Using this blog as a fishing log

I occasionally look back on this blog to see what time of year certain fish turn on for me, kind of like a fishing log of sorts. For example, I have kept track of when the speckled trout begin to make their move inside during their fall migration. I also keep track of when the sacalait begin to bite and when the bass begin to cruise the shallows in the neighborhood lakes in the spring and in the fall. I was looking back on a morning trip I took last year right after the first cool snap (temps in the lower 50s) and I noticed I had some considerable success right after our first cold front brought temperatures down in the 50s. So, I kind of had I idea that slipping the kayak into the neighbor lake this morning would bring me some action.

And why not? After a week of homecoming festivities that kept me at work until after 10 PM two evenings and after 8 PM another, I was due a morning of peaceful solitude with my fly rod and a deer-hair popper or two. The color of choice for this morning’s adventure? The purple and gold of our Tigers who upset those pesky Gators yesterday! I slipped my kayak into the water around 6:45, right at first light and began tossing a deer-hair diver toward the bank. About ten minutes into my morning paddle, I had hooked into my first bass. It was a small one, probably under 10 inches, but I recalled my trip from last year that the morning began with small fish and progressed nicely to larger ones.

The first fish of the morning smacked my version of the purple and gold Dalhberg diver

Five minutes later, I landed another one…and it was a little larger.

Here is a good picture of that diver

I began to notice a pattern. The fish were pretty tight against the bank and they seemed to consistently get larger as the morning wore on. Still, it was only around 7:15 when I landed fish number three.

Another one was liking the Tigers 🙂

It seemed I was catching fish every five minutes or so, and by now I had caught four bass and I had lost a couple. Some of the takes were small slurps and others were downright slams! There was no consistency in the way they were hitting the bug. I did tell myself to pay attention because one of the missed fish was because I never really noticed the slurp and I didn’t get a good hook set in it. I was casting to a shallow area near one of the fountains when I saw a slight swirl and my popper disappeared. I set the hook good in it and it took off. I realized this one was larger…much larger. It took off toward the water fountain and started dragging me toward the water. I started cracking up because it seemed like this fish thought I needed a shower or something. I frantically tried to turn it and that wasn’t working, so I dug my paddle in the water to keep from getting soaked. I was beginning to think I was going to loose this fish in the wires or the downed debris under the fountain when I finally got the fish to turn away from the fountain. Meanwhile, I had gotten wet. If anyone was watching me, they certainly got a show and watched as we both laughed at my predicament. The fish tried one last time to get under the fountain and I was able to turn it without getting another shower from the fountain. When I saw its mouth, I knew it was a beast. I got a measurement from the ruler on my paddle at 21 inches, which is probably my personal best in length (not in weight) on the fly rod. I was in my yellow Wilderness Tarpon kayak and not my Jackson, so my fish scale wasn’t with me but I estimate the fish to be over 4.5 pounds and probably a conservative 5. This fish will be in the 6-7 lb range in the spring with it fattens up for the spawn.

Long and skinny but very long!
My arms weren’t long enough to get the full fish in the picture.
And my kayak wasn’t wide enough. That’s what you call a ‘bucket mouth.’
I love watching this big ones swim off. Thanks for the adventure!

Soon I regained my bearings from that adventure, I found myself setting the hook on another nice chunky bass. This one was 16 inches.

Another nice fish that went for the LSU diver.

It seemed like I was catching a fish now on just about every other cast.

This one had a smaller mouth but was quite a bit chunkier than the others.

I continued to fish until 8:15, when the action slowed and the fish started getting smaller again. I was able to walk my kayak back home and fix breakfast for Lisa and myself. What a great morning of fishing!

This small fellow was hungry!

Summer Bassin’

The rainy weather is keeping me from going to the marshes so I’m going to make the most of it by staying local and fishing for bass and bream. Oh, and I’ve been tying a few flies too. I’ve been venturing away from my deer hair bugs and I’ve been tying with foam lately to target bluegill.

So, this report will cover two morning fishing trips. One in my neighborhood lake and the other at my buddy’s private lake. The private lake is my go-to spot when I really want a quiet morning that us going to be 90% productive. So Monday, my body clock woke me up at 5:30 again and I walked my kayak a block-and-a-half to our neighborhood lake. I’m really blessed because we actually have two lakes that are adjacent to each other…separated by a small concrete dam. We call them the “upper” lake and the “lower” lake. To get a change of scenery, all I have to do is either fish the upper lake or the lower lake. I find that the upper lake, which is more shallow, provides a better fly fishing experience (mostly with poppers). The lower lake is deeper, it is much larger, and it has more numbers (and probably has larger fish). I have heard reports of local kids catching 8-pound bass in both lakes though, so there are probably big fish in both. However, I find that the bass can be more challenging to catch on flies in the lower lake. Well that theory went bust, if you read my previous post. I caught five nice bass in the lower lake.

I was wanting a change of scenery Monday, so I slipped my kayak in the water around 5:50 in the upper lake. I noticed that the shad were no longer spawning near the banks but I still had confidence that I could get a couple of takers on poppers. Much to my surprise, it was a very slow morning. I did catch a nice bluegill on a size 1/0 popper and two 12-inch bass.

This was a very ambitious eater!
Just under 12 inches
Right at 12

I decided to hop the levee and fish the lower lake, the one where I had success on the previous trip. I didn’t even manage a bite. All was quiet. My biggest catch of the morning was this. I always pick up any trash I find in the neighborhood lakes and dispose of it appropriately. Hard seltzer and Coors Light?? You’ve got to be kidding me! 🙂

Does no one in my neighborhood drink good beer???

So fast forward a couple of mornings. I had the kayak loaded in the back of my truck and I was armed with two 5 wt rods; one with a deer hair popper (to imitate the crawfish the bass have been eating) and the other with a Musicdoc shad. I made the 35 minute run to my buddies lake and I slipped my kayak in the water just before 6 AM. Immediately, I saw some bait working the shoreline (spawning shad) and a few big swirls of fish feeding. After a few misguided casts, I finally was able to get a nice one to eat. It was a healthy 14-inch bass that I released. I had to work the shoreline pretty hard before I caught my next bass on the popper.

crawfish imitation deer hair popper worked on this 11-inch bass

My buddy has instructed me that if I want to continue to fish his lake, I have to harvest everything under 15-inches. He wants to make it a trophy lake. So, this little guy went on the stringer. I noticed that the herons and egrets (I wish I would have taken pictures because I saw at least 4 different species) were having a lot more success than me and were gorging themselves on the shad that were flittering and fluttering near the shore. I decided to switch to my rod with the shad streamer on it and I soon had a nice hookup.

This one ate the Musicdoc shad

I kept looking to see if I could identify a specific pattern. In previous trips, I’ve been able to sight fish for the bass by watching for them as they work in groups of two or three to “herd” baitfish up against the bank. I never saw that this morning. I did see an occasional single fish eat near the bank but by the time I paddled over there, it had most likely either moved or gotten its fill. It has been well documented that summertime bass fishing is tough. Large bass seem to know that they have to get a lot of bang for their buck. They need an easy meal, one that will fill them up so they don’t have to feed as aggressively throughout the hot day. I figured that was why I was only catching smaller fish. Most of the bass were in deeper water. I began to fish my shad fly about 10-15 feet from the bank and that’s where I had my most success.

Even this chunky bluegill was eating shad today.
Another one that ate the Musicdoc Shad

I managed to catch seven bass, which is normally a good morning. However, this lake usually produces double-digit numbers of bass for me. I decided to call it a morning around 9:30 and I headed home to get some work done for school. I did catch an 18-inch fish that had the mouth of a 4 -pound fish but the body of a 2-and-a-half pound fish. (I actually weighed it)

I did harvest six bass in all and I was surprised to see that all of them had empty stomachs. I guess the summer heat has them lethargic. Oh, well, you know what that means, right? More research! 🙂

Tight loops and tight lines!

Things are starting to “Pop” around here.

We just experienced a record cold snap down here in the deep, deep south. Photos of fish kills in the gulf have surfaced everywhere. We have had some family issues so it’s probably been a couple of weeks since I’ve even thought about fishing. Well that changed this morning. My “internal alarm clock” woke me up at 5:30 and I ventured out to my neighborhood lake. I brought three rods with me. One with a deer hair popper, one with a fluff butt under a VOSI, and another with a small baitfish pattern. I wanted to target bass, bream, and sacalait.

The morning was absolutely beautiful. In fact, I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Songbirds were everywhere…singing, courting, and busy building nests. The squirrels were doing the same and I saw many little bucks chasing females as others nervously cut pine branches for nests. Then there were those magnificent Canada geese. They too were interested in courting and there were females being chased as they flew low over the lake. So, with all this love in the air, I thought, “surely the fish will have love on their mind too.”

I quietly worked the banks without any luck until I saw some action near some submerged branches about 100 feet in front of me. I quickly paddled over and I was greeted with a perfect eat on my popper. This fish quickly got me on my reel and I worked it carefully to the kayak. I was determined not to loose any big fish this morning.

Poppers were the fly of choice this morning.

After releasing that fish, I continued to work my popper, occasionally switching to my baitfish pattern and my fluff butt. I did manage to catch a couple bream over 7 inches and I let a little 3-year-old boy on the bank get a chance to “reel” it in. He was so excited. I think that made my morning. I did catch a couple more bass and one of them was a PIG! It’s so cool when you see the wake of the fish as it approaches your popper. It takes an enormous amount of patience not to set the hook too soon. This one was a perfect eat and I did everything by the textbook. It too took me to my reel fairly quickly and was a “jumper.”

Selfie with MusicDoc 🙂

I weighed her (4.18 lbs), I took one more good picture, and I let her go. I did creep up on a few pairs of pretty decent-sized bass that were either guarding beds or getting ready to spawn. They would not eat anything I threw at them. In conclusion, I suggest everyone get on the water and tie on a popper. I have a club meeting this week with my high school fly fishing club and I’ll be instructing them on how to catch bass with a popper.

Got my mojo back

I know I haven’t posted here in a while and it’s really not that I haven’t been fishing, because I try to slip my kayak in my neighborhood lake at least once a week. I just haven’t had much to write about. I might catch one bass here or there…or IMG_0885.jpeg
one 10 inch bream (red-ear or called chinquapin down here)IMG_1067.jpeg
I even made a trip to one of my friend’s “old reliable” lakes to catch some bass on poppers but I lost three and only managed to land one healthy bass.

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Yesterday, we received word that in and attempt to stem the growing tide of the COVID-19 virus, we will be teaching school for the next few weeks online. In addition to that, I had to cancel our high school’s band trip to Disney World, and I had to move my band’s big fundraiser from March 29 to May. I had been in meetings with band parents, meetings with administrators at school, and I had been on the phone for hours with Disney, charter bus personnel, our hotel in Orlando, and God’s knows who else. Thank God my wife was able to purchase some toilet paper earlier in the week 🙂  To say it’s been a stressful week is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a whiner (maybe a winer 🙂 ) and I know it’s been tough for a lot of people in the world. All I know is, I needed some time alone in a kayak with our Lord and a fly rod in my hand.

I loaded up my kayak in my truck and headed to my “old reliable” lake/pond again. After praying my Glorious Mysteries on the way there, I knew my mind was right and it was going to be a great morning. I think I caught my first bass on like my second cast. GOPR0349.jpeg
And then anotherGOPR0350.jpeg

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That was a terrific start. I caught about a half dozen on a Frog style deer hair popper before the fish had destroyed my fly.

GOPR0351.jpegI probably lost about twice as many before I tied on another popper with a different color combination to change things up. Again, I started missing fish and I began to wonder if my hook gap was wrong or something. I figured those bass were just a little bit small and then I got into an area where my hook ratio really picked up.
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Notice the algae in the background. It was a challenge to cast close to that and not get a big clump of salad every now and then.

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I kept a count of how many I caught (19). All were caught on poppers. At around 9:45 I started heading back to the truck but I was going to fish the bank on down toward where I had parked. I got to one little change in the algae line and right away I missed a fish. Two casts later…another miss! By now, I’m thinking I need to take lessons on hook setting or something….and that’s when I saw this big girl lift her head out the water to slurp my popper in. I let her go down with it a second before I strip set the hook hard in her mouth. By the way she was pulling, I knew she was the fish of the day. Of course, I started talking to her. “Don’t you dare jump!” “Don’t you dare spit my hook!” Every time she would rise to the top to jump, I would give her a little more line and I was able to keep the fish from jumping. After a few more minutes, I was able to lip this beautyIMG_1094.jpegIMG_1097.jpegGOPR0355.jpeg

I decided that after that fish, I had had enough for one morning. The owner of the property asked me to keep fish under 15 inches. I have a hard time keeping bass, especially during the spawn but I did keep a dozen under 14 inches to eat on a Lenten Friday soon. In fact, the way people have been clearing the shelves of food, water, toilet paper, etc. that may be the only meat I eat in a long time 🙂

So when I researched ways to avoid the Coronavirus, I keep seeing the phrase, “social distancing.” Well, I did some social distancing and I was able to get some fresh air, some fresh fish, some sun, and some stress relief. I think I’m good for a while. 🙂

 

 

 

The Perch Float Popper

The Perch Float Popper

I was asked by members of my fly fishing club at the high school to teach them to make some bass poppers. They wanted to tie something that they could use during the approaching bass spawning period. I started thinking about what I could teach them to do that wouldn’t a) break the bank and b) be easy enough for beginners to complete. I came up with two possibilities. The first was the Froggy Fly, which you can read about in my previous entry. The second was the “perch float” popper. So here is how we do it.

First, get a bag of Comal Tackle perch floats ($1.00 will make 8 poppers). For this tutorial, I purchased some with the slit already cut in them. You can purchase the others and cut your own slits (for your hook).
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I begin by lightly sanding the color off the corks. I guess one could just put a few coats of white spray paint but it may eat away at the cork. I don’t know because I haven’t tried that yet:
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Next, I cut them in half with a hobby saw:
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After that, I do some more sanding and I create the head angle:
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Once I have the angle, I use a dremel tool to make a “cup” in each head. This helps with the pop when the popper is fished:
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Next step is to put a thread base on a Mustad 33903BR, size 2 kink shank popper hook:
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Once that is done, I glue the hook to the popper by using a super thin CA glue or a very thin super glue:

When the glue is thoroughly dry, I use a little water based wood filler (I use Elmer’s) to smooth out the hole where the hook was glued and then I use a bit to fill the hole in the perch float by the hook eye:
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When that is dry, I do a little more sanding and then I add about five coats of a white under-coat of hobby paint. Here I use a metallic pearl:
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Once that step is completed, it’s time to paint the poppers. You can use acrylic paints from a craft store or any other method you prefer. Here I used a COPIC sprayer. Eyes were added from stick ons that I had in stock, but you can paint them on using different sized nail and needle heads. Here are the poppers ready for a 30 minute epoxy coat:

Pictured next are the heads on a home-made dryer. You can use alligator clips to dry them but you have to flip them over every 5 minutes or so. I made this dryer for about $5 or $6 several years ago:
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Once the popper heads are dry, all there is left to do is tie in the tailing material. I used several different approaches here to show different styles and effects, all of which should catch fish:

 

 

 

Happy Birthday To Me :)

Traditions. It’s what makes us who we are. Every culture, every family has some sort of tradition that identifies us uniquely to each other. One such tradition in our family was each year we got to fish in Daddy’s homemade kayak for our birthday.P1181303.jpg

That’s it on top the car. I thought I had another picture somewhere but this was all I could find. Of course, I’m not in the picture…I’m taking it with my birthday present, a brand new camera of my own 🙂 There are so many things about that picture…oh my! Like my dad’s shorts, my brother Keith’s baseball socks, the white rabbit (that our dog ate for supper one afternoon), and the fact that there are only four (plus me) children. Kory wasn’t born yet. I’m thinking mom looks pretty hot here and lets’ see…Kory came soon after 🙂 I know, T.M.I. and this is supposed to be about my birthday, fishing, and family traditions.

Well, for our birthdays, we could fish with either mom or dad in that tandem kayak. BTW, daddy made it from a kit. I can remember one birthday when dad and I paddled to Lake Boeuf and he pulled under a tree branch to rest in the shade. I was in the front of the boat and there was a huge snake sunning itself on that branch. I freaked out and nearly jumped out of the kayak! Then there was the time when I hooked a monster bass near Lake Des Allemands and mom couldn’t get the net quick enough to land it and I lost what would have been my personal best. However, most of my birthdays were spent fishing a farm pond in Labadieville and it was a special treat to be able to fish out of the kayak.

This year, I decided to celebrate my birthday early. My options were 1) do some sight fishing for redfish in Point aux Chenes, Delecroix, or Hopedale or 2) visit one of my favorite nearby farm pond/lakes. One thing I knew I didn’t want to do was paddle out a mile or so into the marsh and have to haul butt back to the landing and try to outrun a thunderstorm. I chose option 2. With this heat, I knew the bite would be early so I hustled out early and launched shortly after 5:30 AM. Within five minutes, I had netted bass number 1.GOPR3904.jpg

Then came bass number 2GOPR3905.jpg

Then…well… you get the picture (pun intended)GOPR3907 2.jpgGOPR3909 2.jpgGOPR3910 2.jpgGOPR3911 2.jpgGOPR3912 2.jpgGOPR3913 2.jpgGOPR3914 2.jpgGOPR3916 2.jpg

I caught 11 bass and probably missed 8 others. I also caught two bull bream on poppers. After my third big bass, I decided to downsize my popper to the small frog. I continued to catch bass but I noticed they would only slurp the small popper, whereas they smoked the large one! I put the big popper back on before I called it a morning and that’s when I caught that last big bass. Of the 11 I caught, only three were under 15 inches, so they are quality fish! IMG_2563.jpgSo going fishing has been a very important tradition in my life. As I look at my fly rods, I cannot help but think that I relish the peace and tranquillity that fly fishing brings me. I only wish I would have been introduced to the fly rod sooner. As for that old kayak. It dry-rotted many years ago, but the memories it holds are still imbedded in my mind. I’m sure it’s the same for some of my siblings. Now…to continue that tradition with my granddaughter. IMG_4734.jpg
Hudson models her very first monogrammed fishing outfit 🙂

 

Bass Therapy

It seems we have all kinds of therapies available to us today. Of course there’s physical therapy, music therapy, occupational therapy, and a host of others we won’t mention here. Today’s post is brought to you by the bass therapy. That’s the kind of therapy I needed today. I got a good report from some of my band parents after our spring concert last night and I decided to load the kayak on my truck for a couple hours of bass therapy. That is, a couple of hours of peaceful solitude on a quiet lake with hungry bass that eat what I’m tying.

Well, at least, that was the plan. I got to the lake a little after 5 PM and was throwing one of my deer hair poppers shortly thereafter. I got to one of my favorite spots in the back of the lake and I missed a monster strike by one of those hungry, post-spawn girls. She made one good jump and threw my popper. That’s OK. Being a fly fisherman, I get used to missed fish. Anyway, I was just really starting to relax when three vehicles approached on a dirt road and five young 20-something-year-olds got out and started setting up to do some target practice. They were very nice about it and told me things were going to get loud. I had plenty fishable water so I didn’t mind but the constant shooting did get annoying.

So I paddled away from the shooting and caught my first bass of the afternoon on a fire tiger deer hair pattern. GOPR3855.jpgThings were really getting slow when I noticed a nice bass that nosed on up to the popper but refused to eat it. I had a crease fly tied on to my other rod so I tried seeing if it would eat that. Still no bite. At this point, my bass therapy was going to need more therapy.

I paddled to the opposite end of where the shooting was taking place and around 6:45, someone turned the switch on. I proceeded to nearly be able to call my shots. The bass were taking some explosive shots at my crease fly and boy was that fun. Each one seemed to be right around the 15 inch mark with a couple that pushed 16. I tried to switch back to the deer hair popper, but they only wanted the crease fly. I finished the afternoon off around 7:30 with my largest bass of the day, one that pushed just a little over 18 inches and probably weighed over three pounds.  I wish I had gotten a good photo but my GoPro is acting up and I was only able to get a few pictures off the sim card. None of my video came out 😦 and I thought I had gotten some really good video of some good eats. I’ll keep working on the card and hopefully I can extract some of that video.

In conclusion, the bass therapy did the trick. I ended up catching and releasing a dozen bass and probably lost just as many. The action was fast for about an hour, as the fish were feisty and fought hard. Here are a few pictures that I was able to get off my GoPro.

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This is my last freshwater trip before my Mission Six Tournament this weekend. Catch Cormier and I look to defend our title from our big win last year. The trash talk has been going on for quite some time. Now it’s time to get out there and catch a couple big slot redfish. I plan on posting a good report here early next week.

New frog patterns

I haven’t been fishing in a while; mostly because of home commitments and a back issue that has been very painful. I got a short-term fix on the back and most of my “honey dos” taken care of so I’ll traveling to CENLA to try to catch my buddy, Catch Cormier’s, big bass he entered already on the Massey’s Fish Pics Tournament. I also hope to catch some sacalait and big chinquapin for a Friday Lenten meal soon too.

In the meantime, I’ve found some time to sneak away to my tying vise and I’ve developed my version of a frog popper that I learned from master tier, Bill Laminack. I also learned a new way of putting a weed guard on my popper that’s frankly, ingenious. Again, kudos to Bill.

First, are a couple pictures of the frog popper/slider:IMG_2203.jpg

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Notice the hard mono on the back side. It fits well into any fly box because the mono is behind the fly. When I’m ready to tie it on my tippet, I just run my tippet through the weed guard and tie off through the hook eye. I used some backing in the following picture so you could see how I do it. IMG_2204.JPGIMG_2202.JPG
Her’s a view from up front. I can’t wait to see some bass gulp this thing up. I should be able to bounce it over cover too with that weed guard.

School is Almost Out!

Yep. It’s getting to be that time of year. The bass have spawned out, the bream and sacalait are just about spent, but the speckled trout fishing is about to get good in the surf. I’ve made some poppers that I hope will be the ticket in the murky green water down in the Grand Isle/Forcheon area.

Meanwhile, I was able to get a couple of hours of bass fishing in my neighborhood lake. I like fishing the post spawn here mostly because the fishing pressure has backed off. However, this time of year also offers some special fishing if one gets there right at first light when the shad do their summer spawning rituals.

This Saturday proved to be one of those special mornings. I put my kayak on the cart and walked a couple blocks to where I put in. Right when I got there I knew that the action had already started because there were about 8 or so white and grey herons battling for position along a bank where the shad were boiling. As I launched my kayak, I heard the sound of bass feeding. Some were just boils while others were splashes that sounded like someone’s dog had just jumped into the lake. Anyway, while the thought of tossing a popper into a school of hungry bass might seem like child’s play, it really isn’t as easy as it sounds. With such an abundance of fresh, live bait in the area, it can be a challenge to get a bass to eat a fly. Luckily, I have an answer for that. It’s my crease fly! (see prior post).

I had my first hookup around 6 AM, but it jumped and I lost it. Bass – 1. Doc – 0.  I have found that some bass follow the schools of shad around the bank as they move, picking off unsuspecting ones as they are more interested in procreating than watching their backs for predators. Those are harder to fool on the fly. It’s a numbers game…too many options for the bass to chose. I have, however, found that it is easier to fool a bass once the fast excitement has died down. The numbers then favor me. AND, if I put my fly real close to the bank, near the grass where some of the shad have decided to stay and hide, I’ll spook them from their hiding place and the scurrying of 5 or six stragglers will prompt a strike from a lurking bass. You see, my crease fly just doesn’t see to scurry as fast as the real thing, thus making my offering look like an easy meal. At about 6:15, I was able to land my first bass of the morning. It was a nice post-spawn bass that measured 19 inches. She probably weighed 4 pounds or more when she was full of eggs. GOPR3643.jpg
Just look at how big her mouth was! She actually stripped line off my reel and I had to fight her like a redfish. I can’t recall having a bass strip line off my reel like that in years 🙂

My next two bass were 12 and 15 inches, which were nice fish by any means on the fly.  I began fishing for bream around 7:30 and I managed a few small ones that wanted to play. Before heading back home, I decided to try an area that is lined with big Louisiana Irises. I have found that baitfish hide in the leaves of these plants and the bass hangout nearby to pick off any stragglers. Right at that moment, two guys in a small bass hunter boat passed near me and said hi. Before I could answer their, “Having any luck?” question, I had another big bass explode on my crease fly. I was determined to land this one (especially with my audience) but it was a jumper. I was lucky enough to land her though, even after 5 or 6 big jumps. She measured 17 inches.GOPR3645.jpg
You can actually see the line of lilies in the background of this picture where I caught her.

Anyway, it’s been raining for two days so the water will be dirty the next few days. However, the water will be flowing over the dam in the morning so I expect I’ll head over there for a half hour before school starts to see if I can get any fish to play before coffee and exams. 🙂

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