School is Almost Out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In-creasing your odds

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

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

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

Materials list:

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

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

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

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

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

Putting the “Fat” into Fat Tuesday, part 1

Each year, I make one or two trips to central Louisiana to fish with my buddy, Glen “Catch” Cormier. I met Catch around 13 years ago when he showed up after band practice to pick up his daughter and I noticed two kayaks strapped to the top of his vehicle. I asked him, “What do you plan to do with those?” He replied, “I fish out of them.” I asked “Where?” His reply has stuck with me to this day, “Anywhere I can.” Not long after that, I sold my bay boat and purchased my first kayak. The rest is history.

Anyway, we made plans for me to visit during my Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) break from school and do some fishing. First of all, the area where Catch lives now is in the Kisatchie National Forest area, the only National Forest in Louisiana. It is a somewhat hilly area (remember, I’m from flat, swampy South Louisiana) with several great fishing lakes and reservoirs all within a 15-30 minute car ride. So when I drive up there, there are always many options for us to choose from to do our fishing. We planned to do some bass fishing so I could A) test out some of my crease flies on some CENLA bass and B) catch a bass worthy of being entered into Massey’s Catch, Photo, and Release tournament that goes on all year for members of the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club. Monday, know down here as Lundi Gras, we planned to fish Lake Valentine.IMG_0700.JPG
My view from the top of the lake.

The morning started off cloudy and very overcast with very little wind. Except for a couple of bank fishermen, we had the whole lake to ourselves all day. I began fishing with my crease fly popper and Catch was using a frog popper. We noticed the water was crystal clear, so we would definitely have to proceed stealthily. My first blowup was exactly that. A huge fish gulped my popper and proceeded to bury itself into the thick vegetation. I ended up with ten pounds of salad and no fish 😦

Meanwhile, Catch started doing his thing. They don’t call him “Catch” for nothing. He promptly started landing some pretty nice bass and he caught one that was 16 and a half inches that was going to bump him up in first place in the CPR tournament. GOPR3522.jpg

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I promptly hung a pig of a bass, set the hook too hard, and watched in utter frustration as it snapped my tippet.

I was using a large popper (I’m thinking larger fly = larger fish) while Glen was using a tiny frog popper. His choice for poppers was an easy one for a guy who fishes these lakes all year long and knows about the large populations of frogs in the estuary. So, I tied on a small popper. I immediately started catching bream, which was fun, but it was not my target species so I put the crease fly back on. Then I started catching a few fish. I caught a small 8-inch bass, then a 12-inch little chunk of a fish. Then, things stated picking up for me as we found some fish hiding in heavy grass around dormant lotus (huge water lilies). You can see the stickups in the background in this picture. GOPR3525.JPG

You can also see in that picture just how calm the wind was. The water was absolutely gorgeous and flat. So you can guess how much racket a big bass can make as it explodes in fury over a bass popper. That’s what happened on my next fish. Right away, I knew I had a quality fish and Glen began paddle over to get some pictures. I landed one heck of a bass (my largest of the year) and it was in public water! Hey, now I have a bass to enter into the CPR tournament. GOPR3529.jpg

She was just a tad bit over 16.75 inches and I think (we will have to see pictures of Catch’s fish on the ruler) she will bump him down for the time being 🙂

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How cool will it be if the first and second place fly-rod bass were caught on the same morning from the same lake? Honestly, there’s a lot more time left until the tournament is over but it’s nice to get a bass entered. Even though I caught over 150 bass last year, I wasn’t able to enter any fish into the tournament because nearly all of them were caught in private water. The one good fish I could have entered I wasn’t able to get a picture of. The good news was, this fat girl was full of eggs and was released to go do her thing. 🙂

Of course,  Catch wasn’t through for the morning. He changed tactics and caught several sacalait (crappie), including this pretty fish.GOPR3539.jpg

So much for our day in Lake Valentine. Our tally was 7 bass each and four sacalait for Catch.

I love field-testing :)

I’m heading out to CENLA in the morning to do some fishing with my good friend, Catch Cormier, and I will be demonstrating how to tie a couple of my more productive fresh-water flies Monday evening. Everyone knows there are two types of lures (flies)…those that catch the fisherman and those that catch fish. I was thinking I had better do some field testing of my flies so the guys in the fly-fishing club will know that I like to tie flies that catch fish. I tried my local neighborhood lake yesterday afternoon but I only caught a couple of bream. So, I decided I needed a change of scenery.

I got permission from a friend of mine to fish his neighborhood pond/lake and did some field-testing this morning. A dry cold front blew in overnight and the morning was a beautiful, but chilly one (started out in the mid 50’s). Right off the bat, I thought I was going to have trouble because I left my anchor home and the wind was blowing. I fished for about 15 minutes without getting a strike and when I did get my first strike, the fish took my fly with it as it broke my tippet. I retied and 15 minutes later, I landed this chunky 3-pound fish. buxiVznhRF62vXtvcLhN5Q_thumb_6e76.jpg

This went on for a while and I ended up landing 9 over the next hour and a half.M5XwLZctTdaWzWAoID0kew_thumb_6e78.jpg

I think my fly proved to be fish-worthy because I even caught one of these on that popper.TkE4XUZ6RFOYkvVK4qMl6w_thumb_6e77.jpg

It’s exciting to be able to catch quality fish on flies I tie myself. It’s even more exciting to be recognized by others in the sport who think enough of my flies to have me demonstrate at their club meetings. I’m hoping those guys in CENLA have as much fun catching fish on these as I do.Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 9.28.15 PM.jpg

 

Getting on the Water in 2017

I’ve been “chomping at the bit” to get on the water in 2017 and I finally have been able to put together a couple of outings. First of all, I was able to sneak out on my neighborhood lakes to test things out. I found a few of these hungry gobules.img_0588-2

And even a few of these:

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I visited a friend’s pond and caught 14 small bass (mostly 10-inch fish) and about 2 dozen bream over 7 inches. I didn’t get any pictures of the bream but I’ll be back there to harvest a few for a fish fry in the future.

The big outing came this past weekend when I joined a friend of mine and fished the marshes of Cocodrie. We had to work hard for our fish because the wind blew and the tide was very low. Once the tide started to rise the water got very dirty. I managed on a 16.5 inch redfish and one nice trout (the same size) on flies. My buddy caught about 4 trout, two nice upper-slot redfish and a fat flounder on plastics.

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My first decent speckled trout of the year!

I’m looking forward to trying to put some sacalait fillets in my freezer in the near future. In the meantime, I’ll be tying some flies and posting pictures.

Happy New Year!

Happy 2017 to you. The end of 2017 went out with a bang as I became a proud grandpa. Hudson Victoria was born December 22. She’s already working on her “Heisman” pose.

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I can’t wait until I can get that cutie in a kayak!

Anyway, this is a fishing blog so I’ve got to get to the fishing. 🙂

I’ve been kind of land locked since Thanksgiving. I did manage a couple of nice bass in the lakes by my daughter’s house in Texas between Christmas and New Year’s. I haven’t been able to time my days off with the good weather. I have, however, been able to sneak out for a couple morning and afternoon trips to my neighborhood lake to try a few new flies that I’ve tied. The bream have been cooperating. In fact, I kept a couple that were over 8.5 inches this afternoon to put in a frying skillet. These guys were caught on a fluff butt on my 3 wt. Lots of fun! I actually caught 2 dozen or more in an hour and a half. IMG_0588.jpg

I also managed to land two chunky bass too. IMG_0587.JPG

The water has been warm and these guys fought hard.

I have plans to put some fly tying tutorials on my blog in 2017, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, I haven’t decided if I’m going to try to do my species challenge this year or just keep up with my numbers of bass, speckled trout, and redfish caught liked I’ve done for the past two years. Let me know in the comments below what you think. Here are some of what I’ve been tying the past few months.crease flies.JPGThese crease flies (poppers) were killer on the bass last year. I probably caught around 100 on these alone. IMG_3200.JPGThe next deadly fly for bass was my frog popper. I also tried one of those double barrel flies.IMG_0589.JPG
Here, I’ve tied a couple versions of the now infamous mop flies.IMG_0592.JPGIMG_0594.JPG

And a few round dinnys. IMG_3060.jpg

I’ve also been playing around with a few of these: (Looper Spineless Minnow) and I’m trying my hand at deer-hair poppers. I’ll post a few pictures of those when I finally get something that looks presentable 🙂

 

The Great Flood of 2016

I haven’t been able to post anything here because I haven’t been fishing. Well, I did make one trip to my favorite private pond but the fishing was slow (only two largemouth bass and two nice hybrid stripers). That same day, I planned on making a float trip with a good fishing buddy of mine up the Amite River. When we got to our “take out” point, we noticed that the water was a bit high and dirty, so we did a walk in trip nearby. The fish did not cooperate so we called it a day, ate a sandwich, and drank a couple of good brews. Little did I know what would come the following week. The following is typed up from some notes I jotted down in a notebook during this past week:

It’s been 6 days since we got the message on the radio that school had been cancelled due to the eminent threat of flooding in our area. That was Friday. My initial thought was that this would last a day, people who lived in flood prone areas would flood, and then that would be it. The world would just go on as normal on Monday. I took the time Friday morning to get caught up on my school paperwork. I completed 2 weeks of lesson plans and I even created an online “homework” assignment so we could claim that day as a full day.
Later that night, I received a frantic call from my cousin’s husband asking for help to put his furniture up on cinder blocks. My wife and I promised to go over there Saturday morning to help them. During the day, I learned that my 26-year-old son had spend the day rescuing people stranded by rising waters with his shallow drive boat, a boat that is built for this kind of work but is still treacherous in the raging waters and current of a flash flood. Nothing could make me prouder! I personally spent time rescuing people with a friend on mine on Sunday.
The media calls this the Great Flood of 2016. I imagine tens of thousands have lost everything (I later learned that an estimated 110,000 homes had been flooded). My emotions have run the gamut, from guilt (we didn’t experience flooding in my house), fear, anxiety, and sadness. I just can’t list all the emotions I’ve felt. The main good thing I guess is…I continue to feel. I feel for those who had to swim out with their children on their back. I feel for those who did not have flood insurance. I feel for those who have lost everything…house, vehicles, and businesses. I feel for those who will have to bury loved ones.
Monday, after the flood waters began to recede, I helped ferry people back to their destroyed homes to survey the damage. That was difficult too. I had to watch proud fathers cry when they first saw the damage. I watched mothers sob when they realized they had lost one-of-a-kind family photos. Photos of deceased family. Photos of a deceased first-born child. I’ve seen panic attacks and more! I’ve had to try to console people and tell them that their “things” can be replaced and that the lives of their loved ones are all that matters. Stupid me! They know that!! I just don’t know what to say!
For 5 days in a row, I helped lead a team of faculty members into the homes of our dear friends, family, students, and colleagues. We gutted 11 homes in five days!   I am exhausted. When I ask God why was my family spared? I hear “I’m just granting you the answer to the prayer you pray multiple times each day. I pray, God help me to use the gifts you’ve given me to the best of my ability. My son is pulling people out of harms way, some of whom would not have survived had he not been there. My wife is working night shifts to help manage the disaster from the state level.
And through it all, I do what I pray. I use my God-given gifts to the best of my ability. I plow on through achy bones, joints, and extreme fatigue. The most difficult part for me has been my inability to help people. While I’m working to rid one house of soaked flooring and drywall (what an oxymoron right now), I get phone messages and emails with names and addresses of others seeking help. One of the things that has gotten me through this is humor. My colleagues and I have continually ribbed each other and joked around through this. I laugh to get me through the day and I cry for ten minutes in the shower at the end of the day.
As I talk to God about this, I have tried to get quiet and listen. What I hear is Him telling me to keep going. I really think my family was spared from this thing because God knew we could help so many. It doesn’t, however, mean that just because our home didn’t flood, we still aren’t traumatized.
So to my friends and family members whom I’ve seemed to ignore these past few days, who’s group text messages have aggravated me to the point where I seemed disrespectful, I say that I do love you with every fiber of my heart. If I sound tired, I am. If I sound overwhelmed, I am. If I sound frustrated and cross, I am. It doesn’t mean I love you any less. I do know that I will get up early tomorrow and do it again because there are people that need me.