The Tug is My Drug

The Tug is My Drug

I am truly thankful for all the good gifts that God gives me every day. I thank Him for life, for my family, my health, and so much more. I am also thankful for some of the good friends I’ve made through my love of the outdoors and fly fishing/kayak fishing. When I was going through some of my photos on my computer, it occurred to me I had only made one trip to the Southeast Louisiana marsh this current calendar year. There are numerous reasons for this from family obligations, to work commitments, to poor weather conditions, but as weird as it may be, the planets lined up perfectly for me Wednesday. I was able to witness this in person as I drove down to Delecroix Island to target my favorite fish, le poisson rouge.

Not my photo, but I did see it πŸ™‚

Of course, I texted one of my New Orleans fishing buddies, who has been my guide lately as I am learning new water that is only a two-hour drive from my house instead of the usual two-and-a-half to three I have been taking down south of Golden Meadow. I don’t know if he would want me to mention his name on this blog, so I’ll just say that he has a blog that I list as one of those I follow. He has fished out of Hobie kayaks for a while and he’s a valuable resource to have around. I have learned a lot from him in the few trips I’ve made with him, and he’s been such a tremendous help answering questions like: “What’s this extra gadget on my Hobie for?” “Where do you stow the pedals when you’re standing to sight fish?” “What’s the best way to strap the kayak to your truck?” and of course… “Where can I find the clean water?” He was a Godsend yesterday when we were peddling away from our launch site and he commented, “Have your rod ready to toss a fly at a redfish if you see a big swirl on the way to our first spot.” I replied, “Sure, I’ll…wait…no way…I’ll…on my!!” I left my rod on the bank at the launch! So I peddled back the nearly quarter mile or so to retrieve about $600 in fish-catching gear. Oh, I know what you’re thinking…No, I didn’t spend that on it but I won the $250 reel in a fishing tournament and I won the $350 rod in a raffle. I know I needed to work up a sweat anyway. I was reminded just how good God is when I turned around to face the east again and I saw this.

Beautiful Delacroix Sunrise. Pictures on an iPhone just don’t do it justice.

So, I fiercely peddled to catch up to my buddy. Thankfully, he was doing some blind casting to structure to kill some time while I caught up with him. We stopped to fish a point early after that sunrise and I caught my first fish of the morning, a nice marsh largemouth bass. I was told that Hurricane Ida took a big toll on these marsh bass. I assume it was because of the inundation of salt water to the brackish water. I released this one to go make babies for future generations.

This beautiful marsh bass gave me an acrobatic display after it sucked down a gold spoon fly.

I was told that we would be peddling about a mile from the launch to our redfish spot. The wind had kicked up in the bay and even though it wasn’t howling, the combination of a shallow bay with 5 – 10 mile winds made it a difficult and wet peddle. It’s times like this that I purchased my Hobie. At my age, I need to work smarter and not harder. While I am a strong paddler, my leg muscles are a larger group and common sense tells me I can cover more water using a larger muscle group. Covering more water lately is becoming a necessity these past few years. I think I’ve written on my blog before, that I think one of the reasons it’s harder to find fish in areas that used to be so productive, is simply due to the popularity of our sport. It seems everyone down here is fishing out of kayaks. These days, it’s not uncommon to see 100 trucks and cars carrying kayaks on LA 1 between Leeville and Grand Isle on a summer weekend. Now imagine if everyone one of those fishermen are harvesting 3-5 redfish a trip. That’s a lot of redfish being harvested within a mile of the launch. Now, add to that the popularity of big redfish tournaments and bow fishing and you can understand why places I used to catch up to 25 redfish in an outing are becoming hard to come by. I find I’m having to explore water further and further from the road, thus the addition of the Hobie to my plastic navy.

Anyway, back to my fishing report. When I got to our predetermined, spot number one, I saw some commotion in the shallow water. I made a few casts and I determined they were bass chasing bait because I saw a bass go airborne like it was shot out of a cannon. I couldn’t get my fly in close enough to where the action was because of all the grass and I was actually cleaning the grass off my spoon fly when I saw a big swirl about 20 feet ahead of my kayak. I was able to get a good clean cast out there and bam, fish on! That redfish took off like it was shot from a submarine (it didn’t get air like the bass). I still had my peddles in so I was able to maneuver my kayak and let the weight of the kayak help to act as drag to wear the fish down. A around 27 inches (I left my bump board at home but I have a ruler on my paddle), it was way too big to harvest so it is still swimming today.

My first redfish of the day

About an hour later, and I was now standing and push-poling my way through some very “fishy” water. I was thinking, I’m one for one. Spotted one caught it. Then I spotted redfish number two. It was cruising the edge of a grass bed with about 3 friends. I made an errant cast, or so I thought, which landed the fly about six feet to the left of the school. This guy was so aggressive, it looked like it was determined to beat his buddies to the easy meal. My, was it surprised when it found out that that shiny piece of gold spoon had a hook in it! It made several angry dashes and after a long fight, I eased redfish number two into my landing net. This one measured about 28 inches on my paddle ruler so it was released too.

Not only long, but thick too!

I need to vent now. Here’s what happens when you don’t fish often enough. So, I already mentioned I forgot my rod on the bank. I bring two and you can see my spare on the ice chest on my photo. I never had to use it this day. I put the other one down on the bank because I’ve learned not to put the rods in the kayak until I’ve gotten the boat in the water. I’ve actually flipped a kayak over on the bank in my neighborhood lake and it flipped over two rods. Thankfully, neither of them broke but I’ve learned my lesson. After landing my first redfish, I had about 15 feet of line still in the water with my spoon fly. I began to peddle to get away from a shallow weed bank and I ran over my line. Of course, my fly got caught on one of the blades. I thought if I’d pull it up, I could retrieve my fly. When I pulled it up, I lost one of my gold spoon flies. No worries, because I had four gold ones, a crab colored one, and several black spoon flies. I also caught my fly on my rudder. When I tied on a new fly and I tossed it into the water, the wind blew me over my line and it got tangled. Another reason I bought the Hobie Compass is because it’s very sturdy. I was able to turn around and reach over my ice chest and under the bottom of my kayak to grab the line, retrieve the fly, cut it off, pull the line through the rudder system and retie…all without falling in. Yeah!!

OK. Back to the fishing report. So I was two for two. Sighted two fish. Caught two fish. I was feeling proud of myself…shouldn’t have done that, Doc! The next redfish I saw didn’t go so well. A bad cast by me in the wind and it spooked. So now it’s Doc – two. Redfish – one. I’m still winning. Well that didn’t last long. I spooked probably another 15 fish before my next hookup. I didn’t even get to cast to most of them. They would see my boat or my rod when I would lift it up for a cast and they would bolt out of there, drumming as they scramble away. By that way, if you haven’t heard the sound of redfish drumming in the marsh, you aren’t fishing shallow enough. That’s why they are in the drum family. There were actually times when the redfish saw ME before I saw them. The reason I knew is because I heard “the drum” and then when I looked I spotted the fish as it was swimming away from me. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about…I would assume it’s similar to what a squirrel does when it sees you and it starts barking at you.

Well, I was able to connect with my third redfish. This one was another “baby bull” and I was playing it perfectly, except it kept on collecting “salad.” I was having to play the 8 pound angry fish along with 3-5 pounds of wet sea grass. Just when I thought I was going to win the battle, the fish took one more hard run and broke my line. Oh well, at this point, I had quit keeping score so we won’t talk about it, but it’s like gambling. The house always wins and with fishing, it’s the same analogy. My ice chest was still empty.

My wife loves to comment when I do get home after a day-long fishing trip, “where are the fish?” My reply is usually, they were hard to find today or I only caught the big ones today. So far, by answer was going to have to be the latter. I texted my buddy and he had caught a 31-inch redfish. Yep, neither of us would be bringing home fish for supper this day. But seriously, I began to look for smaller fish. I made a few casts to groups of fish, trying to target the smaller one in the pack. I thought about when I used to duck hunt…don’t shoot randomly in the flock…pick one out first…and I did! I saw a group of about 4 to six redfish working their way away from me and I cast to the smallest one in the group. It didn’t disappoint. A few minutes later, I landed one around 18-19 inches long.

Take a closer look at what this little guy did to my spoon fly

When I went to unhook this fish, I saw that it had destroyed my spoon fly.

All the “spoon” was crushed off this spoon fly.

Anyway, now I had one that was a perfect size for grilling so my wife won’t hound me when I get home. Well, yes, she did ask about all the fish I caught. I had to honestly tell her, “they were too big, honey.”

Anyway, the day had been great. I had gone through all four of the gold spoon flies I had in my box and Oh no. I was out of gold spoon flies. I decided to try an experimental spoon fly that I colored to look like a small blue crab. After getting two refusals; I mean, both redfish I cast to looked at it, followed it, but didn’t eat it. That was all I needed. I tied on one of my black and gold Charlies. I knew in this murky water, I would need some flash. I also thought about what another good friend of mine, Catch Cormier, says about redfish flies, “A redfish will eat any fly, as long as it’s gold.”

So, we were heading back toward our launch point and to get there, we would have to peddle through a small cut in the marsh to get to another large pond. I spooked a nice redfish and I alerted my buddy that it was heading his way. It was just deep enough to use my peddles and then I would paddle when it got too shallow. I spooked a large redfish and it headed back behind me toward my buddy. I hollered to him to be on the lookout for it. Then I spooked another small one and I told myself, I need to be standing so I can cast to them before I spook them. Every trip provides me with a lesson to be learned and this trip had already taught me a thing or two about what NOT to do. I was about to learn another valuable lesson. When I stand to fish, I usually remove my pedals in order to clear the front cockpit and eliminate things that might tangle my fly line. I began pushing myself with my paddle through this narrow (maybe 15 feet or so wide) cut in the marsh. It was muddy and surprisingly had some redfish and lots of mullet in it. I got to a point that widen up and I spooked another redfish. I watched its wake move into some deeper water. I went into super stealth mode and creeped up to where I last saw its wake. Then I saw the telltale amber side of its body slowly moving away from me. I put a cast out two feet in front of it…strip strip…bam. This one wasn’t the smaller one I was chasing earlier. I gave it a good hook set and watched my rod bend over. I could tell it was heading for my kayak and it would probably go under my boat. I thought about those fins so I thought to myself, “if I can just keep it from going under my boat.” Then I looked down to see my fly line entangled in the pedals. Now my thoughts changed to, “if I can just get this line untangled before it really realizes its hooked and makes a huge run.” It seemed like slow motion. I got one loop untangled from one pedal with my left hand, while maintaining pressure on the fish with my other hand, and then I felt it take off. I started letting some line slip between my fingers and the rod until no more slack line was left, except what was wrapped around that last foot pedal and…snap. I watched futilely, while I saw the escaped redfish send a large wake far away from me. Lesson learned…if I’m going to stand and fish, get the pedals put away before casting. This isn’t a big problem when I’m sitting because the line falls harmlessly in my lap.

We push-poled our way in another productive area, but the redfish were cruising below the marsh grass and by the time I would see one, there was no opportunity to cast without getting caught in salad. I had gone through one large bottle of water and four bottles of sports drinks. Being satisfied with the fact that I hadn’t cramped up, I wasn’t bleeding anywhere, I hadn’t fallen in, and I was able to do battle with five redfish and land three, I decided it was a great day and it was time to head to the truck. My buddy felt the same way and we paddled back to the launch together. We each had one redfish to take home for supper and we decided to catch a burger and a beer on the way home. I thank God for the beauty of nature, the ability to pursue my sport, and for good fishing buddies.

Here are a couple more pictures from the day.

Ready to launch
Another photo of the sun beginning to make its appearance
Yes, the tug is the drug.
Those of you who know him…well, you know him. Thanks to my fishing guide and buddy.

Epilogue

I know I titled this post, The Tug is my Drug, but in reality, my grandkids are my number one so, Their HUG is my drug!

There’s this little guy
This little angel
And this one who will be starting kindergarten this fall.

My heart is full!!

Memorial Day Bass

The beginning of summer marks a time for me to get as much fishing in as I can. I do have to balance family, and prep work for upcoming camps, but after a rough week, I was looking forward to the peaceful tranquility… wait a minute…who am I trying to fool. I was looking forward to feeling the tug of a chunky fish on my 6 wt!

I arose early Sunday morning and headed to my “go to” lake. It was a beautiful morning with an early foggy mist on the water. The unusually cool morning temperature of 64 degrees was cooler than the temperature of the water so visibility on the water was actually limited early. It didn’t take long for that fog to lift and when it did, that’s when I got my first explosion on one of my crawfish colored deer hair poppers.

This early morning bass sucked in my crawfish colored deer hair popper.

By 6 AM, I was lipping my third bass of the morning.

You should be able to see the crawfish popper imitation in this photo. You can also see the fog is beginning to lift.

Another chunky bass on the crawfish imitation

You can barely see the popper deep inside this bucket mouth.

I have to keep reminding myself to check my tippet though. After battling several fish, my tippet gets frayed and I usually loose fish…and my popper 😦 Yes, after landing my first 5 fish, I had one break me off. What a bummer, because I think that’s my last crawfish imitation popper. Luckily, I know how to tie more πŸ™‚ The sun was coming up pretty fast now and I thought I’d stick to my crawfish theme. I found a diver in my box that had an orange belly, so I tied it on and tried my luck. I was treated to a sight I don’t see very often. I watched about a 2 lb bass go completely airborne after a dragonfly by the tall Johnson grass near the bank. I quickly tossed my newly tied deer hair bug but I didn’t get any hits. By now it was after 7 AM and the bass seemed to be leaving the shallows for deeper water. I had a choice to make. Either stick with my topwater approach or try a subsurface fly. Topwater is always more fun, so I decided to keep on keeping on.

When people ask me about strategy for targeting bass on a fly rod, I often use a baseball analogy. I can hit anything a pitcher throws at me as long as I know two things…when it’s going to get here, and where is it going to be. The same thing applies to fly fishing. I can catch ’em if I know when they will be there (very early in the morning or very late) and where they will be (within 10 feet of the bank). That’s where the fly fisherman has the advantage. Once I clear the first 10 feet of the bank, I can just lift my fly up and put it back within a second. There’s no need to reel in all my line and cast again like you would with a bait caster. That means, I can keep my bug in the sweet spot a lot longer with poppers on a fly rod than I could with traditional tackle. So, did my theory work? You bet it did. I was able to entice a few more to eat my offering before about 8 AM, by which time, the bite had just about shut down. I did try a subsurface fly, but I didn’t get a bite. No worries, because it was starting to get hot and I had had enough for one morning (I landed 9 bass)

I do get to meditate while on the water and I thought about a dear friend who lost his two-year battle with cancer this past week. This trip was for you, Ronnie! I also thought about the true meaning of the Memorial Day Holiday. I am thankful for all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can live here and enjoy the bounty that our Lord has bestowed on us. Happy Memorial Day to all of you.

My Memorial Day photo (I nearly always bring my flag with me)

Here’s a good picture with that Dalberg Diver (with the orange belly)

School’s Almost Out for Summer

For many, there are four hallowed words that are heralded around the country by students and teachers alike. “School’s out for summer!” Well, it’s almost out for me. I have had several spring concerts, convocations, baccalaureate Masses, graduation performances, but as I check each one off the list and the list gets shorter, I find I’m more able to get my fly rod out and hit the local neighborhood lakes for some relaxation and some, hopefully, fishing action. I have even flirted with the opportunity to head south to do some sight fishing for redfish, but the conditions have to be perfect for me to warrant spending $60 on gas just to get there and back. Call me cheap, but my daddy raised a frugal man.

Anyway, the fishing in my neighborhood lakes have been hit or miss. I have had some hits like this.

I had a good morning a week ago and caught these two slabs on a fluff butt.

Some misses, (no pictures of misses of course) and what I call a grand slam…landing four species in one morning; a bass, several sacalait, bluegill, and even a spotted garfish.

An early morning 3 pound plus bass on the musicdoc shad fly

Crappie on the music doc shad fly

A bluegill on a fluff butt

And even one of these prehistoric-looking guys full of sharp teeth.

That garfish ate my shad imitation and when I released it, it reared back and its teeth sunk into my pants leg. Thank God I was wearing long pants or I would be wearing battle scars from that encounter.

By the way, I think that big crappie (aka sacalait) was probably my personal best at 15.34 inches

That’s probably my personal best sacalait.

Of course, now that school is nearly over, you can bet the weather will be ugly. The winds will blow 15-20 and there will be lots of clouds and thunderstorms. Oh, well. I certainly will make the best of it. I want to do a float trip for some spotted bass and I’d like to try some small stream fishing in the Florida parishes. Too much rain may put a damper on that though. I’ll post reports if I do though.

Tight loops and tight lines. And happy summer!

I’ve been searching and searching…and then I found you :)

I have been trying to find a consistent sacalait bite in our neighborhood lake all spring, but I have fallen short on several occasions. Then there were other obligations like school, family, and weather events. So, I don’t post the trips when I go out and I skunk (rarely happens) or I only catch a few bluegill or a bass or two. I guess I need to post those reports too, so I look human πŸ™‚ However, I took the opportunity to walk my kayak over to the neighborhood lake this afternoon after chores (repairs to the chlorinator) and supper and fish for an hour.

I met a young man and his dad at my “put in” spot and we struck up a conversation. I watched him (a 5th grader) reel in a small bass on plastic. I tried to lure him over to the “dark side,” the fly rod, and his dad said he remembered his grandfather trying to teach him to catch fish on the fly rod and how much of a thrill it was to catch fish on a fly rod. After about 10 minutes or so of chit chat, I finally launched my kayak and was paddling over to one of my spots that had produced sacalait in the past. I was fishing with one of my black and chartreuse fluff butts for about 10 minutes when I saw my strike indicator disappear beneath the murky water. I stiffened up my fly rod and I found myself doubled over with a slab sacalait on the other end. The young man was very impressed on the bank.

My first nice slap on the fluff butt

Five minutes later and my 5 wt was doubled over again. I eased another 15 inch crappie (sacalait) into my kayak. The little boy was so excited now. I think he and his dad were heading over to Bass Pro to purchase a kayak and a fly rod. LOL!

slab number 2

So, you get the picture. Cast, strip, repeat. Cast, strip, wait a while. Repeat. Cast, strip… watch the strike indicator disappear, set the hook and ease another slab into the kayak.

I know. This is getting monotonous

After about an hour of this, the bite stopped, but by then, I had put a half dozen on my stringer. For those of you who don’t know this (I’m sure most subscribers to this blog do), crappie, or sacalait like we call them down here (Native American/French translation = “sack of milk”), is one of the best eating fish that swim in fresh water. When I got home I put some of them on the measuring board.

14.5 inches
Just under 15 inches

This was the largest in the bunch

I sent these pictures with a message to the members of my fly fishing club and I’ll repeat it here. There is so much joy and peace in God’s good outdoors. Get off the couch, throw the gaming devices in the garbage, and get outside and experience the beauty that God has created for us. It is the best therapy out there, it’s less expensive than a psychiatrist, and it can provide you with dinner too. πŸ™‚

Tight loops and tight lines to all of you!

When the Good Lord Provides

It’s been a windy spring down here in south Louisiana so the fishing chances have been slim. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten a few chances to hit the water between storms. As the title of this post eludes, “I love it when the Good Lord provides.” He provides me with a wonderful family, good health, and yes, even the windy days we have been having. But this is a fishing blog, so let’s get down to it. As our spring break approached, I looked for opportunities to get on the water of my local neighborhood lakes to a little “catch and eat.” I needed some fish for those Friday fish fries. The sacalait just haven’t shown themselves yet, except for maybe a couple here and there, but nothing that would be worthwhile to keep to put in some hot grease. So, I changed tactics and I decided to tie on a hare’s ear nymph and see if the bream and chinquapin would be willing to provide dinner. My hunch proved to be correct one afternoon as I was able to sight fish to some chinquapin and bluegill that were stalking the shallows.

This fat red ear (chinquapin) went for the hare’s ear.
Another large chinquapin
And a few bluegill made it to the fish fry

After a successful afternoon trip, I decided to wake up early Saturday morning to see if I could replicate my luck. I was able to catch a few chunky bass in the morning and then I managed to put a few more big bluegill and a couple sacalait on the stringer.

The LSU popper is still the color of choice around here
These joined the Friday lenten fish fry too.

Well, fast forward to Good Friday morning. I knew my three grandchildren would be heading to Baton Rouge later that day and I wanted to fry fish for them for supper. We had a good downpour overnight so I figured the water would be running over the dam from the upper lake to the lower lake. I got out early to see if the shad were doing their thing at the base of the dam and sure enough, they were in numbers that attracted a lot of bass. I hooked a descent bass early on my musicdoc shad and I then changed my retrieve to allow the fly to work lower in the water column. I was able to land four slab sacalait before the bite stopped. I was just in time to walk my kayak back home to greet my grandchildren. My granddaughter was more than happy to take a picture of Poppie with his fish.

The smile on his face says it all. BTW, the fish weighed a pound and a half.

So, after lunch, I dug up a few worms and offered my three-year-old grandson an opportunity to catch a fish of his own. He had a ball and he caught his first fish ever on his Mickey Mouse rod and reel.

Proud young fisherman
Fish number 2

We had a wonderful Easter with the grandkids and we were sad to see them go. Our weekend was fun of tractor rides, Easter egg hunts, kayaking, dancing, and a crawfish boil. So Monday rolls around and I’m looking at the winds and weather for this week…my off week. Wow. 15-20 mph winds Monday and Tuesday. That’s no good. My wife and I walked the neighborhood Monday and we came on a stash of blackberries. I rode back there later with a gallon ziplock bag and managed to pick about 10 cups of berries, which I turned into some good blackberry jelly.

That’s a gallon sized bag
Which we turned into blackberry jelly

Like the title of this post says, the Good Lord does provide. Oh, and speaking of providing, I got up early this morning before the winds kicked up and I managed to catch 5 nice bass on the LSU deer hair popper. No sacalait though, but that’s OK. These bass were released to go make babies (one was full of eggs)

Things are Poppin’ ‘Round Here.

Spring is about to crack open its delights down in south Louisiana. That means the oak trees are starting to create those little “popcorn” hulls that fall in my pool. The small song birds are busy collecting twigs to build nests. The crane flies have begun their mating ritual, the Canada geese are chasing each other, and the blackberry bushes are beginning to bloom. So, what does that have to do with fishing, you might ask? Lots. The bass are fattening up and are getting ready to sit on their beds. The crappie and the bream won’t be far behind them.

We have had some unusually warm weather (in the 80’s) the past couple of days and I was wondering if the water had warmed up a bit in our neighborhood lake. I checked and it was still in the upper 50’s yesterday. This afternoon, it was 61, so I decided to make a quick hour-and-a-half trip after work. I began by trying my go-to spots for crappie (we call them sacalait). I didn’t get a bump. I then decided to try hitting the banks for some bass with my old, and I mean old (beat up) LSU deer hair diver. I saw a swirl about a foot off the bank and one nice cast later, I was fighting a 3 pound bass.

I could tell she had eggs so I put her back in the water quickly.

About 5 minutes later, I hooked into another bass about the same size, only to watch it disappear under my kayak after a brief struggle. By this time, I had company. A couple of fishermen (friends of mine from the neighborhood) were trolling around in a small bateau. We struck up a brief conversation and I found myself hooked into another chunky bass.

Another one over 3 lbs

After seeing me land and release that fish, my friends trolled over to another end of the lake/pond to try their luck. A short while later, I saw a slight commotion in the water near the bank ahead of me and I let out a lot of line to try a very long cast. I was rewarded when I saw a huge swirl and the back of another bass came out the water to inhale my popper. Another one that went over 3 lbs.

It seemed too easy for a while. I paddled a little further and I saw another swirl near the bank. This time the fish bolted toward my kayak and I couldn’t get a really good hook set in it. I watched it disappear beneath my kayak too. Now, I was really satisfied by this time and I didn’t care if I caught another fish or not. That was when the biggest one of the afternoon sucked down my popper.

Another one that was eager to take my LSU Popper.

I caught three more dinks that were around 11 inches long and I was totally content to begin heading back in to cook supper. The fish had other ideas and I was able to land two more on the beat-up popper.

They all looked like carbon copies of each other. What a fun afternoon. I know it doesn’t always happen this way, but it’s way cool when you hear that you caught 7 (four over 3 pounds) and the guys in the other boat only caught 2 on conventional tackle. I’m hoping the sacalait begin moving over cover to spawn in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, it’s good to know the bass are “popping” around here.

Tight loops and tight lines!

Getting my Mojo Back

It has been a long time since I had a good day “catching” fish down in our South Louisiana Marsh. Any trip in our marsh is indeed, a blessing; whether I catch fish or not. Being able to experience the beauty that God created for us is worth the price of gas (whew… it keeps getting more expensive to enjoy). Yesterday’s trip was one for the books when it comes to enjoying the beautiful creation that too many of us take for granted.

I joined my friend and fellow fly fisherman, Chuck (Snakedoctor), for a trip to Hopedale, Louisiana. We knew we should have good fishing conditions (good sun, low winds, some tidal movement) and we hoped the fish would cooperate. I was breaking in a new kayak…yes, I have gone over to the dark side and I purchased a Hobie Compass, and I was looking to “slime” it. Chuck fishes nearly exclusively out of a Compass, so I was also looking for tips from him on how to load and unload the kayak, how to secure it to the bed of my truck, and how to fish out of it without getting my fly line stuck in the pedals. Right away, I started getting my line caught around the pedals and Chuck showed me how to secure the pedals in a way that would make casting easier.

I guess the biggest help Chuck was to me was, he taught me not to be so stubborn with my sight fishing. He showed me that quality redfish can be caught on the fly rod without having to sight fish for them. If any of you follow this blog, you know that for me, nothing beats sight-fishing for redfish in the shallows. I’m always searching for the perfect day with perfect conditions…low, clear water. However, with the cold water temperatures we have been experiencing, sight fishing the way I traditionally do has been out of the question. The shallow water, although gin clear, is just too cold and the only fish I’ve seen in the shallows the past two trips have been mullet and garfish. Chuck caught a couple of bass early on and I caught and released a 12-inch speckled trout. I figured I would have to do better than 12 inches if I was going to have to clean any fish today (sorry dad and mom). We decided to try our luck with speckled trout by fishing in deeper water. Chuck was the first to catch a speckled trout. I saw him with a big curve in his rod and he was getting the net. He said it was an upgrade to his Massey’s CPR Tournament. Anytime you catch an 18 inch trout on a 6 wt. fly rod, you have a reason to be excited.

Chuck smiling with an 18 inch trout

I snapped this picture of Chuck and his trout and I continued fishing. I then hooked into something that I thought was a small redfish, because it pulled hard and stayed down…not the traditional tell-tale head shaking that most trout do. I soon realized it was a huge trout! I netted it and measured it on my paddle at 20 inches. After weighing it (2.9 lbs) I realized I had just caught my personal best trout on the fly rod.

At 20.5 Inches, this trout is my personal best on the fly rod.

We continued to fish that stretch of deeper water and we each only picked up another trout, which was nothing worth sticking around for, so we headed off to some other areas in search of redfish.

Chuck was the first to hook into a really good “tugger” that measured 26 inches on his spoon fly. He caught it in deeper what (not sight fishing)

What a beautiful redfish! But who is the masked fisherman? πŸ™‚

I decided to forego sight fishing in the shallow flats and I began to “blind cast” certain points and the edges of the grass flats in deeper water. That was the ticket for me. I hooked into an energetic 27-inch red that took me into my backing. After a long fight, I got that one to the net.

I think we’re going to need a bigger net.
27 inches released to fight another day.

We continued to pound the deeper water around cuts and ditches in the marsh and Chuck connected on his third redfish of the day.

Anyway, I don’t want this post to get too long. I’ll do a review of the Compass (maybe during the halftime show of the Superbowl LOL). The day was actually incredible. We saw tons of wildlife included diving and puddle ducks, numerous other marsh hens, herons, and other birds. I did look for the alligator that roams this area (it’s about 8 to 10 feet long by now) but I didn’t see it. This should hold me for a while…honey do’s to do πŸ™‚ Until next time. Tight loops and tight lines.

One More Post for 2021

I didn’t know how to title this post. My choices were several, including “Fun on the 3 wt,” “A Crappie Ending to a Crappy Year,” “The Sunfish Trifecta,” or “Self-Quarantine Fun.” I couldn’t find a winner so I just chose, “One More Post for 2021.” Also, please forgive the two attempts I made at inserting a quick video. Not I cannot seem to be able to delete them. Just read on. πŸ™‚

I had actually been looking forward to this week. I had a whole week off from teaching and I had just said goodbye to my daughter’s family and my three grandchildren. Wouldn’t you know it, the weather got hot, cloudy, and windy…not good redfish sight fishing weather. In fact, the weather looked pretty crappy so I’ve been staying inside, tying flies and cleaning up my tying table.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I got a cup of coffee, did my “Bible in a Year” podcast, and I headed out to my neighborhood lake with my kayak in tow, a popper on a 5 wt, and a fluff butt on the 3 wt. I made a valiant attempt to hit the banks with the popper but I was having no luck at all. So I decided to focus on my favorite sunfish, bluegill and red-ear sunfish (chinquapin). I started catching small bluegill right away.

small but pretty
a little larger at 7 inches

I realized that the larger fish were hanging in deeper water, about 8-10 feet from the bank. I then hooked into a descent chinquapin.

These red-ear sunfish are thick and they fight hard on a 3 wt

Not long after that fish, I hooked what is probably my personal best chinquapin on my fly rod.

I measured that big one out at 11 inches on my paddle and I released it.

I was about to call it a day, when I caught my third different species in the sunfish family, a crappie (sacalait).

This one was 9 inches long

I was completely content at this point and I started heading back to my pickup point. That’s when I hooked a larger sacalait.

Now I had just told one of my neighbors who lives on the lake that I wasn’t keeping fish today. Heck, I hadn’t even thought about bringing my stringer because I’ve never caught a bunch of sacalait or big chinquapin in the month of December on the lake. Well, I proceeded to catch three more sacalait (all big enough to fillet) and I released them. That’s when it hit me…we have been eating Christmas leftovers for five days now and it’s time to eat something different. So, I beached my kayak and took the five minute walk over to my house to grab my stringer. I paddled back to where I had caught the last three sacalait, and wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t get a bite…well for about five minutes or so. Then I caught a nice one…then another… then another.

I had one break my size 3x tippet. I found that to be strange because it broke it off at the loop where I made the loop-to-loop connection. I patiently tied on another three-foot piece of tippet material and another fluff butt and I continued to catch a couple more sacalait before that tippet broke too. I was beginning to wonder if the brand new Orvis 3x tippet was defective. I wasn’t going to chance breaking off again, so I tied on 0x on my 3 wt. πŸ™‚ I finally called it a day with 8 good slabs.

They weren’t “hammers” but they were good-sized “slabs”

Anyway, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my morning with just two days left to the year. Heck, I’m probably going to try another neighborhood lake tomorrow morning. What a great way to end 2021!

Fried to perfection

A Crappie End to 2021

Dusting off the 8wts

I had to look back on this blog to see when was the last time I made a fishing trip to the South Louisiana Marsh in search for redfish and speckled trout. I saw that I made a couple trips in June and that’s it. That’s either a sad state of affairs for me or, the fresh water fishing has been awesome and it doesn’t warrant making the 2-and-a-half hour trip down to the coastal marshes to get some fishing in. Well, luckily for me, it was the latter. However, I do love fishing our South Louisiana Marshes in the fall and I saw a window of opportunity that opened after church yesterday. Here’s what my window looked like:

The winds were going to lay down
There was zero chance of rain and 100% chance of full sun
I had no school or family obligations
My wife was in Disneyworld with her sisters πŸ™‚

What I didn’t count on was this:

The water was high and muddy
There was zero tidal movement

Here’s the abbridged story:

I left Baton Rouge around 9:30 and headed to a spot I’ve fished for 10+years just north of Leeville. Most of you are probably aware that this area was destroyed by Hurricane Ida this past August. I saw lost of blue tarps on houses along the way and as I got closer to Leeville, I noticed buildings that had been gutted and it looked like some of those will not rebuild. There was debris all over the marsh, from empty fuel tanks to refrigerators and a lot of sheet metal.

After a quick combat launch, I made the quick paddle out to one of the spots that has produced for me in the past. Right off the bat, I had hooked into a small “schoolie” trout. About 3 casts later, I hooked into a nicer one at 16 inches

I know it doesn’t look like 16 inches but I measured it when I got home

I thought this was going to be the beginning of a wonderful afternoon, but much to my dismay, this trout must have been a loner. 😦

After catching a few more dink trout, I decided to switch gears to see if I could sight fish for some redfish. I thought surely, the storm would have brought some fresh fish inside. I guess the visibility was around 8 inches but I couldn’t see a thing. The wind was calm (too calm because the gnats were bad) and I constantly listened for the sounds of fish chasing bait along the marsh grass. I didn’t hear a thing except for the lively mammals in the area (nutria, otters, and porpoise) I just wished the fish would have been that lively. I chalked it up to the fact that there was no tide movement. About two hours into the hunt for redfish, I finally saw a huge bull red that was cruising about 15 feet from me. It was probably cruising about 3 mph while I was drifting about 3 mph in the opposite direction, so I couldn’t even get a cast off.

One of the highlights of the day were the numerous sheepshead I kept seeing. I didn’t check the time, but around 3 PM, I decided that the trout and the redfish weren’t going to play, so I tied on one of my musicdoc sheepshead shrimp flies. Of course, not that I had a shrimp fly tied on, I wasn’t spotting as many sheepshead as before and those I did see, were spooking and high tailing it to deeper water. I was casting toward a sheepshead when I noticed another large wake around the bank. That’s when I spotted my second redfish of the day. It made the mistake of staying in the shallows where I could see it and I attempted to make a well-placed cast toward it. Notice the emphasis on the word, “well-placed?” That was the original plan. My fly, however, nearly hit the redfish on its gill plate. It spooked momentarily and then it violently chased down that shrimp fly that had nearly hit its gill plate. Bam, fish on! I hadn’t felt the pull of a redfish since late June. This one had a lot of fight in it and it took a while to land this 23.5 inch beauty.

23.5 inch redfish put up a good fight on my 8 wt.

You can see just how calm the water was in this picture. It was a great day to be on the water. Like I told a friend of mine, “you can’t catch fish by sitting on your couch in the living room.” I hope to be able to get back on the water before Christmas. I’m still looking for that perfect day when everything lines up perfectly: sun, moon, water, and wind. That’s full sun, good tidal movement, clear water, and very little wind πŸ™‚

The absolute highlight of the day was when I was able to Facetime my grandchildren to show them the “big fish” Poppie had just caught. Their eyes lit up and they shared their excitement with me. That must have looked something like this:

Using this blog as a fishing log

I occasionally look back on this blog to see what time of year certain fish turn on for me, kind of like a fishing log of sorts. For example, I have kept track of when the speckled trout begin to make their move inside during their fall migration. I also keep track of when the sacalait begin to bite and when the bass begin to cruise the shallows in the neighborhood lakes in the spring and in the fall. I was looking back on a morning trip I took last year right after the first cool snap (temps in the lower 50s) and I noticed I had some considerable success right after our first cold front brought temperatures down in the 50s. So, I kind of had I idea that slipping the kayak into the neighbor lake this morning would bring me some action.

And why not? After a week of homecoming festivities that kept me at work until after 10 PM two evenings and after 8 PM another, I was due a morning of peaceful solitude with my fly rod and a deer-hair popper or two. The color of choice for this morning’s adventure? The purple and gold of our Tigers who upset those pesky Gators yesterday! I slipped my kayak into the water around 6:45, right at first light and began tossing a deer-hair diver toward the bank. About ten minutes into my morning paddle, I had hooked into my first bass. It was a small one, probably under 10 inches, but I recalled my trip from last year that the morning began with small fish and progressed nicely to larger ones.

The first fish of the morning smacked my version of the purple and gold Dalhberg diver

Five minutes later, I landed another one…and it was a little larger.

Here is a good picture of that diver

I began to notice a pattern. The fish were pretty tight against the bank and they seemed to consistently get larger as the morning wore on. Still, it was only around 7:15 when I landed fish number three.

Another one was liking the Tigers πŸ™‚

It seemed I was catching fish every five minutes or so, and by now I had caught four bass and I had lost a couple. Some of the takes were small slurps and others were downright slams! There was no consistency in the way they were hitting the bug. I did tell myself to pay attention because one of the missed fish was because I never really noticed the slurp and I didn’t get a good hook set in it. I was casting to a shallow area near one of the fountains when I saw a slight swirl and my popper disappeared. I set the hook good in it and it took off. I realized this one was larger…much larger. It took off toward the water fountain and started dragging me toward the water. I started cracking up because it seemed like this fish thought I needed a shower or something. I frantically tried to turn it and that wasn’t working, so I dug my paddle in the water to keep from getting soaked. I was beginning to think I was going to loose this fish in the wires or the downed debris under the fountain when I finally got the fish to turn away from the fountain. Meanwhile, I had gotten wet. If anyone was watching me, they certainly got a show and watched as we both laughed at my predicament. The fish tried one last time to get under the fountain and I was able to turn it without getting another shower from the fountain. When I saw its mouth, I knew it was a beast. I got a measurement from the ruler on my paddle at 21 inches, which is probably my personal best in length (not in weight) on the fly rod. I was in my yellow Wilderness Tarpon kayak and not my Jackson, so my fish scale wasn’t with me but I estimate the fish to be over 4.5 pounds and probably a conservative 5. This fish will be in the 6-7 lb range in the spring with it fattens up for the spawn.

Long and skinny but very long!
My arms weren’t long enough to get the full fish in the picture.
And my kayak wasn’t wide enough. That’s what you call a ‘bucket mouth.’
I love watching this big ones swim off. Thanks for the adventure!

Soon I regained my bearings from that adventure, I found myself setting the hook on another nice chunky bass. This one was 16 inches.

Another nice fish that went for the LSU diver.

It seemed like I was catching a fish now on just about every other cast.

This one had a smaller mouth but was quite a bit chunkier than the others.

I continued to fish until 8:15, when the action slowed and the fish started getting smaller again. I was able to walk my kayak back home and fix breakfast for Lisa and myself. What a great morning of fishing!

This small fellow was hungry!