Redzilla Does Exist!

REDZILLA … Is it a myth? Is it a legend? Is it real? Scientists discount the very existence of the creature but I know it’s out there. In fact, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve even got video of its incredibly large tail. I’ve battled it a couple of times with my fly rod but I’ve never gotten to look it in the eye and smile back at it…until now.

Sunday, I made a trip down to the Louisiana marsh…a place where I had last encountered Redzilla about a year ago. From what I recall from that trip, I did battle Redzilla but I lost… again. So the myth continued…until this past Sunday. This trip was supposed to be with a young man who might as well be my son. He and my son have been best buds since they were born and we have spent lots of great times together. Well everything was a go until he called me and said he would have to bail on me. His fiancé had been displaced because of Hurricane Irma and she needed him to bring her to the airport for the trip back to Miami. I checked the wind and tide again and decided to go it alone, without any backup. I’ve learned not to pass up a good opportunity. With our crazy weather, one never knows when that opportunity will present itself again.

Sunday morning began like a Stephen King novel. I launched early in the morning and true to form, I realized that I had left:

  1. my 8 foot push pole (I brought my old 6 foot)
  2. my rod holster that I use to holster my rod when I’m poling through the marsh
  3. most importantly (or so I thought)…my landing net :

I did have a boga grip (actually the Rapala $29 version instead of the $129 version) so I figured I could land my fish with that. I pressed on.

The conditions:

Tide – higher than normal and slowly rising all morning
Water Clarity – dirty
Wind – started flat, then started pushing 10+ after 11 AM.

I began my morning casting a popper around points and areas where I knew there were oysters. Like I said earlier, I hadn’t fly-fished the marsh since June so I was rusty when I missed my first blowup. By 8 AM, however, I saw my first redfish. I put the popper about 2 feet in front of it and it slammed it. A short fight later, and I had a 22-inch redfish on the end of my boga grip.DCIM100GOPRO

I decided to keep it because I have a colleague at the high school who has chickens and will trade me fresh eggs for fish fillets. I saw a few more redfish in that area but I wasn’t able to get a cast to them. On the way out of that “duck pond,” however, I got a huge blowup over another oyster-ridden area. I waited a second to feel it before I set the hook but I missed it. Then, about five casts later, I saw one come out of the water and ride the top of the water column like a torpedo as it snuck up behind my moving popper. It just kind of slurped it but again, I pulled the popper right out of its mouth.

I was losing confidence as the sun continued to rise and I noticed that not only was the water extremely high, but it was dirty too. During the summer, the area has a lot of aquatic vegetation. Sometime in August or so, the underwater vegetation dies off and leaves the water with dying residue. The area still holds fish but it’s very difficult to sight cast for them.

Anyway, I push-poled myself into this area that I know has oysters on the bottom. It’s a small cut that leads to another small pond that’s about the size of my living room. I have caught numerous redfish in that pond in years past because there is no exit out the backside and they usually trap baitfish in there and gorge themselves. Only this time the water was high and there would be a small trenasse leading out of the pond. My plan was to cut through and exit on the backside of another large bay. Well, as I was poling through the first trenasse, I spotted it. The water was only a couple of feet deep but there was no doubting the massive body and girth of REDZILLA! Insert diabolical music here.

I had my TFO Lefty Kreh Pro loaded with the popper in my hand and I made a perfect cast to it. The beast wasn’t even amused. I tried again. It didn’t notice the popper at all. My legs were shaking! My heart was thumping! The beast turned and headed toward that pond I spoke of. It hadn’t seen me…or so I thought.

I put my rod down and picked up my secret weapon. It would take a beast to tackle a beast. So I unleashed the Kraken! Again, you can insert action music here

UnknownActually, the Kraken is attached to my TFO Mangrove 9 wt. and I had tied on my “old faithful,” gold spoon fly. Now I was poling my kayak toward the little pond, looking for signs of the beast. I spotted it again but I couldn’t get a cast in front of it before it exited out the pond and into the trenasse that led to the large bay. I knew that if I waited too long, it would emerge into the large bay…never to be seen again. Lucky for me, when I turned the corner to enter the trenasse, I saw that it opened into a small 15 foot diameter pond and in that pond was REDZILLA. I would only have one chance before it would spot me and…well…I was fishing alone so they may still be looking for my body 🙂 I made one beautiful 20-foot cast and watched the massive beast pounce. I took in the little slack I had and strip set!

I wish I could say it splashed and tore through my backing like a bat out of hell but in reality, it felt like I had just stuck my fly into a floating log. It didn’t even budge when I strip set the hook in it a second time, just to be sure. It seemed like it was angry but it still wasn’t making much of a ruckus when it started heading toward me. It passed right under my kayak, in spite of my attempts to bang the side of the boat with my paddle to deter it the other way. I frantically got my kayak turned around and the darned thing came back at me. I’m telling you. I thought it was trying to eat me 🙂

Again, it passed under my kayak and I had to get my rod tip up high to get the line around the other rod that was in my rod holder behind me. I actually was hoping it would exit the trenasse and head into the open water in that large bay I mentioned. Well, it doubled back on me a third time. This time it went around me instead of under me and I got the kayak turned quicker. I let it take more line out and started following it out of the pond and into the original trenasse. It took me out of the broken marsh and into another large open body of water. I now put some pressure on it and it started running. Sometime during the early part of the battle, I looked at my watch. It was 10:10. The whole time I kept thinking to myself, “Doc, don’t screw this up!” Should I try to film it? Definitely not! I’ve lost numerous fish in the past because I was fumbling with my camera. I was determined not to mess this up. I gave it lots of line and then used the paddle to somehow gain on it and take some line back up. I let it tow me so it would tire itself out. My forearms were burning and starting to cramp up! I had no idea what I was in for! Neither did it!

Finally, I felt like Iwas gaining on the creature when I remembered…I had no landing net. What am I talking about! They don’t even make landing nets big enough! I let the wind push me to the edge of a bank and I fought the fish for the last five minutes or so from there. There were crab traps, oyster poles and other obstacles that I had to deter the beast away from but it all came together. As it turned on its side I was able to get my boga grip locked into its jaw. I nearly tipped my kayak over as I pulled it into the boat. Wow! What a feeling! Not only did I prove the existence of Redzilla, but I had enticed the creature to eat a fly that I tied myself while fishing from a kayak!IMG_1602Here are the numbers:

  • The fish measured 38 inches (my estimation because it was about two inches longer than my measuring board)
  • It weighed 22 pounds.
  • The fight lasted 45 minutes
  • It towed me over .3 miles (verified on Google earth)

Here are some more pictures:IMG_1617DCIM100GOPRO

All joking aside. This was probably a lifetime fish for me and I am thankful to the Good Lord for allowing me to enjoy it. It sure beat the heck out of staying home and watching the New Orleans Saints play football 🙂

 

 

 

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Mission Six Fly Fishing Tournament

I have to start this blog entry with the disclaimer that I really don’t get to fish many tournaments. First of all, with my busy work and family schedules, it’s hard to commit to a date weeks in advance. Second, because I nearly 100 % fish with the fly rod, it’s hard to compete in a tournament against others who can use conventional tackle and even live bait. While I know that might sound like “sour grapes” on my part, I’m not a gambler. I never play the lottery and I detest casinos. I do, however, fish the Massey’s CPR tournament, which is a year-long event (I can fish at my leisure and not have to commit to a specific date) and it has a fly rod division.

Recently, a non-profit organization called Mission Six decided to host a salt water, fly fishing tournament down near my old stomping grounds in Point aux Chenes. Mission Six is an organization dedicated to support veterans and first responders. Point aux Chenes is a spot that holds fond memories for me back when I was in my late teens and early 20’s. I used to do a lot of “blast and cast” trips where we would duck hunt in the morning and follow that with a fishing trip to the sulfur mine. While I have fished the area from a kayak in recent years, I had never fished the designated area for the shotgun launch. The format of the tournament was very simple: The $60 donation would qualify a two-man team. $10 of that would go to the charity and the rest would go into the pot for cash prizes awarded to the anglers who could weigh in the two heaviest redfish. There would be a kayak division, a motorboat division, and an all-around division. I asked my buddy, Glen, “Catch” Cormier if he would be my team partner and he agreed.

Since I had never fished the specific area of the tournament, I figured it would be in our best interest to get a day of pre-fishing in. After a week of iffy weather, Glen and I were able to meet at the launch site Friday morning to try to simulate what was going to happen Saturday. We lunched at 6 AM and were greeted with a beautiful sunny morning with breezes running 5-10 mph. The morning started very slow for me. I don’t think I even saw my first redfish until after 10:30. Meanwhile, Mr. Cormier (they don’t call him Catch for nothing) had seen four, caught two, and had lost another. We decided that since the wind had picked up, we should try the broken marsh that could provide some lee-side water where we could spot a few fish. I saw and spooked my usual number of fish but I also managed to catch two small, slot-sized (the Louisiana slot is between 16 and 27 inches) redfish. I saw a bunch of sheepshead, several stingrays, and a few alligators to making the morning memorable. I headed back to the landing around 2 PM without a huge feeling of confidence. I had seen several redfish but most were in the small range…a perfect eating size but not tournament worthy. I spent the drive back to Baton Rouge contemplating why I was even fishing this tournament and what my strategy would be Saturday morning. After all, it was Father’s Day weekend and my daughter; her husband and my beautiful granddaughter were coming in town to see us. I actually looked for some sort of excuse to not have to drive the 2-and-a-half hour drive back down to Point aux Chenes the next morning. I checked to see if maybe the wind had picked up… no chance. The weather man predicted sunny skies with a light 5-10 mph wind. But how could I miss being with this princess?
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Well, I decided I wasn’t going to stand my fishing buddy up so at 3 AM Saturday morning, I was back in my truck heading down to Point aux Chenes. Most people don’t know this, but when I go fishing, I use the experience to talk to God. I usually pray my rosary on the drive down there and I meditate on the blessings I’ve been given. This morning I was really praying for the health of my dad who was having some medical problems.

As I was nearing my destination, I was meditating about the peaceful and healing aspects about experiencing the awakening of the marsh and a beautiful sunrise down in South Louisiana…wait…that’s not the sun. There are…sprinkles on my windshield!! ARGH!!! I know, maybe the car in front of me was using its windshield washer to clean the early morning mosquitoes off. Nope…”That’s rain!” I mumbled to myself, as I approached the actual launch. The rising sun showed itself just barely through the heavy cloud cover. Surely this would quickly move north and we would get those predicted light and variable winds. Ding! Ding! Ding! Nope! Wrong again. The bright American flags at the launch site were blowing straight out. It was, however, good to see some familiar faces at the launch. I saw another fly fishing buddy of mine, Chuck Miller (Snake Doctor) from the BCKFC forum, Dustin, and a few other guys I’ve had the pleasure of running into, either on the water or on the forum.

Officials from the tournament were super-nice. Eddie and his wife, who run the kayak rentals and the launch were also very friendly and helped everyone get launched in a save, clean, environment. After a brief captains meeting, (we named our team, “Team St. Michael” because I teach there and Catch’s children graduated from there) we had our kayaks in the water and were heading out to the marsh where we had seen the most fish the day before. I consider myself to be a pretty strong paddler, but that morning, I think I had put too much ice in my ice chest (22 pounds) and the weight in the back was slowing me down. I would later be glad to have the ice, though.

Anyway after a 30-minute sprint on the water, Glen and I were easing our kayaks into the broken marsh and we were targeting fish on the leeward side of the broken marsh. I saw some “nervous water” and cast my gold spoon fly right in the middle of where I saw the commotion. Two casts later, and a bullet of a fish had slammed my fly and then peeled line off my reel. I turned the fish twice before it finally spit my fly. That was encouraging. I continued to work a stretch of marsh that was brand new to me and then the weather turned worse. The wind was now blowing 10-15 mph and it started to rain… and rain…and rain some more. It probably rained fairly hard for about 10-15 minutes. I tried to blind cast but I figured it was fruitless so I figured I should hydrate and rest up for the long day ahead.

After the rain stopped, it seemed the wind died down for about 5 minutes. That’s all I needed to get on the board. I was push poling my way down a marsh and I heard the tell-tale splash of a feeding fish. I pulled around the corner of a point and spotted a redfish in about 8 inches of water. I quickly stuck my push pole in the marsh to stop my kayak and grabbed my fly rod that I have holstered to my side. One accurate cast and I watched (I just LOVE watching them eat) a small slot redfish aggressively attack and consume my fly! I landed that 20-inch fish and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was on the board.

The wind picked up again and the cloud cover didn’t break. I knew that sight fishing was going to be extremely difficult. The only good thing I did have for me was the fact that the water wasn’t dirty and the redfish were a bright orange pumpkin color. At least, that’s how they showed up with my Costa polarized sunglasses. 🙂

About this time, thoughts about calling it a day kept creeping up in my head. I was soaking wet from the downpour we had experienced and I couldn’t keep that sweet grandchild off my mind.
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I decided that I couldn’t catch fish by complaining about the weather or by not putting a fly in the water. I decided to do some blind casting and tried casting my fly as parallel to the grass as I could, which was not an easy task given the strong wind. After one errant cast that put my spoon fly in the marsh, I flipped it out about a foot from the bank. An 18-inch redfish came out of the water and smashed the fly on top. That was fun. Now I had two fish on ice and even if Catch scratched (which wasn’t likely) we had two fish for the weigh in. In hindsight, that should have given me a clue for a new tactic. I thought about tying on a popper, but I thought the water was too choppy for that so I continued to fish the fly I have the most confidence in, my spoon fly.
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The pressure was off. I continued to weave my way in and out of the cuts and small duck ponds in the marsh, looking for tails, backs, or fleeing bait. I nosed my kayak into a small six-foot opening and noticed some fleeing shrimp at a point in the marsh. One quick cast and BAM! Fish on! I could tell right away this one wasn’t a small slot. It made a long run away from me and then charged right at my kayak. It ended up going under my kayak and was now making a beeline back behind me. It was giving me a Cajun Sleigh Ride in reverse!! I couldn’t get my kayak turned around. The darned redfish got stuck in some marsh, right around a corner. I finally got my kayak turned around and it made another long run and then came off the hook. I was so dejected!! I knew that was a “money fish.”

At that point, all kinds of thoughts go through one’s head. I pondered what could I have done differently. Should I have tried to horse it out and not let it take out so much line? Should I have set the hook harder? Should I head back to Baton Rouge? Just then, I get a text from my brother asking me how I was doing. I texted back that I had just lost my money fish and that the weather and conditions were not good. I picked myself back up and continued to work the area.

Then it happened. I was working a small pond and had just made a right turn into a new area where the pond was about to make a dead end. That’s when I saw the orange mass of scales and fins cruising toward me. I can’t tell you how many times that scenario has played out before only to have the fish see me and spook without me even getting to make a cast toward it. I was able to stop my forward motion with my push pole and the fish turned away from me. IT HAD NOT SEEN ME!! I worked quickly and quietly as I picked my rod up from my “holster” and put my spoon fly about 2 feet out in front of the moving fish, which wasn’t that hard to do since the fish was only about 15 feet out in front of my kayak. I stripped it slowly so the fish would intercept it and BAM! FISH ON!! This time I was determined not to let the fish win the battle. I frantically grabbed my paddle and turned my kayak as the fish went south of my direction again. However, this time, I was able to get my kayak turned and I put a little pressure on the fish to turn it away from going into the next small duck pond. I had a money fish on the end of my fly line and I had it in open water. Advantage Doc!

I’m sure I kept talking to myself. No, take that back I was talking out loud to anyone who could hear me in the vicinity. Fortunately for them, that was no one 🙂 Finally, what seemed like 10 minutes (which was in actuality only 5) I had the fish in the net and in my kayak. It was a beauty! The only question now, “was it going to measure in at under 27 inches?” When I pinched the tail, the fish’s tail just barely touched the 27–inch mark on my bump board. I knew that if given some time on ice, this fish would shrink and come in to the weigh in at under 27.
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The Money Fish

I continued to fish the rest of the morning and spooked a good number of fish. I was really never ever able to cast to a fish. I did do some blind casting, but when I called Glen and found out that he had caught 9 fish on poppers and two of those were 25 inches, I had a good feeling about our chances of placing in the tournament.

Catch and I showed a bit of quiet and calm excitement as we neared the weigh scales. When Eddie saw my fish (6.4 lbs), he remarked that it was definitely the largest of the day and our combined total weight of 11.4 was the winning stringer. We still had a half hour left until the scales closed but we felt confident that we would be in the money somewhere.

I know this has been a long read, but you have to understand that I’ve never won a tournament…ever! I led the Massey’s CPR tournament for about 9 months in its inaugural year, only to come out second in the final weekend of the tournament. Another year, I actually tied for first but had to settle for second because I lost the tiebreaker. All this is really OK for me. While I do take my fishing seriously, I don’t take myself or tournaments seriously. Competition in and of itself if good if one puts it into perspective. After all. Did Beethoven, Mozart, or Bach have to win competitions or tournaments to prove to the world that they were the masters at their craft?

So for fishing the inaugural Mission Six Fly Tournament, Team St. Michael placed first in the kayak division and first overall. I earned a first place award (a box of flies) for biggest fish as well. The win came with a $300 cash prize, an Allen Kraken fly reel for each of us (each reel valued at $250 each) and another $100 worth of salt water flies. That’s close to $900 in cash and prizes. What do you think “Team St. Michael” did with the cash? We returned it to the charity, of course 🙂 Glen and I were more excited to win those quality Allen reels! Anyway, I think I can make this an annual event. A special thanks to the team at Mission Six and for what they do for our veterans, our police, firefighters, and other first responders. Also thank you to the great sponsors of this event, including Jackson Kayak (I own one), Allen Fly Rods and Reels (I own a rod and now a reel), Zook Designs, Scientific Angler, Orvis of Baton Rouge, Allen Simon Flies, and Eddie Mullen of PAC Kayak Rentals.

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Redfish Rumble!

No, I didn’t fish the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s tournament, “Redfish Rumble” this weekend, but I did have a rumble of my own down Highway 1.  After several trips lately to Cocodrie, Hopedale, and Reggio, I was determined to hit some of my “old stompin’ grounds” to get some of the “skunk” off me and to once again feel the pull of some redfish on my fly rod.

This morning was just what I needed. I was determined to experience that “thrill.”  My adversary, the poisson rouge, is a very worthy opponent. This apex predator of the shallows feeds on shrimp, small crabs and unsuspecting baitfish in our vast Louisiana marsh. The “thrill” is to be able to push pole my way through the marsh among ducks, shorebirds, otters, and nutria while I look for signs of my adversary. Sometimes it’s as subtle as shrimp making a dash as they try to elude that king predator. Sometimes it’s just a dark shadow that looks out of place in the shallow water among the clumps of oysters. Other times, it’s being able to actually spot the pumpkin-colored mass of gills and scales before it spots me. To be able to sneak up on this predator without being noticed, cast a fly about the size of my fingernail to it, and then watch it turn and eat it is the “thrill” I seek. Nothing else in sport makes my heartbeat rush or causes my knees to shake like the moment I put that fly six inches in front of a redfish and watch him eat.

Back to this morning’s fishing report. I fished today with one of my lifetime fishing partners, my brother, Keith. We were greeted with one of God’s most beautiful mornings! I think the temperature was 58 degrees when we launched. The wind was blowing just enough to keep the gnats off us and the cloudless sky was something to behold. However, things looked bleak a first because it looked like someone had pulled the plug on the water out there. The water was lower than I’ve ever seen it and it was dirty. I went to a couple of my trout spots and managed to pick up two 11 inch disks on a chartreuse Charlie under a VOSI.

So, with the dirty water, I figured it just wasn’t going to be a “trout” day. I began poling around, looking for signs of redfish. There’s nothing like that first one to get your groove going. I imagine it’s the same for a big league pitcher when he gets through his first inning without giving up a run. I saw my first redfish of the day around 8 AM. The sun was up and casting a shadow over the marsh grass and all I saw was a dark shadow moving ever so slowly parallel to the bank. I cast my gold spoon fly about four inches in front of it and watched it eat! GOPR3596.jpg
It was a perfect eating-sized redfish so it went in the cooler. You can see the small ripples in the water in the background and you can tell that the wind still was light.

My next redfish sighting was in a cut a little further down and like a rookie, I set the hook on it too hard and broke my tippet. I hate loosing fish, but I hate loosing flies even more. I had just lost one of my hand-tied gold spoon flies. No problem! I had several! Or so I thought. Yikes! I only had 2 gold spoon flies in my box. 😦 After I quickly retied, I  was soon on the prowl, looking for more fish. Experience and this blog, which serves as my fishing journal, has told me that the redfish would be hanging out by oyster beds and grass looking for an easy meal. I began thoroughly scanning every oyster flat and grass flat I could find. The grass wasn’t thick but there were oysters everywhere. Soon, I had redfish #2 on and it it too, was a perfect eating size. GOPR3602.jpg
Say ahhhh 🙂

Redfish number three ended up being the fish of the day. It seemed like every spot that should yield a fish, did yield a fish. This one was facing away from me and my adrenaline started pumping fast when I saw how big it was. I put a couple errant casts toward it but the third one ended up with a textbook EAT! The fish ran several times and I thought for a while that it was going to take me into my backing. After a good long fight,   I was able to guide it into my net. The fish measured just a tad bit over 29 inches. I estimated it weighted around 10 pounds. Anyway, it was returned to go make babies. GOPR3610.jpg
Notice I took my white rubber boots off and went bare footed this trip 🙂

I made a call to my brother to see how he was doing and he was struggling with his bait caster. He caught several redfish but they were all undersized (except for one) and he was mostly blind casting. I spoke with him twice while I was fishing and both times, I had to hang up on him because I saw a redfish either tailing or with its back out of the shallow water. I picked up another 26-inch fish.GOPR3624.JPG
Notice this one ate one of my odd colored spoon flies. I lost both of my gold spoon flies so I tried this one and I caught two on it before it got crushed by redfish teeth and had to be retired.

The morning kept going like it started, even when the wind picked up. I caught another.GOPR3627.jpg

Then anotherGOPR3629.JPG
Shoes were optional 🙂 Don’t try this at home unless you put on sunscreen. 🙂

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And yet, another. I landed 9 redfish today. I had 3 break my tippet and I lost another one because of a poor hook-set.

I wish I could say my brother had a good day but he ended up with just one 16-inch redfish. Today was just one of those days when I could do no wrong. I probably spooked another 20 fish or so. There were some that refused to eat, but of the 13 redfish I hooked today, all were sight fished, meaning I saw them and put my fly within their reach…the “thrill” I spoke of earlier! Because of the dirty water, I had to put the fly about 4 to 6 inches from their mouths. I had a lot of fish that I spooked because I actually hit on the head with my fly.  A couple of those got a second chance and I got them to eat. Hopefully, those that I spooked will be back in the area the next time I go and they too will want to play.

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And here’s the latest Musicdoc video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfKRiuqxrBc&t=39s

 

A beautiful morning in Cocodrie

After fishing with a buddy a couple of weeks ago, I realized I left my 8 ft. park n’pole at the launch site. My buddy got a friend to hold it for me so I’ve been looking for a chance to get back down there to retrieve it. I did this morning and launched out of Coco Marina.

It was an absolutely gorgeous morning. There was very little wind. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the temperature started somewhere around 57. The gnats were a bit of a nuisance but my Amber Romance (Victoria’s Secret) worked like a charm. I was excited to explore some new water. My anticipation quickly turned sour when I got on the water and realized that the water was very dirty, with only about 6-8 inches of visibility. I found some redfish but they found me first. I wouldn’t see them until I was about 15 feet away from them and they would bolt for a quick escape.

Around 9:30 I figured that I was going to have to find a really stupid fish, one that would have to screw up pretty bad just to get a chance to cast a fly to it. Just as I was thinking this, I saw a big redfish crash some minnows up against the marsh grass only about 50 feet from me. I put my stakeout pole in a scupper and began putting the fly about 6 inches in front of its nose. No take! I couldn’t believe it. I kept casting to the spot where I last saw it knowing that it hadn’t seen me. On about my fifth cast, my line went tight and I strip set on a fish that was an upper slot or a baby bull. I felt like a bull rider. I fought it for nearly 8 seconds before it went on a lightning fast run and broke my tippet. I was so frustrated.

After that, I tied on another gold spoon and combed the banks for any more tell-tale signs of feeding redfish. By this time, it was getting close to 11 am, so I began heading back in. I stopped to fish a point where I knew there were some oyster shells and I hooked a nice 18-inch redfish. I also caught a lone speckled trout when the tide started moving.

Anyway, conditions were actually favorable today but the water was dirty and the tide didn’t begin to move until around 9:30 or so. That’s when I really got all my action. I saw a guy in a truck with a Hobie in the bed and I asked him how’d he do when we both stopped at a traffic light together. He found clear water in Point aux chenes. Looks like my next stop will have to be there. 🙂

Until then, I’ll just have to settle for this 18-inch guy who kept me from a compete skunk.

Red Stick Fall Catch and Eat

Each year, the Red Stick Fly Fishers Club hosts a fall “catch and eat” weekend. Members travel south to Leeville and have opportunities to fish from Golden Meadow south to Grand Isle. I don’t get to go every year but this year I was able to join the guys for a day of fishing and food.

After a late Friday-night playoff game, I was heading out in the dark at 4 AM to my fishing destination because I wanted to get in on what I expected to be an early morning top-water bite.  I planned on meeting up with my fishing buddy, “Catch” Cormier and see if we could put some fish in the cooler. I didn’t look, but I think we were actually on the water by 6:30 and after a short paddle, my expectations were fulfilled. I saw a couple of schools of nervous baitfish near a point and I started casting my popper. Immediately, I began getting explosive hits! The trout were going airborne to eat it. The trouble is, most of them were small. Also, if any of you have ever seen speckled trout eat top waters, they tend to try to kill the baitfish first and then come back to eat it so it’s hard to get regular hookups. This makes it a bit frustrating, but the action is so constant, it’s a lot of fun!  I landed my first trout and she was a beauty. FILE0001.jpg

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The top-water bite continued for about another 20 minutes before it shut down. I then switched to a pink Charlie tied under a strike indicator. I chose pink because in about 5 weeks, we will be welcoming into this world our first granddaughter! That fly continued to produce all day. I lost count but I conservatively caught 40 speckled trout. The only drawback was, only 12 were keeper size.

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After we cleaned up, we enjoyed a great meal with some exceptional fly fishermen. Not everyone caught fish but everyone everyone enjoyed the fried fish, fried shrimp, okra, etc.

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Fall fishing has begun!

I finally got to get some productive marsh fishing in. I actually made a trip down to Hopedale a couple of weeks ago with a buddy of mine but we both skunked so there was nothing to report. Sunday, I got a late start but was on the water near Bay Laurier by about 9:30 AM. The weatherman had predicted 5-10 mile per hour winds but it was already close to 10-15 when I launched and it remained steady until around 1 PM.

I love fishing the fall because when the weather cools a bit and the first few cool fronts blow through, the water begins to drop in the marsh. Usually this means the water gets clearer (remember, clear water favors the fly fisherman), and the redfish seem to sense that in a few weeks, the water will drop so low that the bait will leave the shallows for deeper canals and bayous. This in turn starts a feeding frenzy that I don’t see throughout the winter, spring, and summer.

I began push-poling my way through the marsh when I heard the sound of a feeding fish. I located the commotion and I began casting to that area of marsh. I assume it was a lone sheepshead because I didn’t see or hear anything after that. Just then, I heard another larger splash just ahead of me around a point. I saw the wake from the area where I hear the sound and then I saw what I believe is one of the most beautiful sights a fly fisherman can see. There was a pod of about a dozen feeding redfish heading toward me.

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I placed a cast right in the middle of the pod and watched as three redfish all made an attempt to devour the shiny, gold spoon fly. Naturally, the smallest of the three actually ate it and I had my first fish of the day on. The pod broke up but one larger redfish stuck around and followed my hooked fish. I tried to get another fly on him with my backup rod but I couldn’t get it out the rod holder and cast it in time to get a double. No worries, because I had a great 19-inch redfish in the kayak and I was taking fish home for dinner.

I debated whether or not to try to locate the pod of fish that had now broken up and dispersed but I chose to try another spot that has been “money” for me the past few years. I wasn’t disappointed. As I was poling my way through the flats, I spotted a couple redfish that were swimming away from me.The wind was pushing me too fast and I ended up spooking them. Deciding not to fight the wind, I stuck my push-pole in the water and decided to anchor up and wait for some more redfish to pass my way. A couple minutes later, I was hooked up and a nice redfish. Ugh, it spit my hook. No problem, I knew I was in a fishy spot so I just would have to be patient. I started blind casting over the flats because I knew there were redfish cruising the area. Within ten minutes, I was hooked up again and this one had shoulders!  It started taking line out so fast that I was quickly into my backing. Then everything went limp. It too had gotten off.

Now it was redfish 2, Musicdoc 1. I spotted another redfish heading my way and I put a perfect cast out in front of it. It ate and when I set the hook, I watched it shake its head violently and spit my fly back at me. Redfish – 3, Doc 1. This happened once more before I said, “enough is enough” and I made a move out of that area to try to locate some more fish. I spooked a bunch of reds along the way (the wind was absolutely brutal) before I got to one of my favorite oyster-laden cuts in the marsh. I quickly hooked up on a fish but right away I knew it wasn’t much. I did land this one, an 8-inch sand trout. I caught another sand trout before I hooked a nice speckled trout. I fished that cut for a while longer but didn’t get anymore bites.

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It was getting close to my predetermined “quitting” time when I spotted a stationary dark shadow that didn’t quite look like the marsh grass around it. As I got closer, I identified it as Mr. Poisson Rouge. I got within about 40 feet of it with the wind in my face and I knew I hadn’t spooked it. My dilemma was: “how do I get close enough to put a good cast on it without spooking it?” The fish wasn’t moving and it was nosed up in the marsh grass. I decided to creep up a little closer, stick my park-and-pole in the sand, and hold myself stationary by putting it under my left arm. I made a practice cast about 5 feet to the right of the fish to judge my distance and then I let my gold spoon rip. It landed with a quiet splash about 8 inches to the left of the fish. When the fish sensed something else was nearby in the water, it turned away from the grass just in time to see my spoon fly flutter down in the water column. It made one quick lunge at my fly and then I watched as its gills flared open and it inhaled my fly. The fight lasted at least five minutes and I took care to do everything by the book. I wasn’t going to be denied this time and I was able to land another “perfect for the grill” sized redfish to finish my afternoon trip.FILE0002.jpgIMG_0263.JPG

On a sad note, the lake where I had been catching those hybrid stripers this past summer suffered a massive fish kill during the great flood of 2016. On the bright side, now there will be less competition for food so the largemouth bass should hit a major growth spurt. 🙂

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Enjoying South Louisiana’s Bounty

I’m actually combining three recent outdoors adventures into one. After two weeks of teaching camps, I was finally in the mood to do some serious fishing. I cancelled a kayak trip Saturday because my son wanted to take me frogging to celebrate Father’s Day. I have to admit, fried frog legs are probably my favorite meal! I was super excited to spend some quality time with my 26-year-old son and one of his buddies in the Atchafalaya Spillway.

We launched the surface drive boat around 10 PM and after about a 10 minute drive, my son was pulling the boat over and pointing out a big fat frog. I was apprehensive about using my right hand (my wrist is still broken) so I was using my less dominant (left hand). First attempt as a lefty…bingo! First frog in the box. This went on for quite some time with only a few missed frogs. Actually more misses came because I frankly didn’t seen the darned things and we would cruise right over them.  The evening was absolutely gorgeous! There was a near full moon in the swamp and the the light show from a very distant thunderstorm lit up the sky every now and then. Although it was warm and humid, it wasn’t totally unbearable and I made sure to take in all the sights and sounds that were around me. Now, let me say right now that my son frogs in style, in his surface drive custom aluminum boat with country music blaring on the speakers. I don’t guess the music scares the frogs because they caught 298 of them in two boats on opening night 🙂  Every now and then we would stop the motor and turn the music off to listen to the swamp. That’s some kind of music! To hear the symphony of sounds of the swamp (the deep thumps of bull frogs, crickets, owls, and thousands of tree frogs) is something I hope everyone can experience at least once!

Anyway, we frogged until 2 AM and ended up with 35 nice toads! People ask me if we use gigs. Frankly, my favorite way is to use my hands. Sure, I’ll miss a few and I have to keep a watchful eye out for alligators and snakes but that makes it fun. Here’s a picture we took of a few of them adorning our ProDrive motor:
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I have to say, that my son, Dustin, has a knack for spotting bull frogs. He was able to distinguish frog eyes from all the other little rays of light that you see at night with a Q-beam on our heads. That includes all kinds of floating spiders, baby green tree frogs, and of course all sizes of alligators. By the way, we easily saw over 100 of those that evening! Dustin has a gift. I think being a little color blind makes him able to distinguish a bull frog eye from everything else in the swamp. His buddies agree with me. They have never seen anything like it. I tell you, I won’t go frogging without him! I bet we wouldn’t have even caught a dozen had he not been there to spot them for us.

Anyway, my second excursion of the week had me hoping to make a trip up to Central Louisiana to fish with a buddy of mine but when my iPhone suddenly died Sunday, and the only reservation I could make with the Apple Store was for Tuesday afternoon. It was a good thing I didn’t procrastinate because unbeknown to me, I only had two days remaining on my warranty. I was able to get a brand new phone without being charged! 🙂

So, my fishing options meant that I would have to remain close to home. No problem because I have a couple of productive lakes in my neighborhood and I have students and former students who have invited me to fish their lakes. I took a trip Tuesday to what has become my favorite fresh-water fishery. I’ve been making a bunch of crease flies lately and the fish have been more than willing to come out and play. I’ve even made some to pattern some fingerling bass because I think these bass are feeding on fry from this year’s early spawn. Between the crease flies and my shad fly, I caught and released 15 nice bass. Ten of those were 14 inches or bigger and three of them were 17.5.

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Crease fly bass

Here are some more pictures from that trip:

I think about half were caught on the crease fly popper and the other half were caught on the shad fly. I did notice that I had more hookups and fewer misses on the shad fly. I love to watch a bass explode on a popper but it causes me to react too soon and results in plenty missed opportunities. Other times, when I to hook one, it heads toward me so fast I cannot get a good hook set in it. When I’m fishing a streamer, I feel the fish on first and I’m able to strip set, thus making my chance of landing the fish much better.

At about 9:30 I decided to see if any of the hybrid bass would be willing to come out to play.  I replaced that shad fly with a chartreuse and black Clouser minnow. I cast the fly out in deep water and counted to ten to let the fly get down deep enough. On my first strip, I felt weight and set the hook. I knew right away it wasn’t a largemouth bass because this fish had some extra power. I was right! It was a hybrid striper!

I tried to catch another one for about another half hour before calling it a morning. There was no need to stay out there in the hot June heat past 10 o’clock!

Well that afternoon, I got a new iPhone and saw all my missed calls and texts. There were the expected Happy Fathers Day messages but I got a four-word text from my cousin’s husband that got my interest. It was, “Can you fish tomorrow?” My cousin has a 24-foot bay boat and I suspected that he was itching to do some fishing in the Gulf for some speckled trout. A quick phone call confirmed my suspicions and we found ourselves heading to his camp in Theriot after supper. We left at 5 AM Wednesday morning and headed to one of the barrier islands off the coast of Dularge. I brought my fly rod but the wind was blowing just a bit too much (forecasts were 5-10 but the morning started off closer to 10) to risk hooking my partner in the back of the head so I just stuck to my conventional tackle.

The morning was absolutely perfect. A near full moon gave way to a beautiful sunrise. The ride out to the barrier island was a bit choppy but both of us had fished in higher seas than that. On my second cast of the morning, I got a nice blowup on topwater. A few casts later and I was slinging a nice chunky trout in the boat. Meanwhile, my buddy, Neil, had put 3 or 4 nice ones in the boat on soft plastics. The big girls had definitely come out to play! I decided to make the switch and for a couple of hours we put some nice fish in the ice chest. It wasn’t gang busters but the bite was just consistent enough to keep us from moving from our spot. We saw a couple of guide boats in the area and one of them stopped pretty close to us. They caught only one and then left. By then we had twenty-eight trout that measured between 15-18 inches each on ice. The bite had slowed down considerably so we hopped decided to hit a couple more rock jetties. We were just about ready to call it a morning when the bite picked up again. This time, the fish were considerably smaller and we had to cull out a few 11 inch trout but by the time we called it a morning at 11 AM, we had boxed up 44 speckled trout. The ride back in was less choppy and we both had a celebratory beer! I couldn’t have asked for a better day…great company, great weather, and great fishing! We cleaned fish (two full gallon bags of fish fillets), cleaned the boat, and took a nap before making the drive back to Baton Rouge. The only regret I had was in my haste to leave the house, I forgot to pack my cameras so I didn’t get any pictures. Uh, NO, I didn’t bring my new iPhone and risk getting it wet 🙂
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