The Year in Review

As the year comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the past 12 months of fly fishing in south Louisiana. It’s been an incredible year on the water, with numerous memorable trips and experiences. I have learned to really focus on the beauty of our local waters and the peace it brings to me sitting in a kayak and “blending in” with my surroundings.

One of the highlights of each year is to be able to make new friends and kindle relationships through the sport. While I don’t get the opportunity to fish as often as I would like with them, I do cherish the friendships I’ve gained with Chuck and Chris. I have had the pleasure of fishing with Chuck on numerous occasions throughout the year and although I haven’t been able to fish with Chris yet, I have had opportunities to share a couple of beers and tie flies with him.

In addition to trips down in the Southeastern Louisiana marsh, I also spent a lot of time this year in my neighborhood lake. This quiet little spot offers an opportunity for a quick “get away” when my busy work and family schedules don’t allow me to venture far from home. It also provides me with an opportunity to test new flies and variants on the local fish. In the coming year, I plan on exploring the many bayous and estuaries that make south Louisiana such a great place to fly fish. The variety of species that can be found in these areas is truly impressive, and each trip offers the opportunity to encounter something new. One of the goals I have set for myself is to up my species variety.

Overall, it’s been a fantastic year of fly fishing in south Louisiana, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year has in store. Here’s to hoping for more good weather and plenty of fish in 2023!

Fishing should be relaxing

I was looking for an opportunity to get down to my beloved Southeast Louisiana Marsh and the weather looked to be outstanding this past Saturday. I called my buddy, Chuck, up and we met at our favorite combat launch in Hopedale at 7 AM. A strong cold front earlier in the week had me psyched to be able to sight-fish for some redfish. As we launched, I noticed that the weatherman had finally gotten it right. We were greeted with calm winds and bright skies…perfect for sight-fishing. I really needed this trip. It’s been a busy, stressful, semester with work, health issues of loved ones and family and other “roadblocks” I’ve had to go around. I started to tell Chuck about some of it and he stopped me and said, “Relax buddy.” Thanks! I needed that!

It was a gorgeous morning. I noticed the usual suspects as we peddled our way to our first fishing spot. There were herons, kingfishers, a descent sized alligator, a few “French ducks” and a small group of teal. The teal brought back many great memories as I watched them zig zag their way over the marsh grass. It’s been at least ten years since I went duck hunting, a passion that I enjoyed for many years. Reduced limits, more posted lands, expenses, and a growing family have kept me away from my shotgun. I make up with it by fly fishing.

I got to my first spot, and I stood up to see that the water wasn’t as clean as I had wished. In fact, visibility was quite poor. I push-poled my way through the marsh and looked for action in cuts in the marsh with no luck. As I poled my way, I heard some drumming. I looked and saw that I had spooked a redfish as I saw it’s wake plow away from me. That was redfish number one. I continued to work my way along the bank, and I saw redfish number two. It too spooked before I could get my rod into a good casting position. Thank goodness it was a calm morning. I saw a large splash about 100 yards away from me. I knew it had to be a redfish, although there were a lot of large mullet in the area. One couldn’t assume that every splash or boil was a redfish. Well, I thought it was a redfish until I saw a large heron fly away from the spot. I then deducted it was just a splash from the feeding shorebird. So, I continued on. I got to some more grassy area and the water cleaned up a little bit, but nothing to get too excited over. If I was going to spot fish, they were going to have to be feeding in the very shallow areas which were clear enough for me to see them before they spotted me. That’s when I saw another large boil and the tell-tale wake of a big redfish in the same area I saw the commotion earlier. I push-poled my way over there, stopping about 60 feet in front of where I saw the commotion. I was determined NOT to spook this fish, so I patiently waited to see if it would show itself again. Water was slowly trickled out of a cut in the marsh and the water was dirty so again, I didn’t want to through away my chance by rushing in. My patience paid off because about five minutes later, I saw the tail of the fish as it chased baitfish nearby. I poled about 10 feet closer, and I waited for my shot. Then I saw it. It was moving about 40-50 feet away from me and it hadn’t seen me. I placed my spoon fly about two feet in front of it and it turned on me. Darned. I knew I didn’t spook it, so I just waited some more. A couple minutes later, I saw its tail again and I put my fly ahead of it again. No eat again. I told myself, “This is supposed to be relaxing. Come on, Doc.” I could feel my heartbeat race as I anticipated the eat. I relaxed and waited some more and about a minute later, the fish made another pass close enough for me to put my fly two feet in front of its nose. Strip. Strip. BAM! It was on! I made a good strip set and I hung on. Determined not to lose this fish, I let it get on the drag quickly and I let it do its thing. The fish angrily fought and fought, picking up grass on my line as it went. I actually thought at one point that I had foul-hooked it in its belly but that was just grass holding my line down. When the fish changed directions, the grass fell off and I was able to keep its head high enough to keep it from digging down in the grass again. About ten minutes later, I was easing the big redfish into my net, which by the way, isn’t big enough AND the weight of the fish pulled one of the rings out of the net handle. Santa Clause is going to have to get me an upgrade.

The redfish was what we call a “baby bull,” that is, one that’s over the slot limit of 27 inches. It was fat, heavy and long at 28 inches.

A nice, healthy baby bull.

After a couple of pictures, I let her go because I personally don’t like to clean or eat any over about 24 inches.

Looking relaxed 🙂

That was the last redfish I would see all day. The wind picked up to a steady 12 mps and that, combined with high dirty water, made sight-fishing nearly impossible. We peddled over 8 miles, and I can tell you I’m quite sore even two days later. I got back to our combat launch around 2 and I was disgusted by what I found. I had noticed when we put in that there was a large amount of trash that had been left by bank fishermen. It’s embarrassing to have to admit that I’m from Louisiana at times. You just don’t see this in the streams in other states! I picked up enough trash to fill a crawfish sack and that didn’t even put a dent into the mounds of trash. That put a damper on what otherwise was a relaxing, fun day.

Chuck casts in a small cut

This is what poling around in a kayak looks like. Some of the kids in my high school fly fishing club can’t imagine what it’s like.

Fall is in the air.

Most of the time, when people down south begin to celebrate crisp cool mornings with bluebird skies and temperatures in the low 50’s, it backfires on them and they end up with just a tease as the high temps creep up to 90 degrees within a few days. I cringe just to say it out loud, but I’ll do it anyway… I think fall has arrived in south Louisiana. We hit several mornings with temperatures in the low to mid 50s and I took advantage of a free morning to visit my favorite little piece of paradise close to home. I actually had to wear a sweatshirt out on the water as I slipped my kayak in the calm cool morning. I learned one thing from last week’s outing. The bass were only active very early in the morning. I was hoping the cooler weather would have them more actively feeding today.

I must have slipped my kayak in the water at 6:35 and by 6:45, I had landed my first big bass of the morning. I was going LSU colors or nothing today.

This early morning bass measured 18 inches and it ate the LSU diver.

Within fifteen minutes, I had landed three bass and I thought it was going to be a stellar morning. Well it was stellar. I mentioned the crisp clear air and the calm winds. I heard the tell-tale cracks of several shotguns from hunters who were also taking advantage of the cool morning to try their luck at the opening day of squirrel season. From the sound of things, they shot enough to have a nice squirrel gumbo. I spent some time after my third bass looking around for that alligator but I didn’t see it this morning. I did see an array of birds from white herons to red-headed woodpeckers, to those whistling ducks and a pair or two of wood ducks. Of course it was futile to try to get pictures of them with nothing but an iPhone. Anyway, the disappointing news of the day was I didn’t get another bite after about 7:05. I get asked by my students why I’m so successful at catching fish on my fly rod. I’m probably not all that successful when it comes down to it. However, I do ramp my chances up by getting an early start…a very early start. Most teenagers sleep in on Saturday mornings so they miss the bite.

There was some more excitement this morning as one of the gentlemen who hunts the land behind the lake harvested an 8-point deer with his bow. I got to see the deer in the back of his truck and it was a nice-sized one. I marveled at the perfectly-placed shot that went right through the lungs and probably the heart too. It’s always good to see a deer that has been harvested cleanly, with a good shot. It really disappoints me to hear about the ones that get shot but the hunter isn’t able to find the downed animal.

Anyway, I’ll leave with a picture of the fish of the day, a big bass that was nearly 19 inches long. Until next time…tight loops and tight lines.

This early morning bass measure nearly 19 inches long.

Redemption, the Weekend Warrior

With the birth of a new granddaughter, Aniston Kate Andry, school in full swing, and other family obligations, I am the true definition of a “Weekend Warrior.” I look for opportunities to get on the water for a couple hours to enjoy a bit of solitude, watch nature do her thing, and try to fool a fish or two into finding my flies attractive. This Saturday, I found a couple hours to visit my favorite freshwater lake and I wasn’t disappointed. I arrived at dawn and slipped my kayak into the warm water (I found it to be quite warm for September 24). A pair of wood ducks whistled over my head as I began to toss one of my favorite deer hair bugs, the LSU diver, toward the bank…and why not…it was Saturday morning and the highly favored Tigers were set to host New Mexico State that evening.

Shortly thereafter, I got my first strike. It wasn’t one of those big splash strikes which makes fishing poppers so exciting. No, it was a quiet, but confident, slurp of a big fish. I say big, because it measured 17 inches on the ruler on my paddle, which put the fish around 3 pounds. Not bad at all for a fly rod bass and it looked like this morning was going to be stellar.

First bass of the morning was fooled by my LSU deer hair bug

A short while later, I was lipping my second bass of the morning. This one only measured 13 inches but it jumped and fought like it had something to prove.

Notice the buoys in the back? More on that later.

The bite slowed, so I paddled toward the back of the lake to get to some of my favorite water. I have a couple students who actually work for the gentleman who owns the property and they told me of a fish (shad) kill during all that rain we had last month. It was good to see some shad flopping around up against the bank near the grass. It was also good to see some bait balls which I assumed were baby shad from this year’s spawn that didn’t perish during the fish kill. I was also told about a six-foot alligator that had been spotted toward the back of the lake too. I actually did get to see the alligator but I didn’t get a photo of it. I was pedaling toward the back when it saw me, and it made it a point to put distance between itself and me before I could get my camera out the dry bin. I continued to fish but the action slowed. By now the sun was completely up and I figured the bass were leaving the shallows to get to some deeper water to escape the heat. I did manage one more bass on the LSU bug, a healthy fish that measured 15 inches.

Another bass on the LSU diver

I spotted the alligator once more and I watched as it swam nearly the entire length of the bank I intended to fish. Any self-respecting fish probably swam away for fear of being breakfast. I tied on a shad imitation streamer (Musicdoc shad fly) and I targeted fish in deeper water.

Musicdoc Shad

I also ran across three female whistling ducks with young broods that looked very concerned about the lurking alligator and this crazy dude in the light blue kayak. Sorry, no pics here either 😦

That’s when I noticed some stirring at the boat dock. Two colleagues of my buddy had arrived to do their morning workout routine. It’s a great workout that targets the arms, shoulders, legs, and core. If you guessed water skiing, you’re a winner. My friend had the lake dug because of his passion for water skiing. He only put fish in it as an afterthought. Nowadays, he probably fishes as much as he waterskis.

Anyway, my morning fishing was over and I felt a bit of redemption from my outing last weekend when I landed three bass and missed five strikes. This morning, after spending a little less than three hours on the water, I went three for three. While that might not seem like much to some people, it was just what I needed after a stressfully busy work week, the excitement of new life in the birth of my granddaughter, and stress from health issues of dear family and friends. I am thankful for my “weekend warrior” opportunities but I am truly blessed with a beautiful family and wonderful friends and I close this post out with some of my most prized blessings.

My heart is full.
My gorgeous daughter and my handsome grandson
Snuggle time with baby Aniston Kate

Fish 5, Doc 3

I figure it’s been two months since I have been on the water. It’s been a) too hot, b) too wet c) too busy with work and family commitments d) all of the above. Of course, the answer was d. With a new granddaughter being delivered today and being right in the middle of marching band season, I have had little time to fish or tie flies.

I was able to fish for an hour-and-a-half yesterday before church and I decided to try to test some new foam (crease) flies I tied earlier this summer. As I slipped my kayak quietly into the upper lake in my neighborhood, I observed that the morning was super quiet and there was a dense fog advisory issued. Both of those conditions are perfect for fishing a popper in the shallows. When it’s that quiet, I can actually hear fish feeding in shallows and I can target them. The fog (or overcast conditions) keeps the fish in the shallows longer. About 5 to ten minutes into the morning, I had my first blowup on my popper. I felt the fish on but my hook didn’t stick it and I was left empty handed. No worries. I figured it was fisherman error. Five minutes later, I missed another and this time I never really “felt” the fish. It took my popper down and when I set the hook, my popper came flying back to me. This went on two more times before I told myself, “enough is enough!” and I switched to a more tried and reliable deer hair popper. I didn’t get as many strikes with my frog imitation and I actually missed my first on the new popper, but on my second strike, my hook found its mark in the corner of the fish’s mouth and I lipped a nice 14-inch fish into my kayak. I quickly released it and continued to fish. I struck up a conversation with one of my neighbors and I watched him land a nice 3-plus pound fish on a whopper plopper. Meanwhile, I noticed there was a large concentration of small baitfish (probably fingerling shad) in the area and I saw a small bass go airborne after some bait so I decided to switch to a small shad imitation. A short time later and I was lipping another fish into my kayak.

This fish was fooled by a smaller version of my Musicdoc Shad

It was good to get back out on the water and I plan on doing some more fishing once the weather cools. As for the foam popper, I have not completely given up on it yet. It’s going to take more “research.” I love research 🙂 I do think I need to make these with a larger hook gap though. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments section.

While you can’t actually see the hook point, from this picture, it looks like the hook gap wasn’t my problem yesterday. When I look back on it, I think the fish were feeding on baby shad and this version was probably too large, thus the short strikes.

Tight loops and tight lines!

Never Have I Ever…

Today’s fishing report is brought to you bye the game, Never Have I Ever. In today’s pop culture, I understand it is a drinking game. From what I understand, players sit in a circle and someone says, “Never have I ever…and they fill in the blank with something they have never done before. Anyone in the group who has done the “thing” must drink. So, I’m starting this blog entry with Never have I ever and let’s see if you have to take a drink. It can be coffee, tea, water, or any beverage of your choosing.

Never have I ever been on the water in my kayak and seen a water spout.

Yep, this one got bigger and actually touched down, did its thing, and went back up as the storm lost all its energy.

So, how many of you had to take a drink? I’m sure some of you have been on the water with one of these. I have seen several of these over the many years I’ve been fishing. They really are quite beautiful. This one was probably 30 -50 miles away from me, out in the Gulf. This next one, from 2013 was a little bit closer. I didn’t take the pictures, someone else did and it is quite menacing.

This was in Leeville

This was the same water spout as it passed over Grand Isle

Back to my fishing report. I passed on a trip with my buddy yesterday because I saw the radar and it looked like a mini hurricane was going to be hitting Delacroix right around the time I planned on getting there. It was probably a good call for me to stay in Baton Rouge but my buddy did land 8 redfish between squalls. After hearing that, I decided to get up early to beat the rain and headed to Delacroix myself. Herein lies my “never have I ever” number 2 or my never have I ever for the day.

Never have I ever had so many redfish REJECT a gold spoon fly! Conditions were quite favorable. There was virtually zero wind and I had a full sun until noon. The water was dirty (even where there was grass) but the redfish were feeding on crabs. I love sight-fishing for redfish but today, I had to rely on my ears. I push-poled my way through the flats and I would hear a big splash. I would then head toward the area where I heard it and I would wait for the fish to make its presence known. More times than not, this tactic worked for me. I saw a few redfish angrily come out of the water as they chased down bait. I later realized the “bait” they were chasing was baby crabs. The crabs were all over the place.

My first and only good eat came early during the day (actually while I was still monitoring that water spout). I saw a fish chasing bait in the shallows near a broken island. I pushed poled my way over to the fish and I slowly and stealthily eased my way up to where I had last seen it. I noticed several times during the day, that as I approached a feeding fish, I could hear my own heartbeat in my head. It’s absolutely nuts what adrenaline can do. I imagine that’s what happens to a bow hunter as he/she draws his/her bow on a big buck. As I got closer, I saw my pumpkin-colored adversary. I put my spoon fly about a foot in front of it…strip…strip…strip…bam! The fish immediately dug down in the grass. I tried to keep my rod tip high to keep the fish from digging into the grass but It was fruitless. The redfish had about 5 pounds of “salad” attached to my leader. I reached my hand in the water several times to strip the grass off my leader so I could work the fish. I would pull grass away and add a little pressure to my line. Then I’d feel the fish shaking on the other end so I knew it was still on. I guess having to fight a kayak and several pounds of grass zapped the fight right out of the redfish. After what seemed like 10 minutes (it probably wasn’t that long), I was able to get the fish in my net. I felt like I had really earned that fish with all it took to sneak up on it, get it to eat, and then fight it without it breaking my tippet.

I worked hard for this one

I was on the board. I usually don’t keep anything over 24 inches and this one went 25. I had a hard time trying to revive it and after about five minutes of trying, I decided to put it in the ice chest. My daughter and the grandkids will be here this week and I know they love Nanna’s redfish courtboullion.

I got as much of the grass off as I could.

Little did I know it but that was the last eat I would get all day. I saw lots of fish. I spooked lots of fish, but never, ever, have I seen so many fish reject the spoon fly. I tried casting 2 inches away from their nose. I tried a foot away. I tried two feet and then strip the fly across their path. They either spooked and took off or they ignored it completely. I had two or three that actually followed the fly for several feet and then they decided not to eat. I got several multiple shots at fish that didn’t even see me. Oh. I forgot to ask. How many of you had to take a drink? I’ve had fish reject my fly before but I guess I had about 20 fish just say no to the gold spoon fly.

So, I changed tactics…and flies. I tied on one of my crab imitations. The problem with my crab flies is, I use a small lead dumbbell weight to turn the hook point up. While this works just fine, it sinks too quickly and I end up catching grass on every cast. The spoon fly wobbles on down and can actually be fished in a way where I rarely have to clean grass off it. Well, after I had two redfish follow my crab imitation and decide not to eat. I switched back to my spoon fly. This pattern continued all morning long. By noon, I saw several small squalls heading my way, so I decided not to be a statistic and I headed in. Wind, rain, and clouds don’t work well when sight fishing. So, now I’m a man on a mission. I will work on tying a crab fly that isn’t so heavy. That just means I’ll have to do some more research. You all know how much I like “research.”

Tight loops and tight lines!

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 🙂

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 🙂 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 🙂 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. 🙂

Tight loops and tight lines to all of you!