Memorial Day Weekend

So, it’s the first weekend of my summer break and where do you suppose I’m spending it? For the past three years or so, the end of school for us has marked the beginning of our summer fishing period. I say “our” because a colleague of mine who keeps a camper-trailer down in Grand Isle for the summer and I have spent the past three Memorial Day weekends fishing around the Grand Isle area. We usually have options…do we fish the gulf side? The bay? The marsh north of Grand Isle? Upon our arrival Thursday evening, the wind forecast didn’t look good for Friday morning. With predicted winds of 15-20 mph, I decided that the fly rod wasn’t going to be an option so I pulled out my baitcaster (I did bring one) and rigged it up to fish with live shrimp in the morning.

Well, wouldn’t you know it…the weatherman actually got it right for a change 😦 The wind was blowing hard out of the south when we purchased 50 live shrimp. We launched our kayaks on the bay side and I tied off of a navigational pvc pipe. It wasn’t long before I caught my first fish, a small sand trout. Not my targeted species, but at least I had a slight tug on my line so I wasn’t going to be shut out. About 10 minutes later, I reeled in a slightly larger fish – a croaker. OK, again not the targeted species but still some action. The entire time I’m fishing, I was thinking about what was my next plan of attack. The wind was howling and the water was dirty. There was no way I was going to be able to sight fish for reds. That’s when I hooked up on something very big and heavy. Initially, it took out drag on my reel. Then it stopped and felt like “weight.” I knew it wasn’t a redfish. Maybe it was a big drum?  When I finally got it to the side of my kayak, I saw that I had caught my personal best….STINGRAY!! Yuck! Anyway, I decided it would be prudent to cut the line and not gamble with the business end of that thing, so I re-tied and decided to move to an area where I’ve caught redfish before.

I paddled on over to my buddy and told him to follow me to a spot that might offer protection from the wind. We got there and he quickly caught two small, 15-inch redfish. I got in on the action too but it looked like all we were going to catch were the 15-inch variety. I did have an exciting blowup as a big redfish tried to eat my cork. A few casts later and I put a 17-inch redfish in my cooler. That was it for the morning because I didn’t screw the cap on my bait tube down tightly and I lost about 15 live shrimp. Oh well, when you don’t fish live bait enough, you’re bound to make mistakes. At least I hadn’t tried to put that stingray in the yak 🙂

So, Saturday morning; this morning, we woke up to very overcast and windy conditions. I guess I’m just not “mad enough” at those fish to go after them in the same conditions as yesterday. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to entertain myself. It’s always fun to go over to Bridgeside Marina and watch the boats come and go. There are always a mix of personalities at the marina. There are the guys who fish often, who can generally turn their boat on a dime and maneuver it just about under any condition. There are the weekend warriors, those who THINK they can turn their boat on a dime and maneuver it. There are also those who are very proud of their boat. They are just like the little boy in grade school who always had to “one up” the competition. You know…the “my boat is bigger and badder than your boat” guys. While those guys don’t impress me, their boats sure do. 🙂 Then there are the guys who always seem to  have one or two very pretty girls who dress in bikini tops and short shorts just so they can get the attention of all the older boat captains and fishermen, like myself. 🙂 Then you get the guy in the old broken down-looking boat who dons an old t-shirt and pants that just don’t fit as he bends over and moons you while he mixes oil in an old McDonald’s cup with his gasoline. Wow! Anyway, it’s quite entertaining but I do get mad at the all-to-confident young guy who pulled up this morning with his young son (looked like he was around 10-years old) who was standing on the bow of the boat without a PDF while he was trying to dock his boat. Yes, your son was probably not a rookie and he does this quite frequently. However, you can’t predict what the yahoo with the McDonalds cup is going to do when he finally gets his old Mercury cranked up, guns it so it doesn’t kill, and then bumps your boat, causing your son to fall into the water or worse.

So, although the fishing wasn’t very good (I did get a report that a friend of mine limited out in his big boat), it still was a fun way to begin my summer break.

 

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Redfish Rumble!

No, I didn’t fish the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s tournament, “Redfish Rumble” this weekend, but I did have a rumble of my own down Highway 1.  After several trips lately to Cocodrie, Hopedale, and Reggio, I was determined to hit some of my “old stompin’ grounds” to get some of the “skunk” off me and to once again feel the pull of some redfish on my fly rod.

This morning was just what I needed. I was determined to experience that “thrill.”  My adversary, the poisson rouge, is a very worthy opponent. This apex predator of the shallows feeds on shrimp, small crabs and unsuspecting baitfish in our vast Louisiana marsh. The “thrill” is to be able to push pole my way through the marsh among ducks, shorebirds, otters, and nutria while I look for signs of my adversary. Sometimes it’s as subtle as shrimp making a dash as they try to elude that king predator. Sometimes it’s just a dark shadow that looks out of place in the shallow water among the clumps of oysters. Other times, it’s being able to actually spot the pumpkin-colored mass of gills and scales before it spots me. To be able to sneak up on this predator without being noticed, cast a fly about the size of my fingernail to it, and then watch it turn and eat it is the “thrill” I seek. Nothing else in sport makes my heartbeat rush or causes my knees to shake like the moment I put that fly six inches in front of a redfish and watch him eat.

Back to this morning’s fishing report. I fished today with one of my lifetime fishing partners, my brother, Keith. We were greeted with one of God’s most beautiful mornings! I think the temperature was 58 degrees when we launched. The wind was blowing just enough to keep the gnats off us and the cloudless sky was something to behold. However, things looked bleak a first because it looked like someone had pulled the plug on the water out there. The water was lower than I’ve ever seen it and it was dirty. I went to a couple of my trout spots and managed to pick up two 11 inch disks on a chartreuse Charlie under a VOSI.

So, with the dirty water, I figured it just wasn’t going to be a “trout” day. I began poling around, looking for signs of redfish. There’s nothing like that first one to get your groove going. I imagine it’s the same for a big league pitcher when he gets through his first inning without giving up a run. I saw my first redfish of the day around 8 AM. The sun was up and casting a shadow over the marsh grass and all I saw was a dark shadow moving ever so slowly parallel to the bank. I cast my gold spoon fly about four inches in front of it and watched it eat! GOPR3596.jpg
It was a perfect eating-sized redfish so it went in the cooler. You can see the small ripples in the water in the background and you can tell that the wind still was light.

My next redfish sighting was in a cut a little further down and like a rookie, I set the hook on it too hard and broke my tippet. I hate loosing fish, but I hate loosing flies even more. I had just lost one of my hand-tied gold spoon flies. No problem! I had several! Or so I thought. Yikes! I only had 2 gold spoon flies in my box. 😦 After I quickly retied, I  was soon on the prowl, looking for more fish. Experience and this blog, which serves as my fishing journal, has told me that the redfish would be hanging out by oyster beds and grass looking for an easy meal. I began thoroughly scanning every oyster flat and grass flat I could find. The grass wasn’t thick but there were oysters everywhere. Soon, I had redfish #2 on and it it too, was a perfect eating size. GOPR3602.jpg
Say ahhhh 🙂

Redfish number three ended up being the fish of the day. It seemed like every spot that should yield a fish, did yield a fish. This one was facing away from me and my adrenaline started pumping fast when I saw how big it was. I put a couple errant casts toward it but the third one ended up with a textbook EAT! The fish ran several times and I thought for a while that it was going to take me into my backing. After a good long fight,   I was able to guide it into my net. The fish measured just a tad bit over 29 inches. I estimated it weighted around 10 pounds. Anyway, it was returned to go make babies. GOPR3610.jpg
Notice I took my white rubber boots off and went bare footed this trip 🙂

I made a call to my brother to see how he was doing and he was struggling with his bait caster. He caught several redfish but they were all undersized (except for one) and he was mostly blind casting. I spoke with him twice while I was fishing and both times, I had to hang up on him because I saw a redfish either tailing or with its back out of the shallow water. I picked up another 26-inch fish.GOPR3624.JPG
Notice this one ate one of my odd colored spoon flies. I lost both of my gold spoon flies so I tried this one and I caught two on it before it got crushed by redfish teeth and had to be retired.

The morning kept going like it started, even when the wind picked up. I caught another.GOPR3627.jpg

Then anotherGOPR3629.JPG
Shoes were optional 🙂 Don’t try this at home unless you put on sunscreen. 🙂

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And yet, another. I landed 9 redfish today. I had 3 break my tippet and I lost another one because of a poor hook-set.

I wish I could say my brother had a good day but he ended up with just one 16-inch redfish. Today was just one of those days when I could do no wrong. I probably spooked another 20 fish or so. There were some that refused to eat, but of the 13 redfish I hooked today, all were sight fished, meaning I saw them and put my fly within their reach…the “thrill” I spoke of earlier! Because of the dirty water, I had to put the fly about 4 to 6 inches from their mouths. I had a lot of fish that I spooked because I actually hit on the head with my fly.  A couple of those got a second chance and I got them to eat. Hopefully, those that I spooked will be back in the area the next time I go and they too will want to play.

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And here’s the latest Musicdoc video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfKRiuqxrBc&t=39s

 

A beautiful morning in Cocodrie

After fishing with a buddy a couple of weeks ago, I realized I left my 8 ft. park n’pole at the launch site. My buddy got a friend to hold it for me so I’ve been looking for a chance to get back down there to retrieve it. I did this morning and launched out of Coco Marina.

It was an absolutely gorgeous morning. There was very little wind. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the temperature started somewhere around 57. The gnats were a bit of a nuisance but my Amber Romance (Victoria’s Secret) worked like a charm. I was excited to explore some new water. My anticipation quickly turned sour when I got on the water and realized that the water was very dirty, with only about 6-8 inches of visibility. I found some redfish but they found me first. I wouldn’t see them until I was about 15 feet away from them and they would bolt for a quick escape.

Around 9:30 I figured that I was going to have to find a really stupid fish, one that would have to screw up pretty bad just to get a chance to cast a fly to it. Just as I was thinking this, I saw a big redfish crash some minnows up against the marsh grass only about 50 feet from me. I put my stakeout pole in a scupper and began putting the fly about 6 inches in front of its nose. No take! I couldn’t believe it. I kept casting to the spot where I last saw it knowing that it hadn’t seen me. On about my fifth cast, my line went tight and I strip set on a fish that was an upper slot or a baby bull. I felt like a bull rider. I fought it for nearly 8 seconds before it went on a lightning fast run and broke my tippet. I was so frustrated.

After that, I tied on another gold spoon and combed the banks for any more tell-tale signs of feeding redfish. By this time, it was getting close to 11 am, so I began heading back in. I stopped to fish a point where I knew there were some oyster shells and I hooked a nice 18-inch redfish. I also caught a lone speckled trout when the tide started moving.

Anyway, conditions were actually favorable today but the water was dirty and the tide didn’t begin to move until around 9:30 or so. That’s when I really got all my action. I saw a guy in a truck with a Hobie in the bed and I asked him how’d he do when we both stopped at a traffic light together. He found clear water in Point aux chenes. Looks like my next stop will have to be there. 🙂

Until then, I’ll just have to settle for this 18-inch guy who kept me from a compete skunk.

Getting on the Water in 2017

I’ve been “chomping at the bit” to get on the water in 2017 and I finally have been able to put together a couple of outings. First of all, I was able to sneak out on my neighborhood lakes to test things out. I found a few of these hungry gobules.img_0588-2

And even a few of these:

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I visited a friend’s pond and caught 14 small bass (mostly 10-inch fish) and about 2 dozen bream over 7 inches. I didn’t get any pictures of the bream but I’ll be back there to harvest a few for a fish fry in the future.

The big outing came this past weekend when I joined a friend of mine and fished the marshes of Cocodrie. We had to work hard for our fish because the wind blew and the tide was very low. Once the tide started to rise the water got very dirty. I managed on a 16.5 inch redfish and one nice trout (the same size) on flies. My buddy caught about 4 trout, two nice upper-slot redfish and a fat flounder on plastics.

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My first decent speckled trout of the year!

I’m looking forward to trying to put some sacalait fillets in my freezer in the near future. In the meantime, I’ll be tying some flies and posting pictures.

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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School is Out. Guess What?

School has been out down here in south Louisiana since last Wednesday and I’ve taken advantage of the time to get on the water. My first excursion was a trip to Grand Isle with a good friend and colleague of mine. We were able to fish only one day  (Thursday morning) because the wind picked up Friday and made it just about impossible to fish from a kayak with a fly rod. I did manage to catch three pretty speckled trout on poppers by anchoring and casting with the wind to my back to a wind-driven point. I had numerous misses and even lost a real nice one at the net but was able to land this one before the wind just got impossible. I actually foul hooked her (look under the pectoral fin) so for a while there, I thought I had Moby Dick on the end of my fly rod!
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I came back home to spend time with family, as my daughter and her husband were coming to town for the Memorial Day weekend. The whole time, I kept a watchful eye on the winds and decided there would be a window of opportunity to get some trout fishing in the surf Tuesday. The CCA STAR Tournament began Saturday and I finally decided to enter the tournament and fish it in the fly division. I caught 8 speckled trout Tuesday morning but they lacked the size of the fish I caught the previous Thursday. I had two fish that were 15.5 inches so I entered my biggest and low and behold…Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 3.36.28 PM
I received a text from a former student of mine and I agreed to meet him early Wednesday morning to fish for a couple of hours in what has become my favorite fresh water hangout. It’s ashamed it’s a private lake but it has afforded me hours of chill time and I’ve caught 44 bass there the last two visits! I was able to sight cast for bass on crease fly poppers. I would see a wake and cast to it and then watch as the bass would explode on my popper. My largest of the morning was 2.87 pounds.
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I’m still fighting the pain of two broken wrists. I’ve had my left splint off for three weeks now but the right one is still bothering me. Here’s a copy of the X-ray:
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It doesn’t take a radiologist or a hand surgeon to see the crack on the radius bone. It will be seven weeks tomorrow and I still cannot land a fish without my wrist brace. The darned thing (the brace, not my hand) is beginning to stink now 🙂

Anyway, here’s another picture from yesterday’s bass fishing:

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My hand surgeon made me promise to keep some of the bass from the lake that were under 15 inches, so I kept these 8, filleted them and gave them to some of our custodial workers at school. They were thrilled!
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Fun Day in Hopedale

Our friend, Merriam-Webster defines fun as: “what provides amusement or enjoyment.” He also define’s the word, challenge, as “a difficult task or problem.” To say that this past Saturday’s fishing trip in Hopedale, Louisiana was a challenge, would be somewhat of an understatement. To say that I had fun and enjoyed every minute of it…well let’s just say I can’t wait to go back!

For any of you who know me personally, you will know that I am driven by challenges. I thrive on them and I jump at the chance to come out on top and defy the pundits. It goes with my teaching and it also goes with my fly fishing. Saturday morning looked on paper to be a stellar day of fishing. The weatherman predicted sunny mild temperatures with light winds. Well he got it right for a change 🙂  Allow me to backtrack a little.

First of all, I’ve been wanting to make a fishing trip with a buddy of mine who is in Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club. Chuck (Snake Doctor on our forum) is an avid kayak fisherman who loves fishing with a fly rod. In addition to being avid fly fishermen who fish out of a kayak, we actually share a lot more in common. Chuck has earned his Ph.D. and is an educator (he teaches at Tulane University). We ended up placing first and second in this year’s Massey’s Outfitters Catch, Photo, Release tournament. Oh, if you’re wondering, he earned first place and I earned second. Anyway, after many futile attempts to fish together, we finally found a day that worked for both our schedules and the weather wasn’t going to stop us this time. The plan was for me to meet him at his selected launch site in Hopedale at 8 AM.  As I was nearing Reggio, I noticed people walking on the side of the road swatting in the air. It hit me right then that they were swatting at the most pesky creature that God has put in our Louisiana marshes, the hated no-see-ums. These gnats (biting midges) can swarm by the thousands and can be so bad, that you will actually leave fish biting and take shelter! I find that deet products and skin-so-soft are not effective on these creatures. The best defense is gloves, a hat, a buff, long sleeved shirts and pants, and Victoria’s Secret Amber Romance, which you have to keep reapplying all day. As I type this, I am trying NOT to scratch all those bites I received.

When I met Chuck at the launch site, I realized that I had left my buff at home. Thank God, he had a spare. After unloading our kayaks and applying several doses of Amber Romance we began our paddle to the marshes of Hopedale. We were greeted with very low water and poor water clarity. We found some moving water and bait but the predator fish just weren’t around. Chuck caught an 18 inch redfish while blind casting in a cut that led to a sizable duck pond. Speaking of duck pond. We spooked about 300 ducks from that one pond and they were all puddlers, mallards, gadwalls, and teal! What a beautiful site as they got up and circled us and fussed at us for  interrupting breakfast. We decided to paddle a bit further away from the trucks (we probably covered 6.5 miles) to find some deeper, cleaner water.

From 8 – 10:30, we were attacked by hoards of gnats. Finally at around 10:30, the wind started to pick up and that provided some relief from the bugs but it was making poling around searching for reds all the more difficult. While Chuck and I share a lot of things in common, I noticed that we have two distinct styles of fly fishing from our kayaks. He spends most of the time sitting and has the patience (which I lack) for doing a lot of blind casting. Although he is blind casting, he does it as an experienced angler because I watched him hit little cuts and pockets time and time again. I spend most of my time standing and sight casting for redfish. It combines my love for hunting with fishing. Anyway, I don’t think I saw my first redfish until around 10:30. With the poor water clarity, I found that I spooked a lot of fish. By the time I would see them, I couldn’t get my anchor pole down in the water and my fly rod out in time to make a cast at them before being busted.

Just when it looked like I was going to get skunked, I saw a commotion ahead in a shallow inlet and there was a monster redfish patrolling an area about 30 feet away from me. Great. It hadn’t seen me. I was able to get my park ‘n pole in my scupper hole to anchor my kayak and keep me from drifting up on the fish. I made a perfect cast about two feet in front of it and it attacked with vengeance. I watched as it flared its gills open to eat the fly and in my excitement, I set the hook way too hard. Let’s just say that redfish was able to wear some jewelry in the form of my gold spoon fly for the rest of the day. 😦  After tying on another spoon  fly and spooking a few more redfish, I came across another fish that was unaware of my presence. This one was moving away from the bank and toward deeper water when my fly intercepted it’s path. It slammed the fly and the next thing I knew, my line was tearing through drag. After a 10 minute fight and one heck of a sleigh ride, I landed my best redfish of 2016. It was a perfect “tournament” redfish…very fat and measured right at 27 inches. If I had been fishing a tournament that fish would have shrunk in an ice bath and would have been 26.9. Well, it was that fish’s lucky day. All I did was put a tag in it and sent it off on its way to go make babies. I did get a couple of pictures though.

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Big one of the day!

 

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Going to be an upgrade to my Massey’s CPR tournament

By this time, Chuck had made it around to me and he told me that he had caught two redfish and a bass. There were some clean pockets of marsh in the area we were fishing and we figured that there wouldn’t be any areas worth paddling to that morning that would be more promising than where we were. Then it was like someone switched on a light. Within five minutes of our conversation, I located another cruising fish and I was fighting a 20 inch redfish. From about 12:30 to 1:30, I sighted another 9 fish and was able to cast to three. The largest of those had it’s back out the water about 30 away from me. My first cast ended up about 5 feet in front of it. Oh, did I mention that the wind had picked up to about 10 mph by now? Well, I thought my errant cast would work to my benefit because the fish was heading to my fly. I let it sit there as the fish neared. Then I lifted it off the bottom to get its attention but it had turned around and was heading back away from my fly. I cast to it again but this time, I put the fly right on its back and I was busted!! I did manage to catch a 24-inch redfish to close out the day.

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24 inches

Five redfish between the two of us fishing only with fly rods is not a bad day at all. We both missed fish but that comes with the territory. Sure we could have caught more numbers in the murky water if we had brought along spinnerbaits but that’s no challenge.  On the paddle back to the truck, Chuck apologized for our lackluster day but I told him I had a blast. Some days, it’s all about the challenge, and that, my friend, is MY definition of fun!Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.12.01 PM