Persistence Pays Off

Persistence Pays Off

After weeks of looking for an opportunity to head south to fish the rich marshes of southeast Louisiana and not having any luck, it finally looked like I was going to hit the jackpot with a “picture-perfect” day. Winds were forecast to be 5-10 mph, and the sun was going to shine brightly all day. Add to that, the temperatures were forecast to start in the low 40s and I had dreams of catching bull trout in deep holes on some fast sinking clouser flies. Insert dream sequence music here:

So, Friday night, I set my alarm to wake me at 3:30. I was packed, I checked my list twice to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, and I even slept on the sofa, so I wouldn’t wake my wife up when I got up. I was as giddy as a school girl (no offense to school girls). I tossed and turned all night and dreamed of what would be plan A, plan B, and heaven forbid, a plan C. I think I even dreamed about tying flies…all while I sang music in my head that we had rehearsed in class this week. There’s my tribute to Count Basie. All I’ve got to say is, thank God I can operate on little or no sleep 😊

At 3:30, my feet officially hit the floor and I was in my truck and on the road by 3:50. My excitement would build as I made the over two-and-a-half-hour drive to my plan A. The temperature on my car read 37 degrees and I saw nothing was a star-studded, clear sky. As I got closer to water (Highway 1), I noticed just how calm the wind was. The water was literally slick as glass and I began to wonder if I had packed my Victoria’s Secret, Amber Romance to ward off those nasty No-see-ums (biting midges that aren’t bothered by deet insect repellants). I pulled over at a gas station to empty my bladder and I saw that yes, indeed, I had remembered to pack it. Everything looked like it was going to be perfect!

I was greeted to one of the most splendid predawn sunrises ever. The colors, which were magnificent, reflected back on the smooth-as-glass water. I wanted to get a picture but I knew that there would be a lot of competition at my combat launch spot so I didn’t want to slow down and jeopardize my chance of being the first kayak on my favorite point. When I crossed the high rise overpass in Leeville, I noticed there was a slight chop on the water and I looked at my outside temperature gage on my truck, which read 48 degrees. I murmured to myself, “Where did that wind come from?” “What happened to my cold temperatures?” Then, I noticed a cloudy haze developing in the east. I thought, “that’s not good.” However, my attitude changed when I got to my launch spot when I noticed I was one of the first people there. I was shaking in anticipation as I tied on a deep water clouser. I paddled out to my point, dropped anchor and fished…and fished…and fished some more. WHAT?? Nada! I moved around and noticed a few other cars pull up and out came the roadside fishermen and a couple of other kayakers. No one stayed very long, no one caught a fish, and I decided to opt for plan B.

Plan B was to move further east and fish the marsh for redfish. Surely that haze was just fog and I was going to be able to sight-fish for Mr. Poisson Rouge. Well, of course, the haze never lifted and by now the wind was blowing 10-15. I push-polled my way through the marsh and spooked many redfish that surprisingly, were in fairly shallow water. After a couple hours of this, I was thinking about Plan C.

Those of us who fish the marsh know all too well the sign of a spooked redfish, drum, or sheepshead. They leave behind a ball of mud in their escape path. I kept seeing these balls and I decided to begin fishing points and cuts that looked fishy. I even tried casting to escaping fish but unless I was going to hook them in the butt, I wasn’t going to be successful. I was just about to head to the truck when I stuck a big girl. I was leaving a small duck pond and I saw a couple wakes about 20 feet in front of me. I waited for them to settle down and I made a cast out about 40 feet in some deeper water. That’s when my line went tight and I strip set the hook. I knew it was a big girl because she was dragging my kayak all over the place and she took me down into my backing twice. Not knowing how well it was hooked allowed me to play the fish for about 10 minutes before I noticed I was being pulled close to the stakes that hold down the power poles along the highway. I decided to put my stakeout pole in the mud and fight the fish from there hoping neither  the fish nor I wouldn’t get tangled in the barnacle-encrusted wire. My plan worked and a few minutes later, I had the big fish securely in my fish grips. I was able to get a few pictures and revive her before releasing her (she was full of eggs) to go make babies. I was reminded of a valuable lesson I learned a while ago. Never give up. Your next cast could be the cast to turn a skunk into a winner 🙂 GOPR0043.jpeg

 

 

 

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The Perch Float Popper

The Perch Float Popper

I was asked by members of my fly fishing club at the high school to teach them to make some bass poppers. They wanted to tie something that they could use during the approaching bass spawning period. I started thinking about what I could teach them to do that wouldn’t a) break the bank and b) be easy enough for beginners to complete. I came up with two possibilities. The first was the Froggy Fly, which you can read about in my previous entry. The second was the “perch float” popper. So here is how we do it.

First, get a bag of Comal Tackle perch floats ($1.00 will make 8 poppers). For this tutorial, I purchased some with the slit already cut in them. You can purchase the others and cut your own slits (for your hook).
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I begin by lightly sanding the color off the corks. I guess one could just put a few coats of white spray paint but it may eat away at the cork. I don’t know because I haven’t tried that yet:
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Next, I cut them in half with a hobby saw:
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After that, I do some more sanding and I create the head angle:
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Once I have the angle, I use a dremel tool to make a “cup” in each head. This helps with the pop when the popper is fished:
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Next step is to put a thread base on a Mustad 33903BR, size 2 kink shank popper hook:
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Once that is done, I glue the hook to the popper by using a super thin CA glue or a very thin super glue:

When the glue is thoroughly dry, I use a little water based wood filler (I use Elmer’s) to smooth out the hole where the hook was glued and then I use a bit to fill the hole in the perch float by the hook eye:
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When that is dry, I do a little more sanding and then I add about five coats of a white under-coat of hobby paint. Here I use a metallic pearl:
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Once that step is completed, it’s time to paint the poppers. You can use acrylic paints from a craft store or any other method you prefer. Here I used a COPIC sprayer. Eyes were added from stick ons that I had in stock, but you can paint them on using different sized nail and needle heads. Here are the poppers ready for a 30 minute epoxy coat:

Pictured next are the heads on a home-made dryer. You can use alligator clips to dry them but you have to flip them over every 5 minutes or so. I made this dryer for about $5 or $6 several years ago:
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Once the popper heads are dry, all there is left to do is tie in the tailing material. I used several different approaches here to show different styles and effects, all of which should catch fish:

 

 

 

A simple froggy fly that catches fish

I don’t tie foam flies very much anymore but when I used to, I would catch a ton of bass and bluegill on a “froggy fly” made of simple craft foam, a bit of bucktail, and some rubber legs. Recently, I taught some of the members of my fly fishing club at St. Michael High School how to tie this fly. It’s an easy fly to tie for beginners.

The materials are very simple:

Hook Gamakatsu 2/0 finesse wide gap hook 230412 or 230912 (weedless)
A small clump of bucktail
Thread (I use 210 denier for strength)
Rubber legs (use spinnerbait rubber skirts)
Craft foam (Hobby Lobby, Walmart, or Michaels

Recipe:

Start by putting down a thread base.

Then add small clump of bucktail and some of the rubber legs

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Cut the foam in a strip about width of the hook gap and trip the tip to make a triangle to have a tie in point.

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Work your thread to about an eye length behind the eye and tie down the foam.

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Then fold the foam back over itself and tie in the front rubber legs.

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Trim off the tail end of the foam to your liking, whip finish, and add a drop or two of some sort of head cement on the wraps and the underside to make it more durable.  Then use markers to make it look like a frog. IMG_3412.jpg

One More Trip

I know I’ve already posted my end-of-the-year report, but I couldn’t resist just one more short outing to my neighborhood lake. It began when my brother called me and said he’s trying to get his dog to learn to sit still in his pirogue while he fishes so he wanted to launch in my lake. He met me at my house a little after 3:30 and I hadn’t really planned on fishing with him. The weather has been real cloudy and dreary, plus my daughter, her husband, and my granddaughter have been in town for a New Year’s visit.

I helped my brother unload his pirogue and we walked the block and a half down to where I normally put in. When I got there and saw just how calm and pristine the lake looked, I just couldn’t resist. I hustled back home, put my kayak on wheels, grabbed my fly rod, and joined him on the lake.

It was neat fishing with my brother and we reminisced about old times fishing and hunting together. We were both avid hunters when we were younger but now we both enjoy fishing and the beauty, peace and relaxation that it brings. My brother brought one rod and fished a swim bait for bass. I brought a 5 wt rod with an olive fluff butt. My brother is and artist and has a great eye for things that would make a great painting, so he was snapping pictures most of the time. I, however, proceeded to catch about 8 small bream and two sacalait. We only fished for about an hour but it reminded both of us what really matters…family, friends, and the grace and beauty of God’s wonderful creations. Happy New Year to all those of you who follow this blog. I hope to get on the water more often in 2019. Funny thing is, I just realized I started the year off with a sacalait (crappie) and I ended it with one as well. 🙂

Tight loops and tight lines to you all!

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The Year in Review

It’s time, once again, to reflect on this past year’s fishing’s memories, successes, and lessons learned. First of all, I’m so blessed to be able to enjoy the outdoors and to be able to do so very close to my home. Most of my freshwater fishing is either a short walk to my neighborhood lake or somewhere within an hour’s drive from my house. My salt water marsh trips, although a couple hours away, are still doable for a day trip. Along the way I am always treated to the God’s beauty from the moss-covered trees to the deer, waterfowl, racoons, nutrias, alligators, and otters I encounter each trip.

Here’s a pictorial review of the past year:

It began with fellow kayakers and fly fishing enthusiasts, Glen “Catch” Cormier and Sarah Giles as we fished for sacalait in Lake Cotile.180122 doc sacalait.jpg180122 sarah sacalait2.jpg

As the weather warmed up, so did the bass fishing. IMG_2209.jpg
Catch with one of Lake Valentine’s nice bass.

I even got some great lessons on how to cast in a kayak IMG_2221.jpgIMG_2222.jpg
That’s a tight loop there!

If I had to sum up my fishing in one word, it would be deer-hair bugs. I know that’s technically, more than one word but I have gotten good at tying them and the fish love to eat them. There were the little ones:GOPR3909.jpeg

The big girls:GOPR3846.jpeg

And lots and lots of fish in-between.GOPR3885.jpgGOPR3878.jpegGOPR3877.jpgGOPR3912.jpeg

I was able to place in a couple of tournamentsIMG_2422.jpg26850532_1811142835623389_6288145374840920564_o.jpg

And even put a few in some hot greaseGOPR3841.jpeg

I caught some ugly ones:GOPR3831.jpegGOPR3947.jpeg

And some pretty ones.GOPR3870.jpg

Merry Christmas! I hope your 2019 is a good one! Tight Loops and Tight Lines!

 

 

The Fall Trout Bite Has Begun

You may have heard that the best day to go fishing is any day you can get on the water. I tend to agree. When I recently looked at my calendar, I saw that I have something to do every Saturday until Thanksgiving! AND I have to have oral surgery the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so I’ll be out of pocket for about 2 weeks after that. SOOOO, when I saw that I had this past Saturday off (no I didn’t have to judge second round of all-state auditions), I couldn’t pass up the chance.

We had a late, out-of-town football game Friday that put me back home at 11 PM and in bed by 11:30. When I woke up at 4 AM, I though that it would take an extra shot of coffee to get me moving. It’s funny that at my age, I have to forego the second cup just because I know I won’t be able to make it to the launch without having to stop for a bathroom 🙂 Well, the excitement of knowing that we finally got a cool front down here and the wind was forecast to be 5-10 for most of the morning was all the “caffeine” I needed. I arrived at my combat launch around 6:45 and was casting a deer hair popper in glass-flat water by 7. The water was still high because of Hurricane Michael and to top that off we had an unusually large tidal range predicted for this weekend. The water wasn’t dirty but it wasn’t clear either. The tide was predicted to start falling early on but the wind was also forecast to pick up to 10-12 mph around mid morning.

I got a huge blowup early on by an inquisitive redfish that didn’t result in a hookup. After about 45 minutes of no more inquisitive fish, I decided to paddle over to my “trout” spot. I didn’t get any trout to investigate my popper but I did notice some tiny shrimp leaping out of the water. I switched over to a pink Lafleur’s Charlie under a VOSI and the action started. I did bring my ice chest and planned to keep some trout for my freezer (I’m currently out of trout). I probably caught about a dozen by 8:15. I only kept those that were 14 inches or better so I threw back a lot of 12-inch trout. Anyway the bite slowed down and I did some exploring for redfish. I figured I might get lucky and find some clear water but that didn’t happen. I thought I might find some tails in some shallow back water areas but they were void of any redfish. I did manage to catch a couple nice redfish while I was fishing for trout. The redfish were not on the grass bank. They were about 6 or 7 feet off the bank in moving water. I probably could have caught more but I needed to get back to Baton Rouge for the LSU football game, so I called it a day around 1. Anyway, my ice chest (Yeti knockoff that’s made by Jackson Kayak and isn’t very big) was full. I kept the two redfish (21 and 23 inches) and 8 trout (largest measured 16.5). My battery on my GoPro died but I did get some pictures.

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This 21 inch redfish ate the pink Lafleur’s Charlie. IMG_2966.jpg
My largest trout of the morning at 16.5
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And my largest redfish at 23.

I might have to sneak out on a Sunday if the weather allows me another opportunity before Thanksgiving 🙂

 

Can old worn out poppers be refurbished?

One of the many blessings my dad taught me was never to waste anything. Now, I know my mom is going to read this and say that she taught me this too, but I can still remember dad stopping on the side of the road to pick up an aluminum can to recycle it. He would collect bags and bags of cans and bring them to a recycle facility for cash. I guess that is the result of being born during the middle of the Great Depression and living through the effects of World War II.

So, the question arises: “Should I just throw away a deer hair popper once it has been worn out by hungry fish or should I just cut away the worn out and faded deer hair and refurbish the popper?”  I decided to retire a certain “fire tiger” pattern popper from a recent trip. This popper probably caught over 35 bass. Now, I know you think I’m just bragging but honestly, this popper was responsible for the catch and release of over 35 bass over the past three or four months. IMG_2932

I actually think I tried to refurbish the head (notice the extra glue). So I decided I would try to refurbish the popper since the hook is still very sharp. I used an old pair of scissors to remove most of the deer hair and then I cleaned it up with a worn razor blade.

I added a few more hackles for the tail, a fresh yellow marabou, and then I added fresh deer belly hair. He is what I ended up with:

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While it didn’t end up exactly like the original, I really don’t think the fish will notice and I should be able to catch another 30 or so bass on this refurbished popper.