south I went. During the week, I texted Drew and asked his opinion, because he fished down there for three days, and he said the fish were thicker further down south. I figured that because of the warm fall we’ve had, the speckled trout haven’t moved as far inside the marsh yet. So my plan was to head further south than I had fished last weekend. On Saturday mornings, I listen to Don Dubuc’s radio show http://www.dontheoutdoorsguy.com for the day’s fishing reports from local guides around south Louisiana. They all complained about the wind and dirty water that the front had brought in. One even said he had cancelled his plans for the day (he flies a sea plane to the Chandelier Islands). Add to that, the coastal duck season opened that morning and I found myself in a pickle. I had already driven an hour from home and I could either turn around or keep going. A very wise person once said, and it’s been quoted by many fishermen, “You can’t catch fish while laying on your couch watching football!”  So I keep on driving south. I did, however alter my plan to fish closer to Grand Isle and hoped the wind wouldn’t be so strong  in Leeville.

After making my combat launch, I paddled a couple hundred yards and started throwing a pink Charlie under a VOSI. About the third cast into the morning I caught my first trout. Nice…but it was about 11 inches. I stayed in that spot for about 20 minutes and continued to catch trout but all were between 10-11 inches. GOPR3725.JPGGOPR3720.JPGI told myself that there were bigger fish out there so I headed out to a couple more trout spots I like to fish this time of year. I was able to catch trout at several locations, but they were all clones of each other. Now, catching is fun, so I continued to play around with the trout until I was sure the hunters were finished for the morning. Oh, and for those of you who may be concerned, I also planned on staying far away from their lease. I know they get pretty angry this time of year when people stray on their duck leases and disturb the birds. I lost count at around 26 trout and only about three of them touched the 12 inch mark, so I decided not to keep any trout unless I caught some around 14 inches or so.

Well, around 10:30 or so, I decided to head out in search of redfish. The wind had picked up considerably, but I figured I could find some leeward banks to do some sight fishing. The sun was in my favor but the wind and dirty water made things very tough. I didn’t even see my first redfish until probably 11:30 or so and I wasn’t even able to make a cast before it darted away. It wasn’t until about noon that I had my first redfish eat. I saw a descent sized slot redfish in a small pond but I lost sight of him when all the mullet and sheepshead started darting around and muddied the water even more. I was determined, so I put a couple casts where I figured it was and bam, I was hooked up. I learned my lessons from last week and didn’t try to horse it in too quickly. Five minutes later, I eased a nice 24-inche redfish into my landing net.

GOPR3727.JPG

I started seeing more redfish but because of the windy, muddy, conditions, I was doing more spooking and wouldn’t see a fish until it was only several feet from my kayak. At that point, I couldn’t get a cast off without spooking it. I even tried letting the wind take me away from the cruising fish but that didn’t work either. My second redfish was an upper slot fish that I saw cruising another little pond and I was in luck because it didn’t see me. I put a descent cast on it (remember the wind is now blowing 10-15 mph) and I got a textbook eat. I strip set the hook on it and thought, “boy I’m not going to have as many missed opportunities this week” Just then, the redfish decided to strip line out and head toward a very small cut in the back of the pond. I knew that would mean trouble so I tried to put some pressure on it to turn it and it broke my tippet. 😦  Upon inspection of my tippet, I saw that the line had become frayed. I probably should have inspected it after landing my last redfish. I noticed that the previous fish had nearly swallowed the fly and its gills and crushers had probably done a good job of fraying the line. The problem was, that was the last fly like that in my box. I tied it to try to mimic the fly that Drew had used last week. PB100001.JPG

I tied on a similar pattern but discarded it because it was too light and there was no casting it in the steady wind I was fishing. I ended with a fly version of the LSU chub, a purple and chartreuse fly with medium barbell eyes. It was a bit heavy for the shallow water I was fishing but I figured it was my best option. My next redfish was my biggest of the day at 26.5 inches. That would have been a great tournament fish.GOPR3730.jpgGOPR3731.JPG

I only keep tournament fish when I’m fishing a tournament and that one was released back in the water.GOPR3732.jpg

I did manage to catch another good-eating sized fish at 22 inches so this one got released into my ice chest. I have been trading fish fillets for fresh farm eggs with one of my colleagues at work. 🙂GOPR3735.JPG
THAT’S MY LSU CHUB IMITATION IN ITS MOUTH

I ended the day trying to see if the trout had grown since the morning but all I could find were a few more 11-inch fish. I called it a day after landing 3 redfish and 26 speckled trout. PB110005.jpg
I THINK THE EYES ON A REDFISH ARE ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFIUL
PB110003.JPGTHE SCALE PATTERN IS PRETTY NEAT TOO.

 

Fall Fishing in Southeast Louisiana!

Fall happens to be my favorite time of the year to hit the south Louisiana marshes for speckled trout and redfish. Typically, after a few cool fronts make their way down here, the redfish begin to gorge themselves and the speckled trout make their annual migration up the marsh to their winter habitat. A quick look back on some of my older posts will show you just what I mean. I’ve been penciling in the first, second, and third weekends in November to get down to my favorite haunts.

I eagerly looked forward to this past weekend with lots of excitement and anticipation because A), my Friday football game got moved up to Thursday, which meant I could get a good night’s rest before making the two-and-a-half hour drive in the morning and B) the weather was going to be spectacular, albeit unseasonably hot. The only concerns I had were the fact that we had a full moon (meaning the fish would feed all night) and it was just too darned hot. I really wanted to target the trout but I had a hunch that they had not made it that far inside yet.

Friday night, while researching the tides, weather, etc. I took a quick look at my social media and saw a post from a friend of mine who lives in Arkansas http://looknfishy.blogspot.com. Come to find out, Drew was in Grand Isle! I contacted him and we decided to fish together at one of my “go to” spots. This spot is always a redfish producer but it holds tons of trout too this time of year.

We met at TopWater Marina and were launched and fishing by 8 AM in the morning.  There was virtually no wind (good sign for us fly fishermen) and it was forecast to be sunny (good sign for those of us who like to sight fish).

I began with a deer hair popper that I tied recently in my favorite fall trout colors of chartreuse and yellow but did not get a hit. It didn’t take long for me to tell that the trout hadn’t made it down yet. I even tried a pink Lafleur’s Charlie under a VOSI but I didn’t get a strike there either. Drew was really interested in targeting redfish so we ventured deep into the broken marsh to look for redfish sign. We stayed for the most part within shouting distance and I began to see a few in some of the dirty shallow water. I threw my popper at one and got it to rise up to try to slurp it. In my anticipation, I tried to set the hook too soon and it was quickly redfish – 1, Doc – 0.

I later switched to my tried and true gold spoon fly and got similar results. I missed several strikes and finally hooked my first redfish around 10 O’clock or so…and I lost it due to a poor hook-set. No problem because I started to see more and more redfish the deeper I went into the marsh. I finally connected on a descent fish and was able to get a perfect eating sized redfish. I decided I would keep two or three fish because I barter with a colleague of mine at school who provides me with fresh farm eggs for fish fillets. 🙂

DCIM100GOPRO

My morning continued as it began, with missed strikes and spooked fish. I did manage to connect on my second redfish though and that meant I had two fish in the cooler and I should have enough fresh farm eggs to last me until Christmas 🙂

DCIM100GOPRO

That’s when I caught up with Drew and asked him how he’d been doing. He said that he had kept two himself and had probably caught a dozen or so. Wow! I was getting schooled. No problem. It was fun just being out on the water…wait…if you know me, you probably know that I’m just a little bit competitive. Let’s just say that I had some catching up to do. Drew showed me his dark colored fly that he had been successful with but I was stubborn and I stuck with my tried and true, gold spoon fly. Like another buddy of mine says, “Redfish will eat any color as long as it’s gold.”

Drew told me he had found some cleaner water so we both paddled back to a spot where he left them biting. I managed to get another fish on but it quickly broke my tippet. I tried to set the hook too hard and it broke off on its first run. I quickly retied and got back to sight-fishing for another one when I heard Drew holler that he had another one on. I paddled over to him to get a picture. His was a beautiful golden color that would make the cover of any fishing magazine.Redfish release

You can also see by the photo that the water had cleared up here too. I continued to fish but did not catch another redfish before I had to head to the car. I had another one break my tippet and several other missed strikes and flat refusals!

Here’s the play-by-play from my last encounter of the day:

It was getting hotter by the minute and we were getting more of those partly cloudy spots where you’d have to take a break from fishing because you just couldn’t see anything in the water. I kept looking at my watch, knowing that I would have to head back in soon, when I spotted a redfish in some shallow water near me. It was actually active and had that “I’m searching for something to eat” look about it. I stayed far away so I wouldn’t spook this one but that meant that my first cast wasn’t a good one. Plus, the fish decided to turn 180 degrees to the other side right when I cast. It didn’t see my fly. Now it turned again on my next cast and I put my fly right in the “eat me” zone. The fish didn’t react. I don’t think it saw it. I stripped quickly to get it closer to the fish and now it was zoning in on my fly like a heat seeking missile…only not as fast. In my experience with redfish, they flare their gills right before they eat and then they do a head shake once they have gotten the fly in their mouth. I watched this fish flare its gills and do the head shake. I strip set and…nothing. I pulled it out of its mouth. Of course this spooked the thing and that pretty much summed up my morning. REDFISH – 20. DOC -2.

Oh well. I reminded myself about a few things. First, there’s Cormier’s fly fishing rules and rule #1 is: Fish make the rules, not the fisherman. Second, a good trip isn’t always measured by how much you catch. Nothing beats the peacefulness of a a south Louisiana sunrise in a kayak, the beautiful wildlife (gulls, pelicans, egrets, and dolphin), and of course the camaraderie when you go with someone who appreciates all those qualities of a good fishing trip. Drew is one of those guys! When I say he is an avid fisherman, I mean AVID. I intend on getting to south Arkansas in the near future to try to get after some of the bass, trout, and carp that he has in his neck of the woods.

And there’s always next time… 🙂

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 4.49.13 PM

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 🙂

 

 

 

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?
IMG_1288.JPG

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.
IMG_1285.jpg

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.
P5120677.JPG

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.
GOPR3658.jpg
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.

19400399_1420816934645267_7690506558094677227_o.jpg19388778_1420816887978605_370167113402902221_o.jpg

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. 🙂

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 8.10.56 PM.jpg