Covid thoughts (how I’m dealing with the stress)

This challenging time in our lives has got a lot of people battling depression. Some people are actually fighting the virus itself, some have family and friends battling the disease, and some are manning the front lines of the battle and will suffer from PTSD for some time afterward. On the other hand, some of us are fortunate to be able to work from home. Some people think I’m just enjoying a staycation. Nothing could be further than the truth. For a music educator whose classes are predominantly performance based, I’ve been scrambling to create online lessons that are engaging and are rigorous. My wife has noted on several occasions that she has never seen me work as hard as I have these past two weeks. At the tender age of 60, I’m actually in a high risk group (I’m older and I suffer from asthma). I tell my students that every morning you wake up, you have a choice to make. You can either be the person who whines and complains about your situation or you can be the person who makes the most of your situation. Either way, I think everyone needs to be able to deal with stress. Stress is a part of every person’s life. How we deal with stress makes all the difference in the world. I am fortunate to have a hobby…fly fishing.

Those of you who know me well, know that I work very hard, but I play hard too. So, I have had to make time for myself. Case in point…last Wednesday I received a call from a colleague of mine, our basketball coach, that he wanted to do some fishing and he wanted a change of scenery. I offered him a chance to join me for a couple hours one afternoon after we were through with online classes. I knew the bass would want to play but I’ve been intrigued by the sacalait (crappie) that I know good and well are in our lake but I haven’t “found them” yet. Well, about 10 minutes into our trip, my buddy yells out to me, “Hey, Doc. Are you keeping sacalait?”  I immediately stuck my paddle in the water and high-tailed it over to where he was. I knew there was a sunken tree in the bottom there so I started tossing a chartreuse and black fluff butt in the area. Five minutes later, I was bringing a chunky little 10 inch one in my kayak. I put on a VOSI (vertical oriented strike indicator) to keep me from hanging up on the tree and I caught 23 more. Most were around the 6 – 7 inch range (not my keeping size) but I was able to put together a stringer of 9 for our Friday fish fry. IMG_1113.jpeg

I went back the next morning and I counted 40! Again, I only keep the nice ones and I had a few that fit that requirement. IMG_1116.jpeg

Saturday morning, I got an invite to join a couple of my “band parents” and their son at our favorite lake for some bass fishing. Their son is in my high school fly fishing club and I decided to go and help him (from a 6-foot distance) with his casting, etc. While I wasn’t able to get him to catch a fish, I ended up catching and releasing nine chunky bass of my own.

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That last one was full of eggs and she weighed 2.8 lbs.IMG_1120.jpeg

So, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday all pass and all I can do is school work and house work. My Wednesday was going to start out slow with nothing to do until 9 AM, so I got up and carted my kayak on over to the neighborhood lake at 6:30. I figured I could fish for an hour and a half before I would head home, shower, and make my 9 AM class. When I got out there I began hearing crashes on the bank. It was the telltale sound of bass chasing shad. The shad spawn is beginning and the bass know it. I was able to land two and lose one in the first 15 minutes or so. Slowly my interest changed and I switched to my fluff butt rod. After about 10 minutes or so, I put my first sacalait on my stringer. The bite slowly began to pick up and by 8 AM I had landed 24. I had a heck of a stringer of big ones (I only kept 9), with four of them going at or above a pound and three-quarters. So, this Friday, we will fry fish and I’ll have some to pass over the fence to my neighbor (social distancing) too. GOPR0365.jpegGOPR0367.jpeg

I realized after taking the picture that I was wearing that shirt. “Poppy,” as some of us called him, was my favorite Irish priest, Fr. Michael Collins, who passed from this world and is now with our Heavenly Father. While Fr. Mike wasn’t a fisherman, I’m sure he was with me and I was feeling the luck of the Irish that morning.

While so many are suffering around this world right now, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed on me and my family. I am especially thankful for the gift of life and my health…and the gift of being able to blow off steam by taking a five minute walk to a quality fishing hole.

Fall is my favorite time of year!

Most people who follow my blog or my Youtube channel know that my favorite time for fishing the marsh is the fall. It’s a time when the speckled trout migrate north inside our bays, bayous, and canals and redfish get real…well…stupid. They are like a love-sick, doe-chasing bucks, only they are on a ravenous eating frenzy and they gorge themselves with reckless abandon. This all means that even a novice like myself can catch fish. 🙂 Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work. My first two trips down to the coast this fall have been anything but easy. I had to fight stronger-than-predicted winds and high water with not-so-good visibility. I did manage to catch a few keeper speckled trout but the sight-fishing for redfish just never did emerge.

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I was able to catch a few descent sized trout during my first two trips.

Yesterday, I decided to make a quick trip down to one of my favorite spots down LA 1 in search of some redfish. The weather was predicted to be sunny all day with a 5-10 mph wind, but mostly on the 5 mph side. I made an early pit stop and picked up four keeper-sized trout. By 8:30, I was anxious to get down to my happy place…a place where a guy can push pole through the marsh looking for signs of the “spot-tailed Elvis,” like a good buddy of mine calls it. Whereas my last trip down south I only saw two redfish all day, I saw about a dozen in my first 15 minutes. Of course the winds were blowing closer to 10 mph and I wasn’t able to get a descent cast to any of them but my luck would change soon after. I was able to get a cast off to a redfish I hadn’t spooked and I watched him eat my “purple assault.” So, within a half hour of getting on the water, I had hooked my first fish. Well, after a short fight, it spit the hook.

So, it’s redfish 1, Doc zero. I push poled my way through some winding ditches and came across another of my “money holes.” I made another perfect cast to an unwary fish and bam, fish on. Only it broke my tippet within 10 seconds. Redfish 2, Doc zero! There were more redfish in the area that had followed the first fish and I noticed I was visibly shaking as I tried to find and tie on another fly. I was out of purple assaults, so I tied a tan colored variant of my purple assault. 20 minutes later, I was easing my first redfish into my landing net.

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I continued to fish the broken marsh, which by now seemed to be disappearing out from under my kayak. The north wind, plus the outgoing tide made for some really “skinny” water. This actually was in my favor, as I was able to spot many dark shadows moving in the shallows. Sometimes I was able to get a fly in front of one. Sometime they would ignore my offering. In fact, I don’t remember seeing so many fish simply ignore my flies. I did manage to get some more to eat though. I had two fish take me into my backing. One of those broke me off (I had three fish break my tippet). I finally replaced my tippet with some fresh line and I think that made a difference because I didn’t loose another fly all day. The other fish that took me into my backing was just a little over 28 inches…my first baby bull on the fly rod this year. I was determined not to loose that one and it took me 15 minutes to get it landed. IMG_0680.jpg

Over all, I was able to land 6 redfish, despite finicky fish, steady 10 mph winds, and very low water. I eagerly await the chance to get back out there and try it again.

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Photo fail! 🙂 My go pro snapped this picture right after the redfish wiggled its way off my fish grips.

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Haha. Now that’s the way to pose for the camera 🙂

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By the way, if you look closely at the bellies of the last two fish, you will notice that their stomachs were full. I did keep three fish for the grill and all three were FULL of crabs, baitfish, and one had about a 10 inch mullet in its stomach. I think they are feeding heavily and preparing for the coming winter. I fished a purple assault, a tan assault, a tan Lafleur’s Charlie, a Coma Cacahoe (for the speckled trout), and a crab fly (that’s the one that caught the most fish, seen with the 28 inch red).

 

 

Summertime fun

Summertime fun

Each summer, I look forward to putting all those flies I tied during the rainy winter and spring to a field test. Last week, I spent a lovely week in Florida with my wife and we spent four days in St. Augustine. St. Augustine is the oldest city in America and it’s full of historical venues and a few newer “watering holes” to boot. We toured the Basilica, the Castillo de San Marcos, The Fountain of Youth, and more. Here are a couple pictures from that trip.IMG_3796.jpg

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Now before you exit my blog, let me get to the fishing report. As you see in the pictures, I wasn’t allowed to bring my fly rod, so I have to make up for it this week. 🙂

I took a quick look at the weather forecast and figured that my best opportunity would be Tuesday, because the wind, clouds, and rain were in the forecast for Wednesday through the weekend. AND…I start with one of my camps next week. I decided to revisit PAC (Pointe aux Chenes) and do a little sight fishing for sheepshead and redfish.

Since I planned on doing some sight fishing, I decided I didn’t need to get there at the crack of dawn so I left Baton Rouge for the 2 hour journey at 6 AM. I was on the water and fishing by 8:45. Now, I periodically get to fish with a fly fishing icon. Most people just call him “Catch” and that’s because he knows how to catch fish. He has been my fishing partner for the past three years in the Fly Fishing For the Mission Tournament. Anyway, at this year’s event he caught 6 or so sheepshead on the fly! So, I tied up a couple of the shrimp patterns he was using (a tan colored Lafleur’s Charlie) and made sure to tie one of my first rig. On the second, I put a crab pattern. GOPR0183.jpeg
You can see the three flies I used today on the pool noodle to my left.

Today’s conditions were good for sight fishing except, the water was extremely high and dirty. The fish were going to have to make a big mistake for me to see them in that water. I even went to my usual spots which have a lot of grass, thinking that the water would be cleaner there but it was just too high. I think the incoming tide was bringing dirty water from the shrimp boats. From about 9 AM until just before noon, I had the shrimp pattern and the crab pattern on. I was able to spot a few misguided redfish and sheepshead but they were 1) very spooky and 2) they just wouldn’t eat. I made several perfect presentations and watched as the fish followed the fly but something didn’t look right and they just would not eat. Finally, around noon, I figured I had better change tactics. I refuse to get skunked, so I tied on my  trusty spoon fly.

Right away, I spotted a trio of big sheepshead. Great! They hadn’t seen me. So I put a cast out to the left of the group…I didn’t want to put it right in the middle of them because I figured I would hit one of them in the butt and then they would all scatter. As luck would have it, one of them peeled off and took a look at the spoon. Come on…Eat it!!  Eat it!! Nope 😦

Of course, by now the wind had picked up to around 10 mph but I can deal with that as along as I can fish the lee side of the marsh. I spotted a pretty redfish but an errant cast that landed on its snout didn’t work out so good for either of us. Ahh, “there’s another one,” I thought to myself. Maybe I’m finally in a target-rich area. No sooner had I gotten those words out, the fish chased my spoon fly down and gobbled it up. After about a 5-minute or so battle, I landed my first fish of the day. It measured 21 inches and I let it go. GOPR0181.jpeg

After I released the fish I paddled back to my “target-rich” spot. I spied another redfish in the shallows and put one cast toward it. BAM, fish number two! It was a fun little fish but noticeably smaller (probably 17 or 18 inches).GOPR0182.jpeg

I went back to my spot but the “target” had moved on. About 15 minutes later, I was cruising a bank with the wind to my back, when I spotted two really nice sheepshead. I was able to put my push pole in the water and stop my kayak. I placed a couple really nice casts out to the fish but when it was looking like it was interested…BAM! A redfish swam in and smoked my fly! I fought this one for a while and was getting it close to the kayak when it took one more big run and spit the hook.

It was getting to be about 2 PM (my self designated time to start heading back in) when I saw a very large dark shadow. At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me but when it turned, I saw the telltale stripes on its side. Well, what do you know? I finally got a big sheepshead to eat my spoon fly! We engaged in a battle that lasted a couple of minutes. It too spit my hook back at me. That’s one of the things about sheepies. They have that mouth full of teeth. It’s hard to find a spot in there to get a hook in.

I know I say that any day on the water is a good day. It’s just some are better than others. Today was not one of those great days. The water clarity was poor, the water was high, and the wind picked up to make things even more challenging. The two fish I did land were beautiful. I’m going to have to rethink PAC for a while. I think my next trip south will be to Grand Isle. In the meantime, I may take a trip up north to try my luck at some big carp.  I’ll leave you all with a few closeups of these beautiful fish.

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Things are starting to warm up!

We have had one weird winter in south Louisiana. We must be the only place in America where you have to run your air conditioner during the day and your heater at night. It can be 83 degrees at 2 PM one day and 37 degrees with a 25 mph wind the next morning. And then, there’s the rain! I was looking forward to having the week off to do some fishing during my Mardi Gras break. The weather was cold, windy, and wet the entire week!

So, I’ve been filling my free time with getting some “honey do” projects done around the house and I finally found some time to get on the water this past Sunday. My plan was to head south and try to catch some trout and redfish. The weather was predicted to be sunny with a high around 75 degrees and winds from 5-10 mph. This is were I usually have to report that the weather man got it wrong again, but I have to say he was spot on this day. Well, the wind probably got up to about 12 or 13 mph at times but it was still fishable.

I met a buddy of mine around 5 AM and made the 2 hour trek to our spot. Plan A was to fish for trout. We arrived a little later than we had intended but I was just glad to be on the water and enjoy the beautiful sunrise. When we got to our spot we saw there were no fewer than 8 motor boats already around our spot. I picked up my first trout around 7:30 on a pink Charlie under a VOSI.GOPR0119.jpg
Right away, I thought we would get “into ’em” but that was the lone trout either of us caught that day. So, it was off to plan B to search for redfish in the shallows.

We poled off to some nearby broken marsh and began sight fishing the leeward sides of some small islands and duck ponds. I saw a good bit of redfish but honestly, they saw me before I could get my rod up to make a cast. I was spooking a lot of fish when I finally got one to slip up. My first redfish ate my gold spoon fly.GOPR0129.jpg
It was a nice 24-inch fish that I decided to harvest (I trade fish fillets for fresh farm eggs with a colleague of mine).

My morning continued about the same way. I lost a big one (weak hook set), another monster (set the hook too hard), and a third undersized fish before I was able to land this 27-inch beauty.GOPR0133.jpg
After releasing it back to the Louisiana marsh, I figured I had better try to find my buddy. I  caught up to him  about a half hour later and learned that he was having similar luck with his bait caster.  I was seeing more and more redfish so I was determined to get another one to my kayak. I was treated to one more beauty before we called it a morning.GOPR0139.jpg
These “Louisiana Pumpkins,” as we like to call them have a gorgeous bronze luster to them. Their big brown eyes are a sight to behold too.

It was good to be on the water with an old friend, witness a beautiful morning in the South Louisiana marsh, and have a redfish take me into my backing once again. I’m going to be unable to fish for a couple of weekends but after that I’m going to have to get down to the marsh again to get my fix of Louisiana Pumpkins.