Persistence Pays Off

Persistence Pays Off

After weeks of looking for an opportunity to head south to fish the rich marshes of southeast Louisiana and not having any luck, it finally looked like I was going to hit the jackpot with a “picture-perfect” day. Winds were forecast to be 5-10 mph, and the sun was going to shine brightly all day. Add to that, the temperatures were forecast to start in the low 40s and I had dreams of catching bull trout in deep holes on some fast sinking clouser flies. Insert dream sequence music here:

So, Friday night, I set my alarm to wake me at 3:30. I was packed, I checked my list twice to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, and I even slept on the sofa, so I wouldn’t wake my wife up when I got up. I was as giddy as a school girl (no offense to school girls). I tossed and turned all night and dreamed of what would be plan A, plan B, and heaven forbid, a plan C. I think I even dreamed about tying flies…all while I sang music in my head that we had rehearsed in class this week. There’s my tribute to Count Basie. All I’ve got to say is, thank God I can operate on little or no sleep 😊

At 3:30, my feet officially hit the floor and I was in my truck and on the road by 3:50. My excitement would build as I made the over two-and-a-half-hour drive to my plan A. The temperature on my car read 37 degrees and I saw nothing was a star-studded, clear sky. As I got closer to water (Highway 1), I noticed just how calm the wind was. The water was literally slick as glass and I began to wonder if I had packed my Victoria’s Secret, Amber Romance to ward off those nasty No-see-ums (biting midges that aren’t bothered by deet insect repellants). I pulled over at a gas station to empty my bladder and I saw that yes, indeed, I had remembered to pack it. Everything looked like it was going to be perfect!

I was greeted to one of the most splendid predawn sunrises ever. The colors, which were magnificent, reflected back on the smooth-as-glass water. I wanted to get a picture but I knew that there would be a lot of competition at my combat launch spot so I didn’t want to slow down and jeopardize my chance of being the first kayak on my favorite point. When I crossed the high rise overpass in Leeville, I noticed there was a slight chop on the water and I looked at my outside temperature gage on my truck, which read 48 degrees. I murmured to myself, “Where did that wind come from?” “What happened to my cold temperatures?” Then, I noticed a cloudy haze developing in the east. I thought, “that’s not good.” However, my attitude changed when I got to my launch spot when I noticed I was one of the first people there. I was shaking in anticipation as I tied on a deep water clouser. I paddled out to my point, dropped anchor and fished…and fished…and fished some more. WHAT?? Nada! I moved around and noticed a few other cars pull up and out came the roadside fishermen and a couple of other kayakers. No one stayed very long, no one caught a fish, and I decided to opt for plan B.

Plan B was to move further east and fish the marsh for redfish. Surely that haze was just fog and I was going to be able to sight-fish for Mr. Poisson Rouge. Well, of course, the haze never lifted and by now the wind was blowing 10-15. I push-polled my way through the marsh and spooked many redfish that surprisingly, were in fairly shallow water. After a couple hours of this, I was thinking about Plan C.

Those of us who fish the marsh know all too well the sign of a spooked redfish, drum, or sheepshead. They leave behind a ball of mud in their escape path. I kept seeing these balls and I decided to begin fishing points and cuts that looked fishy. I even tried casting to escaping fish but unless I was going to hook them in the butt, I wasn’t going to be successful. I was just about to head to the truck when I stuck a big girl. I was leaving a small duck pond and I saw a couple wakes about 20 feet in front of me. I waited for them to settle down and I made a cast out about 40 feet in some deeper water. That’s when my line went tight and I strip set the hook. I knew it was a big girl because she was dragging my kayak all over the place and she took me down into my backing twice. Not knowing how well it was hooked allowed me to play the fish for about 10 minutes before I noticed I was being pulled close to the stakes that hold down the power poles along the highway. I decided to put my stakeout pole in the mud and fight the fish from there hoping neither  the fish nor I wouldn’t get tangled in the barnacle-encrusted wire. My plan worked and a few minutes later, I had the big fish securely in my fish grips. I was able to get a few pictures and revive her before releasing her (she was full of eggs) to go make babies. I was reminded of a valuable lesson I learned a while ago. Never give up. Your next cast could be the cast to turn a skunk into a winner 🙂 GOPR0043.jpeg

 

 

 

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One More Trip

I know I’ve already posted my end-of-the-year report, but I couldn’t resist just one more short outing to my neighborhood lake. It began when my brother called me and said he’s trying to get his dog to learn to sit still in his pirogue while he fishes so he wanted to launch in my lake. He met me at my house a little after 3:30 and I hadn’t really planned on fishing with him. The weather has been real cloudy and dreary, plus my daughter, her husband, and my granddaughter have been in town for a New Year’s visit.

I helped my brother unload his pirogue and we walked the block and a half down to where I normally put in. When I got there and saw just how calm and pristine the lake looked, I just couldn’t resist. I hustled back home, put my kayak on wheels, grabbed my fly rod, and joined him on the lake.

It was neat fishing with my brother and we reminisced about old times fishing and hunting together. We were both avid hunters when we were younger but now we both enjoy fishing and the beauty, peace and relaxation that it brings. My brother brought one rod and fished a swim bait for bass. I brought a 5 wt rod with an olive fluff butt. My brother is and artist and has a great eye for things that would make a great painting, so he was snapping pictures most of the time. I, however, proceeded to catch about 8 small bream and two sacalait. We only fished for about an hour but it reminded both of us what really matters…family, friends, and the grace and beauty of God’s wonderful creations. Happy New Year to all those of you who follow this blog. I hope to get on the water more often in 2019. Funny thing is, I just realized I started the year off with a sacalait (crappie) and I ended it with one as well. 🙂

Tight loops and tight lines to you all!

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The Year in Review

It’s time, once again, to reflect on this past year’s fishing’s memories, successes, and lessons learned. First of all, I’m so blessed to be able to enjoy the outdoors and to be able to do so very close to my home. Most of my freshwater fishing is either a short walk to my neighborhood lake or somewhere within an hour’s drive from my house. My salt water marsh trips, although a couple hours away, are still doable for a day trip. Along the way I am always treated to the God’s beauty from the moss-covered trees to the deer, waterfowl, racoons, nutrias, alligators, and otters I encounter each trip.

Here’s a pictorial review of the past year:

It began with fellow kayakers and fly fishing enthusiasts, Glen “Catch” Cormier and Sarah Giles as we fished for sacalait in Lake Cotile.180122 doc sacalait.jpg180122 sarah sacalait2.jpg

As the weather warmed up, so did the bass fishing. IMG_2209.jpg
Catch with one of Lake Valentine’s nice bass.

I even got some great lessons on how to cast in a kayak IMG_2221.jpgIMG_2222.jpg
That’s a tight loop there!

If I had to sum up my fishing in one word, it would be deer-hair bugs. I know that’s technically, more than one word but I have gotten good at tying them and the fish love to eat them. There were the little ones:GOPR3909.jpeg

The big girls:GOPR3846.jpeg

And lots and lots of fish in-between.GOPR3885.jpgGOPR3878.jpegGOPR3877.jpgGOPR3912.jpeg

I was able to place in a couple of tournamentsIMG_2422.jpg26850532_1811142835623389_6288145374840920564_o.jpg

And even put a few in some hot greaseGOPR3841.jpeg

I caught some ugly ones:GOPR3831.jpegGOPR3947.jpeg

And some pretty ones.GOPR3870.jpg

Merry Christmas! I hope your 2019 is a good one! Tight Loops and Tight Lines!

 

 

The Fall Trout Bite Has Begun

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bass Therapy (Fall Bass Fishing is Heating Up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Cajun Permit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bluegill save the day!

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

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

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

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