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. 🙂

GOPR3631.JPG

AnotherGOPR3633.jpg

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.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 9.11.44 PM.jpg

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

 

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.

images.jpeg

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.

FILE0003.jpg

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. 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 5.51.59 PM.jpg

 

First Marsh Trip of 2016

After a second place finish in the Massey’s CPR Tournament, I was determined to get some fish entered early this year. I tied for first place last year and lost the tie breaker because I didn’t catch my fish soon enough. This fall and winter has seen some extreme weather conditions in south Louisiana. It’s been raining or very windy every day that I have been off of work. I finally saw a break in the weather pattern this past Martin Luther King holiday and I hooked up with one of my young fishing buddies, Austin, and headed south looking for a cold water trout bonanza. I planned on fishing early at a spot known as the telephone post hole, a deep sand pit right next to the highway just past Forcheon on the way to Grand Isle. I believe 4 of the top six speckled trout caught on fly rods have been caught there.

Austin and I arrived around 7 AM and I quickly tied on a deep water Clouser minnow on a sinking fluorocarbon leader. Right when I got there, I noticed a fellow in a kayak anchored right on the point I wanted to fish and he was catching trout after trout on a fly rod! I tried to get as close to him as I could without getting in casting range. After all, he had gotten there first and I didn’t want to infringe on his morning. Speaking of morning…the weather was absolutely gorgeous! The half moon gave way to a beautiful blue sky with a good breeze. The thermostat was around 39 when we launched and the water temperature was a cool 53. While on the water, I spotted two other fly fishing buddies of mine who were sporadically catching speckled trout.

Austin and I tried to maneuver into a spot where we could fish the drop off. I managed to catch and tag three undersized redfish and one 12 inch trout. Austin caught his first speckled trout ever on a fly rod but it too was undersized.

At about 9 AM we decided to leave the hole and drive south a few miles to fish the Bay Laurier area. I was hoping that the sun would warm the water up enough for the big redfish to cruise the shallow water. We push-poled around for quite a while before I spotted the first redfish. The water was so shallow that these fish were easily spooked. I did manage to spot one nice redfish that had its back toward me. It never saw me as I placed my first cast about two feet to its left. It didn’t see my gold spoon fly either. So, one more cast before I would be busted…bam… an eat! I played it perfectly, choosing to remain standing while I fought it until I had it very close to the boat and ready to be landed. It was a beautiful fish that measured 24.5 inches. Not bad for my first entry in this year’s CPR tournament. Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.05.37 PM

Austin and I scouted around and spooked a few more redfish but the wind really made it difficult to sneak up on a fish and stop in time to put a cast out in front of it.

I know some people would think that only one keeper redfish would be a bust of a fishing trip. Sure, I know I could catch numbers up in Leeville on plastics or live minnows. Why just this past Saturday, over 1,000 pounds of fish were caught in BCKFC’s Minimalist Challenge tournament. I get my thrill by enjoying the chase, if you will. Sight fishing is where its at! I also was blessed with a beautiful day and a great fishing partner for the day. It just doesn’t get much better than that!

Happy Thanksgiving! Let’s Fish!

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 9.45.02 PMI took advantage one one last opportunity to fish before rehearsals and concerts make it impossible to fish until the week of Christmas. After a week of strong winds and dirty water, I made a morning trip back to my spot in Leeville with my brother, Keith. Keith fishes “old school” out of a pirogue that he has rigged up with a trolling motor. He also fishes with conventional tackle only. (mostly plastics)

Our morning started out with both of us chasing diving birds. I could tell early on that I wasn’t going to repeat my performance from last week, as most of the trout were small. I did, however, keep track of all the fish I caught today and I ended up catching 49 trout (only 8 were legal sized) and 4 redfish (3 legal sized).

The morning started with very calm winds and high water. The tide quickly made a change and started falling hard. I caught trout on a popper early on but I then changed to a Charlie under a VOSI and started putting numbers in the kayak. My thoughts of a big limit of trout were waning when I saw a big splash against the bank what was a sure telltale sign of a feeding redfish. By the time I paddled over to the spot (riddled with oyster shells on the bottom), the fish had moved. I made several bling casts around the spot I last saw the fish and I got him to eat a gold spoonfly.

An hour later, and I was poling my way through a small “duck pond” filled with clear water. I spotted my first redfish but it moved before I could get my rod up. I threw a couple of blind casts where I had seen it last but I couldn’t get a bite. I then paddled further to the back of the pond where I spotted two redfish. They were not interested in my spoon, so I tied on a crab fly. I  immediately poled my way back to where I had seen the first redfish and I soon landed my first redfish on a crab fly. I ended up catching four (only three kept) redfish.

Notice the big redfish doesn’t have a spot on its tail!

On the paddle back in (I had to be back on the road for 1 PM) I started seeing redfish all over. The water had dropped a foot and now they were visible in the shallow water. After spooking a few, I finally got a 26-inch fish to eat. It ended up being long enough to submit as an upgrade to my redfish entry in our CPR tournament.

I have so much to be thankful for! Hope all my followers had a great Thanksgiving too!