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)

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A Chance to Even the Score

Last Saturday, I had the chance to fish with a buddy of mine and while he caught a lot of fish, I didn’t. I jokingly wrote…Redish 20, Doc 2 in my latest blog post. Catch Cormier told me later, “sounds like you had more blown chances than LSU did when they played Alabama.” Well that just didn’t sit right with me, so I was determined to get back out there and even the score up a bit.

My lovely wife decided to travel to Houston to visit my daughter, her husband, and my beautiful granddaughter without me and that left my Saturday free to either do some fishing, cut grass, rake leaves, or watch LSU beat up on Arkansas at 11 AM. Uhh…you can guess what I chose 🙂  The all important forecast called for sunny skies, which is perfect for sight fishing, but windy. Now, it looked like the wind would be stronger the further south I went. During the week, I texted Drew and asked his opinion, because he fished down there for three days, and he said the fish were thicker further down south. I figured that because of the warm fall we’ve had, the speckled trout haven’t moved as far inside the marsh yet. So my plan was to head further south than I had fished last weekend. On Saturday mornings, I listen to Don Dubuc’s radio show http://www.dontheoutdoorsguy.com for the day’s fishing reports from local guides around south Louisiana. They all complained about the wind and dirty water that the front had brought in. One even said he had cancelled his plans for the day (he flies a sea plane to the Chandelier Islands). Add to that, the coastal duck season opened that morning and I found myself in a pickle. I had already driven an hour from home and I could either turn around or keep going. A very wise person once said, and it’s been quoted by many fishermen, “You can’t catch fish while laying on your couch watching football!”  So I keep on driving south. I did, however alter my plan to fish closer to Grand Isle and hoped the wind wouldn’t be so strong  in Leeville.

After making my combat launch, I paddled a couple hundred yards and started throwing a pink Charlie under a VOSI. About the third cast into the morning I caught my first trout. Nice…but it was about 11 inches. I stayed in that spot for about 20 minutes and continued to catch trout but all were between 10-11 inches. GOPR3725.JPGGOPR3720.JPGI told myself that there were bigger fish out there so I headed out to a couple more trout spots I like to fish this time of year. I was able to catch trout at several locations, but they were all clones of each other. Now, catching is fun, so I continued to play around with the trout until I was sure the hunters were finished for the morning. Oh, and for those of you who may be concerned, I also planned on staying far away from their lease. I know they get pretty angry this time of year when people stray on their duck leases and disturb the birds. I lost count at around 26 trout and only about three of them touched the 12 inch mark, so I decided not to keep any trout unless I caught some around 14 inches or so.

Well, around 10:30 or so, I decided to head out in search of redfish. The wind had picked up considerably, but I figured I could find some leeward banks to do some sight fishing. The sun was in my favor but the wind and dirty water made things very tough. I didn’t even see my first redfish until probably 11:30 or so and I wasn’t even able to make a cast before it darted away. It wasn’t until about noon that I had my first redfish eat. I saw a descent sized slot redfish in a small pond but I lost sight of him when all the mullet and sheepshead started darting around and muddied the water even more. I was determined, so I put a couple casts where I figured it was and bam, I was hooked up. I learned my lessons from last week and didn’t try to horse it in too quickly. Five minutes later, I eased a nice 24-inche redfish into my landing net.

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I started seeing more redfish but because of the windy, muddy, conditions, I was doing more spooking and wouldn’t see a fish until it was only several feet from my kayak. At that point, I couldn’t get a cast off without spooking it. I even tried letting the wind take me away from the cruising fish but that didn’t work either. My second redfish was an upper slot fish that I saw cruising another little pond and I was in luck because it didn’t see me. I put a descent cast on it (remember the wind is now blowing 10-15 mph) and I got a textbook eat. I strip set the hook on it and thought, “boy I’m not going to have as many missed opportunities this week” Just then, the redfish decided to strip line out and head toward a very small cut in the back of the pond. I knew that would mean trouble so I tried to put some pressure on it to turn it and it broke my tippet. 😦  Upon inspection of my tippet, I saw that the line had become frayed. I probably should have inspected it after landing my last redfish. I noticed that the previous fish had nearly swallowed the fly and its gills and crushers had probably done a good job of fraying the line. The problem was, that was the last fly like that in my box. I tied it to try to mimic the fly that Drew had used last week. PB100001.JPG

I tied on a similar pattern but discarded it because it was too light and there was no casting it in the steady wind I was fishing. I ended with a fly version of the LSU chub, a purple and chartreuse fly with medium barbell eyes. It was a bit heavy for the shallow water I was fishing but I figured it was my best option. My next redfish was my biggest of the day at 26.5 inches. That would have been a great tournament fish.GOPR3730.jpgGOPR3731.JPG

I only keep tournament fish when I’m fishing a tournament and that one was released back in the water.GOPR3732.jpg

I did manage to catch another good-eating sized fish at 22 inches so this one got released into my ice chest. I have been trading fish fillets for fresh farm eggs with one of my colleagues at work. 🙂GOPR3735.JPG
THAT’S MY LSU CHUB IMITATION IN ITS MOUTH

I ended the day trying to see if the trout had grown since the morning but all I could find were a few more 11-inch fish. I called it a day after landing 3 redfish and 26 speckled trout. PB110005.jpg
I THINK THE EYES ON A REDFISH ARE ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFIUL
PB110003.JPGTHE SCALE PATTERN IS PRETTY NEAT TOO.

 

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 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.

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.

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.

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.