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

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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.

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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School is Out. Guess What?

School has been out down here in south Louisiana since last Wednesday and I’ve taken advantage of the time to get on the water. My first excursion was a trip to Grand Isle with a good friend and colleague of mine. We were able to fish only one day  (Thursday morning) because the wind picked up Friday and made it just about impossible to fish from a kayak with a fly rod. I did manage to catch three pretty speckled trout on poppers by anchoring and casting with the wind to my back to a wind-driven point. I had numerous misses and even lost a real nice one at the net but was able to land this one before the wind just got impossible. I actually foul hooked her (look under the pectoral fin) so for a while there, I thought I had Moby Dick on the end of my fly rod!
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I came back home to spend time with family, as my daughter and her husband were coming to town for the Memorial Day weekend. The whole time, I kept a watchful eye on the winds and decided there would be a window of opportunity to get some trout fishing in the surf Tuesday. The CCA STAR Tournament began Saturday and I finally decided to enter the tournament and fish it in the fly division. I caught 8 speckled trout Tuesday morning but they lacked the size of the fish I caught the previous Thursday. I had two fish that were 15.5 inches so I entered my biggest and low and behold…Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 3.36.28 PM
I received a text from a former student of mine and I agreed to meet him early Wednesday morning to fish for a couple of hours in what has become my favorite fresh water hangout. It’s ashamed it’s a private lake but it has afforded me hours of chill time and I’ve caught 44 bass there the last two visits! I was able to sight cast for bass on crease fly poppers. I would see a wake and cast to it and then watch as the bass would explode on my popper. My largest of the morning was 2.87 pounds.
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I’m still fighting the pain of two broken wrists. I’ve had my left splint off for three weeks now but the right one is still bothering me. Here’s a copy of the X-ray:
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It doesn’t take a radiologist or a hand surgeon to see the crack on the radius bone. It will be seven weeks tomorrow and I still cannot land a fish without my wrist brace. The darned thing (the brace, not my hand) is beginning to stink now 🙂

Anyway, here’s another picture from yesterday’s bass fishing:

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My hand surgeon made me promise to keep some of the bass from the lake that were under 15 inches, so I kept these 8, filleted them and gave them to some of our custodial workers at school. They were thrilled!
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Fun Day in Hopedale

Our friend, Merriam-Webster defines fun as: “what provides amusement or enjoyment.” He also define’s the word, challenge, as “a difficult task or problem.” To say that this past Saturday’s fishing trip in Hopedale, Louisiana was a challenge, would be somewhat of an understatement. To say that I had fun and enjoyed every minute of it…well let’s just say I can’t wait to go back!

For any of you who know me personally, you will know that I am driven by challenges. I thrive on them and I jump at the chance to come out on top and defy the pundits. It goes with my teaching and it also goes with my fly fishing. Saturday morning looked on paper to be a stellar day of fishing. The weatherman predicted sunny mild temperatures with light winds. Well he got it right for a change 🙂  Allow me to backtrack a little.

First of all, I’ve been wanting to make a fishing trip with a buddy of mine who is in Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club. Chuck (Snake Doctor on our forum) is an avid kayak fisherman who loves fishing with a fly rod. In addition to being avid fly fishermen who fish out of a kayak, we actually share a lot more in common. Chuck has earned his Ph.D. and is an educator (he teaches at Tulane University). We ended up placing first and second in this year’s Massey’s Outfitters Catch, Photo, Release tournament. Oh, if you’re wondering, he earned first place and I earned second. Anyway, after many futile attempts to fish together, we finally found a day that worked for both our schedules and the weather wasn’t going to stop us this time. The plan was for me to meet him at his selected launch site in Hopedale at 8 AM.  As I was nearing Reggio, I noticed people walking on the side of the road swatting in the air. It hit me right then that they were swatting at the most pesky creature that God has put in our Louisiana marshes, the hated no-see-ums. These gnats (biting midges) can swarm by the thousands and can be so bad, that you will actually leave fish biting and take shelter! I find that deet products and skin-so-soft are not effective on these creatures. The best defense is gloves, a hat, a buff, long sleeved shirts and pants, and Victoria’s Secret Amber Romance, which you have to keep reapplying all day. As I type this, I am trying NOT to scratch all those bites I received.

When I met Chuck at the launch site, I realized that I had left my buff at home. Thank God, he had a spare. After unloading our kayaks and applying several doses of Amber Romance we began our paddle to the marshes of Hopedale. We were greeted with very low water and poor water clarity. We found some moving water and bait but the predator fish just weren’t around. Chuck caught an 18 inch redfish while blind casting in a cut that led to a sizable duck pond. Speaking of duck pond. We spooked about 300 ducks from that one pond and they were all puddlers, mallards, gadwalls, and teal! What a beautiful site as they got up and circled us and fussed at us for  interrupting breakfast. We decided to paddle a bit further away from the trucks (we probably covered 6.5 miles) to find some deeper, cleaner water.

From 8 – 10:30, we were attacked by hoards of gnats. Finally at around 10:30, the wind started to pick up and that provided some relief from the bugs but it was making poling around searching for reds all the more difficult. While Chuck and I share a lot of things in common, I noticed that we have two distinct styles of fly fishing from our kayaks. He spends most of the time sitting and has the patience (which I lack) for doing a lot of blind casting. Although he is blind casting, he does it as an experienced angler because I watched him hit little cuts and pockets time and time again. I spend most of my time standing and sight casting for redfish. It combines my love for hunting with fishing. Anyway, I don’t think I saw my first redfish until around 10:30. With the poor water clarity, I found that I spooked a lot of fish. By the time I would see them, I couldn’t get my anchor pole down in the water and my fly rod out in time to make a cast at them before being busted.

Just when it looked like I was going to get skunked, I saw a commotion ahead in a shallow inlet and there was a monster redfish patrolling an area about 30 feet away from me. Great. It hadn’t seen me. I was able to get my park ‘n pole in my scupper hole to anchor my kayak and keep me from drifting up on the fish. I made a perfect cast about two feet in front of it and it attacked with vengeance. I watched as it flared its gills open to eat the fly and in my excitement, I set the hook way too hard. Let’s just say that redfish was able to wear some jewelry in the form of my gold spoon fly for the rest of the day. 😦  After tying on another spoon  fly and spooking a few more redfish, I came across another fish that was unaware of my presence. This one was moving away from the bank and toward deeper water when my fly intercepted it’s path. It slammed the fly and the next thing I knew, my line was tearing through drag. After a 10 minute fight and one heck of a sleigh ride, I landed my best redfish of 2016. It was a perfect “tournament” redfish…very fat and measured right at 27 inches. If I had been fishing a tournament that fish would have shrunk in an ice bath and would have been 26.9. Well, it was that fish’s lucky day. All I did was put a tag in it and sent it off on its way to go make babies. I did get a couple of pictures though.

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Big one of the day!

 

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Going to be an upgrade to my Massey’s CPR tournament

By this time, Chuck had made it around to me and he told me that he had caught two redfish and a bass. There were some clean pockets of marsh in the area we were fishing and we figured that there wouldn’t be any areas worth paddling to that morning that would be more promising than where we were. Then it was like someone switched on a light. Within five minutes of our conversation, I located another cruising fish and I was fighting a 20 inch redfish. From about 12:30 to 1:30, I sighted another 9 fish and was able to cast to three. The largest of those had it’s back out the water about 30 away from me. My first cast ended up about 5 feet in front of it. Oh, did I mention that the wind had picked up to about 10 mph by now? Well, I thought my errant cast would work to my benefit because the fish was heading to my fly. I let it sit there as the fish neared. Then I lifted it off the bottom to get its attention but it had turned around and was heading back away from my fly. I cast to it again but this time, I put the fly right on its back and I was busted!! I did manage to catch a 24-inch redfish to close out the day.

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24 inches

Five redfish between the two of us fishing only with fly rods is not a bad day at all. We both missed fish but that comes with the territory. Sure we could have caught more numbers in the murky water if we had brought along spinnerbaits but that’s no challenge.  On the paddle back to the truck, Chuck apologized for our lackluster day but I told him I had a blast. Some days, it’s all about the challenge, and that, my friend, is MY definition of fun!Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.12.01 PM

 

It’s almost “That Time”

It’s almost my favorite time of year to chase redfish and speckled trout down in the south Louisiana marsh. From about mid October until mid December, the shrimp migrate to inside waters and the predators follow them. Additionally, a series of cold fronts pushes water out of the marsh leaving cooler, shallower water which in turn makes spotting feeding redfish a lot easier task.

A quick look at last year’s blog entry from the same weekend showed that I was able to catch a limit of redfish in the Bay Laurier area. I was hoping the conditions this Saturday would be similar. Alas, the weatherman messed up the forecast and instead of 5-10 mph winds, I was greeted with 10-15 mph winds nearly all morning. The water was also unseasonably high, very dirty, and there was very little tide movement. I saw a lot of baitfish and an occasional jumpy shrimp but I didn’t see any predator fish except for a few sheepshead. I did manage to catch my first sheepshead of the year, a 19 inch beauty.

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It’s always fun to fool one of these with a fly!

I was able to then catch a small redfish while blind-casting over an oyster bed.

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10 inch redfish ate the spoonfly.

I finished the morning around noon with an interesting story. I was fishing a stretch of water that has been real productive for me in the past. I push-poled my way around the lee side of the marsh and didn’t see anything except mullet and baitfish. I then decided to check the windy side. By now, there were white-caps in nearby Bay Laurier and the wind was pushing me rather quickly down the side of the marsh. As I rounded one point, I saw a redfish cruising the grass line and then quickly noticed that he wasn’t alone. It was a pod of about 15 redfish!  I was so close to the edge of the marsh grass and the wind was pushing me toward them so fast that they literally swam right into the bow of my kayak before I could grab my fly rod. They quickly spooked and I waited around for them to regroup. Sadly, they never regrouped. I continued to work the windy side of the large duck pond I was in and I saw something that looked like another nervous mullet. This one, however looked a little suspicious, so I stuck my park n’ pole in the scupper hole and waited. A couple of seconds later, I realized it was another pod of redfish. These were a lot smaller in size than the other one I spooked. I made a great cast, considering the wind, and placed my gold spoon fly about three feet in front of them. I waited until they were about six inches from the fly and I made a short strip. Wouldn’t you know it, a small redfish out hustled the larger slot sized redfish in the pod and ate the fly. I put a tag in it and released the 16 inch redfish to fight another day.

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Last redfish of the morning.

Although it wasn’t a very productive day, I did learn a few things. I saw a few reports form others who caught fish further inside (Golden Meadow). The water there is considerably cleaner (more grass to filter the dirty water). The fish just aren’t quite ready in the Laurier area just yet. In another week or two, it should be dynamite though! I hope the wind can only cooperate.

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