The Fall Trout Bite Has Begun

You may have heard that the best day to go fishing is any day you can get on the water. I tend to agree. When I recently looked at my calendar, I saw that I have something to do every Saturday until Thanksgiving! AND I have to have oral surgery the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so I’ll be out of pocket for about 2 weeks after that. SOOOO, when I saw that I had this past Saturday off (no I didn’t have to judge second round of all-state auditions), I couldn’t pass up the chance.

We had a late, out-of-town football game Friday that put me back home at 11 PM and in bed by 11:30. When I woke up at 4 AM, I though that it would take an extra shot of coffee to get me moving. It’s funny that at my age, I have to forego the second cup just because I know I won’t be able to make it to the launch without having to stop for a bathroom 🙂 Well, the excitement of knowing that we finally got a cool front down here and the wind was forecast to be 5-10 for most of the morning was all the “caffeine” I needed. I arrived at my combat launch around 6:45 and was casting a deer hair popper in glass-flat water by 7. The water was still high because of Hurricane Michael and to top that off we had an unusually large tidal range predicted for this weekend. The water wasn’t dirty but it wasn’t clear either. The tide was predicted to start falling early on but the wind was also forecast to pick up to 10-12 mph around mid morning.

I got a huge blowup early on by an inquisitive redfish that didn’t result in a hookup. After about 45 minutes of no more inquisitive fish, I decided to paddle over to my “trout” spot. I didn’t get any trout to investigate my popper but I did notice some tiny shrimp leaping out of the water. I switched over to a pink Lafleur’s Charlie under a VOSI and the action started. I did bring my ice chest and planned to keep some trout for my freezer (I’m currently out of trout). I probably caught about a dozen by 8:15. I only kept those that were 14 inches or better so I threw back a lot of 12-inch trout. Anyway the bite slowed down and I did some exploring for redfish. I figured I might get lucky and find some clear water but that didn’t happen. I thought I might find some tails in some shallow back water areas but they were void of any redfish. I did manage to catch a couple nice redfish while I was fishing for trout. The redfish were not on the grass bank. They were about 6 or 7 feet off the bank in moving water. I probably could have caught more but I needed to get back to Baton Rouge for the LSU football game, so I called it a day around 1. Anyway, my ice chest (Yeti knockoff that’s made by Jackson Kayak and isn’t very big) was full. I kept the two redfish (21 and 23 inches) and 8 trout (largest measured 16.5). My battery on my GoPro died but I did get some pictures.

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This 21 inch redfish ate the pink Lafleur’s Charlie. IMG_2966.jpg
My largest trout of the morning at 16.5
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And my largest redfish at 23.

I might have to sneak out on a Sunday if the weather allows me another opportunity before Thanksgiving 🙂

 

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Bass Therapy (Fall Bass Fishing is Heating Up)

After a long weary couple of weeks of work, I was looking for a morning to relax and unwind. A trip to my favorite bass pond/lake was just “what the doctor ordered.”  The last couple of trips I’ve made there proved to be touch catching. The water temperature was pushing 87 degrees and the big bass were quite lethargic. However, I’ve noticed a steady drop in the water temperature in the pool at my house and I figured the same was happening to the local water too.

I arrived at my launch spot and took a water temperature reading. Bingo! 81 degrees. The morning was predicted to be overcast all day with a chance of showers later (yes, it actually does rain in Tiger Stadium folks). On my second cast I was hooked up to a sizable fish but I lost it after a short fight. I then proceeded to miss a few more small fish until I hooked a nice 15 inch bass that pulled me around like a redfish. The fight was strong in this fish and I knew that it signaled that the fish were getting stronger and they would be chasing bait.GOPR3953.jpg

I continued to work the bank and I started landing a bunch of “school bass” that were between 10 and 12 inches long. I saw the owner later and he told me that they stocked the lake with bluegill this past spring the bass have been gorging themselves on baby bluegill. He actually insists that I keep all fish under 15 inches but I just didn’t feel like cleaning fish today.

I did manage to catch a few more fish over 15 inches but the bulk of the fish were those fun little ones that were slamming bait in the shallows. I used two variations of deer hair poppers, a regular fire tiger pattern and a frog pattern that was still in the fire tiger color scheme. I also tried a crease fly but to be honest, I’ve fallen out of favor with my crease flies. They tend to catch wind and twist my tippet. I find that I loose more fish on them too. I don’t know if it’s because they are so light that a bass will slam them and end up knocking it out of the water. I do know that I end up hooking more bass on deer hair bugs. This next sure made me a believer 🙂 GOPR3959.jpg

I finally figured the big guys had worked their way into deeper water and I tied on a Coma Cockaho. I began fishing about 10 feet off the bank and I tied into one of the larger fish of the day. GOPR3962.jpg

I put together a short (under 4 minutes) video with some the action I enjoyed today. I love seeing bass hit topwater and I was able to capture some of that topwater action. on the video. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfWHrk1pvCU

 

The Cajun Permit

There are few people who will argue that the permit, AKA the “Grey Ghost,” is one of the most difficult salt water fish to catch on a fly rod. To actually catch and land one of those is indeed an accomplishment any fly fisherman would be proud of. While we don’t have permit stalking the Louisiana flats, we do have one adversary that is every bit as elusive as the the permit. Ours wears prison stripes and has teeth that  basically look like human teeth. It’s the sheepshead, AKA…the “Cajun Permit.”

While sheepshead may be easy to catch around docks with market shrimp, they are very difficult to catch on a fly rod. First of all, it isn’t easy getting them to chase an artificial bait or fly. Now, I know many people have caught them on artificial and even flies but there are several factors that really make catching this fish on flies even more challenging. First, there are those big eyes. They have good eyesight and are known to feed in very shallow water on shrimp, baby crabs, and other crustaceans (that’s why they have those crushing teeth). They also tend to turn a little on their side while they are feeding which gives them a good vision of their surroundings. So, one must be very stealthy just to get a cast to a feeding sheepshead without spooking it. Another challenge is, well…those teeth. It is extremely hard to get a good hook set with a small fly hook with all those teeth.  The only real chance a fly fisherman has it to get a hook in the fleshy side of the mouth. 7314923468_3bc028cf7f_z-1.jpg

A third reason they are so hard to catch on the fly rod, I think, personally is because they have good noses too and are looking for bait that smells like bait. My flies do not smell like bait 🙂

Over the years, I think I have caught 2 sheepshead on flies. I have, however, watched them follow a fly for several feet, only to stop and turn away. Usually, I’m fishing for redfish when I spot one of those toothy critters and I offer it the same fly I’m using for redfish, which is a gold spoon fly. I have fished a couple of fly fishing tournaments where there has been a special sheepshead pot. Frankly, I haven’t even bothered because I just haven’t been lucky.

Well, that changed this past Saturday. I finally made it down to the marsh to do some fishing. It’s been since late May since I’ve had a good opportunity (good weather, good health, light winds, no work or family-related obligations) to get down to the beautiful Louisiana marsh that I love so dearly. Allow me to pause here to explain why I love our estuary so much. (WARNING: HERE COMES MY SHORT RANT!!)

I don’t only love it only for the fact that we have the best estuary for gamefish, and edible seafood. There is a beauty that envelopes our delta that many people down here, sadly don’t see. They drive down winding roads with beautiful live oaks draped with Spanish moss daily, yet they don’t “see” it. They sadly, fish our marshes and don’t stop to see the beauty this it possesses, and even worse…they use it as their own personal dumping ground. I’ve visited Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona during the past two years and you just don’t see all the trash. It not only saddens me but it makes me sick in my stomach to see the trash along our waterways. OK rant is over.

Here are some pictures I took yesterday of some of the beauty I witnessed:IMG_2871.jpg
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These pictures were taken with a camera phone and really don’t do the subject matter justice, but I think you get the picture (pardon the pun).

OK, so back to my sheepshead story…I arrived at my fishing destination to find that the water was still very high due to the recent tropical system that entered the coast to our east. Additionally, we were experiencing a very high incoming tide Saturday, so conditions were not favorable for site fishing. Places that normally hold a foot or two of water were 3 – 4 feet deep. Add to that the fact that the water clarity wasn’t good and you can see that I had a long day push-poling through the marsh and didn’t get many chances to cast at many redfish. I did manage to catch a couple small ones by blind casting GOPR3951.jpgGOPR3944.jpg

It was getting to be about noon, when I came across a patch of grassy flats that was what I call, “sheepshead rich.” I spooked several nice ones and made a couple casts to others only to watch them chase my spoon fly down and then refuse it. I was determined this time to catch one of these “cajun permit.”  I quickly grabbed my other rod and snipped off the popper I had tied on it. By the way, I had two redfish attack that popper earlier in the day but I couldn’t get a hook-set on either one of them. I tied on a merkin-style crab that I had tied for such an occasion.IMG_2869.jpg

So I poled my way back to my “sheepshead rich” environment and saw two big ones working the edge. I put a good cast between the two of them (about a foot and a half in front of them) and watched as they both moved in to investigate. If you look at my fly you will notice that is has several sets of rubber legs. I let the fly come to rest on the bottom and watched the rubber legs tease one so much it just couldn’t keep its teeth off it. It picked up the fly in its mouth and kind of shook its head like a shark would if it had grabbed a chunk of meat. I strip-set the hook and the darned thing took off like a rocket! It made one or two more big runs and then seemed to kind of give up. I was determined not to loose it so I took my time and played it just right. Finally, I played it right into my landing net. Mission accomplished! GOPR3947.jpg

In hindsight, I wish I would have weighed and measured it because I think it’s my largest sheepshead to date on my fly rod. It felt like it was every bit of five pounds and it also reminded me why it’s NOT a good idea to wear sandals in a kayak because one of those big dorsal fins found its way into my big toe 😦

I released itGOPR3949.jpg
and poled around the area a couple more times to see if I could catch another one. I got one or two more casts off but was rejected, so I tied on a shrimp imitation. I guess all the commotion that fish created and my poling around the place was too much for the fish so I didn’t get another chance at a sheepshead. I explored more water for about another hour and decided that I had had enough for one day. I was able to drive to Thibodaux to visit with my mom and dad for a few hours and then visit my mother-in-law too, so it was a perfect day! It’s not quite on just yet but in four to six weeks, the weather will cool down and the fishing will get hot! I’m looking forward to getting back out there and experiencing what our South Louisiana waters have to offer again.

After I published this, I checked out some of my old pictures to see if this was indeed my largest sheepshead. Come to find out, I have caught several and 2013 was my most productive year.

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This is a small one that ate a spoon fly in the winter.100_0086_2.jpg
Here is one from a different trip the same year.GOPR0293.jpg
Another Leeville sheepshead caught in 2013 on a spoon fly.GOPR3059.jpgGOPR0156.jpg
Well, either way, I’ve got to give my spoon fly more credit than I did. All those other fish were caught on a spoon fly.

 

Bluegill save the day!

I haven’t posted here in a while. School has started and is going full blast. I graduated some very talented seniors last year and I’m hustling to get this year’s group up to speed. In fact, we had a gig today…after only one week of school. They did get to meet this guy, who graciously took a picture with them. IMG_2815.jpg

Anyway, enough of work. Since my wife was out of town this weekend and my son was working at the hunting camp, I found myself in a spot to do some fishing. I looked at the weather and I felt it was too much hassle to drive 2 and a half hours down to the marsh only to have to fight thunder storms all day. So, I started the morning off in my neighborhood lake. I’m telling you this heat has the bass sitting on the bottom somewhere where the water is cooler. I even saw schools of shad feeding on foam on top and not a single one got eaten (at least while I was observing them) by a bass. I didn’t get a hit. So I switched to a hare’s ear nymph and proceeded to catch a dozen bluegill. Some were real beefy, which made it a lot of fun on my 3 wt.IMG_2811.jpg

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Anyway. Here’s looking forward to some cooler temperatures. Football season starts this Friday, so any early Saturday fishing will have to be done with 2 cups of coffee instead of one. 🙂

I did spend some time during the rain working on a new fly project. I’ll be posting a picture here soon. I’ve got to get a good quality photo of it. I’ll give you a hint: This one will never see the water and I’ll probably donate it to a charitable raffle in the future.

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 🙂

 

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!!