Spring trip to CENLA

Spring trip to CENLA

Although it isn’t officially spring yet, I’ve been itching to make the 3 hour drive north to my buddy’s house in central Louisiana (CENLA) to do some bass, crappie, bluegill, red-ear sunfish…and whatever else would bite on a fly rod trip. I left Baton Rouge right after school and met Catch at the launch site to fish Lake Valentine. For about an hour-and-a-half, we fished the clear water in the lake and I actually skunked. I was fishing a new frog pattern (see my previous post) and I couldn’t get a bite. Catch, however caught a half dozen or so bass and had this nice one that he caught on a small, dark green popper.IMG_2207.jpg

Then next day, we got up early and headed over to the same lake to try the morning bite. I managed a couple of dinks but nothing substantial. Catch had similar luck and by 10:30 or so, we decided to call it a morning, regroup, and try “plan B.” The wind had picked up substantially and the fish just weren’t cooperating. What a difference 12 hours makes! We were treated to some beautify wildlife, including this friendly little guy.IMG_2256.jpg

Anyway, plan B was to fish another local lake for some coveted crappie, (also know as sacalait or white perch). I have a friend who’s dad is getting up in age and I promised him some fish for a fry. He loves sacalait too! We probably arrived at Fullerton Lake around 2 PM and fished until sunset. Catch started catching bass right off the bat. I wanted to target sacalait so our strategies differed. He was fishing with poppers while I fished mostly a fluff butt (actually a “silly” butt). I wasn’t having any luck with the sacalait but I did catch two bull bream over 8 inches. I paddled over to Catch to see what he was doing and he said he had caught and released about a dozen small bass. The bass in Fullerton aren’t as big as those in Valentine. Fullerton is loaded with downed trees and logs and makes a perfect habitat for the coveted panfish. We, however, had missed the major spawning period for the crappie and reports hadn’t been that good. I did manage to catch two really nice ones (14 and 15 inches). When I added those to the bream and the one sacalait that Catch caught, we ended up with a nice stringer of 9 bull bream and three sacalait. I caught 4 bass on poppers and Catch caught 21. I was disappointed that I didn’t get any strikes on my deer hair frog. I downsized my popper and that’s when I began to catch some bass. On a side note, I don’t think I can recall ever fishing in a place that had so many BULL FROGS. They were croaking all afternoon. I even saw several in the grass along the banks. I tried to get a picture but I spooked the one that I was able to get close to. Here are a few pictures from the day.

IMG_2258.jpgThat’s a 15-inch slab!
A chunky bass caught on the fly rod in Lake Valentine Saturday morning.

I did manage to get some pictures of Catch casting from his kayak.
Hee is a series of pictures I took. He makes it look effortless.

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New frog patterns

I haven’t been fishing in a while; mostly because of home commitments and a back issue that has been very painful. I got a short-term fix on the back and most of my “honey dos” taken care of so I’ll traveling to CENLA to try to catch my buddy, Catch Cormier’s, big bass he entered already on the Massey’s Fish Pics Tournament. I also hope to catch some sacalait and big chinquapin for a Friday Lenten meal soon too.

In the meantime, I’ve found some time to sneak away to my tying vise and I’ve developed my version of a frog popper that I learned from master tier, Bill Laminack. I also learned a new way of putting a weed guard on my popper that’s frankly, ingenious. Again, kudos to Bill.

First, are a couple pictures of the frog popper/slider:IMG_2203.jpg


Notice the hard mono on the back side. It fits well into any fly box because the mono is behind the fly. When I’m ready to tie it on my tippet, I just run my tippet through the weed guard and tie off through the hook eye. I used some backing in the following picture so you could see how I do it. IMG_2204.JPGIMG_2202.JPG
Her’s a view from up front. I can’t wait to see some bass gulp this thing up. I should be able to bounce it over cover too with that weed guard.

Mardi Gras Madness

Many in south Louisiana think of parades, king cake, masked balls, and floats during this time of year. Me?  I think about where can I get on some water and fish. While others think about catching beads and doubloons, I think about catching some fish that will make it into the grease for a lenten Friday meal. The past few years, I’ve been fortunate to hook up with my buddy in Central Louisiana to catch some bass, chinquapin, and sacalait. This year, our schedules, the large amount of rain, and other factors have made it impossible to fish in CENLA. That left me with plan B, plan C, and of course, no plan at all 🙂

When the weather was too windy or rainy, I stayed in, tied flies, and took care of some “honey dos” around the house. That didn’t mean I didn’t sneak out for a couple hours at sunrise or sunset to try out some of my new flies on some of the locals. We had some really foggy mornings that gave way to some windy days. My first fish of the week came from my “Plan B,” our  Mylocal neighborhood lake.GOPR3821.jpg
As you can see, it ate one of my crease flies. My next bass also came from Plan B but I was fishing for sacalait and bream when this guy came up and ate my fluff butt.GOPR3822.jpg
Since I do not keep bass (especially during the spawn) and I really wanted some fish for a Friday lenten supper, I made an hour run over to Black Lake to see if the sacalait wanted to play. After talking to a couple of the locals at the launch, I learned that the sacalait bite hadn’t started yet but the bass were biting. I got this one to eat one of my deer hair poppers. GOPR3828.jpgIt’s really cool when they eat flies a tie myself. My deer hair poppers are pretty but I want something that will catch fish. I didn’t catch any sacalait, but I did hook this angry choupique on a 3 wt. For those of you who don’t know, a 3 wt. is like a very ultra light.GOPR3830.jpg
I can remember catching the heck out of those when I was a kid. I also remember that a friend of my mom’s used to tease her that eating them had some kind of relationship with fertility. There must be something to that…I’m the oldest of 6 children 🙂
Plan C took me to an old reliable lake that’s owned by a former band parent. I found a couple bass that wanted to play. GOPR3826.jpgGOPR3824.jpg
They were both nice at 16 and 15 inches respectively. Notice that I went to my trusty crease-fly. Bass love ’em!!

Plan D took me to my cousin’s pond behind her house. I know there are bass there that will eat my flies but I also know we’ve caught sacalait there too. I didn’t think the sacalait would be spawning yet but I did bring my 3 wt. and some fluff butts. I ended up catching 3 bass, GOPR3832.jpglost a couple more….but….the sacalait came out to play 🙂 I only kept 10 and released about 10 more. Only two of the ten were females so I guess these were males getting the beds ready for the females. I’ll save the big females for my cousin’s family 🙂 By the way, I have to ask. “Does this stringer make my butt look big?” GOPR3841.jpg
Looks like we have a fish-for Mr. Vern this Friday 🙂


Bass are staging up.

I usually look forward to my Mardi Gras holiday break to do some fishing in central Louisiana (CENLA) with my good buddy, Catch Cormier. However, this year, with weather and family commitments, it looks like a trip to some of my favorite sacalait and big chinquapin waters won’t happen. Well, at least just yet.

So, I’ve been relegated to fishing around here in-between rain showers and more chilly weather. I was able to get out Friday after work for an hour and caught my first bass of the year. The temperature had warmed up and I had heard some reports of the bass starting to do their pre-spawn thing. Also, our neighborhood association reported that since the devastating flood a year ago, they were going to stock the lakes with bass and sacalait. I really wanted to see if I could catch any sacalait so I launched my kayak and had a rod loaded with a fluff butt under a strike indicator and another with a new fly that I tied called the Coma cacahoe. The Coma cacahoe is a pattern developed by Catch that is supposed to imitate some of the soft plastics that conventional guys use to catch speckled trout and redfish. The last time I saw Catch, he said that the bass were tearing that fly up too.

I caught a pretty nice chinquapin (9 inches) early on the fluff butt and I thought I might be able to catch a pretty nice stringer of those that afternoon for a fish fry. However, I was only able to catch one more over 8 inches so, I didn’t keep any fish. I did, however, test Catch’s theory that the bass liked the coma cacahoe and sure enough; I caught my first bass of the year on it. It measured 15 inches and I could almost bet it had eggs in it. IMG_2124.jpg
This was my first fish caught on the coma cacahoe.

I had about an hour-and-a-half window to fish the very next morning before a wedding gig, so I slipped out into the lake at sunrise. I was able to break the ice with my crease fly, but the fishing was pretty slow. GOPR3821.jpgThere were no signs of the afore mentioned sacalait stocking. They may be too small to catch right now anyway. Anyway, if the cormorants have their way, there may be no more juvinile sacalait left in the lake to grow to maturity.

Anyway, I’m looking to try a few old spots for sacalait and bass later this week so I should be able to post a few more reports on here.

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Cenla Fly Fishing & Light Tackle Festival

I attended the Cenla (that’s Central Louisiana) Fly Fishing & Light Tackle Festival this past weekend, not this year as a spectator, but as a participant. I use that terminology because I teach my students that there are two types of people; those who are spectators and those who are participants. Let me explain: There are those who sit at home on their couches and watch fishing and hunting shows and there are those who get out on the water or the woods and experience it first hand. There are those who discuss politics on social media and complain to the masses about how good or bad things are and there are those who get out and do service projects and make a real difference in other people’s lives. There are those who listen to music and there are those who create and perform music. Well, you get the point…so this weekend I practiced what I preach and I served as a speaker and a guest tier at the festival in Pineville, Louisiana.

Lately I’ve been really tying some pretty deer hair poppers so I thought I would feature that fly. I prepared a few in different stages of completion so I could demonstrate from start to finish how I tie these flies. Here’s an example of one of my fire tiger poppers.IMG_1628.jpg
I’ve tied several variations on that fly including shad colored ones, frog poppers, and even some salt water versions. Additionally, I was also asked to give a presentation on fishing from a kayak with an up-and-coming rock star in the fly fishing world, Sarah Giles.  Believe it or not, Sarah catches a lot of redfish from a ten foot, sit-in kayak with a fly rod. She gave the talk on salt water fishing and I added my two cents from my experience as a freshwater fisherman. I thought it was quite informative. We gave the basics of why fish from a kayak, how to rig your kayak (including milk crates, rod holders, anchor pulleys, “the pool noodle is your friend” tip), and how to cast while sitting or standing from your kayak. Oh, and we also gave the all-important point to WEAR YOUR PFD at all times!!

When it came to explaining why we fish from this minimalist perspective, Sarah gave the best reason, in my opinion, of why we fish from a kayak. I’ll paraphrase and embellish it a little, but it went something like this:

There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you stalk your prey; in this case, a big redfish and you’re at its level. It’s that stealthy approach that gets you sometimes within 10 feet of Mr. Redfish. You and he make eye contact with each other as you watch him flare his gills and smash your fly. Most of the time, this fly is no bigger than your thumbnail! Then you strip set your hook and spend several minutes (sometimes in excess of 20-30) to coax the spot-tailed beast into your landing net. Once you’ve successfully done that, you get to admire your adversary up close, snap a picture or two, and release it unharmed back into the marsh to continue to do its thing. 

Well, after that explanation, I’m sure there will be several people going to their nearest outfitter to purchase a kayak and experience that thrill that we all enjoy so much! Remember the participants 🙂

At the end of the day, we headed to Catch’s house in Boyce and we enjoyed a fabulous home-cooked gumbo prepared by Catch’s wife, who by the way, is a pretty accomplished fly fisher-lady herself.

The next morning we were itching to get on the water to do some fishing because we were enjoying some of the warmest weather we’ve had in over a month. Because Sarah is in the market for a new sit-on-top kayak, she fished out of Catch’s 14-foot Native. Catch and I fished from his canoe. Even though the temperature of the air got into the upper 60’s, the water temperature was still in the lower 40’s. We didn’t know if the fish would cooperate. We were pleasantly surprised as we caught 8 nice crappie (also known as white perch or sacalait) and Catch caught a couple of red-eared sunfish (shell crackers, lake runners, or chinquapin). The fish all ate some variation of a fluff butt. I’ve attached a couple of pictures. By the way, Sarah later told us that this was her first sacalait on the fly rod. We may have created a monster 🙂

180122 sarah casting.jpgNice tight loop there from a sitting position.
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Sarah was all smiles with her first two crappie on the fly rod. 180122 doc sacalait2.jpg180122 doc sacalait.jpg
I managed to catch a few in the front of the canoe too.

Check back here for a post in about three weeks when the water warms up a little and the fish really turn on. I plan on making a trip back to CENLA during our Mardi Gras break!

My First Report of the New Year!

My first blog entry for 2018 is…well…not a fishing report. What?

For years now, my son, Dustin, has been kidding me, asking, “Why in the world would anyone go fishing during hunting season?” Well, after putting my waders and shotgun up for, say 10 years, I decided it was time to spend some quality time with my son on the water.

Dustin has really been doing well the past two weekends and texted me Saturday that they had each shot a limit of nice puddle ducks that morning. After a full day of work for me (all music related), I decided to make the hour and a half drive to the camp to join him and one of his hunting buddies. This hunting camp is really nice and the wildlife décor really got me fired up to get out and shoot a few birds.

IMG_2072.JPGTo be honest though, I was secretly hoping that I would shoot well. I haven’t popped a cap in a long time. Was I going to embarrass myself among those “20-something-year-olds?”

To get to the blind, we mounted four-wheelers and made the ten-minute ride to the edge of the flooded timber and hard bottoms. The morning temperature dipped below 20 degrees so that ride, even though a slow one, was a very cold one. From there, we waded about another ten minutes through thigh-deep frigid water to get to the blind. I was really glad to be able to borrow a pair in insulated chest waders because we were breaking ice nearly the whole way until we got to the open water where the blind and decoys were. We got situated and were treated to a gorgeous sunrise.IMG_2075.JPG

The second reason I wanted to make a hunt with Dustin was to watch his three-year-old lab, Duke, work. Duke is a “cracker jack” retriever who absolutely LOVES to hunt. Here are a couple pictures of him “on point” as we positions himself on the ramp and eagerly awaits one of us to put a bird on the water.IMG_2077.JPGIMG_2093.JPG

Right at daybreak, we had some birds buzz us but we didn’t get a shot off. We nearly pulled the trigger on a drake spoonbill, but we thought we would experience the kind of morning that they had the day before. About five minutes later, we had a group of diving ducks buzz and I connected on my first shot. I was happy to know I could still shoot 🙂

Insert sound of crickets chirping here!

Well it took us a while before we were given an opportunity to pull the trigger again. We knocked down the first of two gadwalls and Duke made a great retrieve on both of them. I took my cell phone out to get a picture of him in action but the cold weather caused my battery to freeze up and I lost power for about 15 minutes until I could get the phone warmed up again. I did get a picture of half our decoy spreadIMG_2078.JPGIf I was a duck, I would sure want to land there. Anyway we didn’t do too bad for a slow day. We finished with six ducks between three of us. We winged a couple more that even Duke couldn’t catch up to. Did I say it was cold?IMG_2095.JPGThis hat and several layers of clothing were key! We were even able to fry up some deer sausage for breakfast.IMG_2094.JPG

I really enjoyed spending time with my son, doing one of the things he loves best. I won’t wait so long to go back with him. For now, I’ll leave you with some more pictures from the morning and I promise my next entry will be a FISHING story.IMG_2086.jpgGreen wing tealIMG_2083.JPGGadwall (grey duck)IMG_2046.jpgPintail (from a previous hunt but oh so pretty)