Fall Fishing in Southeast Louisiana!

Fall happens to be my favorite time of the year to hit the south Louisiana marshes for speckled trout and redfish. Typically, after a few cool fronts make their way down here, the redfish begin to gorge themselves and the speckled trout make their annual migration up the marsh to their winter habitat. A quick look back on some of my older posts will show you just what I mean. I’ve been penciling in the first, second, and third weekends in November to get down to my favorite haunts.

I eagerly looked forward to this past weekend with lots of excitement and anticipation because A), my Friday football game got moved up to Thursday, which meant I could get a good night’s rest before making the two-and-a-half hour drive in the morning and B) the weather was going to be spectacular, albeit unseasonably hot. The only concerns I had were the fact that we had a full moon (meaning the fish would feed all night) and it was just too darned hot. I really wanted to target the trout but I had a hunch that they had not made it that far inside yet.

Friday night, while researching the tides, weather, etc. I took a quick look at my social media and saw a post from a friend of mine who lives in Arkansas http://looknfishy.blogspot.com. Come to find out, Drew was in Grand Isle! I contacted him and we decided to fish together at one of my “go to” spots. This spot is always a redfish producer but it holds tons of trout too this time of year.

We met at TopWater Marina and were launched and fishing by 8 AM in the morning.  There was virtually no wind (good sign for us fly fishermen) and it was forecast to be sunny (good sign for those of us who like to sight fish).

I began with a deer hair popper that I tied recently in my favorite fall trout colors of chartreuse and yellow but did not get a hit. It didn’t take long for me to tell that the trout hadn’t made it down yet. I even tried a pink Lafleur’s Charlie under a VOSI but I didn’t get a strike there either. Drew was really interested in targeting redfish so we ventured deep into the broken marsh to look for redfish sign. We stayed for the most part within shouting distance and I began to see a few in some of the dirty shallow water. I threw my popper at one and got it to rise up to try to slurp it. In my anticipation, I tried to set the hook too soon and it was quickly redfish – 1, Doc – 0.

I later switched to my tried and true gold spoon fly and got similar results. I missed several strikes and finally hooked my first redfish around 10 O’clock or so…and I lost it due to a poor hook-set. No problem because I started to see more and more redfish the deeper I went into the marsh. I finally connected on a descent fish and was able to get a perfect eating sized redfish. I decided I would keep two or three fish because I barter with a colleague of mine at school who provides me with fresh farm eggs for fish fillets. 🙂

DCIM100GOPRO

My morning continued as it began, with missed strikes and spooked fish. I did manage to connect on my second redfish though and that meant I had two fish in the cooler and I should have enough fresh farm eggs to last me until Christmas 🙂

DCIM100GOPRO

That’s when I caught up with Drew and asked him how he’d been doing. He said that he had kept two himself and had probably caught a dozen or so. Wow! I was getting schooled. No problem. It was fun just being out on the water…wait…if you know me, you probably know that I’m just a little bit competitive. Let’s just say that I had some catching up to do. Drew showed me his dark colored fly that he had been successful with but I was stubborn and I stuck with my tried and true, gold spoon fly. Like another buddy of mine says, “Redfish will eat any color as long as it’s gold.”

Drew told me he had found some cleaner water so we both paddled back to a spot where he left them biting. I managed to get another fish on but it quickly broke my tippet. I tried to set the hook too hard and it broke off on its first run. I quickly retied and got back to sight-fishing for another one when I heard Drew holler that he had another one on. I paddled over to him to get a picture. His was a beautiful golden color that would make the cover of any fishing magazine.Redfish release

You can also see by the photo that the water had cleared up here too. I continued to fish but did not catch another redfish before I had to head to the car. I had another one break my tippet and several other missed strikes and flat refusals!

Here’s the play-by-play from my last encounter of the day:

It was getting hotter by the minute and we were getting more of those partly cloudy spots where you’d have to take a break from fishing because you just couldn’t see anything in the water. I kept looking at my watch, knowing that I would have to head back in soon, when I spotted a redfish in some shallow water near me. It was actually active and had that “I’m searching for something to eat” look about it. I stayed far away so I wouldn’t spook this one but that meant that my first cast wasn’t a good one. Plus, the fish decided to turn 180 degrees to the other side right when I cast. It didn’t see my fly. Now it turned again on my next cast and I put my fly right in the “eat me” zone. The fish didn’t react. I don’t think it saw it. I stripped quickly to get it closer to the fish and now it was zoning in on my fly like a heat seeking missile…only not as fast. In my experience with redfish, they flare their gills right before they eat and then they do a head shake once they have gotten the fly in their mouth. I watched this fish flare its gills and do the head shake. I strip set and…nothing. I pulled it out of its mouth. Of course this spooked the thing and that pretty much summed up my morning. REDFISH – 20. DOC -2.

Oh well. I reminded myself about a few things. First, there’s Cormier’s fly fishing rules and rule #1 is: Fish make the rules, not the fisherman. Second, a good trip isn’t always measured by how much you catch. Nothing beats the peacefulness of a a south Louisiana sunrise in a kayak, the beautiful wildlife (gulls, pelicans, egrets, and dolphin), and of course the camaraderie when you go with someone who appreciates all those qualities of a good fishing trip. Drew is one of those guys! When I say he is an avid fisherman, I mean AVID. I intend on getting to south Arkansas in the near future to try to get after some of the bass, trout, and carp that he has in his neck of the woods.

And there’s always next time… 🙂

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 4.49.13 PM

Advertisements

Redzilla Does Exist!

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

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

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

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

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

The conditions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some more pictures:IMG_1617DCIM100GOPRO

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

 

 

 

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.

images.jpeg

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.

FILE0003.jpg

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. 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 5.51.59 PM.jpg

 

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.

DCIM100GOPRO

Big one of the day!

 

DCIM100GOPRO

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.

DCIM100GOPRO

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

 

School’s Out. Time to Fish!!

Now that school is out, I’ve finally had a chance to get down to the Louisiana coast. I joined my good friend and colleague, Neil Borel down at his camper trailer in Grand Isle for a couple of days. As my luck would have it, the wind was blowing 10-15 for the first two days I was there.

Day 1: I went my own way and fished an area where I knew there would be grass to filter the dirty, wind-blown water. I wasn’t disappointed in the amount of redfish I saw. They were smashing baby shrimp in thick grass. The only problem was, I couldn’t get a weedless fly in that grass. The score for the morning was redfish 4, Doc 1. I did catch a nice redfish on my trusty gold spoon fly but I had two others break my line on my bait caster and I lost two more on flies. It seemed like a comedy of errors as I decided to run a ribbet frog across the weeds. I can’t tell you the last time I used my bait caster and that was the problem. The line on it was probably a couple of years old. The first redfish that inhaled my frog popped the line at the tie in point. Later that morning, I had one break off with about 20 yards of line. I tried to grab the line in the water but wasn’t successful.

DCIM100MEDIA

DCIM100MEDIA

Day 2: I fished with Neil and even bought some live shrimp (Neil’s favorite way to fish for specs). I didn’t catch a single trout all morning. The water was very dirty and I only managed a couple of hard-head catfish. I did pole around for some redfish and saw some big bull drum that were tailing over some oyster beds but they weren’t interested in any I was chunking.

Day 3: The wind finally died down. We were hoping to be able to fish the gulf side of the island but it was still too windy so we opted for the back of the island. I caught my first speckled trout of 2015…on live shrimp. I ended up with 5 keeper trout and Neil caught 8

DCIM100MEDIA

DCIM100MEDIA

DCIM100MEDIA

DCIM100MEDIA

I had fun and was able to catch enough fish for a couple of meals.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 6.41.27 PM

Testing the Waters

It’s pretty hard to believe, but prior to today’s trip, I haven’t caught a redfish in 2015 😦  The weather finally cooperated…well somewhat, and I had a good yard pass (my wife was in Galveston). So I loaded the kayak on top the old suburban and headed south.

I had so many options. Should I fish a new spot (Delecroix)? Should I fish Dularge? How about the Highway 1 corridor? I chose the latter but as I was nearing my destination, I then wondered, “Should I should fish Golden Meadow, Leeville, or the Bay Laurier area?” I again chose the latter because I would be targeting redfish and the sky looked clearer the further south I drove. The weatherman predicted winds from 5 – 10 mph, but I guarantee you it was 10 -15 for most of the day. During one part of the morning I paddled through white caps in the bay. It was a bit treacherous but I didn’t have far to go. I hunkered down, keeping my center of gravity low and made it through dry. The morning was beautiful. The temperature was very comfortable. The sun peeked out for a couple of hours early but at around 8:30 or so, the cloud/haze mix put a huge damper on any sight fishing I had planned to do.

I tied on a couple of spoon flies, some new colors to try (again, a great day for testing the waters and some new colors). First, I used one that I made that was gold on the bottom side and pink on the top. The other was what many in the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club have dubbed the “black spoon of death.” Well, at least it was the fly fishing version of the BSD.

I probably went an hour and a half before I saw a redfish that I could cast to. The wind and rains of the previous week had stained the water up and I found that I wouldn’t see the reds until I was right up on them and I spooked two or three before I was able to cast to one. I was really getting kind of frustrated when I saw the tell-tale sign of an angry redfish feeding in a shallow duck pond. I made one cast to it and stripped my spoon pretty fast, to avoid getting caught up in the snot grass. When that red saw the spoon, it attacked like an angry pit bull. Five minutes later, I netted my first pumpkin of the year, a 23-inch beauty.

DCIM100GOPRO

No sooner had I snapped this picture, than the cloud/haze sky kicked in and the wind picked up. I covered a lot of ground, looking for redfish but the fish must still be in their cold weather pattern. I did see some mighty nice sized crabs along the way (looking good for crab season this year) and a bunch of stingrays. Any day on the water is a blessing and today didn’t disappoint because there was plenty wildlife to watch. I actually think I saw two stingrays mating. A smaller one looked like it was attached to the large one (female, I presume). I also saw a pair of dolphin feeding in about a foot of water.

Well, I guess it was around two-o-clock before I was able to make a cast at another redfish. Actually, I did some fruitless blind casting to some cuts and points but didn’t get any hits. I found some clear water (lots of widgeon grass to clean it up) and I saw a redfish crash some bait on a point. He saw me and he spooked. After his initial run away from me, he slowed down a bit and I was able to put a lucky cast right in front of him. I say lucky, because remember, the wind is blowing over ten mph right now. I did have a little protection in the broken marsh I was fishing but it was a real challenge trying to hit a target with the fly in that wind. The fish ate, made a couple long runs, and then spit the hook. I was not to be denied though because about ten minutes later, I got his buddy to eat the BSD (Black Spoon of Death) and I landed another great-eating-sized redfish at 21 inches.

DCIM100GOPRO
You can just see the black spoon in his mouth. I had to edit the picture to get it bright enough because the cloud cover didn’t give me a good picture at first. I fished for another couple of hours and was able to spook a few more redfish. They were there but not in the numbers I had seen in the fall and early winter. Overall, it was a great day on the water. With the new daylight savings time hours, I didn’t have to wake up as early as I normally do so I’m not exhausted. I think the fish are starting to get on their spring patterns. In addition to the large crabs, I saw tiny shrimp jumping in the marsh. Soon, the speckled trout will be making their migration south to spawn. You’ve got to love our fertile estuary!

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 9.22.45 PM

Quality time on the water with my wife!

I had planned on fishing our Paddlepalooza Kayak Tournament when I received a better offer from my wife on Thursday morning. We were invited to my cousin’s camp in Dularge for some well-need R and R. I knew that I would have to bring my kayak along for good measure 🙂  We drove down Friday after work and were treated to a delicious fried speckled trout dinner and a gorgeous sunset over the marsh from the back of their camp. The plan was to take the ladies out on their Ranger and do some scouting or a “soft trip,” as we like to call it. We knew the winds were forecast to blow 15 – 20 mph and there would be little or no tide.  I knew that the girls wouldn’t be getting up at the crack of dawn so I decided to paddle out to some grass flats behind their camp to do a little scouting of my own for redfish.

The minute I eased into the area I was going to fish, I saw a couple of large “backs” cruising within a hundred feet of me. The wind was surprising flat so I pulled out my fly rod and began stalking them. They disappeared into some deeper water but I was able to track one down by the slight ripple its tail made every now and then. A couple of close casts, and I finally put one 2 feet in front of the redfish…Bam! Fish on! The redfish took off like a freight train and stripped line off my reel. However, it was too much for me and it broke my tippet. 😦

I push-poled my way around the area and didn’t see any more fish. I was treated to some of the beauty that gets overlooked by so many who live here. I wish I would have taken pictures…I know, next time, I promise! There were the usual gulls, great white egrets, grey herons, coots, and a pair of wood ducks and another pair of blue-winged teal. As I rounded one small corner, I heard a weird sound and located its source as a very young alligator tried to hide from me. I thought to myself, “How cute,” but then thought, “What if his mommy comes barreling out of the marsh grass?” I quickly vacated the spot and continued my search for redfish. I didn’t see any more redfish in that particular area but there were garfish everywhere! And, they were spawning!  I did see a couple of redfish blow up on some bait in the outer perimeter of the grass flats that I was fishing and I proceeded to cast a plastic ribbit frog through the area. I got one HUGE blowup and a miss before I received a call from the camp saying that breakfast was hot and the wives were ready to get on the water. I didn’t need to be told twice, as I really wanted to spend time on the water WITH my wife this trip.

After a ten-minute paddle back to the camp, I was boarding my cousin’s 23 ft. Ranger bay boat. We took the half hour ride to lake Mechant and took in all that the marsh has to offer. (I also saw numerous alligators). By now the predicted winds were picking up. We had a hard time positioning the boat so everyone int he boat could cast by Neil did a great job and was rewarded with the first speckled trout! I followed with a nice slot-sized black drum. We fought the wind and finished the morning with 13 nice trout in the 15-17 inch range and two drum.

After a terrific lunch, we relaxed and watched the LSU baseball game. When the Tigers had put away with the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 9th inning, I headed back to my redfish flats spot in my kayak. I push-poled around looking for fish for about an hour before I saw my first tail…and boy was it huge! By now the wind was whipping close to 20 mph and I would have to cast toward the fish INTO the wind! I decided to pole around the area where I last saw the tail and come at it with the wind and sun to my back. Well in the process I managed to loose it completely. So I figured the redfish were only working the edge of the grass flats so I stuck my push-pole in the water and anchored myself in an area where I could fan-cast the edge of the flats. I managed to catch, tag, and release a 16-inch redfish on the ribbit frog. I was getting ready to call it a day when I saw the big tail again! It was at the edge of my casting range but I didn’t want to lose it by relocating and moving closer to it. I put about three casts in the area, which was very difficult in a stiff crosswind, but the third cast produced a strike that looked like someone had dropped a hippo in the water! I felt the fish on and slammed the hook home. The line stretched. My rod bent. I was determined not to lose this fish. I held my rod tip up and released the kayak from the stake-out pole to get ready for the cajun sleigh ride of the century! Not long into the fight though, the redfish dug into some of the thick vegetation and got off, leaving me with about 6 pounds of salad and no fish!

Oh well. Can’t catch them all. I paddled back so I could clean the fish we caught from earlier in the day before the sun went down. We had a delicious grilled chicken dinner and we turned in for the night with great memories and a full stomach.

Sorry, the only picture we got was one of Lisa and me and that beautiful sunset on the marsh.
Image