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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Things are starting to warm up!

We have had one weird winter in south Louisiana. We must be the only place in America where you have to run your air conditioner during the day and your heater at night. It can be 83 degrees at 2 PM one day and 37 degrees with a 25 mph wind the next morning. And then, there’s the rain! I was looking forward to having the week off to do some fishing during my Mardi Gras break. The weather was cold, windy, and wet the entire week!

So, I’ve been filling my free time with getting some “honey do” projects done around the house and I finally found some time to get on the water this past Sunday. My plan was to head south and try to catch some trout and redfish. The weather was predicted to be sunny with a high around 75 degrees and winds from 5-10 mph. This is were I usually have to report that the weather man got it wrong again, but I have to say he was spot on this day. Well, the wind probably got up to about 12 or 13 mph at times but it was still fishable.

I met a buddy of mine around 5 AM and made the 2 hour trek to our spot. Plan A was to fish for trout. We arrived a little later than we had intended but I was just glad to be on the water and enjoy the beautiful sunrise. When we got to our spot we saw there were no fewer than 8 motor boats already around our spot. I picked up my first trout around 7:30 on a pink Charlie under a VOSI.GOPR0119.jpg
Right away, I thought we would get “into ’em” but that was the lone trout either of us caught that day. So, it was off to plan B to search for redfish in the shallows.

We poled off to some nearby broken marsh and began sight fishing the leeward sides of some small islands and duck ponds. I saw a good bit of redfish but honestly, they saw me before I could get my rod up to make a cast. I was spooking a lot of fish when I finally got one to slip up. My first redfish ate my gold spoon fly.GOPR0129.jpg
It was a nice 24-inch fish that I decided to harvest (I trade fish fillets for fresh farm eggs with a colleague of mine).

My morning continued about the same way. I lost a big one (weak hook set), another monster (set the hook too hard), and a third undersized fish before I was able to land this 27-inch beauty.GOPR0133.jpg
After releasing it back to the Louisiana marsh, I figured I had better try to find my buddy. I  caught up to him  about a half hour later and learned that he was having similar luck with his bait caster.  I was seeing more and more redfish so I was determined to get another one to my kayak. I was treated to one more beauty before we called it a morning.GOPR0139.jpg
These “Louisiana Pumpkins,” as we like to call them have a gorgeous bronze luster to them. Their big brown eyes are a sight to behold too.

It was good to be on the water with an old friend, witness a beautiful morning in the South Louisiana marsh, and have a redfish take me into my backing once again. I’m going to be unable to fish for a couple of weekends but after that I’m going to have to get down to the marsh again to get my fix of Louisiana Pumpkins.

Persistence Pays Off

Persistence Pays Off

After weeks of looking for an opportunity to head south to fish the rich marshes of southeast Louisiana and not having any luck, it finally looked like I was going to hit the jackpot with a “picture-perfect” day. Winds were forecast to be 5-10 mph, and the sun was going to shine brightly all day. Add to that, the temperatures were forecast to start in the low 40s and I had dreams of catching bull trout in deep holes on some fast sinking clouser flies. Insert dream sequence music here:

So, Friday night, I set my alarm to wake me at 3:30. I was packed, I checked my list twice to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, and I even slept on the sofa, so I wouldn’t wake my wife up when I got up. I was as giddy as a school girl (no offense to school girls). I tossed and turned all night and dreamed of what would be plan A, plan B, and heaven forbid, a plan C. I think I even dreamed about tying flies…all while I sang music in my head that we had rehearsed in class this week. There’s my tribute to Count Basie. All I’ve got to say is, thank God I can operate on little or no sleep 😊

At 3:30, my feet officially hit the floor and I was in my truck and on the road by 3:50. My excitement would build as I made the over two-and-a-half-hour drive to my plan A. The temperature on my car read 37 degrees and I saw nothing was a star-studded, clear sky. As I got closer to water (Highway 1), I noticed just how calm the wind was. The water was literally slick as glass and I began to wonder if I had packed my Victoria’s Secret, Amber Romance to ward off those nasty No-see-ums (biting midges that aren’t bothered by deet insect repellants). I pulled over at a gas station to empty my bladder and I saw that yes, indeed, I had remembered to pack it. Everything looked like it was going to be perfect!

I was greeted to one of the most splendid predawn sunrises ever. The colors, which were magnificent, reflected back on the smooth-as-glass water. I wanted to get a picture but I knew that there would be a lot of competition at my combat launch spot so I didn’t want to slow down and jeopardize my chance of being the first kayak on my favorite point. When I crossed the high rise overpass in Leeville, I noticed there was a slight chop on the water and I looked at my outside temperature gage on my truck, which read 48 degrees. I murmured to myself, “Where did that wind come from?” “What happened to my cold temperatures?” Then, I noticed a cloudy haze developing in the east. I thought, “that’s not good.” However, my attitude changed when I got to my launch spot when I noticed I was one of the first people there. I was shaking in anticipation as I tied on a deep water clouser. I paddled out to my point, dropped anchor and fished…and fished…and fished some more. WHAT?? Nada! I moved around and noticed a few other cars pull up and out came the roadside fishermen and a couple of other kayakers. No one stayed very long, no one caught a fish, and I decided to opt for plan B.

Plan B was to move further east and fish the marsh for redfish. Surely that haze was just fog and I was going to be able to sight-fish for Mr. Poisson Rouge. Well, of course, the haze never lifted and by now the wind was blowing 10-15. I push-polled my way through the marsh and spooked many redfish that surprisingly, were in fairly shallow water. After a couple hours of this, I was thinking about Plan C.

Those of us who fish the marsh know all too well the sign of a spooked redfish, drum, or sheepshead. They leave behind a ball of mud in their escape path. I kept seeing these balls and I decided to begin fishing points and cuts that looked fishy. I even tried casting to escaping fish but unless I was going to hook them in the butt, I wasn’t going to be successful. I was just about to head to the truck when I stuck a big girl. I was leaving a small duck pond and I saw a couple wakes about 20 feet in front of me. I waited for them to settle down and I made a cast out about 40 feet in some deeper water. That’s when my line went tight and I strip set the hook. I knew it was a big girl because she was dragging my kayak all over the place and she took me down into my backing twice. Not knowing how well it was hooked allowed me to play the fish for about 10 minutes before I noticed I was being pulled close to the stakes that hold down the power poles along the highway. I decided to put my stakeout pole in the mud and fight the fish from there hoping neither  the fish nor I wouldn’t get tangled in the barnacle-encrusted wire. My plan worked and a few minutes later, I had the big fish securely in my fish grips. I was able to get a few pictures and revive her before releasing her (she was full of eggs) to go make babies. I was reminded of a valuable lesson I learned a while ago. Never give up. Your next cast could be the cast to turn a skunk into a winner 🙂 GOPR0043.jpeg

 

 

 

The Year in Review

It’s time, once again, to reflect on this past year’s fishing’s memories, successes, and lessons learned. First of all, I’m so blessed to be able to enjoy the outdoors and to be able to do so very close to my home. Most of my freshwater fishing is either a short walk to my neighborhood lake or somewhere within an hour’s drive from my house. My salt water marsh trips, although a couple hours away, are still doable for a day trip. Along the way I am always treated to the God’s beauty from the moss-covered trees to the deer, waterfowl, racoons, nutrias, alligators, and otters I encounter each trip.

Here’s a pictorial review of the past year:

It began with fellow kayakers and fly fishing enthusiasts, Glen “Catch” Cormier and Sarah Giles as we fished for sacalait in Lake Cotile.180122 doc sacalait.jpg180122 sarah sacalait2.jpg

As the weather warmed up, so did the bass fishing. IMG_2209.jpg
Catch with one of Lake Valentine’s nice bass.

I even got some great lessons on how to cast in a kayak IMG_2221.jpgIMG_2222.jpg
That’s a tight loop there!

If I had to sum up my fishing in one word, it would be deer-hair bugs. I know that’s technically, more than one word but I have gotten good at tying them and the fish love to eat them. There were the little ones:GOPR3909.jpeg

The big girls:GOPR3846.jpeg

And lots and lots of fish in-between.GOPR3885.jpgGOPR3878.jpegGOPR3877.jpgGOPR3912.jpeg

I was able to place in a couple of tournamentsIMG_2422.jpg26850532_1811142835623389_6288145374840920564_o.jpg

And even put a few in some hot greaseGOPR3841.jpeg

I caught some ugly ones:GOPR3831.jpegGOPR3947.jpeg

And some pretty ones.GOPR3870.jpg

Merry Christmas! I hope your 2019 is a good one! Tight Loops and Tight Lines!

 

 

The Fall Trout Bite Has Begun

You may have heard that the best day to go fishing is any day you can get on the water. I tend to agree. When I recently looked at my calendar, I saw that I have something to do every Saturday until Thanksgiving! AND I have to have oral surgery the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so I’ll be out of pocket for about 2 weeks after that. SOOOO, when I saw that I had this past Saturday off (no I didn’t have to judge second round of all-state auditions), I couldn’t pass up the chance.

We had a late, out-of-town football game Friday that put me back home at 11 PM and in bed by 11:30. When I woke up at 4 AM, I though that it would take an extra shot of coffee to get me moving. It’s funny that at my age, I have to forego the second cup just because I know I won’t be able to make it to the launch without having to stop for a bathroom 🙂 Well, the excitement of knowing that we finally got a cool front down here and the wind was forecast to be 5-10 for most of the morning was all the “caffeine” I needed. I arrived at my combat launch around 6:45 and was casting a deer hair popper in glass-flat water by 7. The water was still high because of Hurricane Michael and to top that off we had an unusually large tidal range predicted for this weekend. The water wasn’t dirty but it wasn’t clear either. The tide was predicted to start falling early on but the wind was also forecast to pick up to 10-12 mph around mid morning.

I got a huge blowup early on by an inquisitive redfish that didn’t result in a hookup. After about 45 minutes of no more inquisitive fish, I decided to paddle over to my “trout” spot. I didn’t get any trout to investigate my popper but I did notice some tiny shrimp leaping out of the water. I switched over to a pink Lafleur’s Charlie under a VOSI and the action started. I did bring my ice chest and planned to keep some trout for my freezer (I’m currently out of trout). I probably caught about a dozen by 8:15. I only kept those that were 14 inches or better so I threw back a lot of 12-inch trout. Anyway the bite slowed down and I did some exploring for redfish. I figured I might get lucky and find some clear water but that didn’t happen. I thought I might find some tails in some shallow back water areas but they were void of any redfish. I did manage to catch a couple nice redfish while I was fishing for trout. The redfish were not on the grass bank. They were about 6 or 7 feet off the bank in moving water. I probably could have caught more but I needed to get back to Baton Rouge for the LSU football game, so I called it a day around 1. Anyway, my ice chest (Yeti knockoff that’s made by Jackson Kayak and isn’t very big) was full. I kept the two redfish (21 and 23 inches) and 8 trout (largest measured 16.5). My battery on my GoPro died but I did get some pictures.

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This 21 inch redfish ate the pink Lafleur’s Charlie. IMG_2966.jpg
My largest trout of the morning at 16.5
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And my largest redfish at 23.

I might have to sneak out on a Sunday if the weather allows me another opportunity before Thanksgiving 🙂

 

The Cajun Permit

There are few people who will argue that the permit, AKA the “Grey Ghost,” is one of the most difficult salt water fish to catch on a fly rod. To actually catch and land one of those is indeed an accomplishment any fly fisherman would be proud of. While we don’t have permit stalking the Louisiana flats, we do have one adversary that is every bit as elusive as the the permit. Ours wears prison stripes and has teeth that  basically look like human teeth. It’s the sheepshead, AKA…the “Cajun Permit.”

While sheepshead may be easy to catch around docks with market shrimp, they are very difficult to catch on a fly rod. First of all, it isn’t easy getting them to chase an artificial bait or fly. Now, I know many people have caught them on artificial and even flies but there are several factors that really make catching this fish on flies even more challenging. First, there are those big eyes. They have good eyesight and are known to feed in very shallow water on shrimp, baby crabs, and other crustaceans (that’s why they have those crushing teeth). They also tend to turn a little on their side while they are feeding which gives them a good vision of their surroundings. So, one must be very stealthy just to get a cast to a feeding sheepshead without spooking it. Another challenge is, well…those teeth. It is extremely hard to get a good hook set with a small fly hook with all those teeth.  The only real chance a fly fisherman has it to get a hook in the fleshy side of the mouth. 7314923468_3bc028cf7f_z-1.jpg

A third reason they are so hard to catch on the fly rod, I think, personally is because they have good noses too and are looking for bait that smells like bait. My flies do not smell like bait 🙂

Over the years, I think I have caught 2 sheepshead on flies. I have, however, watched them follow a fly for several feet, only to stop and turn away. Usually, I’m fishing for redfish when I spot one of those toothy critters and I offer it the same fly I’m using for redfish, which is a gold spoon fly. I have fished a couple of fly fishing tournaments where there has been a special sheepshead pot. Frankly, I haven’t even bothered because I just haven’t been lucky.

Well, that changed this past Saturday. I finally made it down to the marsh to do some fishing. It’s been since late May since I’ve had a good opportunity (good weather, good health, light winds, no work or family-related obligations) to get down to the beautiful Louisiana marsh that I love so dearly. Allow me to pause here to explain why I love our estuary so much. (WARNING: HERE COMES MY SHORT RANT!!)

I don’t only love it only for the fact that we have the best estuary for gamefish, and edible seafood. There is a beauty that envelopes our delta that many people down here, sadly don’t see. They drive down winding roads with beautiful live oaks draped with Spanish moss daily, yet they don’t “see” it. They sadly, fish our marshes and don’t stop to see the beauty this it possesses, and even worse…they use it as their own personal dumping ground. I’ve visited Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona during the past two years and you just don’t see all the trash. It not only saddens me but it makes me sick in my stomach to see the trash along our waterways. OK rant is over.

Here are some pictures I took yesterday of some of the beauty I witnessed:IMG_2871.jpg
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These pictures were taken with a camera phone and really don’t do the subject matter justice, but I think you get the picture (pardon the pun).

OK, so back to my sheepshead story…I arrived at my fishing destination to find that the water was still very high due to the recent tropical system that entered the coast to our east. Additionally, we were experiencing a very high incoming tide Saturday, so conditions were not favorable for site fishing. Places that normally hold a foot or two of water were 3 – 4 feet deep. Add to that the fact that the water clarity wasn’t good and you can see that I had a long day push-poling through the marsh and didn’t get many chances to cast at many redfish. I did manage to catch a couple small ones by blind casting GOPR3951.jpgGOPR3944.jpg

It was getting to be about noon, when I came across a patch of grassy flats that was what I call, “sheepshead rich.” I spooked several nice ones and made a couple casts to others only to watch them chase my spoon fly down and then refuse it. I was determined this time to catch one of these “cajun permit.”  I quickly grabbed my other rod and snipped off the popper I had tied on it. By the way, I had two redfish attack that popper earlier in the day but I couldn’t get a hook-set on either one of them. I tied on a merkin-style crab that I had tied for such an occasion.IMG_2869.jpg

So I poled my way back to my “sheepshead rich” environment and saw two big ones working the edge. I put a good cast between the two of them (about a foot and a half in front of them) and watched as they both moved in to investigate. If you look at my fly you will notice that is has several sets of rubber legs. I let the fly come to rest on the bottom and watched the rubber legs tease one so much it just couldn’t keep its teeth off it. It picked up the fly in its mouth and kind of shook its head like a shark would if it had grabbed a chunk of meat. I strip-set the hook and the darned thing took off like a rocket! It made one or two more big runs and then seemed to kind of give up. I was determined not to loose it so I took my time and played it just right. Finally, I played it right into my landing net. Mission accomplished! GOPR3947.jpg

In hindsight, I wish I would have weighed and measured it because I think it’s my largest sheepshead to date on my fly rod. It felt like it was every bit of five pounds and it also reminded me why it’s NOT a good idea to wear sandals in a kayak because one of those big dorsal fins found its way into my big toe 😦

I released itGOPR3949.jpg
and poled around the area a couple more times to see if I could catch another one. I got one or two more casts off but was rejected, so I tied on a shrimp imitation. I guess all the commotion that fish created and my poling around the place was too much for the fish so I didn’t get another chance at a sheepshead. I explored more water for about another hour and decided that I had had enough for one day. I was able to drive to Thibodaux to visit with my mom and dad for a few hours and then visit my mother-in-law too, so it was a perfect day! It’s not quite on just yet but in four to six weeks, the weather will cool down and the fishing will get hot! I’m looking forward to getting back out there and experiencing what our South Louisiana waters have to offer again.

After I published this, I checked out some of my old pictures to see if this was indeed my largest sheepshead. Come to find out, I have caught several and 2013 was my most productive year.

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This is a small one that ate a spoon fly in the winter.100_0086_2.jpg
Here is one from a different trip the same year.GOPR0293.jpg
Another Leeville sheepshead caught in 2013 on a spoon fly.GOPR3059.jpgGOPR0156.jpg
Well, either way, I’ve got to give my spoon fly more credit than I did. All those other fish were caught on a spoon fly.