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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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

 

 

 

Fall Fishing in Southeast Louisiana!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there’s always next time… 🙂

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Red Stick Fall Catch and Eat

Each year, the Red Stick Fly Fishers Club hosts a fall “catch and eat” weekend. Members travel south to Leeville and have opportunities to fish from Golden Meadow south to Grand Isle. I don’t get to go every year but this year I was able to join the guys for a day of fishing and food.

After a late Friday-night playoff game, I was heading out in the dark at 4 AM to my fishing destination because I wanted to get in on what I expected to be an early morning top-water bite.  I planned on meeting up with my fishing buddy, “Catch” Cormier and see if we could put some fish in the cooler. I didn’t look, but I think we were actually on the water by 6:30 and after a short paddle, my expectations were fulfilled. I saw a couple of schools of nervous baitfish near a point and I started casting my popper. Immediately, I began getting explosive hits! The trout were going airborne to eat it. The trouble is, most of them were small. Also, if any of you have ever seen speckled trout eat top waters, they tend to try to kill the baitfish first and then come back to eat it so it’s hard to get regular hookups. This makes it a bit frustrating, but the action is so constant, it’s a lot of fun!  I landed my first trout and she was a beauty. FILE0001.jpg

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The top-water bite continued for about another 20 minutes before it shut down. I then switched to a pink Charlie tied under a strike indicator. I chose pink because in about 5 weeks, we will be welcoming into this world our first granddaughter! That fly continued to produce all day. I lost count but I conservatively caught 40 speckled trout. The only drawback was, only 12 were keeper size.

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After we cleaned up, we enjoyed a great meal with some exceptional fly fishermen. Not everyone caught fish but everyone everyone enjoyed the fried fish, fried shrimp, okra, etc.

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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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School’s Out. Time to Fish!!

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

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

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

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

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

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