Happy Birthday To Me :)

Traditions. It’s what makes us who we are. Every culture, every family has some sort of tradition that identifies us uniquely to each other. One such tradition in our family was each year we got to fish in Daddy’s homemade kayak for our birthday.P1181303.jpg

That’s it on top the car. I thought I had another picture somewhere but this was all I could find. Of course, I’m not in the picture…I’m taking it with my birthday present, a brand new camera of my own 🙂 There are so many things about that picture…oh my! Like my dad’s shorts, my brother Keith’s baseball socks, the white rabbit (that our dog ate for supper one afternoon), and the fact that there are only four (plus me) children. Kory wasn’t born yet. I’m thinking mom looks pretty hot here and lets’ see…Kory came soon after 🙂 I know, T.M.I. and this is supposed to be about my birthday, fishing, and family traditions.

Well, for our birthdays, we could fish with either mom or dad in that tandem kayak. BTW, daddy made it from a kit. I can remember one birthday when dad and I paddled to Lake Boeuf and he pulled under a tree branch to rest in the shade. I was in the front of the boat and there was a huge snake sunning itself on that branch. I freaked out and nearly jumped out of the kayak! Then there was the time when I hooked a monster bass near Lake Des Allemands and mom couldn’t get the net quick enough to land it and I lost what would have been my personal best. However, most of my birthdays were spent fishing a farm pond in Labadieville and it was a special treat to be able to fish out of the kayak.

This year, I decided to celebrate my birthday early. My options were 1) do some sight fishing for redfish in Point aux Chenes, Delecroix, or Hopedale or 2) visit one of my favorite nearby farm pond/lakes. One thing I knew I didn’t want to do was paddle out a mile or so into the marsh and have to haul butt back to the landing and try to outrun a thunderstorm. I chose option 2. With this heat, I knew the bite would be early so I hustled out early and launched shortly after 5:30 AM. Within five minutes, I had netted bass number 1.GOPR3904.jpg

Then came bass number 2GOPR3905.jpg

Then…well… you get the picture (pun intended)GOPR3907 2.jpgGOPR3909 2.jpgGOPR3910 2.jpgGOPR3911 2.jpgGOPR3912 2.jpgGOPR3913 2.jpgGOPR3914 2.jpgGOPR3916 2.jpg

I caught 11 bass and probably missed 8 others. I also caught two bull bream on poppers. After my third big bass, I decided to downsize my popper to the small frog. I continued to catch bass but I noticed they would only slurp the small popper, whereas they smoked the large one! I put the big popper back on before I called it a morning and that’s when I caught that last big bass. Of the 11 I caught, only three were under 15 inches, so they are quality fish! IMG_2563.jpgSo going fishing has been a very important tradition in my life. As I look at my fly rods, I cannot help but think that I relish the peace and tranquillity that fly fishing brings me. I only wish I would have been introduced to the fly rod sooner. As for that old kayak. It dry-rotted many years ago, but the memories it holds are still imbedded in my mind. I’m sure it’s the same for some of my siblings. Now…to continue that tradition with my granddaughter. IMG_4734.jpg
Hudson models her very first monogrammed fishing outfit 🙂

 

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Summer Bassin’

Now that school is officially out, I thought I’d have some time to do some fishing and head down to the coast to target a species that I haven’t had a chance to target yet…the speckled trout. Yep. When I look at what I’ve caught this year, it shows I’ve caught only 4 redfish, no trout, but a ton of bass. That’s because whenever my schedule does allow me to fish, the weather does not. I’ve been off this week and the winds have been blowing 10-15 mph all week long. I’m thinking I may have to say, “damned the torpedos!” and head to the marsh anyway.

No more venting here though. This is my fishing blog and I will conform and write about my last two or so trips. One of my friends had me over and told me they will be selling their home, complete with acreage and a small pond that has provided me with lots of fun mornings and late afternoons chasing small bass and nice bream. I decided to give it a shot one last time and I was rewarded with a nice mess of bream for the fryer. The bream didn’t bite until around 7 PM, but they were smacking a small popper in some moving water and I was able to put about 20 of them on a stringer before the mosquitos ran me off the water. I told my dad he would be so happy with me. He grew up in the Great Depression and he cannot stand to see anything go to waste. He cannot understand why I would spend a morning fishing and not keep any of the fish I catch 🙂 I Told him that the thrill for me is to catch them on flies I tie myself and I have a freezer full of bream, sacalait, redfish, tuna, and snapper. I don’t need to keep any more. I mostly practice “catch and release” these days. However, when I get on a good bream bite and most of them are between 7 and 9 inches long, I practice catch and release all right…release them into a hot skillet of grease 🙂 So, I kept eight for myself and I vacuum-sealed the rest for my buddy and his wife to enjoy. IMG_2469.jpg

I mentioned earlier that I’ve caught a ton of bass this spring. I made it out to my neighborhood lake and my doctor friend’s lake and caught 10 on frog poppers and shad flies. I find that I loose as many as I land, though, and it gets a bit frustrating. I think I have good hook sets but somehow, when the fish changes direction, it spits the hook. I’ve tried setting the hook harder but even then, I find I’ve pulled the hook right out of the fish’s mouth. I’m using sharp Gamakatsu hooks too. I guess it’s part of the game. A couple trips ago I had another friend and his wife fish the same lake with conventional tackle. I easily outfitted them 2 to 1, so I guess I’m not complaining 🙂

GOPR3896.jpgGOPR3894.jpgGOPR3898.jpgGOPR3901.jpgGOPR3899.jpgNotice, they are all healthy fish. The largest in these pictures weighed 2.9 pounds. I did catch one in my neighborhood lake that was 3.1 lbs on a subsurface shad fly.GOPR3902 2.jpg
When I haven’t been fishing, I’ve been preparing for my various summer band camps that I will teach and a deer fly tying class as well. That had led me to refine my tying skills and experiment with new patterns. One of my latest is this baby duck. While I know that bass are opportunistic and will eat anything that looks like food, this baby is going to go under glass somewhere and sit on a mantle. IMG_2481.jpg
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Here’s a commission job I did as well.

One more thing. Many people look at these flies and wonder about durability and fishability. I think the pictures of the bass speak for themselves about the fishability. As for the durability, I find that they hold up pretty well. Here’s a frog fly that I used during a recent trip. I landed 8 bass and probably lost at least as many. It did get messed up and the bass had knocked both eyes out of their sockets.

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Glue and eyes are cheap, so guess what? I think it’s going to catch another 8 or so before I have to retire it.

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It’s Frog Season (well, sort of)

Ribbit…ribbit…ribbit…sploosh!!!! That’s how my morning went 🙂 You see, now that school is almost over, I’m going to make up for lost time and get on the water as often as I can. Trips around the house are perfect for 1) therapy and 2) researching new patterns for my flies. This morning, I decided to make a quick trip (they have to be quick in this extreme heat) to a favorite man-made lake that I frequent.

I actually started at sunrise with my tried-and-true, crease fly simply because it was still tied on my fly rod. I got an amazing explosion by one bass that went airborne, only to have completely miss it. Then I got a huge swirl by another that didn’t eat it. That’s all I needed to switch flies to one of my deer-hair poppers. I decided to start with a frog imitation very similar to this one:

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It’s tied on a #2 B10S stinger hook and uses Pat Cohen’s legs. Lately, I’ve been having good luck with my deer hair poppers. For some reason, I get better hookups. You might recall this bruiser I caught earlier this year. They don’t just smash it! They eat it!GOPR3846.jpg

Anyway, it didn’t take very long to get my first hookup with that frog pattern. I actually brought my digital scale this morning and this one weighed 2.84 lbs. GOPR3878.jpg
Like I mentioned earlier. They don’t just smash it. They eat it. Notice how far down its mouth that fly is.GOPR3877.jpg

So, for the next hour or so, I kept catching fish. Yes. I did loose a bunch and I even had one break my tippet. So I tied on another fish catching color, similar to this one:IMG_2387.jpg

and proceeded to land a few more.GOPR3880.jpgGOPR3881.jpgGOPR3883.jpgGOPR3885.jpg

I ended up catching 6 on deer hair poppers. A little after 8 AM, the top water bite completely shut down, so I switched to one of my shad flies and went subsurface for them. I was only able to catch one on the shad fly.GOPR3886.jpg
But it was a nice one. I finished the morning around 9:30 with seven that I had landed and at least as many missed fish. Of the seven I landed, only two were under 15 inches and most were around the 2.25 lb range.

So, I accomplished both of my objectives for the morning. 1) I got some great bass therapy and 2) I was able to do some field research on some of my flies! What a great morning!!

 

 

Mission Six Does it Again

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.IMG_2407.JPG  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. IMG_2409.JPG
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,IMG_2410.JPG 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.” IMG_2412.JPGIMG_2413.JPG
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. IMG_2407 3.jpgNotice 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. GOPR3871.jpg
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.

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Bass Therapy

It seems we have all kinds of therapies available to us today. Of course there’s physical therapy, music therapy, occupational therapy, and a host of others we won’t mention here. Today’s post is brought to you by the bass therapy. That’s the kind of therapy I needed today. I got a good report from some of my band parents after our spring concert last night and I decided to load the kayak on my truck for a couple hours of bass therapy. That is, a couple of hours of peaceful solitude on a quiet lake with hungry bass that eat what I’m tying.

Well, at least, that was the plan. I got to the lake a little after 5 PM and was throwing one of my deer hair poppers shortly thereafter. I got to one of my favorite spots in the back of the lake and I missed a monster strike by one of those hungry, post-spawn girls. She made one good jump and threw my popper. That’s OK. Being a fly fisherman, I get used to missed fish. Anyway, I was just really starting to relax when three vehicles approached on a dirt road and five young 20-something-year-olds got out and started setting up to do some target practice. They were very nice about it and told me things were going to get loud. I had plenty fishable water so I didn’t mind but the constant shooting did get annoying.

So I paddled away from the shooting and caught my first bass of the afternoon on a fire tiger deer hair pattern. GOPR3855.jpgThings were really getting slow when I noticed a nice bass that nosed on up to the popper but refused to eat it. I had a crease fly tied on to my other rod so I tried seeing if it would eat that. Still no bite. At this point, my bass therapy was going to need more therapy.

I paddled to the opposite end of where the shooting was taking place and around 6:45, someone turned the switch on. I proceeded to nearly be able to call my shots. The bass were taking some explosive shots at my crease fly and boy was that fun. Each one seemed to be right around the 15 inch mark with a couple that pushed 16. I tried to switch back to the deer hair popper, but they only wanted the crease fly. I finished the afternoon off around 7:30 with my largest bass of the day, one that pushed just a little over 18 inches and probably weighed over three pounds.  I wish I had gotten a good photo but my GoPro is acting up and I was only able to get a few pictures off the sim card. None of my video came out 😦 and I thought I had gotten some really good video of some good eats. I’ll keep working on the card and hopefully I can extract some of that video.

In conclusion, the bass therapy did the trick. I ended up catching and releasing a dozen bass and probably lost just as many. The action was fast for about an hour, as the fish were feisty and fought hard. Here are a few pictures that I was able to get off my GoPro.

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This is my last freshwater trip before my Mission Six Tournament this weekend. Catch Cormier and I look to defend our title from our big win last year. The trash talk has been going on for quite some time. Now it’s time to get out there and catch a couple big slot redfish. I plan on posting a good report here early next week.

I Love it when they eat what I tie!

I finally finished up with school for a couple of days (I take my band to Disney World next week, so I decided to do an Andry Good Friday tradition and do a little fresh water fishing. I had a couple flies that I wanted to try out so I made a trip to my wrist doctor’s lake for a little “research and development.”

First up on my fly rod was a new variant on my crease fly. It was tied on a barbless hook that a colleague had given me. After missing three fish early on, I decided to ditch it and go with fly number 2. Fly number 2 is a frog pattern that I’ve been tying with dyed deer hair.IMG_2203.jpg
Here’s my weedless version with Cohen’s frog legs. The one I used this morning was one that I still had tied on my rod from my CENLA trip. It’s basically the same frog but the legs are just a bunch of rubber skirt legs.

Anyway, I got a big blowup on the frog right away but I missed it too, so it was bass – 4, Doc – 0. By now the wind was starting to pick up. We had a beautiful blue bird morning after yesterday’s rain and cool front passed through and even though I wasn’t catching fish, I was relishing the beautiful weather. I figured I had better paddle to the back of the lake where I could get some protection from the wind by the tree line. On my very first cast, I got this big girl to inhale my frog! She, like most of the big bass I’ve caught throughout my life, just dug in deep and never jumped. That was a blessing because she was barely hooked in the top of her mouth.GOPR3846.jpg
Although she measured a little over 18 inches, she is probably my personal best by weight. I didn’t want to stress her by digging for my scale but I estimate she weighed over 5 pounds. As I’m writing this, I’m looking on my wall where I have my personal best (8 lbs) mounted, which was caught on a craw worm in a kayak that I made many years ago. Today’s fish was definitely over 5!

Anyway, the fish acted like they were eating frogs today. I actually caught the same fish twice within 5 minutes of it’s initial release. I know many of you would say that wasn’t possible and no, I don’t have a picture of it, but it had a very unique stress mark on its right side, and a flesh wound on its belly. When I caught the same fish 5 minutes later, it had the same two marks on it.

I ended up catching 7 this morning and only two of those were under 15 inches! GOPR3849.jpg
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Most of them inhaled may frog!IMG_2291.JPG

After 7 bass on that one frog, I needed to retie because the tippet had gotten tangled and was digging into the hair. I’ll do a little trimming on it and put it back into service soon. I did try a crawfish imitation that I tied last winter but I didn’t get any looks from the fish.

Now, another Good Friday tradition…eat some fish. I plan on pulling out a pack of sacalait out the freezer for tonight’s dinner. Happy Easter to everyone.

Spring trip to CENLA

Spring trip to CENLA

Although it isn’t officially spring yet, I’ve been itching to make the 3 hour drive north to my buddy’s house in central Louisiana (CENLA) to do some bass, crappie, bluegill, red-ear sunfish…and whatever else would bite on a fly rod trip. I left Baton Rouge right after school and met Catch at the launch site to fish Lake Valentine. For about an hour-and-a-half, we fished the clear water in the lake and I actually skunked. I was fishing a new frog pattern (see my previous post) and I couldn’t get a bite. Catch, however caught a half dozen or so bass and had this nice one that he caught on a small, dark green popper.IMG_2207.jpg

Then next day, we got up early and headed over to the same lake to try the morning bite. I managed a couple of dinks but nothing substantial. Catch had similar luck and by 10:30 or so, we decided to call it a morning, regroup, and try “plan B.” The wind had picked up substantially and the fish just weren’t cooperating. What a difference 12 hours makes! We were treated to some beautify wildlife, including this friendly little guy.IMG_2256.jpg

Anyway, plan B was to fish another local lake for some coveted crappie, (also know as sacalait or white perch). I have a friend who’s dad is getting up in age and I promised him some fish for a fry. He loves sacalait too! We probably arrived at Fullerton Lake around 2 PM and fished until sunset. Catch started catching bass right off the bat. I wanted to target sacalait so our strategies differed. He was fishing with poppers while I fished mostly a fluff butt (actually a “silly” butt). I wasn’t having any luck with the sacalait but I did catch two bull bream over 8 inches. I paddled over to Catch to see what he was doing and he said he had caught and released about a dozen small bass. The bass in Fullerton aren’t as big as those in Valentine. Fullerton is loaded with downed trees and logs and makes a perfect habitat for the coveted panfish. We, however, had missed the major spawning period for the crappie and reports hadn’t been that good. I did manage to catch two really nice ones (14 and 15 inches). When I added those to the bream and the one sacalait that Catch caught, we ended up with a nice stringer of 9 bull bream and three sacalait. I caught 4 bass on poppers and Catch caught 21. I was disappointed that I didn’t get any strikes on my deer hair frog. I downsized my popper and that’s when I began to catch some bass. On a side note, I don’t think I can recall ever fishing in a place that had so many BULL FROGS. They were croaking all afternoon. I even saw several in the grass along the banks. I tried to get a picture but I spooked the one that I was able to get close to. Here are a few pictures from the day.

IMG_2258.jpgThat’s a 15-inch slab!
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A chunky bass caught on the fly rod in Lake Valentine Saturday morning.

I did manage to get some pictures of Catch casting from his kayak.
Hee is a series of pictures I took. He makes it look effortless.

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