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 🙂



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!

Putting the “Fat” into Fat Tuesday, part 2

Part two actually begins Monday evening Lundi Gras when Glen and I pulled up to a local restaurant, Tunks Cypress Inn, to drink a celebratory beer and chow down on some hot boiled crawfish. The placemats there have a map of Kincade Lake. We planned strategy as we ate and noted the weather report for Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) was calling for very high winds from the south. After hashing over it for a while, we decided to launch our kayaks in Kincade the next morning and target big chinquapin (red-ear sunfish) and sacalait (crappie). The hills and big camps on the lake should provide us a little relief from the high winds.

We began our morning by chunking small poppers in shallow water. Surprisingly, we caught lots of bream early on. I managed a couple chinquapin that were around the 8-inch mark and I decided to put some on a stringer to have a fish fry for Ash Wednesday. The morning was actually slow for me and I tried to keep close to Catch so we could communicate but I kept going back to this one spot where I caught a nice big fat bluegill, knowing there had to be some more there. At about 11:30, Catch whistled over to me and I saw that he was heading back to the launch. I figured he was tired of fighting the wind and he had had enough. I had five fish on a stringer, including a pretty nice sac alit that I caught on a hare’s ear nymph. When I got back to the launch site, Catch was excited and mumbled something about me staying there to watch his kayak while he went to buy ice. He said,”I found ’em, I left ’em biting, and I’ll be back with some ice.” I went over to take a peek in his fish bag and I was blown away by the huge bream (chinquapin) and sacalait he had in there.

Let me tell you something about Glen. People don’t just call him “Catch” for nothing. He has caught more fish on a fly-rod than any one else I’ve ever met. Now, I haven’t met Lefty Kreh yet, but Lefty is 92 and Glen is only…well, I won’t tell. 🙂 Catch tells me what fly he was using (a green fluff butt in a size 10). Naturally, I don’t have any of those but Catch gives me a couple and says he’ll be back shortly.

When he got back, we proceeded to head back into the wind to the little secluded finger lake, or protected cove and we started fishing where he had caught his earlier. I was stripping an olive colored fluff butt without a strike indicator when I got my first hit. It felt like a speckled trout bite and not like any bream I’ve ever caught. When I asked Catch why he wasn’t using a strike indicator, he said the fish wouldn’t hit it with the indicator on. He figured the water was too clear (we had about 5 feet of visibility) and the fish were spooked by the strike indicator. Once again, I had to sit there and watch Glen catch fish after fish, while I caught one or two every now and then. My luck soon improved and I was landing fish like this:GOPR3541.jpg

and even some like this:GOPR3542.JPG

We both remarked at how these strong fighting fish would actually pull our kayaks! We called it the Kisatchie Sleigh Ride. Not only did they pull us around, but they pulled us agains the wind too. It was a ton of fun on my five weight!

Meanwhile, Catch kept on with some more like thisIMG_0711.JPG

and even a monster crappie that measured 16.5 inches! (sorry, the picture was taken on his camera and I don’t currently have a picture of it)

When the day was over, we had iced down about 15 fat sacalait, about a dozen fat chinquapin and about another dozen fat bluegill. This is a large 48-quart ice chest. IMG_0725.JPG

My stringer looked like this. That’s minus the 5 I had put in the ice chest in the car before we left out for a second time. IMG_0714.jpg

My largest chinquapin was over 10 inches and was bigger than my hand. IMG_0722.jpg

And here are a couple of Fat Tuesday slabs:IMG_0719.JPG

This was definitely the most productive fishing I’ve done in the Kisatchie area with Glen. I’m already looking forward to another chance to not only fish these waters but to fish them with such a fun-loving, nice, gentleman, who has a zest for life and a passion for fishing like I do.

Spring Break Pond Hopping

Spring Break normally affords me several opportunities to get on the water. With a band trip to Disney schedule for the back half of the week, I made sure to get as much fishing in during the front part of my break as I could. I started with and after school/Good Friday trip to the lake behind a friend of mine’s house. The wind was a bit strong but I was determined to find some sacalait. I targeted the usual downed limbs and stumps and was able to land two nice ones on a fluff butt. FullSizeRender
On Good Friday, I was determined to catch a few more to fry for supper. I was able to catch one 14-inch sacalait and an 8 inch bream so Lisa and I had more fish than we really could eat. I caught and released dozens of small bream but wasn’t able to get one bass to play.

I woke up Easter Monday with the intention of trying to go down to Leeville for some speckled trout and redfish action. When I got up though, the wind was blowing just a little bit too hard for my taste, so I decided to hit the dam by my neighborhood lake to see if the bass wanted to play. After the heavy rains for Easter, there was a considerable waterfall by the dam. For about 20 minutes the bass action was crazy! It was like someone had thrown feed in the water. The “feed” was actually schools of tiny shad. I tied on a crease fly (Bill Laminack version) and was able to fool three hungry bass.

This one was about 19 inches and was pretty close to three pounds!

Later that morning, I found myself up to my ears in work for school but I put everything down, decided not to answer any more emails or texts from band parents, and I went to my cousin’s house to fish their neighborhood pond. That pond has been “money” for me during past spring breaks. It was a very slow afternoon of fishing, but I did manage three bass, one sacalait, and about a half dozen nice bream.


Shows pond bass

Tuesday morning, I decided to try a new fly that I had been working on. I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to “match the hatch” with these shad and I came up with this

I had a hungry bass eat my new creation on about my fourth cast! I then hooked and lost a really nice one. The bite wasn’t as fierce as Monday’s (the water was only at a slight trickle) and I ended up breaking my fly off on the concrete dam itself. No worries, because I had the rest of the morning to explore the upper lake to see if the chinquapin bite had started. They weren’t plentiful but the six I did keep for supper were chunks. Three were over 9 inches and three were 10 inches plus! With the predicted rain for tonight and tomorrow, my spring break fishing is over for 2016. Time to take my band to Disneyworld for competition! Hmmm, maybe I can bring my fly rod! 🙂

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Spent the morning with a good friend

Well, the weatherman heard my complaints and provided us with a simply fabulous morning. It felt like spring with a sun-filled sky that started off at about 45 degrees. Things quickly warmed up in the mid 50’s by the time I arrived a a good friend’s house with 18 shiners, an ultra light rod and reel, and my 3 wt.

For several years now, I’ve been telling my friend that he is sitting on a gold mine of a fishery, for in his back yard lies the best sacalait fishing per acre that I have ever fished! I usually fish there once a year during my spring break and I’ve caught some of the most beautiful slabs within a hundred yards of his back door!

Merriam-Webster gives this explanation of the word sacalait,  “Louisiana French sac-à-lait, by folk etymology (influence of French sac bag, French à to, for, and French lait milk) from Choctaw saki trout”) So the literal translation is bag of milk. This refers to the white fillets of these fish, which make it some of the best-eating fish in fresh water. The rest of the country just calls them crappie.

This morning, I set out to teach my buddy how to catch these fish on ultra-light tackle and on the fly rod. You know the old adage, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and…his wife can get rid of him for weekends at a time. 🙂  After about 45 minutes of explanation about flies, strike indicators, knots, hook sizes, depth, and many other things to consider (like is it too early to bring beer with us) we set out in his two-man $50 john boat. My plan was to find them with the live shiners and then catch them with flies. It should be easy enough. Right?

Well he goes and breaks the ice by catching one on a beetle spin. It was lots of fun on his little ultra-light and we estimated the fish to be about a 14-inch slab!  Meanwhile, I figured we had found them and I began chunking my fly rod and he puts another one in the boat on the beetle spin. I actually had a live shiner in the water while I fished with my fly rod and right about then, my cork disappeared. We had three nice slabs flapping on the bottom of the boat and no bucket, stringer, or anything to put them in. No problem, since we are still about 50 yards from his back door. After getting a stringer, we got back on them and I caught another one before he hooked some structure where we were catching them and the bite shut down. We paddled down about 20 yards from our initial honey hole and I started catching more on shiners. So, off with the beetle spin and on with a hook, lead split-shot, and a cork and my buddy was soon catching fish. Things slowed down a bit until we eased on over where that structure was and we put three more big ones on the stringer.

So the morning’s catch looked like this:FullSizeRender

13 nice slabs. By the way, I weighed the stringer and we had over 12 pounds of fish there! We enjoyed a beautiful morning on the water. The camaraderie was great and my friend was ecstatic that he now knows how to target those gamefish in his back yard. He and I plan on hitting some water south of Houma soon to target some more of these “bags of milk.” Stay tuned!

Spring Break, 2015

It’s been a very busy spring for me at work. I enjoy what I do, so I’m definitely not complaining, but it has limited my fishing this year. No worries, though, because I’m blessed to have friends who have fishable waters in their back yard who allow me to escape for an hour or two when I get the chance. These waters have been very productive this year and have given me lots of action on my fly rod!

I made a quick trip to my cousin’s this past Thursday and was able to land 13 bass (lost about 4 fiddling with my camera), and a nice stringer of 10 crappie (sacalait) and bream (chinquapin). This is my last “hold out” spot for sacalait and I usually am able to catch a few during the Easter break each year. The sacalait really weren’t in full swing yet but I did manage to boat 6 that will be visiting a skillet of hot grease very soon. All the bream and sacalait were caught on a black and chartreuse fluff butt under a VOSI. What was really surprising to me was the number of bass I caught on the fluff butt. Of the 13 bass I landed, I probably caught 10 of them on the fluff butt. The three others were caught on a fire tiger popper. These were also the largest bass (most over 14 inches) I’ve caught to date, with the largest measuring at 17 and-a-half inches. You’ve got to love the bass spawning season! I hope to get out again before my trip to Orlando next week.

Large Fish of the day
These will make a good fish fry soon!

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