Dusting off the 8wts

I had to look back on this blog to see when was the last time I made a fishing trip to the South Louisiana Marsh in search for redfish and speckled trout. I saw that I made a couple trips in June and that’s it. That’s either a sad state of affairs for me or, the fresh water fishing has been awesome and it doesn’t warrant making the 2-and-a-half hour trip down to the coastal marshes to get some fishing in. Well, luckily for me, it was the latter. However, I do love fishing our South Louisiana Marshes in the fall and I saw a window of opportunity that opened after church yesterday. Here’s what my window looked like:

The winds were going to lay down
There was zero chance of rain and 100% chance of full sun
I had no school or family obligations
My wife was in Disneyworld with her sisters 🙂

What I didn’t count on was this:

The water was high and muddy
There was zero tidal movement

Here’s the abbridged story:

I left Baton Rouge around 9:30 and headed to a spot I’ve fished for 10+years just north of Leeville. Most of you are probably aware that this area was destroyed by Hurricane Ida this past August. I saw lost of blue tarps on houses along the way and as I got closer to Leeville, I noticed buildings that had been gutted and it looked like some of those will not rebuild. There was debris all over the marsh, from empty fuel tanks to refrigerators and a lot of sheet metal.

After a quick combat launch, I made the quick paddle out to one of the spots that has produced for me in the past. Right off the bat, I had hooked into a small “schoolie” trout. About 3 casts later, I hooked into a nicer one at 16 inches

I know it doesn’t look like 16 inches but I measured it when I got home

I thought this was going to be the beginning of a wonderful afternoon, but much to my dismay, this trout must have been a loner. 😦

After catching a few more dink trout, I decided to switch gears to see if I could sight fish for some redfish. I thought surely, the storm would have brought some fresh fish inside. I guess the visibility was around 8 inches but I couldn’t see a thing. The wind was calm (too calm because the gnats were bad) and I constantly listened for the sounds of fish chasing bait along the marsh grass. I didn’t hear a thing except for the lively mammals in the area (nutria, otters, and porpoise) I just wished the fish would have been that lively. I chalked it up to the fact that there was no tide movement. About two hours into the hunt for redfish, I finally saw a huge bull red that was cruising about 15 feet from me. It was probably cruising about 3 mph while I was drifting about 3 mph in the opposite direction, so I couldn’t even get a cast off.

One of the highlights of the day were the numerous sheepshead I kept seeing. I didn’t check the time, but around 3 PM, I decided that the trout and the redfish weren’t going to play, so I tied on one of my musicdoc sheepshead shrimp flies. Of course, not that I had a shrimp fly tied on, I wasn’t spotting as many sheepshead as before and those I did see, were spooking and high tailing it to deeper water. I was casting toward a sheepshead when I noticed another large wake around the bank. That’s when I spotted my second redfish of the day. It made the mistake of staying in the shallows where I could see it and I attempted to make a well-placed cast toward it. Notice the emphasis on the word, “well-placed?” That was the original plan. My fly, however, nearly hit the redfish on its gill plate. It spooked momentarily and then it violently chased down that shrimp fly that had nearly hit its gill plate. Bam, fish on! I hadn’t felt the pull of a redfish since late June. This one had a lot of fight in it and it took a while to land this 23.5 inch beauty.

23.5 inch redfish put up a good fight on my 8 wt.

You can see just how calm the water was in this picture. It was a great day to be on the water. Like I told a friend of mine, “you can’t catch fish by sitting on your couch in the living room.” I hope to be able to get back on the water before Christmas. I’m still looking for that perfect day when everything lines up perfectly: sun, moon, water, and wind. That’s full sun, good tidal movement, clear water, and very little wind 🙂

The absolute highlight of the day was when I was able to Facetime my grandchildren to show them the “big fish” Poppie had just caught. Their eyes lit up and they shared their excitement with me. That must have looked something like this:

Doc’s Sheepie Shrimp Revisited

After my success with the sheepshead on my last trip and with all this rain, I decided if I cannot fish, I can tie flies. I was putting together a presentation for my high school’s fly fishing club when I realized that my last “how to” post on this fly needed a bit of clarification. I have since modified the fly so here is my “improved” version.

Step one- put down a thread base on a size 2 saltwater hook. (I use shrimp colored 210 denier)

Step 2 – tie in the shrimp eyes. I am using stonfo plastic eyes V type in this example but you can make your own mono eyes. Notice that I tie them at the curve in the hook so that they are facing down. We I tie in the weight, this fly should ride hook up so the eyes are facing normal.

Step 3 – tie in the rubber legs and the javelin mane for antenna. Notice I have the stems of the mane bent in this photo. I will fold them back over my original wraps so it doesn’t slip out when a fish hits. I also tie in some flash. Here is what I’m after.

Step 4 – tie in some Krystal flash Chenille (medium) in bonefish tan

Step 5 – Now palmer that up and tie in some dumbbell micro lead eyes.

Step 6 – tie is a shrimpy brush. I make my own but I’m sure you can purchase one or dub your own “shrimpy” body material with some “legs” in it. Notice the flash and the tiny rubber legs in the brush.

Step 7 – palmer that up to the dumbbell eyes and trim.

Now flip the fly over in your vice, tie in the craft fur, whip finish, and put some bars on it with a brown permanent marker.

Here is the finished fly. This fly will catch sheepshead, redfish, drum, speckled trout, and probably flounder too (maybe with a heavier dumbbell eye).

Tight loops and tight lines!

School is out. Time to get down to the SELA marsh.

I have been looking for a chance to get down to my beloved Southeast Louisiana marsh to do some fishing for (as a good friend of mine calls him)the spot-tail Elvis, also known as poisson rouge. It seems nothing has worked out for me between my busy schedule and the all-important, weather. We have been experiencing flash flooding and other crazy weather phenomena. So, in the meantime, I keep my fishing obsession in check by going to my neighborhood lakes and chasing the fish by the dam after a heavy rain. My best morning was a 40-minute trip where I caught 5 bass and 3 slab sacalait

It’s really something with the sacalait are almost as big as my kayak paddles.

I also made a few trips to my friends private lake and had a blast trying different variations of deer hair poppers on the bass and bream.

I found out they were chasing crawfish in the shallows. Thus the crawfish patterned popper.
This one is from the neighborhood lake.
Even the bream were chasing crawfish-colored patterns.
Big bull bream fight like nothing else for their size!

So, when I finally got a break in the weather and I was off of school, I decided to join my brother for a trip down Highway 1 toward Grand Isle. The wind was forecast to blow 5-10 and for once, the weatherman got it right. However, (and I HATE the “howevers”) we found the water to be high and very dirty. That meant our plans for sight fishing would probably have to be scrapped. I went the entire morning without even seeing a single redfish. Then, around noon, I finally saw an upper-slot redfish in the murky water. Of course it was about two feet from the bow of my kayak and when I was able to grab my rod, it nearly bumped into my kayak and took off. I was able to catch a small trout in some moving water, so at least my trip wouldn’t be a total skunk.

I knew where some water with grass would be so I paddled to a few spots in search of clear water and some action. A little after noon, I spotted a very nice sized sheepshead, AKA, the cajun permit. These fish are a challenge on the fly rod and in my experience, they don’t chase down too many patterns. One has to really entice them to eat by putting the fly right in front of its nose without spooking it. This fish was cruising the bank looking to grab a snail or two off the stalks of the marsh grass. I probably made 10 or so casts with one of my shrimp patterns before it finally decided it had seen enough and this invader to its domain should get sucked into those humanlike teeth. Bam! Perfect hook set and the fight was on until it got caught in some grass. A short time later, I was posing with a nice cajun convict.

Posing with my first cajun permit of the year.

A short time after, I saw a healthy redfish cruising that clear water too. I was going to be heading to Houston in the morning to spend time with my wife (who was already there) and my daughter’s family (three grandchildren). I was given instructions to bring a fresh redfish to be baked in my wife’s red gravy. My heart started racing when I saw that redfish! I told myself to FOCUS and remain calm…my first cast…horrible…my second cast…the darned redfish had just changed directions…my third cast…the CHARM! I watched a perfect eat in that clear water. When I set the hook, the redfish turned in an angry burst of water and weeds and just like that, my spoon fly came flying back at me. I was totally dejected. I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong. That is, until I got a closer look at my spoon fly. The doggone redfish actually snapped my hook in half. The fly was dangling by the little bit of epoxy that held it together.

It’s blurry but you can see that hook broke at the base of the “spoon”

I was not ready to give up yet. I saw one more redfish and I kept poling through the marsh trying to get it to eat. It didn’t want to have anything to do with any of my offerings and I figured it was the same redfish I had hooked earlier, so I moved on. Then I saw another pair of sheepshead. Again, I had to make several “offerings” to the fish before it decided to eat my shrimp fly.

This one was actually bigger than the first

Having landed two nice-sized sheepshead and running out of options for clear water, I decided we were going to have to find another fish option in Houston with my grandkids. I headed home with a big smile on my face though. I had caught and released not one, but two “cajun permit.” There will be more chances to face Mr. Redfish later this summer 🙂

I’ll close this post with a humorous short, unedited video of me trying to get that second sheepshead up for a picture. 🙂

Making Lemonade

Making Lemonade

2020 has been a doozy of a year. Covid-19, crazy politics, record tropical season, and more. But through it all, we have learned that family is more important than anything and when life does give you lemons, you definitely have to make lemonade…or lemon meringue pie.

It’s my favorite time of the year to fish the South Louisiana coast and I was blessed to be able to find some good conditions to fish (see my previous post) a week before my son’s wedding. After the wedding, I put a self-imposed quarantine on myself to pretty much stay away from family and friends. The good news is, no one reportedly caught the virus by attending the wedding. The great news is, my version of quarantining includes lots of fishing. 🙂

So, the week after the wedding I chose to do my local pond fishing because the winds were going to be too rough for another Leeville trip. Add to that, Hurricane Zeta ripped through there and they are still without electricity 10 days after the storm passed through there. I was treated to a beautiful morning and the fish seemed to like the cooler temperatures so they were eating what I had to offer them.

Here is the first on of the morning. It ate a fire tiger deer hair diver.
Another hungry bass
It’s great to be able to fish a well-managed pond. It was definitely a stress relieving morning.

I normally don’t keep bass but the owner of the lake insisted I harvest bass under 15 inches for pond management. Additionally, my family loves fish tacos 🙂
This bass loved the LSU diver.

So, another week goes by and I’m looking forward to heading to the Southeast Louisiana marsh for some speckled trout and redfish. The wind was predicted to blow 10-15 mph on Saturday but it showed signs of improvement for Sunday morning. I checked my gear and realized that somehow, I had lost my YakAttack parkNpole, which meant push poling for redfish would be a bit of a challenge. However, it was predicted to be cloudy in advance of a cool front so I figured I would just try to focus on speckled trout.

I began the morning with a popper/dropper rig (deer-hair popper with a Lafleur’s Charlie on the bottom).

I got a lot of hits on the bottom fly and pretty soon I was having a blast, catching small trout on nearly every cast. There were also periods when I was getting blowups on the popper but I was having usual difficulties hooking those small trout. Speckled trout are notorious for snapping at bait to kill or would it with their three larger teeth and then go back to eat their prey. I did land a couple 11 inch trout on the popper before something big broke off my bottom fly. I decided to go with my typical VOSI (Vertical Oriented Strike Indicator) setup for the remainder of the day.

I would conservatively estimate I caught about 100 trout that day. Most were 8-11 inches long so they were gently and quickly released back into the water. I did have one monster trout that I estimated to be over 20 inches that got off the hook right as I was about to net it. What a bummer, but something I could overlook anyway, considering all the fun I was having.

I actually was getting tired of catching “undersized” fish around noon and since the action slowed a bit, I took advantage of the bright sunshine and decided to paddle out to some broken marsh in search of redfish. The tide had been falling all morning long and the water inside the marsh was noticeably muddy. I did end up on a stretch where the water seemed clearer and I could see bottom. That’s when I saw a large slot (or baby bull) red as is slowly cruised the flat. I grabbed the only rod that I had available to me at the time, which was set up for speckled trout. It worked perfectly three weeks ago so I assumed I would be able to cast to the redfish and swim the VOSI and my fly right past the fish without spooking it and get it to eat. Well the redfish swam into some deeper water and I lost if for a second so I cast in the area where I had seen it last. Then it came out of the deeper water and was heading right toward me and was about 12 feet in front of my kayak. My fly was about 10 feet behind the fish so rather than pick my fly up and cast it again, which I figured would certainly spook the fish, I stripped it fast to get it out in front of the approaching redfish.

IT WAS A TEXTBOOK EAT!! With one large rush of its tail, the redfish flared its gills and gulped my…uh…??? My VOSI??? Oh no! There’s no hook in that thing! It’s just a cork! So a big redfish has just swallowed my cork and is now cruising to the right of my kayak. I think it has seen the kayak and it suspects something isn’t right, so it gradually picks up speed. In the meantime, I didn’t know what to do. I knew grabbing my other rod, which was laying on the ground behind where I was standing to throw it another fly would not be an option, so I just stood there and did nothing. 🙂 I watched as the redfish swam away with my cork in its mouth and my fly (you know… the one with the all-important hook in it) trailing behind. I watched the rod tip bend and I thought to myself, there’s no way this is going to end well. However, it didn’t end badly either. As the fish realized that something wasn’t right, it spit my cork out and it took off, leaving a mud boil in its wake. I thought it would have destroyed the cork but it didn’t and I actually used it to catch about 30 more trout that day. I did switch rods and I poled around some more “fishy” areas but I never saw another redfish. I got bored with that and I decided to head toward some diving gulls. I immediately got back on the trout bite and spent the last hour of my trip catching fish on nearly every cast!

Other than the dirty water (which meant no redfish), the trip was a perfect day. I was able to take my Musicdoc limit (18) of speckled trout home to share with my mom and dad, and for a fish fry soon with my family. Typically, the larger trout show up in the next week or two, but with all the hurricanes we have had to endure this season, only God knows. In a way, I’m glad the fish were nearly all undersized. If they had all been keeper trout, I would have been finished by 8 AM and I most likely wouldn’t have been able to laugh at that crazy redfish for eating my cork.

This 15-inch trout definitely made the “team.”
Doc’s Sheepie Shrimp

Doc’s Sheepie Shrimp

I recently filled out a questionnaire for Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and when it got to the question that asked, “What is your primary reason for fishing?” I had to stop and think for a while…well…not a long while. I fish for relaxation and enjoyment. So recently, when I was fishing in Point aux Chenes, I had a chance to tie into a few sheepshead. They are a very worthy adversary, the “Cajun permit,” if you will. They have large eyes which means they spook very easy and it’s very hard to fool them with a fly. They nearly always  refuse my “go to” fly for redfish, my gold spoon fly.

After several refusals, I decided to tie on a shrimp imitation that Dustin Schuest gave me and I soon had a nice redfish eat it. IMG_1586

I was ready to call it quits because a thunderstorm was getting mighty close when I spotted the jail stripes of a very large sheepshead. I watched as it slowly hid itself right up against the bank under some marsh grass. I flipped the fly about 3 inches in front of its nose and it didn’t spook. It actually didn’t even hesitate as it exploded on the little shrimp fly. I set the hook into it’s human-like teeth and the hook found its way between those infamous incisors. Then the fish took off on an epic sprint and…popped my line 😦

So, fast forward to yesterday when I decided I needed to tie some shrimp patterns. There are patterns all over the internet but I wanted to come up with something that was kind of like a combination of all those I had seen before. This tutorial is mostly for me, so I can replicate this fly if indeed the fish like it.

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So, I started with a size 2 saltwater hook and some shrimp thread. After tying a thread base down, I tied in some micro lead eyes and two mono eyes. IMG_1598

Then I added some Krystal flash chenille in a root beer color

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Then comes the “feelers” or antenna of the shrimp. I experimented with rubber legs in my early version of this fly

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But I finally settled on some mane hair from a Javelina. IMG_1600

I tied the antenna in, then wrapped the krystal chenille in, and then tied in a brush. After the brush was tied in, I flipped the fly over and tied in some tan craft fur with a couple strands of krystal flash imbedded in itIMG_1603

Whip finish, use head cement, and there you have it.IMG_1604

I can’t wait to try it on some wary Cajun permit soon.

Fall is my favorite time of year!

Most people who follow my blog or my Youtube channel know that my favorite time for fishing the marsh is the fall. It’s a time when the speckled trout migrate north inside our bays, bayous, and canals and redfish get real…well…stupid. They are like a love-sick, doe-chasing bucks, only they are on a ravenous eating frenzy and they gorge themselves with reckless abandon. This all means that even a novice like myself can catch fish. 🙂 Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work. My first two trips down to the coast this fall have been anything but easy. I had to fight stronger-than-predicted winds and high water with not-so-good visibility. I did manage to catch a few keeper speckled trout but the sight-fishing for redfish just never did emerge.

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I was able to catch a few descent sized trout during my first two trips.

Yesterday, I decided to make a quick trip down to one of my favorite spots down LA 1 in search of some redfish. The weather was predicted to be sunny all day with a 5-10 mph wind, but mostly on the 5 mph side. I made an early pit stop and picked up four keeper-sized trout. By 8:30, I was anxious to get down to my happy place…a place where a guy can push pole through the marsh looking for signs of the “spot-tailed Elvis,” like a good buddy of mine calls it. Whereas my last trip down south I only saw two redfish all day, I saw about a dozen in my first 15 minutes. Of course the winds were blowing closer to 10 mph and I wasn’t able to get a descent cast to any of them but my luck would change soon after. I was able to get a cast off to a redfish I hadn’t spooked and I watched him eat my “purple assault.” So, within a half hour of getting on the water, I had hooked my first fish. Well, after a short fight, it spit the hook.

So, it’s redfish 1, Doc zero. I push poled my way through some winding ditches and came across another of my “money holes.” I made another perfect cast to an unwary fish and bam, fish on. Only it broke my tippet within 10 seconds. Redfish 2, Doc zero! There were more redfish in the area that had followed the first fish and I noticed I was visibly shaking as I tried to find and tie on another fly. I was out of purple assaults, so I tied a tan colored variant of my purple assault. 20 minutes later, I was easing my first redfish into my landing net.

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I continued to fish the broken marsh, which by now seemed to be disappearing out from under my kayak. The north wind, plus the outgoing tide made for some really “skinny” water. This actually was in my favor, as I was able to spot many dark shadows moving in the shallows. Sometimes I was able to get a fly in front of one. Sometime they would ignore my offering. In fact, I don’t remember seeing so many fish simply ignore my flies. I did manage to get some more to eat though. I had two fish take me into my backing. One of those broke me off (I had three fish break my tippet). I finally replaced my tippet with some fresh line and I think that made a difference because I didn’t loose another fly all day. The other fish that took me into my backing was just a little over 28 inches…my first baby bull on the fly rod this year. I was determined not to loose that one and it took me 15 minutes to get it landed. IMG_0680.jpg

Over all, I was able to land 6 redfish, despite finicky fish, steady 10 mph winds, and very low water. I eagerly await the chance to get back out there and try it again.

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Photo fail! 🙂 My go pro snapped this picture right after the redfish wiggled its way off my fish grips.

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Haha. Now that’s the way to pose for the camera 🙂

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By the way, if you look closely at the bellies of the last two fish, you will notice that their stomachs were full. I did keep three fish for the grill and all three were FULL of crabs, baitfish, and one had about a 10 inch mullet in its stomach. I think they are feeding heavily and preparing for the coming winter. I fished a purple assault, a tan assault, a tan Lafleur’s Charlie, a Coma Cacahoe (for the speckled trout), and a crab fly (that’s the one that caught the most fish, seen with the 28 inch red).

 

 

Summertime fun

Summertime fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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. 🙂

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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 🙂

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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… 🙂

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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.

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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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