I had the privilege to fish the “Fishin’ for the Mission” again this year with my good friend and legend fly fisherman, Glen “Catch” Cormier. Mission Six is a nonprofit that supports veterans and first responders and lets them know we’ve got “their six.” They take vets out on the water to do some kayak fishing and then they get together to do some fellowship. All this provides therapy they all need. I was honored to be able to fish this tournament, which by the way, is the largest salt water fly fishing only tournament in Louisiana. The format is pretty simple. Teams of two (can be kayakers or motor boats) weigh their two heaviest slot redfish (between 16 and 27 inches). Last year, Catch and I won the tournament, beating out all kayakers and the big boats so there was some trash talk going on among some of the participants prior to this year’s event.
I was able to do some pre-fishing this year so I headed out (a little later that most fishermen would expect) on Saturday to see if I could spot some fish. The weather was forecast to be sunny with winds at 5-10 mph, perfect for sight-fishing! I launched at Eddies (Pointe aux Chenes) kayak marina. His setup is awesome! Fishermen are able to back their vehicle right up to the dock and slide their kayak out on the PVC pipe. The kayak slides surprisingly easy on it and then it’s just a matter of sliding the rig out in the little floating docks. You can see from the picture that I was set up with my new Orion ice chest (more on that later). I paddled out past the statue that overlooks the marina and headed to to some the same spots where I caught the tournament winning fish last year.
I love the statue of Jesus overlooking all us boaters!
Anyway, the water was low and the visibility wasn’t prime. I guess it’s because the tournament was in June last year and we fished it nearly two months earlier this year. Add to that, Eddie, at the kayak launch said that this winter saw a fish kill and the fishing hasn’t recovered yet. In spite of that, I was able to spot my first fish…uh, well, spook my first redfish, within five minutes of poling through the marsh so I was optimistic that I could put some fish in the boat. About an hour and a half later, I caught a nice redfish on my goto fly, the gold spoon fly. He was 23 inches but he was also quite lean. I knew that I would have to do better than that to win or even place in this year’s tournament, because the weather conditions were going to favor anyone who could sight fish. I caught a couple more pretty fish but nothing that I would consider to be a “money fish.”
The “Debbie Downer” of the day…poor Debbie; why did they choose her name? 🙂 was when I realized I had lost my landing net. I was push-poling my way down an opening in the march when I saw a net; my net floating by a nearby grassy island. The wind had picked up by now and I assumed that it got lodged out of my rod holder behind my new ice chest and I never heard it hit the water. Good thing it floats. Right? Well, I retrieve it and went to put it back in the rod holder in the back of my ice chest. Notice where the rod holders are. I had to reach way back behind me to adjust the rod holder. When I did that, I stuck my head a bit too far over the edge of the kayak and splash. I hit the water! I quickly sunk in the soft Point aux Chenes muck and proceeded to lose my shoes somewhere three feet below the “marsh bottom.” The ice chest fell out of the kayak and my immediate reaction was, “Oh no! Not my expensive fly rod!” I was fortunate that nothing was broken. So I stood in the water and put everything back in the kayak before I climbed back in. Well as soon as I tried to climb back in, the top heavy ice chest (that wasn’t latched to the kayak) fell out of the kayak a second time and of course, I lost my balance again and I ended up in the marsh water a second time. This time, I actually stepped on my landing net and sunk IT into the muck. I was extremely tired and weak after this second attempt to re-enter my kayak. It would take me two more attempts before I was able to get myself, all my rods, my box of flies, and my ice chest back on board. I ended up walking the kayak to some marsh grass and I stuck the bow of the yak into some grass to stabilize it.
I was exhausted so I called it a day. I figured I paddled 5 miles or so and I needed food, hydration, and rest. Sunday would be a different day.
I arrived at 5:30 AM for the captain’s meeting. I guess we ended up launching around 6 AM and were greeted to a splendid sunrise with calm winds. I followed Catch out to a spot he had scouted that had a lot of grass and clear water. We began the morning with poppers. I haven’t caught a redfish on a popper in years. I’ve had a few blowups but I’ve not been successful in landing one. Sunday would not be a day to break my popper drought. I did have one nice redfish rise up from the grass and raise its back out of the water to stare, eye-to-eye with my popper. I don’t know how to explain it…weird, fun, heartbreaking, exhilarating…words cannot describe it. Well after a couple seconds of staring at my popper, I decided that if I made it MOVE, the redfish would think it was alive and would try to eat it. Boy, was I wrong! It spooked and high-tailed it out of there. The good news was, I saw Catch and he said he had missed four on a popper and had just landed a keeper slot fish on a spoon fly.
I decided to work some of the area I had scouted the day before. 9 o’clock came by. Still no fish. 10 o’clock…still no fish. Now I was seeing fish, only they were extremely spooky and even those I had managed to cast to didn’t want anything to do with a spoon fly, a popper, or anything else I tried to get them to eat. 11 o’clock…still nothing. There was so much baitfish (mullet) in the area, it was hard to tell if the splashing sounds I was hearing was mullet or redfish. I heard one particularly loud splash and when I investigated, I saw a very large, upper slot redfish slowly chasing bait over a grass bed. The good news was, it was moving away from me so I had a chance of not spooking it. I crept up ever so slowly to it and put a couple casts in its vicinity. It too, didn’t want anything to do with my spoon fly. I was relentless. I put the fly about 12 inches out in front of it and this time it pounced. I set the hook home and hung on. Immediately, the fish took off like a bat out of hell, getting me down almost to my backing. I started to gain on the fish and I was thinking…MONEY FISH!! Then, it spit the hook back at me. With the luck I was having that day, I can tell you I really wasn’t really surprised.
Anyway, about an hour later, I did manage to land my only redfish of the day.
It was about 21 inches and I knew I had to do better. After a quick call to Catch, who had already landed 6, I decided to try to find him. Come to find out, he was deep in the marsh but he found some clean water and there were plenty redfish in it! I did manage to spook a bunch more fish and even hook into another upper slot redfish but I lost it too. At 2 o’clock, I decided to call it a day. I knew Catch had caught a dozen redfish and had kept his four largest, which were larger than mine. Oh, and did I mention that I left all my water and Gatorade IN THE TRUCK!! I decided to start sucking on ice chips in my ice chest. I know, you’re thinking NOT THE FISH ICE. No, I kept the fish on a stringer until I decided to paddle back.
I got back to the landing, chugged two 32 oz. bottles of Gatorade and looked for Catch. He wasn’t in yet. It was 2:35 and the scales closed at 3. I called him and he said, “Oh no. I’m lost. What time is it?” Good thing he found his way back. We were about to send a few guys out to find him. AND he got back at 2:58. He had our two largest fish so I let him do the honors. His two largest fish earned us a third place finish overall. In fact, his big fish weighed over 8 pounds! We won some cash (I don’t know how much because we donated it back to Mission Six again this year) and we each got a fifth of Tito’s Vodka. We kept the vodka 🙂
I know this is a long read, but it was fun. I hope it makes you feel like you were there with me. Here are a couple pictures to close out this entry. I have to say that it’s an honor to fish this tournament. I do NOT fish tournaments (except for the BCKFC Fish Pics year-long tournament), but I will fish this one again next year. The people are great and it’s great to see the faces of the veterans who made the trip down there. We are so very grateful for their service and their sacrifice. It’s an honor to fish with them and to hang out with them for an afternoon. I hope to be able to spend time on the water with some of them in the future.