Summertime fun

Summertime fun

Each summer, I look forward to putting all those flies I tied during the rainy winter and spring to a field test. Last week, I spent a lovely week in Florida with my wife and we spent four days in St. Augustine. St. Augustine is the oldest city in America and it’s full of historical venues and a few newer “watering holes” to boot. We toured the Basilica, the Castillo de San Marcos, The Fountain of Youth, and more. Here are a couple pictures from that trip.IMG_3796.jpg

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Now before you exit my blog, let me get to the fishing report. As you see in the pictures, I wasn’t allowed to bring my fly rod, so I have to make up for it this week. 🙂

I took a quick look at the weather forecast and figured that my best opportunity would be Tuesday, because the wind, clouds, and rain were in the forecast for Wednesday through the weekend. AND…I start with one of my camps next week. I decided to revisit PAC (Pointe aux Chenes) and do a little sight fishing for sheepshead and redfish.

Since I planned on doing some sight fishing, I decided I didn’t need to get there at the crack of dawn so I left Baton Rouge for the 2 hour journey at 6 AM. I was on the water and fishing by 8:45. Now, I periodically get to fish with a fly fishing icon. Most people just call him “Catch” and that’s because he knows how to catch fish. He has been my fishing partner for the past three years in the Fly Fishing For the Mission Tournament. Anyway, at this year’s event he caught 6 or so sheepshead on the fly! So, I tied up a couple of the shrimp patterns he was using (a tan colored Lafleur’s Charlie) and made sure to tie one of my first rig. On the second, I put a crab pattern. GOPR0183.jpeg
You can see the three flies I used today on the pool noodle to my left.

Today’s conditions were good for sight fishing except, the water was extremely high and dirty. The fish were going to have to make a big mistake for me to see them in that water. I even went to my usual spots which have a lot of grass, thinking that the water would be cleaner there but it was just too high. I think the incoming tide was bringing dirty water from the shrimp boats. From about 9 AM until just before noon, I had the shrimp pattern and the crab pattern on. I was able to spot a few misguided redfish and sheepshead but they were 1) very spooky and 2) they just wouldn’t eat. I made several perfect presentations and watched as the fish followed the fly but something didn’t look right and they just would not eat. Finally, around noon, I figured I had better change tactics. I refuse to get skunked, so I tied on my  trusty spoon fly.

Right away, I spotted a trio of big sheepshead. Great! They hadn’t seen me. So I put a cast out to the left of the group…I didn’t want to put it right in the middle of them because I figured I would hit one of them in the butt and then they would all scatter. As luck would have it, one of them peeled off and took a look at the spoon. Come on…Eat it!!  Eat it!! Nope 😦

Of course, by now the wind had picked up to around 10 mph but I can deal with that as along as I can fish the lee side of the marsh. I spotted a pretty redfish but an errant cast that landed on its snout didn’t work out so good for either of us. Ahh, “there’s another one,” I thought to myself. Maybe I’m finally in a target-rich area. No sooner had I gotten those words out, the fish chased my spoon fly down and gobbled it up. After about a 5-minute or so battle, I landed my first fish of the day. It measured 21 inches and I let it go. GOPR0181.jpeg

After I released the fish I paddled back to my “target-rich” spot. I spied another redfish in the shallows and put one cast toward it. BAM, fish number two! It was a fun little fish but noticeably smaller (probably 17 or 18 inches).GOPR0182.jpeg

I went back to my spot but the “target” had moved on. About 15 minutes later, I was cruising a bank with the wind to my back, when I spotted two really nice sheepshead. I was able to put my push pole in the water and stop my kayak. I placed a couple really nice casts out to the fish but when it was looking like it was interested…BAM! A redfish swam in and smoked my fly! I fought this one for a while and was getting it close to the kayak when it took one more big run and spit the hook.

It was getting to be about 2 PM (my self designated time to start heading back in) when I saw a very large dark shadow. At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me but when it turned, I saw the telltale stripes on its side. Well, what do you know? I finally got a big sheepshead to eat my spoon fly! We engaged in a battle that lasted a couple of minutes. It too spit my hook back at me. That’s one of the things about sheepies. They have that mouth full of teeth. It’s hard to find a spot in there to get a hook in.

I know I say that any day on the water is a good day. It’s just some are better than others. Today was not one of those great days. The water clarity was poor, the water was high, and the wind picked up to make things even more challenging. The two fish I did land were beautiful. I’m going to have to rethink PAC for a while. I think my next trip south will be to Grand Isle. In the meantime, I may take a trip up north to try my luck at some big carp.  I’ll leave you all with a few closeups of these beautiful fish.

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Things are starting to warm up!

We have had one weird winter in south Louisiana. We must be the only place in America where you have to run your air conditioner during the day and your heater at night. It can be 83 degrees at 2 PM one day and 37 degrees with a 25 mph wind the next morning. And then, there’s the rain! I was looking forward to having the week off to do some fishing during my Mardi Gras break. The weather was cold, windy, and wet the entire week!

So, I’ve been filling my free time with getting some “honey do” projects done around the house and I finally found some time to get on the water this past Sunday. My plan was to head south and try to catch some trout and redfish. The weather was predicted to be sunny with a high around 75 degrees and winds from 5-10 mph. This is were I usually have to report that the weather man got it wrong again, but I have to say he was spot on this day. Well, the wind probably got up to about 12 or 13 mph at times but it was still fishable.

I met a buddy of mine around 5 AM and made the 2 hour trek to our spot. Plan A was to fish for trout. We arrived a little later than we had intended but I was just glad to be on the water and enjoy the beautiful sunrise. When we got to our spot we saw there were no fewer than 8 motor boats already around our spot. I picked up my first trout around 7:30 on a pink Charlie under a VOSI.GOPR0119.jpg
Right away, I thought we would get “into ’em” but that was the lone trout either of us caught that day. So, it was off to plan B to search for redfish in the shallows.

We poled off to some nearby broken marsh and began sight fishing the leeward sides of some small islands and duck ponds. I saw a good bit of redfish but honestly, they saw me before I could get my rod up to make a cast. I was spooking a lot of fish when I finally got one to slip up. My first redfish ate my gold spoon fly.GOPR0129.jpg
It was a nice 24-inch fish that I decided to harvest (I trade fish fillets for fresh farm eggs with a colleague of mine).

My morning continued about the same way. I lost a big one (weak hook set), another monster (set the hook too hard), and a third undersized fish before I was able to land this 27-inch beauty.GOPR0133.jpg
After releasing it back to the Louisiana marsh, I figured I had better try to find my buddy. I  caught up to him  about a half hour later and learned that he was having similar luck with his bait caster.  I was seeing more and more redfish so I was determined to get another one to my kayak. I was treated to one more beauty before we called it a morning.GOPR0139.jpg
These “Louisiana Pumpkins,” as we like to call them have a gorgeous bronze luster to them. Their big brown eyes are a sight to behold too.

It was good to be on the water with an old friend, witness a beautiful morning in the South Louisiana marsh, and have a redfish take me into my backing once again. I’m going to be unable to fish for a couple of weekends but after that I’m going to have to get down to the marsh again to get my fix of Louisiana Pumpkins.

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 🙂

 

Mission Six Does it Again

I had the privilege to fish the “Fishin’ for the Mission” again this year with my good friend and legend fly fisherman, Glen “Catch” Cormier. Mission Six is a nonprofit that supports veterans and first responders and lets them know we’ve got “their six.” They take vets out on the water to do some kayak fishing and then they get together to do some fellowship. All this provides therapy they all need. I was honored to be able to fish this tournament, which by the way, is the largest salt water fly fishing only tournament in Louisiana. The format is pretty simple. Teams of two (can be kayakers or motor boats) weigh their two heaviest slot redfish (between 16 and 27 inches). Last year, Catch and I won the tournament, beating out all kayakers and the big boats so there was some trash talk going on among some of the participants prior to this year’s event.

I was able to do some pre-fishing this year so I headed out (a little later that most fishermen would expect) on Saturday to see if I could spot some fish. The weather was forecast to be sunny with winds at 5-10 mph, perfect for sight-fishing! I launched at Eddies (Pointe aux Chenes) kayak marina. His setup is awesome! Fishermen are able to back their vehicle right up to the dock and slide their kayak out on the PVC pipe. The kayak slides surprisingly easy on it and then it’s just a matter of sliding the rig out in the little floating docks.IMG_2407.JPG  You can see from the picture that I was set up with my new Orion ice chest (more on that later). I paddled out past the statue that overlooks the marina and headed to to some the same spots where I caught the tournament winning fish last year. IMG_2409.JPG
I love the statue of Jesus overlooking all us boaters!

Anyway, the water was low and the visibility wasn’t prime. I guess it’s because the tournament was in June last year and we fished it nearly two months earlier this year. Add to that, Eddie, at the kayak launch said that this winter saw a fish kill and the fishing hasn’t recovered yet.  In spite of that, I was able to spot my first fish…uh, well,IMG_2410.JPG spook my first redfish, within five minutes of poling through the marsh so I was optimistic that I could put some fish in the boat. About an hour and a half later, I caught a nice redfish on my goto fly, the gold spoon fly. He was 23 inches but he was also quite lean. I knew that I would have to do better than that to win or even place in this year’s tournament, because the weather conditions were going to favor anyone who could sight fish. I caught a couple more pretty fish but nothing that I would consider to be a “money fish.” IMG_2412.JPGIMG_2413.JPG
The “Debbie Downer” of the day…poor Debbie; why did they choose her name? 🙂 was when I realized I had lost my landing net. I was push-poling my way down an opening in the march when I saw a net; my net floating by a nearby grassy island. The wind had picked up by now and I assumed that it got lodged out of my rod holder behind my new ice chest and I never heard it hit the water. Good thing it floats. Right? Well, I retrieve it and went to put it back in the rod holder in the back of my ice chest. IMG_2407 3.jpgNotice where the rod holders are. I had to reach way back behind me to adjust the rod holder. When I did that, I stuck my head a bit too far over the edge of the kayak and splash. I hit the water! I quickly sunk in the soft Point aux Chenes muck and proceeded to lose my shoes somewhere three feet below the “marsh bottom.” The ice chest fell out of the kayak and my immediate reaction was, “Oh no! Not my expensive fly rod!” I was fortunate that nothing was broken. So I stood in the water and put everything back in the kayak before I climbed back in. Well as soon as I tried to climb back in, the top heavy ice chest (that wasn’t latched to the kayak) fell out of the kayak a second time and of course, I lost my balance again and I ended up in the marsh water a second time. This time, I actually stepped on my landing net and sunk IT into the muck. I was extremely tired and weak after this second attempt to re-enter my kayak. It would take me two more attempts before I was able to get myself, all my rods, my box of flies, and my ice chest back on board. I ended up walking the kayak to some marsh grass and I stuck the bow of the yak into some grass to stabilize it.

I was exhausted so I called it a day. I figured I paddled 5 miles or so and I needed food, hydration, and rest. Sunday would be a different day.

I arrived at 5:30 AM for the captain’s meeting. I guess we ended up launching around 6 AM and were greeted to a splendid sunrise with calm winds. I followed Catch out to a spot he had scouted that had a lot of grass and clear water. We began the morning with poppers. I haven’t caught a redfish on a popper in years. I’ve had a few blowups but I’ve not been successful in landing one. Sunday would not be a day to break my popper drought. I did have one nice redfish rise up from the grass and raise its back out of the water to stare, eye-to-eye with my popper. I don’t know how to explain it…weird, fun, heartbreaking, exhilarating…words cannot describe it. Well after a couple seconds of staring at my popper, I decided that if I made it MOVE, the redfish would think it was alive and would try to eat it. Boy, was I wrong! It spooked and high-tailed it out of there. The good news was, I saw Catch and he said he had missed four on a popper and had just landed a keeper slot fish on a spoon fly.

I decided to work some of the area I had scouted the day before. 9 o’clock came by. Still no fish. 10 o’clock…still no fish. Now I was seeing fish, only they were extremely spooky and even those I had managed to cast to didn’t want anything to do with a spoon fly, a popper, or anything else I tried to get them to eat. 11 o’clock…still nothing. There was so much baitfish (mullet) in the area, it was hard to tell if the splashing sounds I was hearing was mullet or redfish. I heard one particularly loud splash and when I investigated, I saw a very large, upper slot redfish slowly chasing bait over a grass bed. The good news was, it was moving away from me so I had a chance of not spooking it. I crept up ever so slowly to it and put a couple casts in its vicinity. It too, didn’t want anything to do with my spoon fly. I was relentless. I put the fly about 12 inches out in front of it and this time it pounced. I set the hook home and hung on. Immediately, the fish took off like a bat out of hell, getting me down almost to my backing. I started to gain on the fish and I was thinking…MONEY FISH!! Then, it spit the hook back at me.  With the luck I was having that day, I can tell you I really wasn’t really surprised.

Anyway, about an hour later, I did manage to land my only redfish of the day. GOPR3871.jpg
It was about 21 inches and I knew I had to do better. After a quick call to Catch, who had already landed 6, I decided to try to find him. Come to find out, he was deep in the marsh but he found some clean water and there were plenty redfish in it! I did manage to spook a bunch more fish and even hook into another upper slot redfish but I lost it too. At 2 o’clock, I decided to call it a day. I knew Catch had caught a dozen redfish and had kept his four largest, which were larger than mine. Oh, and did I mention that I left all my water and Gatorade IN THE TRUCK!! I decided to start sucking on ice chips in my ice chest. I know, you’re thinking NOT THE FISH ICE. No, I kept the fish on a stringer until I decided to paddle back.

I got back to the landing, chugged two 32 oz. bottles of Gatorade and looked for Catch. He wasn’t in yet. It was 2:35 and the scales closed at 3. I called him and he said, “Oh no. I’m lost. What time is it?” Good thing he found his way back. We were about to send a few guys out to find him. AND he got back at 2:58. He had our two largest fish so I let him do the honors. His two largest fish earned us a third place finish overall. In fact, his big fish weighed over 8 pounds! We won some cash (I don’t know how much because we donated it back to Mission Six again this year) and we each got a fifth of Tito’s Vodka. We kept the vodka 🙂

I know this is a long read, but it was fun. I hope it makes you feel like you were there with me. Here are a couple pictures to close out this entry. I have to say that it’s an honor to fish this tournament. I do NOT fish tournaments (except for the BCKFC Fish Pics year-long tournament), but I will fish this one again next year. The people are great and it’s great to see the faces of the veterans who made the trip down there. We are so very grateful for their service and their sacrifice. It’s an honor to fish with them and to hang out with them for an afternoon. I hope to be able to spend time on the water with some of them in the future.

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