It’s been over two weeks since the start of the new year and I’ve been able to get on the water of our neighborhood lake twice. The first time, I was completely shut out. Since the new year, we have had cold, damp, windy weather…well except when I’m at work. I have really been looking for an opportunity to get down to our Southeast marshes but the weather…did I mention the weather?
Martin Luther King’s holiday was looking like it might provide me with an opportunity to head to the marsh, but the latest weather report forecast a very cold morning with winds blowing from 10 – 18 mph, which is too windy for me to be in a kayak with a fly rod. So, I decided to get some cleaning done at the house and tie a few deer hair bugs to pass the time. We have a couple of conclaves coming up this spring and I’m going to be donating some flies for the gambler’s draw. I guess you could say I was feeling kind of froggy 🙂
My wife and I went for a walk in the neighborhood and when the sun warmed things up a bit, I decided to put the kayak on wheels and roll on over to the neighborhood lake. I tied on a fly designed by a good buddy of mine, “Catch” Cormier, he calls the Coma Cocahoe. I knew it would be heavy enough to get down to where I was hoping the fish would be in this cold water. About 15 minutes into my afternoon trip, I thought I had hung the bottom, but I soon realized the “bottom” was moving. A short fight later and I was lipping a fat female bass full of eggs.
Hopefully, that was a good omen for 2022! The very next cast, I caught her baby brother.
I fished for about another half hour and I did get a massive strike that nearly pulled my rod out my hands but I never got a good hook set in that one. Anyway, the wind was still blowing pretty hard and the sun was going down behind the trees so it was getting a little too cold. Here’s to a healthy new year to everyone. I pray we put this pandemic in our rear view mirrors.
I occasionally look back on this blog to see what time of year certain fish turn on for me, kind of like a fishing log of sorts. For example, I have kept track of when the speckled trout begin to make their move inside during their fall migration. I also keep track of when the sacalait begin to bite and when the bass begin to cruise the shallows in the neighborhood lakes in the spring and in the fall. I was looking back on a morning trip I took last year right after the first cool snap (temps in the lower 50s) and I noticed I had some considerable success right after our first cold front brought temperatures down in the 50s. So, I kind of had I idea that slipping the kayak into the neighbor lake this morning would bring me some action.
And why not? After a week of homecoming festivities that kept me at work until after 10 PM two evenings and after 8 PM another, I was due a morning of peaceful solitude with my fly rod and a deer-hair popper or two. The color of choice for this morning’s adventure? The purple and gold of our Tigers who upset those pesky Gators yesterday! I slipped my kayak into the water around 6:45, right at first light and began tossing a deer-hair diver toward the bank. About ten minutes into my morning paddle, I had hooked into my first bass. It was a small one, probably under 10 inches, but I recalled my trip from last year that the morning began with small fish and progressed nicely to larger ones.
Five minutes later, I landed another one…and it was a little larger.
I began to notice a pattern. The fish were pretty tight against the bank and they seemed to consistently get larger as the morning wore on. Still, it was only around 7:15 when I landed fish number three.
It seemed I was catching fish every five minutes or so, and by now I had caught four bass and I had lost a couple. Some of the takes were small slurps and others were downright slams! There was no consistency in the way they were hitting the bug. I did tell myself to pay attention because one of the missed fish was because I never really noticed the slurp and I didn’t get a good hook set in it. I was casting to a shallow area near one of the fountains when I saw a slight swirl and my popper disappeared. I set the hook good in it and it took off. I realized this one was larger…much larger. It took off toward the water fountain and started dragging me toward the water. I started cracking up because it seemed like this fish thought I needed a shower or something. I frantically tried to turn it and that wasn’t working, so I dug my paddle in the water to keep from getting soaked. I was beginning to think I was going to loose this fish in the wires or the downed debris under the fountain when I finally got the fish to turn away from the fountain. Meanwhile, I had gotten wet. If anyone was watching me, they certainly got a show and watched as we both laughed at my predicament. The fish tried one last time to get under the fountain and I was able to turn it without getting another shower from the fountain. When I saw its mouth, I knew it was a beast. I got a measurement from the ruler on my paddle at 21 inches, which is probably my personal best in length (not in weight) on the fly rod. I was in my yellow Wilderness Tarpon kayak and not my Jackson, so my fish scale wasn’t with me but I estimate the fish to be over 4.5 pounds and probably a conservative 5. This fish will be in the 6-7 lb range in the spring with it fattens up for the spawn.
Soon I regained my bearings from that adventure, I found myself setting the hook on another nice chunky bass. This one was 16 inches.
It seemed like I was catching a fish now on just about every other cast.
I continued to fish until 8:15, when the action slowed and the fish started getting smaller again. I was able to walk my kayak back home and fix breakfast for Lisa and myself. What a great morning of fishing!
I got a chance to fish for the first time, post Hurricane Ida this morning. To say the hurricane was catastrophic is an understatement. The national media has just been focused on New Orleans. There are places in rural South Louisiana that will take many years to repair. Some businesses that have been open for 70 plus years were destroyed and will not be rebuilt. We continue to pray for those who have been effected. Personally, my house didn’t receive any damage, except for 150 feet of downed fence. My parents in Thibodaux lost nearly all the shingles on their roof but suffered no major damage. Many, if not most of able-bodied South Louisianans have been helping neighbors, friends, and family. I made it down to the epicenter of the eye-wall, Port Forcheon, to help a friend repair some plumbing on his camp. While his camp suffered major damage, he was fortunate and he will be able to rebuild. Here are some pictures from some of the damage there:
After spending a day down there, I knew I needed to get on the water, but I wasn’t going to be heading south for a while. So, I decided to do some much needed, hurricane recovery at my peaceful, happy place. My view this morning was much more peaceful, as you can see in the next photo. I watched a flock of ten teal buzz over the water as I unloaded my kayak.
The fishing was great! I caught 10 bass and lost about a handful as well. They were all caught on a frog-colored deer hair popper, tied on a size 2 hook. This is one of my smaller deer hair bugs tied with rubber skirt legs. The first bass of the morning
After the sun had come up pretty good and the topwater bite slowed down, I switched to a baitfish streamer pattern. I had fished with it for about a half hour without a bite. Then I received a text with a couple pictures from my daughter, who is in Orlando with my wife, my son-in-law and the three grandkids. I put my rod down to look at the photo. When I put my phone away and I picked up my rod, I realized I had a fish on. I never got to see it. I tried to set the hook in it and it doubled my rod over. The fish ran underneath my kayak and then it promptly got off. Oh well… that’s fishing. If you’ve followed this blog before, you have read that my friend who owns this lake wants me to harvest fish under 15 inches. So, I took home six for supper.
Please pray for those who’ve lost so much to this hurricane. Everyone I spoke to yesterday said they would rebuild. They will build it stronger. It seems after each hurricane, we learn more about how to effectively build to withstand strong winds from a major hurricane. I just hope I don’t have to see another one like this one in my lifetime.
Dog Days of Summer get you down? Pandemic get you down? Then, check out my latest video. I spent 2 hours at a friend’s lake/pond and I was able to entice a few bass to eat a deer-hair frog popper. The days are actually getting shorter and I think there is a little bit of thermal cooling taking place. That, coupled with some afternoon showers, is gradually cooling the water enough to get them to come back to the shallows to feed on frogs and baby bream. Enjoy!
The rainy weather is keeping me from going to the marshes so I’m going to make the most of it by staying local and fishing for bass and bream. Oh, and I’ve been tying a few flies too. I’ve been venturing away from my deer hair bugs and I’ve been tying with foam lately to target bluegill.
So, this report will cover two morning fishing trips. One in my neighborhood lake and the other at my buddy’s private lake. The private lake is my go-to spot when I really want a quiet morning that us going to be 90% productive. So Monday, my body clock woke me up at 5:30 again and I walked my kayak a block-and-a-half to our neighborhood lake. I’m really blessed because we actually have two lakes that are adjacent to each other…separated by a small concrete dam. We call them the “upper” lake and the “lower” lake. To get a change of scenery, all I have to do is either fish the upper lake or the lower lake. I find that the upper lake, which is more shallow, provides a better fly fishing experience (mostly with poppers). The lower lake is deeper, it is much larger, and it has more numbers (and probably has larger fish). I have heard reports of local kids catching 8-pound bass in both lakes though, so there are probably big fish in both. However, I find that the bass can be more challenging to catch on flies in the lower lake. Well that theory went bust, if you read my previous post. I caught five nice bass in the lower lake.
I was wanting a change of scenery Monday, so I slipped my kayak in the water around 5:50 in the upper lake. I noticed that the shad were no longer spawning near the banks but I still had confidence that I could get a couple of takers on poppers. Much to my surprise, it was a very slow morning. I did catch a nice bluegill on a size 1/0 popper and two 12-inch bass.
I decided to hop the levee and fish the lower lake, the one where I had success on the previous trip. I didn’t even manage a bite. All was quiet. My biggest catch of the morning was this. I always pick up any trash I find in the neighborhood lakes and dispose of it appropriately. Hard seltzer and Coors Light?? You’ve got to be kidding me! 🙂
So fast forward a couple of mornings. I had the kayak loaded in the back of my truck and I was armed with two 5 wt rods; one with a deer hair popper (to imitate the crawfish the bass have been eating) and the other with a Musicdoc shad. I made the 35 minute run to my buddies lake and I slipped my kayak in the water just before 6 AM. Immediately, I saw some bait working the shoreline (spawning shad) and a few big swirls of fish feeding. After a few misguided casts, I finally was able to get a nice one to eat. It was a healthy 14-inch bass that I released. I had to work the shoreline pretty hard before I caught my next bass on the popper.
My buddy has instructed me that if I want to continue to fish his lake, I have to harvest everything under 15-inches. He wants to make it a trophy lake. So, this little guy went on the stringer. I noticed that the herons and egrets (I wish I would have taken pictures because I saw at least 4 different species) were having a lot more success than me and were gorging themselves on the shad that were flittering and fluttering near the shore. I decided to switch to my rod with the shad streamer on it and I soon had a nice hookup.
I kept looking to see if I could identify a specific pattern. In previous trips, I’ve been able to sight fish for the bass by watching for them as they work in groups of two or three to “herd” baitfish up against the bank. I never saw that this morning. I did see an occasional single fish eat near the bank but by the time I paddled over there, it had most likely either moved or gotten its fill. It has been well documented that summertime bass fishing is tough. Large bass seem to know that they have to get a lot of bang for their buck. They need an easy meal, one that will fill them up so they don’t have to feed as aggressively throughout the hot day. I figured that was why I was only catching smaller fish. Most of the bass were in deeper water. I began to fish my shad fly about 10-15 feet from the bank and that’s where I had my most success.
I managed to catch seven bass, which is normally a good morning. However, this lake usually produces double-digit numbers of bass for me. I decided to call it a morning around 9:30 and I headed home to get some work done for school. I did catch an 18-inch fish that had the mouth of a 4 -pound fish but the body of a 2-and-a-half pound fish. (I actually weighed it)
I did harvest six bass in all and I was surprised to see that all of them had empty stomachs. I guess the summer heat has them lethargic. Oh, well, you know what that means, right? More research! 🙂
We just experienced a record cold snap down here in the deep, deep south. Photos of fish kills in the gulf have surfaced everywhere. We have had some family issues so it’s probably been a couple of weeks since I’ve even thought about fishing. Well that changed this morning. My “internal alarm clock” woke me up at 5:30 and I ventured out to my neighborhood lake. I brought three rods with me. One with a deer hair popper, one with a fluff butt under a VOSI, and another with a small baitfish pattern. I wanted to target bass, bream, and sacalait.
The morning was absolutely beautiful. In fact, I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Songbirds were everywhere…singing, courting, and busy building nests. The squirrels were doing the same and I saw many little bucks chasing females as others nervously cut pine branches for nests. Then there were those magnificent Canada geese. They too were interested in courting and there were females being chased as they flew low over the lake. So, with all this love in the air, I thought, “surely the fish will have love on their mind too.”
I quietly worked the banks without any luck until I saw some action near some submerged branches about 100 feet in front of me. I quickly paddled over and I was greeted with a perfect eat on my popper. This fish quickly got me on my reel and I worked it carefully to the kayak. I was determined not to loose any big fish this morning.
After releasing that fish, I continued to work my popper, occasionally switching to my baitfish pattern and my fluff butt. I did manage to catch a couple bream over 7 inches and I let a little 3-year-old boy on the bank get a chance to “reel” it in. He was so excited. I think that made my morning. I did catch a couple more bass and one of them was a PIG! It’s so cool when you see the wake of the fish as it approaches your popper. It takes an enormous amount of patience not to set the hook too soon. This one was a perfect eat and I did everything by the textbook. It too took me to my reel fairly quickly and was a “jumper.”
I weighed her (4.18 lbs), I took one more good picture, and I let her go. I did creep up on a few pairs of pretty decent-sized bass that were either guarding beds or getting ready to spawn. They would not eat anything I threw at them. In conclusion, I suggest everyone get on the water and tie on a popper. I have a club meeting this week with my high school fly fishing club and I’ll be instructing them on how to catch bass with a popper.
We all know that 2020 was a heck of a year that many of us would like to forget. With a worldwide pandemic, a crazy political election, violence in our streets, and yes, a record number of named tropical storms, it would be easy to say, “let’s flush 2020 down the toilet.” However, those of you that know me know that I very seldom focus on negative things that bring us down and I want this last post of 2020 to be a “2020…In your face” kind of post. Just a warning…it’s going to be long 🙂
So 2020 started off with the one year birthday in January of my grandson, Benson. This little boy is a riot! He loves the outdoors, he loves cleaning and blowing leaves. I can’t wait for him to be big enough to get in a kayak with his Poppy.
As the pandemic slowly made its way to the United States, my family took time to get out and do some things before the country shut down. We enjoyed Mardi Gras in Thibodaux
Hosted an engagement party for my son and his fiancé.
And Nanna was able to get out to DisneyWorld with our granddaughter before it closed down.
We enjoyed social distancing meals in our front yard, and my siblings discovered Zoom meetings.
My grandchildren kept growing and we looked forward to FaceTime meetings and pictures sent from my daughter. In October, my son married the love of his life and we are enjoying our daughter-in-law.
Well, this is my fishing blog…so let’s get to the fishing!!
The fishing year-in-review actually begins on New Year’s Eve with a trip I made with Chuck, “Snakedoctor,” to the Pearl River area where we caught some small white bass on flies.
The bass fishing in early January was surprisingly good in the neighborhood lake.
The fishing really heated up for me in March when our school went on lockdown. My idea of social distancing was in a kayak, far from anyone who would give me the virus. Also, by handling fresh fish, I figured I was strengthening my immune system 🙂
I was able to spend a lot of time on my vise and I tried to get more creative with my flies. All our conclaves got cancelled but I still got to do some deer work.
I started celebrating some of my local high school, college, and major league baseball teams too.
I also began thinking more about “matching the hatch” on what the fish were eating around here. I came up with the musicdoc shad, a streamer to try to match the shad the bass feed on in my local neighborhood lake.
I also tied a variation of a shrimp/charlie pattern that I hoped would get the sheepshead and redfish’s attention.
I think I’m most proud of this recent fly, which uses duck flank feathers to imitate the scales on a sheepshead minnow that I call the Musicdoc Butterbean.
So, you can see that 2020 was actually a good year. I am thankful for my health, my family, and the great resources we have in Louisiana that help to relieve the stresses that the year brought us. I look forward to what the coming year will bring in sportsman’s paradise and I look forward to being able to document and share it with those who are willing to read my blog. Happy New Year!
God has blessed us with so much, it’s sometimes easy to take the small things for granted. After school today, I had one of my high school fly fishing club meetings. We talked about purchasing a new combo and those who had combos, brought them to practice our casting. When I dismissed everyone I had an itching to get on some water so I slipped my “yellow submarine” into our neighborhood lake for some quiet time. Who says we don’t have fall colors in Louisiana?
About five minutes after I snapped that picture, I received a Facetime call from my wife and my two grandchildren (ages 3-and 3/4 and a 1 and 3/4). She had taken a surprise trip to Houston to see them. I proceeded to paddle to a spot where I know I can catch a few bream and nearly call my shots, so I had to show off in front of them. I was able to catch three small but beautiful bream with my phone in one hand and my fly rod in the other. It was awesome to hear them shout, Poppie! Poppie!
After I hung up with them, it was time to look for something that would put a good bend in my fly rod. I haven’t fished in my yellow submarine (Wilderness System Tarpon 120) in a while and I forgot just how effortlessly it glides through the water…almost too easily because as I cast and began stripping line, the kayak would still be moving and that cost me my first big bass. I wasn’t able to get a good hook set in it and it easily spit my fly out after a very short fight.
15 minutes later, I was in a similar situation but this time I had no slack in my line and I sent the hook home…or so I thought. This one broke my tippet. You can imagine my frustration with having lost two fish back-to-back. I was getting ready to tie on another deer hair popper when I spied my old one floating on the water. I retrieved it to see that the fish had broke it right above my loop knot. The know wasn’t the problem 🙂 I tied it back on and fifteen minutes later, I landed my first bass of the evening.
I took a quick picture, released it and a few casts later, I landed another one that was just a bit larger.
It’s always cool when you catch one while another fisherman is staring at you from the bank. Anyway, I had had enough for one evening. I did have some work to do at home. Before I go though, I wanted to post a closeup of that fly of the evening. In this photo, you can see the details and intricacies that go into these Deer-hair bugs. Notice the wispy marabou feathers in the tail section and the subtle flash. I think I’ll fish this pattern again very soon.
With that first blast of cooler air…well in South Louisiana, cooler means lows in the upper 50s, the water temperatures start to fall and that means the fish can remain in the shallows a little longer. During the summer, when I fished my local neighborhood lakes, most of the hits I received on flies were within the first half hour of sunrise. Now, I can actually count on getting action for a couple hours before things slow down. Another bonus is, I can expect to get on the water at 6:30 instead of 5:30 so I can get a bit more sleep 🙂
I slipped my kayak into the lake at around 6:30 and I enjoyed a beautiful awakening of wood ducks, Canada geese, a playful nutria, great white egrets, and hungry kingfishers. Oh, did I mention that the big bass were hungry too? I tied on a small dalhberg diver and I picked up my first bass with 5 minutes of being on the water. It was small but it was a start.
I kind of thought to myself, “Maybe it’s only going to be small fish today. I’ll take it because it was such a beautiful morning to be out on the water.” Then, I had a huge blowup and missed fish. I tell students in my fly fishing club that one of advantages of fishing with a fly rod is the speed at which I can get my fly back into the strike zone after a miss. I lifted my fly out the water and I was back in the “zone” within seconds. A couple of strips and this time my hook found home. I could tell this one wasn’t a little one and after a few minutes of back and forth, I was able to land this nice fish.
The morning continued with action right up against the bank.
Around 8:30, I decided to see if the bream would bite and I managed a few small ones at first,
And then I hooked this pretty red-ear.
What a great way to spend a couple hours in the neighborhood lake. I’m already looking forward to next weekend.
It seems our summers keep getting hotter and wetter. This summer has been no exception. With the start of another school year, and an unsettled one at that, I’ve been trying to get some quick fishing in before the day gets too hot or too wet. That means getting out at first light and coming in by about 8:30 or so. I was able to sneak out to my favorite little farm pond and catch a few bream and 5 chunky bass; 3 of which were over 15 inches long. One of my deer hair frog poppers was the fly of choice on this morning and the bass loved it. My hookup ratio was good (I only missed a couple strikes) and I managed this one.
Another 15 inch one
And this chunky 19 inch fish (estimated at 3.5 lbs)
But that doesn’t mean I can’t have some bream fun with my3 wt. While riding my bike in the neighborhood for exercise, I noticed some chunky bream holding by a bridge I had to cross. I went home and caught some of the smaller ones on a little attractor fly I tied.
While it doesn’t change the fact that it’s extremely hot outside, it does take my mind off the heat, COVID-19, and other things that are stressing everyone else out. So until we get some cooler weather in October, I’ll keep taking advantage of the wonderful fishing in the neighborhood ponds.