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 🙂



Bass are staging up.

I usually look forward to my Mardi Gras holiday break to do some fishing in central Louisiana (CENLA) with my good buddy, Catch Cormier. However, this year, with weather and family commitments, it looks like a trip to some of my favorite sacalait and big chinquapin waters won’t happen. Well, at least just yet.

So, I’ve been relegated to fishing around here in-between rain showers and more chilly weather. I was able to get out Friday after work for an hour and caught my first bass of the year. The temperature had warmed up and I had heard some reports of the bass starting to do their pre-spawn thing. Also, our neighborhood association reported that since the devastating flood a year ago, they were going to stock the lakes with bass and sacalait. I really wanted to see if I could catch any sacalait so I launched my kayak and had a rod loaded with a fluff butt under a strike indicator and another with a new fly that I tied called the Coma cacahoe. The Coma cacahoe is a pattern developed by Catch that is supposed to imitate some of the soft plastics that conventional guys use to catch speckled trout and redfish. The last time I saw Catch, he said that the bass were tearing that fly up too.

I caught a pretty nice chinquapin (9 inches) early on the fluff butt and I thought I might be able to catch a pretty nice stringer of those that afternoon for a fish fry. However, I was only able to catch one more over 8 inches so, I didn’t keep any fish. I did, however, test Catch’s theory that the bass liked the coma cacahoe and sure enough; I caught my first bass of the year on it. It measured 15 inches and I could almost bet it had eggs in it. IMG_2124.jpg
This was my first fish caught on the coma cacahoe.

I had about an hour-and-a-half window to fish the very next morning before a wedding gig, so I slipped out into the lake at sunrise. I was able to break the ice with my crease fly, but the fishing was pretty slow. GOPR3821.jpgThere were no signs of the afore mentioned sacalait stocking. They may be too small to catch right now anyway. Anyway, if the cormorants have their way, there may be no more juvinile sacalait left in the lake to grow to maturity.

Anyway, I’m looking to try a few old spots for sacalait and bass later this week so I should be able to post a few more reports on here.

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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!

One more trip before he gets married.

“This morning was just what I needed. I was determined to experience that “thrill.”  My adversary, the poisson rouge, is a very worthy opponent. This apex predator of the shallows feeds on shrimp, small crabs and unsuspecting baitfish in our vast Louisiana marsh. The “thrill” is to be able to push pole my way through the marsh among ducks, shorebirds, otters, and nutria while I look for signs of my adversary. Sometimes it’s as subtle as shrimp making a dash as they try to elude that king predator. Sometimes it’s just a dark shadow that looks out of place in the shallow water among the clumps of oysters. Other times, it’s being able to actually spot the pumpkin-colored mass of gills and scales before it spots me. To be able to sneak up on this predator without being noticed, cast a fly about the size of my fingernail to it, and then watch it turn and eat it is the “thrill” I seek. Nothing else in sport makes my heartbeat rush or causes my knees to shake like the moment I put that fly six inches in front of a redfish and watch him eat.” That was taken from a post from earlier this year…much earlier. In fact I caught 9 redfish that day down in Southeast Louisiana and I haven’t had a day like that in quite a while until today. I was able to hook up with my son’s best buddy, Austin, one last time before he gets married in December. In fact, he’s a lot like my own son. The difference lies here. My son likes to fish, but he LOVES to hunt. Austin likes to hunt but absolutely LOVES to fish! AND to top that off, I turned him on to fly fishing a couple of years ago and he’s been chomping at the bit for me to take him to some of my spots off LA 1. I even taught him to tie a few flies and he tied a couple of my new purple flies that he calls, “the Purple Assault.”

Someone wrote that his favorite month to fish the Louisiana marsh was November. We actually have moderate weather and you can find times when the wind blows 5-10 mph with sunny skies. That’s perfect for sightfishing redfish in the marsh. We did have one of those big storms blow in for the weekend, which made it impossible to fish (even the big bay boats and fishing guides couldn’t get out on the water). Austin and I planned to leave Baton Rouge around noon to do some fishing Monday afternoon and then fish all day Tuesday. We actually left later than I had hoped but we did manage to get on the water and fish for an hour and a half. I wanted to try a spot another buddy had told me about for speckled trout. The trout bite wasn’t on but I was able to hook this tournament worthy 26-inch redfish that must have weighed 8 pounds or so. Sorry, no picture 😦

We woke up early Tuesday morning and headed to one of my redfish spots where I had taken Austin two years ago. On that trip, he caught his first redfish on a fly rod. Today his goal was to catch a five-fish limit…on his fly rod…on the purple assault! (see my post on the evolution of a fly )

Five minutes into our entrance into the marsh, Austin caught his first redfish…and then another. I finally got into the action and by the time the sun came up, I was seeing lots of redfish. Austin and I each had one redfish break our tippet, but for the most part, the redfish weren’t getting the best of us. Sure, we had the usual missed strikes and spooked fish but for the most part, if the fish ate the fly, it made it to the landing net…or Austin’s hand (he forgot his landing net at home). I ended the day with 11 redfish and Austin probably caught 7 or 8. Most of them were in the 18-20 inch range so we kept a few fish for the grill. It was a great day to be on the water with a great friend. I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves.

Austin’s first redfish
A pretty release.

Sunny skies and low winds made it easier to spot these guys. The water clarity wasn’t very good because of the constant strong winds these past two days. It resulted in a lighter colored fish. None of our fish had that “pumpkin” color. I guess I’ll have to get my pumpkin on Thanksgiving 🙂

Another redfish for Austin. GOPR3795.jpgGOPR3804.jpg
It went on like this throughout the day. By 11 AM, there were redfish in nearly every cut gorging themselves on tiny shrimp. I love the action that rabbit zonked has in the water.

I thought this picture was cool, with Austin in the background.GOPR3817.jpg
The purple assault did its thing!
Say ahhhh…Happy Thanksgiving!!




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 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.


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

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


Fall Fishing in Southeast Louisiana!

Fall happens to be my favorite time of the year to hit the south Louisiana marshes for speckled trout and redfish. Typically, after a few cool fronts make their way down here, the redfish begin to gorge themselves and the speckled trout make their annual migration up the marsh to their winter habitat. A quick look back on some of my older posts will show you just what I mean. I’ve been penciling in the first, second, and third weekends in November to get down to my favorite haunts.

I eagerly looked forward to this past weekend with lots of excitement and anticipation because A), my Friday football game got moved up to Thursday, which meant I could get a good night’s rest before making the two-and-a-half hour drive in the morning and B) the weather was going to be spectacular, albeit unseasonably hot. The only concerns I had were the fact that we had a full moon (meaning the fish would feed all night) and it was just too darned hot. I really wanted to target the trout but I had a hunch that they had not made it that far inside yet.

Friday night, while researching the tides, weather, etc. I took a quick look at my social media and saw a post from a friend of mine who lives in Arkansas Come to find out, Drew was in Grand Isle! I contacted him and we decided to fish together at one of my “go to” spots. This spot is always a redfish producer but it holds tons of trout too this time of year.

We met at TopWater Marina and were launched and fishing by 8 AM in the morning.  There was virtually no wind (good sign for us fly fishermen) and it was forecast to be sunny (good sign for those of us who like to sight fish).

I began with a deer hair popper that I tied recently in my favorite fall trout colors of chartreuse and yellow but did not get a hit. It didn’t take long for me to tell that the trout hadn’t made it down yet. I even tried a pink Lafleur’s Charlie under a VOSI but I didn’t get a strike there either. Drew was really interested in targeting redfish so we ventured deep into the broken marsh to look for redfish sign. We stayed for the most part within shouting distance and I began to see a few in some of the dirty shallow water. I threw my popper at one and got it to rise up to try to slurp it. In my anticipation, I tried to set the hook too soon and it was quickly redfish – 1, Doc – 0.

I later switched to my tried and true gold spoon fly and got similar results. I missed several strikes and finally hooked my first redfish around 10 O’clock or so…and I lost it due to a poor hook-set. No problem because I started to see more and more redfish the deeper I went into the marsh. I finally connected on a descent fish and was able to get a perfect eating sized redfish. I decided I would keep two or three fish because I barter with a colleague of mine at school who provides me with fresh farm eggs for fish fillets. 🙂


My morning continued as it began, with missed strikes and spooked fish. I did manage to connect on my second redfish though and that meant I had two fish in the cooler and I should have enough fresh farm eggs to last me until Christmas 🙂


That’s when I caught up with Drew and asked him how he’d been doing. He said that he had kept two himself and had probably caught a dozen or so. Wow! I was getting schooled. No problem. It was fun just being out on the water…wait…if you know me, you probably know that I’m just a little bit competitive. Let’s just say that I had some catching up to do. Drew showed me his dark colored fly that he had been successful with but I was stubborn and I stuck with my tried and true, gold spoon fly. Like another buddy of mine says, “Redfish will eat any color as long as it’s gold.”

Drew told me he had found some cleaner water so we both paddled back to a spot where he left them biting. I managed to get another fish on but it quickly broke my tippet. I tried to set the hook too hard and it broke off on its first run. I quickly retied and got back to sight-fishing for another one when I heard Drew holler that he had another one on. I paddled over to him to get a picture. His was a beautiful golden color that would make the cover of any fishing magazine.Redfish release

You can also see by the photo that the water had cleared up here too. I continued to fish but did not catch another redfish before I had to head to the car. I had another one break my tippet and several other missed strikes and flat refusals!

Here’s the play-by-play from my last encounter of the day:

It was getting hotter by the minute and we were getting more of those partly cloudy spots where you’d have to take a break from fishing because you just couldn’t see anything in the water. I kept looking at my watch, knowing that I would have to head back in soon, when I spotted a redfish in some shallow water near me. It was actually active and had that “I’m searching for something to eat” look about it. I stayed far away so I wouldn’t spook this one but that meant that my first cast wasn’t a good one. Plus, the fish decided to turn 180 degrees to the other side right when I cast. It didn’t see my fly. Now it turned again on my next cast and I put my fly right in the “eat me” zone. The fish didn’t react. I don’t think it saw it. I stripped quickly to get it closer to the fish and now it was zoning in on my fly like a heat seeking missile…only not as fast. In my experience with redfish, they flare their gills right before they eat and then they do a head shake once they have gotten the fly in their mouth. I watched this fish flare its gills and do the head shake. I strip set and…nothing. I pulled it out of its mouth. Of course this spooked the thing and that pretty much summed up my morning. REDFISH – 20. DOC -2.

Oh well. I reminded myself about a few things. First, there’s Cormier’s fly fishing rules and rule #1 is: Fish make the rules, not the fisherman. Second, a good trip isn’t always measured by how much you catch. Nothing beats the peacefulness of a a south Louisiana sunrise in a kayak, the beautiful wildlife (gulls, pelicans, egrets, and dolphin), and of course the camaraderie when you go with someone who appreciates all those qualities of a good fishing trip. Drew is one of those guys! When I say he is an avid fisherman, I mean AVID. I intend on getting to south Arkansas in the near future to try to get after some of the bass, trout, and carp that he has in his neck of the woods.

And there’s always next time… 🙂

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