As the year comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the past 12 months of fly fishing in south Louisiana. It’s been an incredible year on the water, with numerous memorable trips and experiences. I have learned to really focus on the beauty of our local waters and the peace it brings to me sitting in a kayak and “blending in” with my surroundings.
One of the highlights of each year is to be able to make new friends and kindle relationships through the sport. While I don’t get the opportunity to fish as often as I would like with them, I do cherish the friendships I’ve gained with Chuck and Chris. I have had the pleasure of fishing with Chuck on numerous occasions throughout the year and although I haven’t been able to fish with Chris yet, I have had opportunities to share a couple of beers and tie flies with him.
In addition to trips down in the Southeastern Louisiana marsh, I also spent a lot of time this year in my neighborhood lake. This quiet little spot offers an opportunity for a quick “get away” when my busy work and family schedules don’t allow me to venture far from home. It also provides me with an opportunity to test new flies and variants on the local fish. In the coming year, I plan on exploring the many bayous and estuaries that make south Louisiana such a great place to fly fish. The variety of species that can be found in these areas is truly impressive, and each trip offers the opportunity to encounter something new. One of the goals I have set for myself is to up my species variety.
Overall, it’s been a fantastic year of fly fishing in south Louisiana, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year has in store. Here’s to hoping for more good weather and plenty of fish in 2023!
I was looking for an opportunity to get down to my beloved Southeast Louisiana Marsh and the weather looked to be outstanding this past Saturday. I called my buddy, Chuck, up and we met at our favorite combat launch in Hopedale at 7 AM. A strong cold front earlier in the week had me psyched to be able to sight-fish for some redfish. As we launched, I noticed that the weatherman had finally gotten it right. We were greeted with calm winds and bright skies…perfect for sight-fishing. I really needed this trip. It’s been a busy, stressful, semester with work, health issues of loved ones and family and other “roadblocks” I’ve had to go around. I started to tell Chuck about some of it and he stopped me and said, “Relax buddy.” Thanks! I needed that!
It was a gorgeous morning. I noticed the usual suspects as we peddled our way to our first fishing spot. There were herons, kingfishers, a descent sized alligator, a few “French ducks” and a small group of teal. The teal brought back many great memories as I watched them zig zag their way over the marsh grass. It’s been at least ten years since I went duck hunting, a passion that I enjoyed for many years. Reduced limits, more posted lands, expenses, and a growing family have kept me away from my shotgun. I make up with it by fly fishing.
I got to my first spot, and I stood up to see that the water wasn’t as clean as I had wished. In fact, visibility was quite poor. I push-poled my way through the marsh and looked for action in cuts in the marsh with no luck. As I poled my way, I heard some drumming. I looked and saw that I had spooked a redfish as I saw it’s wake plow away from me. That was redfish number one. I continued to work my way along the bank, and I saw redfish number two. It too spooked before I could get my rod into a good casting position. Thank goodness it was a calm morning. I saw a large splash about 100 yards away from me. I knew it had to be a redfish, although there were a lot of large mullet in the area. One couldn’t assume that every splash or boil was a redfish. Well, I thought it was a redfish until I saw a large heron fly away from the spot. I then deducted it was just a splash from the feeding shorebird. So, I continued on. I got to some more grassy area and the water cleaned up a little bit, but nothing to get too excited over. If I was going to spot fish, they were going to have to be feeding in the very shallow areas which were clear enough for me to see them before they spotted me. That’s when I saw another large boil and the tell-tale wake of a big redfish in the same area I saw the commotion earlier. I push-poled my way over there, stopping about 60 feet in front of where I saw the commotion. I was determined NOT to spook this fish, so I patiently waited to see if it would show itself again. Water was slowly trickled out of a cut in the marsh and the water was dirty so again, I didn’t want to through away my chance by rushing in. My patience paid off because about five minutes later, I saw the tail of the fish as it chased baitfish nearby. I poled about 10 feet closer, and I waited for my shot. Then I saw it. It was moving about 40-50 feet away from me and it hadn’t seen me. I placed my spoon fly about two feet in front of it and it turned on me. Darned. I knew I didn’t spook it, so I just waited some more. A couple minutes later, I saw its tail again and I put my fly ahead of it again. No eat again. I told myself, “This is supposed to be relaxing. Come on, Doc.” I could feel my heartbeat race as I anticipated the eat. I relaxed and waited some more and about a minute later, the fish made another pass close enough for me to put my fly two feet in front of its nose. Strip. Strip. BAM! It was on! I made a good strip set and I hung on. Determined not to lose this fish, I let it get on the drag quickly and I let it do its thing. The fish angrily fought and fought, picking up grass on my line as it went. I actually thought at one point that I had foul-hooked it in its belly but that was just grass holding my line down. When the fish changed directions, the grass fell off and I was able to keep its head high enough to keep it from digging down in the grass again. About ten minutes later, I was easing the big redfish into my net, which by the way, isn’t big enough AND the weight of the fish pulled one of the rings out of the net handle. Santa Clause is going to have to get me an upgrade.
The redfish was what we call a “baby bull,” that is, one that’s over the slot limit of 27 inches. It was fat, heavy and long at 28 inches.
After a couple of pictures, I let her go because I personally don’t like to clean or eat any over about 24 inches.
That was the last redfish I would see all day. The wind picked up to a steady 12 mps and that, combined with high dirty water, made sight-fishing nearly impossible. We peddled over 8 miles, and I can tell you I’m quite sore even two days later. I got back to our combat launch around 2 and I was disgusted by what I found. I had noticed when we put in that there was a large amount of trash that had been left by bank fishermen. It’s embarrassing to have to admit that I’m from Louisiana at times. You just don’t see this in the streams in other states! I picked up enough trash to fill a crawfish sack and that didn’t even put a dent into the mounds of trash. That put a damper on what otherwise was a relaxing, fun day.
Today’s fishing report is brought to you bye the game, Never Have I Ever. In today’s pop culture, I understand it is a drinking game. From what I understand, players sit in a circle and someone says, “Never have I ever…and they fill in the blank with something they have never done before. Anyone in the group who has done the “thing” must drink. So, I’m starting this blog entry with Never have I ever and let’s see if you have to take a drink. It can be coffee, tea, water, or any beverage of your choosing.
Never have I ever been on the water in my kayak and seen a water spout.
So, how many of you had to take a drink? I’m sure some of you have been on the water with one of these. I have seen several of these over the many years I’ve been fishing. They really are quite beautiful. This one was probably 30 -50 miles away from me, out in the Gulf. This next one, from 2013 was a little bit closer. I didn’t take the pictures, someone else did and it is quite menacing.
Back to my fishing report. I passed on a trip with my buddy yesterday because I saw the radar and it looked like a mini hurricane was going to be hitting Delacroix right around the time I planned on getting there. It was probably a good call for me to stay in Baton Rouge but my buddy did land 8 redfish between squalls. After hearing that, I decided to get up early to beat the rain and headed to Delacroix myself. Herein lies my “never have I ever” number 2 or my never have I ever for the day.
Never have I ever had so many redfish REJECT a gold spoon fly! Conditions were quite favorable. There was virtually zero wind and I had a full sun until noon. The water was dirty (even where there was grass) but the redfish were feeding on crabs. I love sight-fishing for redfish but today, I had to rely on my ears. I push-poled my way through the flats and I would hear a big splash. I would then head toward the area where I heard it and I would wait for the fish to make its presence known. More times than not, this tactic worked for me. I saw a few redfish angrily come out of the water as they chased down bait. I later realized the “bait” they were chasing was baby crabs. The crabs were all over the place.
My first and only good eat came early during the day (actually while I was still monitoring that water spout). I saw a fish chasing bait in the shallows near a broken island. I pushed poled my way over to the fish and I slowly and stealthily eased my way up to where I had last seen it. I noticed several times during the day, that as I approached a feeding fish, I could hear my own heartbeat in my head. It’s absolutely nuts what adrenaline can do. I imagine that’s what happens to a bow hunter as he/she draws his/her bow on a big buck. As I got closer, I saw my pumpkin-colored adversary. I put my spoon fly about a foot in front of it…strip…strip…strip…bam! The fish immediately dug down in the grass. I tried to keep my rod tip high to keep the fish from digging into the grass but It was fruitless. The redfish had about 5 pounds of “salad” attached to my leader. I reached my hand in the water several times to strip the grass off my leader so I could work the fish. I would pull grass away and add a little pressure to my line. Then I’d feel the fish shaking on the other end so I knew it was still on. I guess having to fight a kayak and several pounds of grass zapped the fight right out of the redfish. After what seemed like 10 minutes (it probably wasn’t that long), I was able to get the fish in my net. I felt like I had really earned that fish with all it took to sneak up on it, get it to eat, and then fight it without it breaking my tippet.
I was on the board. I usually don’t keep anything over 24 inches and this one went 25. I had a hard time trying to revive it and after about five minutes of trying, I decided to put it in the ice chest. My daughter and the grandkids will be here this week and I know they love Nanna’s redfish courtboullion.
Little did I know it but that was the last eat I would get all day. I saw lots of fish. I spooked lots of fish, but never, ever, have I seen so many fish reject the spoon fly. I tried casting 2 inches away from their nose. I tried a foot away. I tried two feet and then strip the fly across their path. They either spooked and took off or they ignored it completely. I had two or three that actually followed the fly for several feet and then they decided not to eat. I got several multiple shots at fish that didn’t even see me. Oh. I forgot to ask. How many of you had to take a drink? I’ve had fish reject my fly before but I guess I had about 20 fish just say no to the gold spoon fly.
So, I changed tactics…and flies. I tied on one of my crab imitations. The problem with my crab flies is, I use a small lead dumbbell weight to turn the hook point up. While this works just fine, it sinks too quickly and I end up catching grass on every cast. The spoon fly wobbles on down and can actually be fished in a way where I rarely have to clean grass off it. Well, after I had two redfish follow my crab imitation and decide not to eat. I switched back to my spoon fly. This pattern continued all morning long. By noon, I saw several small squalls heading my way, so I decided not to be a statistic and I headed in. Wind, rain, and clouds don’t work well when sight fishing. So, now I’m a man on a mission. I will work on tying a crab fly that isn’t so heavy. That just means I’ll have to do some more research. You all know how much I like “research.”
I am truly thankful for all the good gifts that God gives me every day. I thank Him for life, for my family, my health, and so much more. I am also thankful for some of the good friends I’ve made through my love of the outdoors and fly fishing/kayak fishing. When I was going through some of my photos on my computer, it occurred to me I had only made one trip to the Southeast Louisiana marsh this current calendar year. There are numerous reasons for this from family obligations, to work commitments, to poor weather conditions, but as weird as it may be, the planets lined up perfectly for me Wednesday. I was able to witness this in person as I drove down to Delecroix Island to target my favorite fish, le poisson rouge.
Of course, I texted one of my New Orleans fishing buddies, who has been my guide lately as I am learning new water that is only a two-hour drive from my house instead of the usual two-and-a-half to three I have been taking down south of Golden Meadow. I don’t know if he would want me to mention his name on this blog, so I’ll just say that he has a blog that I list as one of those I follow. He has fished out of Hobie kayaks for a while and he’s a valuable resource to have around. I have learned a lot from him in the few trips I’ve made with him, and he’s been such a tremendous help answering questions like: “What’s this extra gadget on my Hobie for?” “Where do you stow the pedals when you’re standing to sight fish?” “What’s the best way to strap the kayak to your truck?” and of course… “Where can I find the clean water?” He was a Godsend yesterday when we were peddling away from our launch site and he commented, “Have your rod ready to toss a fly at a redfish if you see a big swirl on the way to our first spot.” I replied, “Sure, I’ll…wait…no way…I’ll…on my!!” I left my rod on the bank at the launch! So I peddled back the nearly quarter mile or so to retrieve about $600 in fish-catching gear. Oh, I know what you’re thinking…No, I didn’t spend that on it but I won the $250 reel in a fishing tournament and I won the $350 rod in a raffle. I know I needed to work up a sweat anyway. I was reminded just how good God is when I turned around to face the east again and I saw this.
So, I fiercely peddled to catch up to my buddy. Thankfully, he was doing some blind casting to structure to kill some time while I caught up with him. We stopped to fish a point early after that sunrise and I caught my first fish of the morning, a nice marsh largemouth bass. I was told that Hurricane Ida took a big toll on these marsh bass. I assume it was because of the inundation of salt water to the brackish water. I released this one to go make babies for future generations.
I was told that we would be peddling about a mile from the launch to our redfish spot. The wind had kicked up in the bay and even though it wasn’t howling, the combination of a shallow bay with 5 – 10 mile winds made it a difficult and wet peddle. It’s times like this that I purchased my Hobie. At my age, I need to work smarter and not harder. While I am a strong paddler, my leg muscles are a larger group and common sense tells me I can cover more water using a larger muscle group. Covering more water lately is becoming a necessity these past few years. I think I’ve written on my blog before, that I think one of the reasons it’s harder to find fish in areas that used to be so productive, is simply due to the popularity of our sport. It seems everyone down here is fishing out of kayaks. These days, it’s not uncommon to see 100 trucks and cars carrying kayaks on LA 1 between Leeville and Grand Isle on a summer weekend. Now imagine if everyone one of those fishermen are harvesting 3-5 redfish a trip. That’s a lot of redfish being harvested within a mile of the launch. Now, add to that the popularity of big redfish tournaments and bow fishing and you can understand why places I used to catch up to 25 redfish in an outing are becoming hard to come by. I find I’m having to explore water further and further from the road, thus the addition of the Hobie to my plastic navy.
Anyway, back to my fishing report. When I got to our predetermined, spot number one, I saw some commotion in the shallow water. I made a few casts and I determined they were bass chasing bait because I saw a bass go airborne like it was shot out of a cannon. I couldn’t get my fly in close enough to where the action was because of all the grass and I was actually cleaning the grass off my spoon fly when I saw a big swirl about 20 feet ahead of my kayak. I was able to get a good clean cast out there and bam, fish on! That redfish took off like it was shot from a submarine (it didn’t get air like the bass). I still had my peddles in so I was able to maneuver my kayak and let the weight of the kayak help to act as drag to wear the fish down. A around 27 inches (I left my bump board at home but I have a ruler on my paddle), it was way too big to harvest so it is still swimming today.
About an hour later, and I was now standing and push-poling my way through some very “fishy” water. I was thinking, I’m one for one. Spotted one caught it. Then I spotted redfish number two. It was cruising the edge of a grass bed with about 3 friends. I made an errant cast, or so I thought, which landed the fly about six feet to the left of the school. This guy was so aggressive, it looked like it was determined to beat his buddies to the easy meal. My, was it surprised when it found out that that shiny piece of gold spoon had a hook in it! It made several angry dashes and after a long fight, I eased redfish number two into my landing net. This one measured about 28 inches on my paddle ruler so it was released too.
I need to vent now. Here’s what happens when you don’t fish often enough. So, I already mentioned I forgot my rod on the bank. I bring two and you can see my spare on the ice chest on my photo. I never had to use it this day. I put the other one down on the bank because I’ve learned not to put the rods in the kayak until I’ve gotten the boat in the water. I’ve actually flipped a kayak over on the bank in my neighborhood lake and it flipped over two rods. Thankfully, neither of them broke but I’ve learned my lesson. After landing my first redfish, I had about 15 feet of line still in the water with my spoon fly. I began to peddle to get away from a shallow weed bank and I ran over my line. Of course, my fly got caught on one of the blades. I thought if I’d pull it up, I could retrieve my fly. When I pulled it up, I lost one of my gold spoon flies. No worries, because I had four gold ones, a crab colored one, and several black spoon flies. I also caught my fly on my rudder. When I tied on a new fly and I tossed it into the water, the wind blew me over my line and it got tangled. Another reason I bought the Hobie Compass is because it’s very sturdy. I was able to turn around and reach over my ice chest and under the bottom of my kayak to grab the line, retrieve the fly, cut it off, pull the line through the rudder system and retie…all without falling in. Yeah!!
OK. Back to the fishing report. So I was two for two. Sighted two fish. Caught two fish. I was feeling proud of myself…shouldn’t have done that, Doc! The next redfish I saw didn’t go so well. A bad cast by me in the wind and it spooked. So now it’s Doc – two. Redfish – one. I’m still winning. Well that didn’t last long. I spooked probably another 15 fish before my next hookup. I didn’t even get to cast to most of them. They would see my boat or my rod when I would lift it up for a cast and they would bolt out of there, drumming as they scramble away. By that way, if you haven’t heard the sound of redfish drumming in the marsh, you aren’t fishing shallow enough. That’s why they are in the drum family. There were actually times when the redfish saw ME before I saw them. The reason I knew is because I heard “the drum” and then when I looked I spotted the fish as it was swimming away from me. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about…I would assume it’s similar to what a squirrel does when it sees you and it starts barking at you.
Well, I was able to connect with my third redfish. This one was another “baby bull” and I was playing it perfectly, except it kept on collecting “salad.” I was having to play the 8 pound angry fish along with 3-5 pounds of wet sea grass. Just when I thought I was going to win the battle, the fish took one more hard run and broke my line. Oh well, at this point, I had quit keeping score so we won’t talk about it, but it’s like gambling. The house always wins and with fishing, it’s the same analogy. My ice chest was still empty.
My wife loves to comment when I do get home after a day-long fishing trip, “where are the fish?” My reply is usually, they were hard to find today or I only caught the big ones today. So far, by answer was going to have to be the latter. I texted my buddy and he had caught a 31-inch redfish. Yep, neither of us would be bringing home fish for supper this day. But seriously, I began to look for smaller fish. I made a few casts to groups of fish, trying to target the smaller one in the pack. I thought about when I used to duck hunt…don’t shoot randomly in the flock…pick one out first…and I did! I saw a group of about 4 to six redfish working their way away from me and I cast to the smallest one in the group. It didn’t disappoint. A few minutes later, I landed one around 18-19 inches long.
When I went to unhook this fish, I saw that it had destroyed my spoon fly.
Anyway, now I had one that was a perfect size for grilling so my wife won’t hound me when I get home. Well, yes, she did ask about all the fish I caught. I had to honestly tell her, “they were too big, honey.”
Anyway, the day had been great. I had gone through all four of the gold spoon flies I had in my box and Oh no. I was out of gold spoon flies. I decided to try an experimental spoon fly that I colored to look like a small blue crab. After getting two refusals; I mean, both redfish I cast to looked at it, followed it, but didn’t eat it. That was all I needed. I tied on one of my black and gold Charlies. I knew in this murky water, I would need some flash. I also thought about what another good friend of mine, Catch Cormier, says about redfish flies, “A redfish will eat any fly, as long as it’s gold.”
So, we were heading back toward our launch point and to get there, we would have to peddle through a small cut in the marsh to get to another large pond. I spooked a nice redfish and I alerted my buddy that it was heading his way. It was just deep enough to use my peddles and then I would paddle when it got too shallow. I spooked a large redfish and it headed back behind me toward my buddy. I hollered to him to be on the lookout for it. Then I spooked another small one and I told myself, I need to be standing so I can cast to them before I spook them. Every trip provides me with a lesson to be learned and this trip had already taught me a thing or two about what NOT to do. I was about to learn another valuable lesson. When I stand to fish, I usually remove my pedals in order to clear the front cockpit and eliminate things that might tangle my fly line. I began pushing myself with my paddle through this narrow (maybe 15 feet or so wide) cut in the marsh. It was muddy and surprisingly had some redfish and lots of mullet in it. I got to a point that widen up and I spooked another redfish. I watched its wake move into some deeper water. I went into super stealth mode and creeped up to where I last saw its wake. Then I saw the telltale amber side of its body slowly moving away from me. I put a cast out two feet in front of it…strip strip…bam. This one wasn’t the smaller one I was chasing earlier. I gave it a good hook set and watched my rod bend over. I could tell it was heading for my kayak and it would probably go under my boat. I thought about those fins so I thought to myself, “if I can just keep it from going under my boat.” Then I looked down to see my fly line entangled in the pedals. Now my thoughts changed to, “if I can just get this line untangled before it really realizes its hooked and makes a huge run.” It seemed like slow motion. I got one loop untangled from one pedal with my left hand, while maintaining pressure on the fish with my other hand, and then I felt it take off. I started letting some line slip between my fingers and the rod until no more slack line was left, except what was wrapped around that last foot pedal and…snap. I watched futilely, while I saw the escaped redfish send a large wake far away from me. Lesson learned…if I’m going to stand and fish, get the pedals put away before casting. This isn’t a big problem when I’m sitting because the line falls harmlessly in my lap.
We push-poled our way in another productive area, but the redfish were cruising below the marsh grass and by the time I would see one, there was no opportunity to cast without getting caught in salad. I had gone through one large bottle of water and four bottles of sports drinks. Being satisfied with the fact that I hadn’t cramped up, I wasn’t bleeding anywhere, I hadn’t fallen in, and I was able to do battle with five redfish and land three, I decided it was a great day and it was time to head to the truck. My buddy felt the same way and we paddled back to the launch together. We each had one redfish to take home for supper and we decided to catch a burger and a beer on the way home. I thank God for the beauty of nature, the ability to pursue my sport, and for good fishing buddies.
Here are a couple more pictures from the day.
I know I titled this post, The Tug is my Drug, but in reality, my grandkids are my number one so, Their HUG is my drug!
It has been a long time since I had a good day “catching” fish down in our South Louisiana Marsh. Any trip in our marsh is indeed, a blessing; whether I catch fish or not. Being able to experience the beauty that God created for us is worth the price of gas (whew… it keeps getting more expensive to enjoy). Yesterday’s trip was one for the books when it comes to enjoying the beautiful creation that too many of us take for granted.
I joined my friend and fellow fly fisherman, Chuck (Snakedoctor), for a trip to Hopedale, Louisiana. We knew we should have good fishing conditions (good sun, low winds, some tidal movement) and we hoped the fish would cooperate. I was breaking in a new kayak…yes, I have gone over to the dark side and I purchased a Hobie Compass, and I was looking to “slime” it. Chuck fishes nearly exclusively out of a Compass, so I was also looking for tips from him on how to load and unload the kayak, how to secure it to the bed of my truck, and how to fish out of it without getting my fly line stuck in the pedals. Right away, I started getting my line caught around the pedals and Chuck showed me how to secure the pedals in a way that would make casting easier.
I guess the biggest help Chuck was to me was, he taught me not to be so stubborn with my sight fishing. He showed me that quality redfish can be caught on the fly rod without having to sight fish for them. If any of you follow this blog, you know that for me, nothing beats sight-fishing for redfish in the shallows. I’m always searching for the perfect day with perfect conditions…low, clear water. However, with the cold water temperatures we have been experiencing, sight fishing the way I traditionally do has been out of the question. The shallow water, although gin clear, is just too cold and the only fish I’ve seen in the shallows the past two trips have been mullet and garfish. Chuck caught a couple of bass early on and I caught and released a 12-inch speckled trout. I figured I would have to do better than 12 inches if I was going to have to clean any fish today (sorry dad and mom). We decided to try our luck with speckled trout by fishing in deeper water. Chuck was the first to catch a speckled trout. I saw him with a big curve in his rod and he was getting the net. He said it was an upgrade to his Massey’s CPR Tournament. Anytime you catch an 18 inch trout on a 6 wt. fly rod, you have a reason to be excited.
I snapped this picture of Chuck and his trout and I continued fishing. I then hooked into something that I thought was a small redfish, because it pulled hard and stayed down…not the traditional tell-tale head shaking that most trout do. I soon realized it was a huge trout! I netted it and measured it on my paddle at 20 inches. After weighing it (2.9 lbs) I realized I had just caught my personal best trout on the fly rod.
We continued to fish that stretch of deeper water and we each only picked up another trout, which was nothing worth sticking around for, so we headed off to some other areas in search of redfish.
Chuck was the first to hook into a really good “tugger” that measured 26 inches on his spoon fly. He caught it in deeper what (not sight fishing)
I decided to forego sight fishing in the shallow flats and I began to “blind cast” certain points and the edges of the grass flats in deeper water. That was the ticket for me. I hooked into an energetic 27-inch red that took me into my backing. After a long fight, I got that one to the net.
We continued to pound the deeper water around cuts and ditches in the marsh and Chuck connected on his third redfish of the day.
Anyway, I don’t want this post to get too long. I’ll do a review of the Compass (maybe during the halftime show of the Superbowl LOL). The day was actually incredible. We saw tons of wildlife included diving and puddle ducks, numerous other marsh hens, herons, and other birds. I did look for the alligator that roams this area (it’s about 8 to 10 feet long by now) but I didn’t see it. This should hold me for a while…honey do’s to do 🙂 Until next time. Tight loops and tight lines.
To say I’ve been a little stir crazy lately is an understatement. There are only so many movies you can watch on Netflix and the Disney Channel. I am really not interested in NFL post-season (except for Joe Burrow’s Bengals). I’ve been tying flies for weeks now. So, with season-low temperatures in the air in South Louisiana, something had to give. Why not go south and see if conditions would allow me to do some sight-fishing for redfish?
I made a couple of phone calls and texts to buddies of mine and I finally decided to try Hopedale. Some of the other options I looked at were Leeville and Highway 1 between Forcheon and Grand Isle. I know the water has been very low there and there isn’t much vegetation. Chances are, the water was going to be very low and dirty. I knew that a Sunday afternoon trip would allow things to warm up. I also figured I would be able to find clean water in Hopedale because of the vegetation. Plus, I had talked to a buddy of mine who had fished there the day before in the BCKFC Minimalist Challenge.
So, to be honest, my heart wasn’t really into it. I woke up to 22-degree temps Sunday morning. At around 9 AM, I started putting my 8 wts. together with the reels and it was still around 35 degrees. About 15 minutes later, I told my wife I wasn’t going and I disassembled my rods and put each one up in its case. 15 minutes later, by buddy was prodding me on the phone saying, “It would be a good afternoon out there. And not that cold.” “Most people did not catch anything until after 10 yesterday.” “the water is 50 degrees but will warm up on the flats.” So, I changed my mind again. Yes, my wife thinks I’m crazy but she’s been married to me for over 38 years so I guess she comes to expect it by now 🙂
I pulled up to the combat launch on the side of the road around 12:20. I had quickly slipped my kayak in the water and began the mile paddle to where I’ve caught fish before. I also planned on trying out a couple new patterns that I tied this winter including a new paddle-tail fly (see this video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlg3yQ-1vEs&t=109s
After the half hour paddle to the lagoon I was going to fish, I immediately saw the water was nearly gin clear in spots. I stood in my kayak and poled around (oh, that’s another story…I guess I lost my push pole after my last trip in October). I could clearly for large stretches of water. There were NO FISH 😦 I push poled around for nearly 2 hours and didn’t see the first redfish or bass. So, I decided to try to find some deep water and work my paddle-tail fly slowly. About 10 minutes drifting in a deeper bayou, I got my first strike. It was a 13 and a half inch trout. Good! I wasn’t going to get skunked. I wondered, should I keep it? Would I catch more? I decided to toss it in my ice chest. I haven’t eaten speckled trout in a year or so. About 10 minutes later, I had another head-shaker heading into my landing net. This one was 14 inches. Things were looking up. I thought I had found a pattern. I continued to drift that canal and work the spots where I had caught those two previous fish. About 20 minutes or so later, I caught my third trout, but it was just under legal size, so it went back in the cold water to grow some more. I didn’t get another bite. I had a couple more spots I wanted to explore, so I paddled over there to see what things looked like. I did some blind casting down some deeper duck hunter ditches but I didn’t get a bite.
That is all I have to report. Like my title says, “you can’t catch fish sitting on your couch,” so I made the trip anyway. Here are some of the positives I got from the trip: I did catch fish on my new paddle tail. (I’m going to have to post a picture at the end of this) I saw some amazing wildlife, especially the hundred or so ducks (mostly big ducks) that I spooked in one spot. I got back home without swamping my kayak. (especially good with the frigid temperatures). I got a good workout in (I probably paddled over 5 miles). On the negative side. I forgot my camera, I found out I must have lost my “park n pole” after my last trip in October, and I only caught two keeper trout, which won’t feed the two of us. But it was a great day!
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. When 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).
Can 2020 be over? Just over? We are now looking at our 7th named stormed to hit our coast this season! Whew…
I had to get that off my chest. Now, to the fishing. I caught a break this past Sunday and I slipped my kayak into the beautiful marsh, of my beloved Southeast Louisiana. The weather man had predicted winds of 5 – 10 and sunshine. Well, like I said earlier, it’s 2020 and you didn’t think the weather man was going to get it right, did you? The wind was blowing 10 – 15 for most of the morning and the clouds didn’t break until probably 11:30.
I got there at the break of dawn and I began throwing a deer hair popper. I got a couple small blowups early on and I realized they were probably small trout. I had told myself that it wasn’t going to be a “meat” trip; that I just wanted to catch fish…and that’s what I did. I changed rods and started throwing a Lafleur’s Charlie under a V.O.S.I. I started with some very small trout and I ended up catching 5 different species Sunday. Speckled trout, white trout (sand trout), gaff-top catfish, hard-head catfish, and redfish.
Even though the wind blew hard, and the water wasn’t very clean, I was able to pretty much catch fish non-stop. My second fish was a small sand trout (most people down here call them white trout but these very small ones are probably sand trout…or so I’ve been told).
The trout started to get a little bit larger
And I caught a few that were 13 inches or better, so they got put on ice for the fish tacos Monday evening. Then I caught a slimy gaff-top catfish.
I even caught my personal best for the year, a 16-and-a-half inch speckled trout.
I probably caught about 50 trout and I had a dozen in my ice chest that “made the team” for my Monday evening fish tacos when I decided it was getting time to head in. By about noon, the sun was starting to come out and the wind was dying down. The tide had been slowly falling all morning and I thought I would check a shallow flat that was about 30 yards behind where I was fishing. I looked on the lee side of the point and I noticed a few swirls that probably meant there was bait in the area. I push poled my way over there and that’s when I spied a large slot redfish slowly cruising the edge of the marsh grass. I grabbed my fly rod and realized all I had on there was my speckled trout rig, which was a chartreuse charlie under a small VOSI (vertical oriented strike indicator).
I was afraid I was going to spook the fish with my tiny cork so I made sure my initial cast was about two feet out in front of the fish. I slowly stripped my cork out ahead of the fish and I “dragged” my fly within sight of the fish. I watched it slowly change directions and start following the fly. My heartbeat started racing when I saw it decided it was going to ambush it from behind….patience…patience… watch it! It then flared its gills and when they closed…BAM I strip set the hook home in the top of its mouth. Within seconds, the fish was on my reel and then about 20 seconds later, it was into my backing! I was careful not to try to turn it too early, but there was a big pvc pipe with barnacles on it nearby and I was not about to have it cut me off. Sometime between 7 and 10 minutes later, I was netting a “baby bull” at 27 inches.
As I sit here and watch the weather, I know that the road I take to my fishing spot will be under water for the 7th time this year, as hurricane/tropical storm Zeta heads right to Grand Isle. I am thankful that I was able to get out this past weekend and I hope the storm doesn’t mess up our marsh too much. We have lost so much and there is evidence that we have lost even more due to the previous six storms this year. It’s all good though. I love the fall in south Louisiana and I expect to have a few more good trips before Christmas. Tight loops and tight lines 🙂
I originally titled this post, “One more trip to the marsh,” but if you know me, I’ll probably find time to make it down there before too long. However, now that school has started, I know my Saturday morning trips will be limited; and for more reasons that one might expect. During this pandemic, I have found time to make a few quick trips, mostly to my neighborhood lake system for bass and panfish. I did make three kayak trips to the south Louisiana marsh and I’ve had to work hard to catch fish. Early trips were hampered by high winds and high dirty water. Also, I’ve not seen the fish (most likely because of high dirty water) that I’m used to seeing in these areas…which is why I renamed the title of this post.
Yesterday morning, I decided to may a day trip to one of my regular stops down toward Grand Isle with a fishing buddy from New Orleans. Right away, things just didn’t look right. First of all, the weather was supposed to be gorgeous and the wind was supposed to be zero to five miles per hour. Well, of course we saw rain and one of these in the distance
The good news is the storm didn’t head our way. We did get a light shower but it was actually refreshing in the heat.
The second ominous thing about the morning was the nice tiny gravel side-of-the-road place where I usually launch was now filled with large limestone boulders; not really conducive to launching kayaks. I did find a small opening in some of the older rocks to slip my kayak in and I headed out to my usual haunts, only to find dirty, high water. I knew that in order to catch fish that morning, the fish would have to be actively feeding so I could see wakes and splashes. Finally, around 8:30 I came across a shallow flat with a lot of oysters on the bottom and I spotted a nice sized sheepshead. Of course, it spotted me (they are notorious for picking up any slight movement overhead) and it bolted. By now, the wind had picked up a bit (rain nearby) and I had to fight the wind to position myself to scour the oyster flat for any redfish. I spotted a really nice upper slot beauty and I cast my gold spoon fly about two feet in front of it. The fish didn’t budge. Then I made a second cast, a perfect one about a foot in front of the fish and a couple of feet out beyond its nose. I stripped a few times until it was within inches of it and the darned thing spooked. Away it took off in a mud ball and I heard the distinctive drumming sound which is why these fish are actually in the drum family. No worries because I saw some big swirls up ahead and there was another big fish that looked like it was feeding. I kept easing my kayak closer and closer but I just couldn’t see it. I knew that I would have to fan cast and catch this fish without seeing it. I kept getting closer to where I had seen the last action and I kept making fan casts. I heard that drumming sound again, this time under my kayak because the redfish had made its way under my kayak without me even seeing it and away it went, leaving trails of mud boils behind. I wasn’t ready to give up on this spot yet, so I kept making a few more fan casts with my spoon fly. I got one to eat and I pulled it out of its mouth on the hook set.
I continued to explore some new marsh that I hadn’t fished before in an effort to locate another shallow flat with oysters. I was able to entice another redfish to eat. I watched as it followed my spoon fly. I sped up my stripping to make it think it was a baitfish trying to flee and I watched it open and flare its gills. Then it turned and I set the hook, only to pull the fly out of its mouth. I spooked several more redfish that I just couldn’t see until I was right on top of them and I heard that tell-tale sound they make when they flee for their lives.
My buddy, Chuck, did manage to catch a small slot redfish (perfect for eating) and I guess he felt sorry for me and let me take it home…probably because I whined about not having any redfish in my freezer right now 🙂
So, I ended up with one of these!
I think I’m going to wait until October or even as late as November to make another trip down south. The water should be considerably cleaner and shallower by then and the redfish will be more actively feeding in the shallower water. Additionally, we have a lot of family events coming up and I will only have time to visit grandkids and aging parents on weekends. Until then, I’ll just have to make some quick neighborhood trips to keep the bass and bluegill educated to the fly 🙂