Man on a Mission

Like most of you, you have all heard the saying, “He is a man on a mission.” I think that can best be described in one word, determination. Determined to be the best _______(fill in the blank) that I can be. That’s my mantra. To be the best father, best husband, best grandfather, best teacher, best ….fly tier??  No not really. But yeah, the best tier that I can be. I don’t have to be better than anyone else. I just want to be the best that Doc Andry can be. So let me explain.

Each year, during the late spring and early summer months, the bass in the two neighborhood lakes I fish, begin to gorge themselves on shad. Some mornings the feeding frenzy can be so crazy that I see 3 and 4-pound bass literally jumping out the water to catch these morsels of fish-scaled delight. When this happens, it’s truly a sight to behold but the fly fisherman is outmanned and outnumbered by the hundreds upon hundreds of schooling (and I presume spawning) gizzard shad. It gives a new meaning to matching the hatch when you have so many fresh live bait in the water. Sometimes I tell myself that the only way I’m going to catch a fish is if they get really stupid. Just last week, I did manage to catch 4 stupid bass (all between 2.5 and 4 pounds) in a span of about 40 minutes.

So, my mission these past few years, is to come up with a shad pattern that most closely looks and acts like the real thing. Youtube is full of videos about how to tie baitfish patterns and I have caught fish on many of them. However, I was still looking for a fly that had a good profile but wasn’t too bulky, one that had excellent movement when stripped, and one that was durable. If you look in my fly box you will see several varieties of shad patterns that I’ve tied over the years but nothing has gotten me giddy as a school girl than the pattern that I came up with this week.

Allow me to explain before I post pictures and a how-to-tie recipe. I wanted something that was about the size of the shad I’ve been seeing (mostly 1.5 to 2 inches long). Of course they have to have a lot of white. I want good action, which I thought I had achieved with white rabbit bonkers for the tailing section. For the heads, I had been using senyo laser dubbing and that worked well but I needed some flash. I tried crystal flash and ice wing but hadn’t found the combination I wanted. I tried weighted bar-bell eyes, tungsten beads and bead heads to weigh the fly down so it would get down further than just two inches below the surface. When I would come up with a new idea, I would test the fly in my swimming pool. Well, today when I saw the action of my latest test model, I started giggling. In my opinion, it was perfect. The tail fluttered like a real baitfish. The fly would sink, nose down and then dart upward when I stripped. It was the perfect length, and did I tell you, “it had great action when stripped!”

So here is what I came up with. It’s not a two-minute fly and it’s probably not for the beginner tier.

Materials.

  • Size 2 hook. Can be a stinger but I don’t think it matters. Don’t make the same mistake I made when I first started tying. There is a difference between a size 2 and a size 2/0.
  • Size .025 lead wire
  • Thread – I used 210 denier in white
  • A pinch of white calf-tail (kip tail) to start off with (I got that from making tails on my deer hair poppers)
  • A small clump of white bucktail
  • Ice wing fiber (Pearl UV and Light Blue Peral Smolt)
  • Strung rooster saddles, white
  • Senyo’s Laser dub (white and grey)
  • Eyes of your choice
  • Thin super glue
  • FabricFuse to glue the eyes on

Here is a picture of most of the materials

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Start by putting between 15-20 turns of the lead wire and bind it down with the thread. I then add thin superglue for durability.

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Then tie in a small clump of calf-tail at the the back end, about a hook shank in length.

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Then add about a shank and a half length of white bucktail.

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I think the bucktail adds more wiggle and gives the hackle feathers something to bounce back and forth off of.

The next step is to tie in some pearl crystal chenille (about half way up the shank).IMG_1449

In my initial photo of the materials, I forgot to add the ice dubbing. IMG_1450 2

A little goes a long way. I pull out a short bunch and I “tease it out before tying white on the top and then the bottom. There are lots of videos out there that demonstrate how to tie this in. IMG_1451 2

Then I tie a little bit of the light blue around the cheeks. Notice that I am building up a good-sized thread dam where I am going to tie in my saddle hackles. IMG_1452
Be sure to take your time to tie the hackles in straight as to provide that “baitfish profile” you’re looking for.

Next step is to tie on the Senyo laser dubbing. White on the bottom and grey on top. IMG_1453
Then comb everything out, trim it back to the shape you want and glue on eyes of your choice.

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Here you see two tied in a size 2 and one tied in a size 4. The real beauty of these is how they act in the water. The lead weight helps it dive, ever so slowly but erratically, the hackles weave back and forth with every strip, and the shimmer is well…let’s see how the fish like it. I’ll be giving them a field test soon.

 

Living to fight again.

Living to fight again.

On my last post, I showed what happens to one of my deer hair poppers after doing battle with over 2 dozen bass. Well, after cutting off all the deer hair with a razor blade, I retied the fly and had it ready to do battle again. See my last post 

It was kind of a slow morning at my favorite bass hangout but I was able to catch 14 on the same popper. Again I probably lost about 7 or 8 but that’s pretty good for a bunch of deer hair on a hook.

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.

Got my mojo back

I know I haven’t posted here in a while and it’s really not that I haven’t been fishing, because I try to slip my kayak in my neighborhood lake at least once a week. I just haven’t had much to write about. I might catch one bass here or there…or IMG_0885.jpeg
one 10 inch bream (red-ear or called chinquapin down here)IMG_1067.jpeg
I even made a trip to one of my friend’s “old reliable” lakes to catch some bass on poppers but I lost three and only managed to land one healthy bass.

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Yesterday, we received word that in and attempt to stem the growing tide of the COVID-19 virus, we will be teaching school for the next few weeks online. In addition to that, I had to cancel our high school’s band trip to Disney World, and I had to move my band’s big fundraiser from March 29 to May. I had been in meetings with band parents, meetings with administrators at school, and I had been on the phone for hours with Disney, charter bus personnel, our hotel in Orlando, and God’s knows who else. Thank God my wife was able to purchase some toilet paper earlier in the week 🙂  To say it’s been a stressful week is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a whiner (maybe a winer 🙂 ) and I know it’s been tough for a lot of people in the world. All I know is, I needed some time alone in a kayak with our Lord and a fly rod in my hand.

I loaded up my kayak in my truck and headed to my “old reliable” lake/pond again. After praying my Glorious Mysteries on the way there, I knew my mind was right and it was going to be a great morning. I think I caught my first bass on like my second cast. GOPR0349.jpeg
And then anotherGOPR0350.jpeg

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That was a terrific start. I caught about a half dozen on a Frog style deer hair popper before the fish had destroyed my fly.

GOPR0351.jpegI probably lost about twice as many before I tied on another popper with a different color combination to change things up. Again, I started missing fish and I began to wonder if my hook gap was wrong or something. I figured those bass were just a little bit small and then I got into an area where my hook ratio really picked up.
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Notice the algae in the background. It was a challenge to cast close to that and not get a big clump of salad every now and then.

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I kept a count of how many I caught (19). All were caught on poppers. At around 9:45 I started heading back to the truck but I was going to fish the bank on down toward where I had parked. I got to one little change in the algae line and right away I missed a fish. Two casts later…another miss! By now, I’m thinking I need to take lessons on hook setting or something….and that’s when I saw this big girl lift her head out the water to slurp my popper in. I let her go down with it a second before I strip set the hook hard in her mouth. By the way she was pulling, I knew she was the fish of the day. Of course, I started talking to her. “Don’t you dare jump!” “Don’t you dare spit my hook!” Every time she would rise to the top to jump, I would give her a little more line and I was able to keep the fish from jumping. After a few more minutes, I was able to lip this beautyIMG_1094.jpegIMG_1097.jpegGOPR0355.jpeg

I decided that after that fish, I had had enough for one morning. The owner of the property asked me to keep fish under 15 inches. I have a hard time keeping bass, especially during the spawn but I did keep a dozen under 14 inches to eat on a Lenten Friday soon. In fact, the way people have been clearing the shelves of food, water, toilet paper, etc. that may be the only meat I eat in a long time 🙂

So when I researched ways to avoid the Coronavirus, I keep seeing the phrase, “social distancing.” Well, I did some social distancing and I was able to get some fresh air, some fresh fish, some sun, and some stress relief. I think I’m good for a while. 🙂

 

 

 

Musicdoc’s Rules for sight-fishing with a fly rod for redfish in southeast Louisiana…from a kayak.

Musicdoc’s Rules for sight-fishing with a fly rod for redfish in southeast Louisiana…from a kayak.

 

  1. Rule # 1 is WIND. Check the wind BEFORE you head out. You want winds less than 10 mph. (I can fish the lee-side of a broken marsh once the wind picks up but a light chop on the water makes it nearly impossible to see the fish before they see you and spook. Not to mention what it does to your casting accuracy.
  2. Rule # 2 is SUNSHINE. Clouds create a glare that makes it nearly impossible to see the fish before they see you. Pick a sunny day.
  3. Rule #3 is WATER CLARITY. I need clear water, and preferably, shallow water. Dirty water makes things difficult. Fishermen have no way to predict water clarity.
  4. Rule #4 POLARIZED SUNGLASSES. Have a good pair of polarized sunglasses. I use Costa del Mars
  5. Rule #5. GEAR. Have the right gear. More on this at the end of this post.
  6. Rule #6 REDFISH RECOGNIZITION. Know what to look for. This is something that I’m still working on, but here are a few important pointers. Sometimes all I see is a dark shadow that looks out of place in the shallow flats. It looks like a mini submarine slowly cruising the shallows. Other times it the tell-tale swirl and splash that a feeding redfish makes when it’s chasing food. (I don’t get to see this that often these days) Sometimes it’s the tail of a ‘tailing’ red. Then sometimes it’s just tiny shrimp and baitfish leaping out of the water near a grass line. Sometimes it’s the pumpkin color you see (mostly in crystal clear water that has a lot of submerged grass).
  7. Rule #7 CASTING ACCURACY. This isn’t as crucial as if you’re casting to a carp, but it helps to cast about a foot in front of a moving redfish. Sometimes I cast a couple feet out in front and a foot or so further back, so the fish doesn’t spook. Slowly begin your strips when the fish gets closer.

Addendum #1 – Gear.

The ideal way to sight-fish is by standing so be sure when you purchase your kayak, you select one that is very stable. I fish out of a Jackson Cruise, for the stability, tracking, and it’s lightweight.

When I first started sight-fishing for redfish, I had trouble maneuvering my paddle and my fly rod. I would push through the marsh with the paddle and then clip it on my belt. Here’s a good post by a buddy of mine on how to make one of these: https://mountainstomarsh.com/2012/06/04/dawgknots-paddle-holster-belt/

When I would see a fish, I would clip the paddle on my belt, bend over and grab my fly rod, which was laying down on the floor of the kayak and by the time I looked back up, I had lost the fish. My solution was to purchase a fly rod holder or holster. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enmYw0PijDw

That was a game changer for me. Now, I could keep my eyes on the fish while I grabbed my fly rod. I started having more success but the real game changer for me came with the purchase of the Parknpole, by Yakattack : https://www.amazon.com/Yakattack-Parknpole-Stakeout-Push-Pole/dp/B009335UAU/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAt_PuBRDcARIsAMNlBdqutoik1sINV_KEUomHw-O2BT10wKwSsaPXq4ZUkHds_WXEfZkMhM8aAipWEALw_wcB&hvadid=182518131977&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9025395&hvnetw=g&hvpos=1t1&hvqmt=e&hvrand=13129700939419524766&hvtargid=aud-840076997981%3Akwd-69281524443&hydadcr=16032_9870530&keywords=parknpole&qid=1574814226&sr=8-1

Now, I just push-pole through the marsh and when I see a redfish, I grab my rod, which is holstered to my side and in a few seconds, I’m able to present my fly to and unexpecting redfish. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

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Addendum #2 I think my next purchase will be this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGHf6fZTvOA

I like my Smith Creek holster but I see so much potential in this and it’s the same price.

Sight-fishing for Louisiana marsh redfish!

Like my last blog entry said, “Fall is my favorite time” to get to the marsh to do some sight-fishing for redfish. I often get asked how does one “sight-fish” for reds. I made a solo trip this morning (one of my favorite big-league ball players stood me up late last night) to Grand Isle to do some sight fishing for Louisiana redfish. Here are some of the prerequisites for sight-fishing:

  1. I fish out of a Jackson kayak so first of all I need winds no greater than 10 mph. (This morning’s forecast was 3-8 mph until 10 o’clock.) I can fish the lee-side of a broken marsh once the wind picks up but a light chop on the water makes it nearly impossible to see the fish before they see you and spook.
  2. I need full sun most of the morning. Clouds create a glare that makes it nearly impossible to see the fish before they see you. I had full sun nearly all morning.
  3. I need clear water, and preferably, shallow water. Dirty water makes things difficult. The day started out with clear water of about 16-18 inches of visibility. It did dirty up to about 10 inches when the tide started back up.
  4. I need a good pair of polarized sunglasses. I use Costa del Mars
  5. I need some luck and nerves of steel…really…you’ve heard of buck fever? Well can you imagine a pod of four to six redfish swimming toward you? Good thing I don’t have heart trouble 🙂 I have found myself visibly shaking at times.
  6. I need to know what to look for. This is something that I’m still working on, but here are a few important pointers. Sometimes all I see is a dark shadow that looks out of place in the shallow flats. It looks like a mini submarine slowly cruising the shallows. Other times it the tell-tale swirl and splash that a feeding redfish makes when it’s chasing food. (I don’t get to see this that often these days) Sometimes it’s the tail of a ‘tailing’ red. Then sometimes it’s just tiny shrimp and baitfish leaping out of the water near a grass line. I also located a few today just by the blue of their tails in the water. Sometimes it’s the pumpkin color you see (mostly in crystal clear water that has a lot of submerged grass).
  7. It always helps to cast about a foot in front of a moving redfish but they have a knack of turning right when I cast. Sometimes I cast a couple feed out in front of them so I don’t spook them and begin a slow retrieve when they get closer.

This morning’s trip down Highway 1 took me to my favorite water for this time of year. The tide was low, the water was clear, and the wind was a non factor until around 10 AM. Right away, I had two fish chase down my crab fly and I missed the hook set. I thought to myself “this is going to be one of THOSE days.” I got my composure and I just stuck my push-pole in the water so I could check out a feeding raccoon nearby. (sorry, I wasn’t able to get pictures). That’s when I spotted four redfish cruising within 15 feet of my kayak. I made the mistake that duck hunters make when a flock of a dozen or so teal buzz their blind. I cast to the middle of the pod, which spooked them…well all except the lone straggler which couldn’t resist my crab fly imitation. Bam, hook set and I was off on a sleigh ride. GOPR0316.jpeg
This was a perfect little eating sized fish so it went in my ice chest.

I spent the next half hour or so chasing down fish but I wasn’t having any luck. They either would not eat or I would spook them. Finally, I connected with redfish number 2.

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I did some experimenting with camera angles. This kept up for a while.GOPR0322.jpgGOPR0324.jpegGOPR0328.jpg
I was only going to keep three of the smaller fish (my self imposed limit) so I began releasing the big ones. A few of those would have been good tournament-sized fish.

By 1 PM the wind had picked up a little but the water had come up and it was dirty. A redfish was going to really have to make a big mistake for me to see it now. I did manage this leopard red (it had five spots on each side)GOPR0334.jpg

I had one break off my crab fly so I decided to tie on a “purple assault.” I caught several on that fly including the big girl of the day at over 28 inches. GOPR0337.jpg

The only fly I used that didn’t land a fish was my spoon-fly. When the water clarity got poor, I switched over to the spoon. I got a couple of eats and had both redfish break me off. Oh, well…

When I got home, my wife asked how my day went. I told her it was great. I caught 8. Of course, she commented “only 8?” Yes, dear. Eight redfish over 22 inches each and all caught on flies I tie myself is a good day! Not quite epic, but it certainly was awesome.

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).

 

 

The Dog Days of Summer Continue Through the Fall???

We are officially in the fall season, but don’t tell that to mother nature. It’s been a hot summer for everyone and any fishing I’ve been able to do has been early morning shots and get off the water by 9 AM. Now that school has kicked in, I’ve been even more busy than ever because we have moved into our new facility. I’m still unpacking and trying to figure things out. On top of that, we’ve started a bathroom remodel on the home-front, so my free time has been limited, to say the least. However, all work and no play, make for a very dull “Doc” and I’ve been hungry to get on the water…somewhere.

I’ve been seeing reports of good redfish action down in the marsh, so I’ve been looking for a chance to head south. The forecast for this weekend, however, looked too hot and windy (10-15 mph) for my blood, so I decided to take a quick pond trip nearby to feed my fishing hunger before church this Sunday.

I wasn’t disappointed. I was treated to a beautiful morning with lots of wildlife to help distract me (I missed about a half dozen good strikes). There were ducks, doves, and an early morning fox that visited me. Sorry, no pictures. As far as the catching, well, the action was pretty darned good. I was able to catch and release 21 bass on a deer hair popper by 9 AM. The popper was one I still had tied on from my last trip and I figure I’ve caught over 40 on that same bug by now.

 
Poor fellow only has one eye, but it still caught fish 🙂


This is one of the chunky bass I caught this morning.

I brought my camera and I was able to get some good video. I have some editing to do before I post it so it will have to come in a later post. Meanwhile, I’ve got more demo work to do, sanding, and painting. Tight loops and tight lines everyone!

Musicdoc

 

My most challenging fishing

People might ask, “Why would anyone want to climb Mount Everest? Why would anyone want to white-water raft a class 10 rapid? Why would anyone want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?”  Most of these questions could be answered, “Because it’s not an easy thing to do.” So why would I drive five hours to Arkansas to sight-fish for a fish that’s arguably much more intelligent than bass or redfish? Because it’s not an easy thing to do. I would learn that lesson though, the hard way when I joined a fellow kayak fisherman and friend, Drew Ross, near his home waters in Arkansas this past Tuesday. Drew is fortunate enough to live near water that holds a “target-rich” environment of very large grass carp and acres and acres of shallow flats in which to sight fish for them with dry flies! 65967758_2537927943092798_7904278775846666240_o.jpg

So here are some of the reasons why I am so intrigued by these fish.

  • They are big. Some of these bruisers can sometimes weigh between 15 – 20 pounds and will straighten or break hooks and tippet at the snap of a finger.
  • They are smart. Smarter than bass or redfish.
  • They aren’t aggressive eaters and will not track down prey or flies. While they must eat to grow to the enormous sizes you see, they do not readily attack flies and lures like most other gamefish.
  • They are easily spooked, which means in order to be a successful fisherman, one must be very stealthy.
  • They aren’t considered to be good table fare, which means very few fishermen target them.
  • They will eat a dry fly
  • They will eat a dry fly
  • Oh, did I mention, they will eat a dry fly? 🙂

So, spoiler alert..you aren’t going to see any photos of me holding a massive carp in this blog post. I can tell you I never worked so hard to get “skunked” in my life but I had a blast and I look forward to getting a chance to go again.

First of all, Drew is a super nice guy and was probably more disappointed than me that I didn’t land a carp. Because we were going to be sight-fishing, we had to first pick a day that was forecast to be mostly sunny, with very little wind. The good news was, I didn’t have to leave my house at 2 in the morning to get out there at the crack of dawn. I left at 6 AM and made it to his house a little before 11. The bad news was, it was going to be very hot! No problem there, because my mom didn’t raise a wimp!

For the first hour or so, Drew pointed out fish to me. I quickly began spotting fish on my own and was tossing a small dry fly to cruising fish. I soon learned the importance of being very accurate with my casts. That’s when you realize just how intelligent this fish is. As a fly fisherman who frequently sight-fishes redfish in shallow water, I thought I would be able to cast a foot or two in front of a fish and “intercept” it. I would make a “perfect” cast and watch the fish swim right under the fly without even budging. Sometimes they would swim around it like they wanted to avoid it all together. When I practice my casting, I try to land my fly in a 14 inch circle (actually and old drum head from school). It became apparent to me that I was going to have to present my fly to a moving fish, with a slight breeze to contend with, in a circle about the size of a pancake. What a humbling experience!! I struggled! All this time, Drew had not even made a cast. I told him, one of us had catch a fish so I eventually talked him into casting to a few fish for himself. I just wanted to see if it could be done.

Well after about 15 minutes, I heard a loud commotion and saw that Drew was indeed hooked up. It, however, only lasted a couple seconds because the fish straightened his hook out. Meanwhile, my presentations were getting better but twice I missed opportunities because an aggressive bream ate my fly just when I thought I was getting a carp to rise.

Drew and I kept push-poling our way through the flats and I probably cast to over 50 carp in about 5 hours before I got my first fish to eat. I saw a loner heading toward me very slowly and I put a legitimate “perfect” cast out about 6 inches in front of its nose. I watched it rise and its “kissers” opened up and sucked my fly in. I set the hook and….I missed!!! (Insert explicative of your choice here). I was distraught, but I was encouraged that I got and eat. Then I watched Drew get another eat (another straightened hook) and another… this time landing the pretty fish:GOPR0197.jpeg

We were running out of time when I got my second eat. I let the fish actually take the fly down before I set the hook and again, I came up empty. I actually got a third fish to eat my fly and this time I actually felt some weight when I set the hook. Drew heard the commotion and thought I had actually hooked one, but I missed again. Oh well, these are times when I just have to chalk things up to Cormier’s Rule #1 of Fly Fishing: Fish make the rules; not the fisherman.

So, as I sit here waiting out this tropical storm, I am tying a few dry flies of my own to target these beautiful fish the next chance I get and although it was a very humbling experience, I know I learned a lot and will use what I’ve learned to be better prepared the next time I give it a shot.