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.

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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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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Enjoying South Louisiana’s Bounty

I’m actually combining three recent outdoors adventures into one. After two weeks of teaching camps, I was finally in the mood to do some serious fishing. I cancelled a kayak trip Saturday because my son wanted to take me frogging to celebrate Father’s Day. I have to admit, fried frog legs are probably my favorite meal! I was super excited to spend some quality time with my 26-year-old son and one of his buddies in the Atchafalaya Spillway.

We launched the surface drive boat around 10 PM and after about a 10 minute drive, my son was pulling the boat over and pointing out a big fat frog. I was apprehensive about using my right hand (my wrist is still broken) so I was using my less dominant (left hand). First attempt as a lefty…bingo! First frog in the box. This went on for quite some time with only a few missed frogs. Actually more misses came because I frankly didn’t seen the darned things and we would cruise right over them.  The evening was absolutely gorgeous! There was a near full moon in the swamp and the the light show from a very distant thunderstorm lit up the sky every now and then. Although it was warm and humid, it wasn’t totally unbearable and I made sure to take in all the sights and sounds that were around me. Now, let me say right now that my son frogs in style, in his surface drive custom aluminum boat with country music blaring on the speakers. I don’t guess the music scares the frogs because they caught 298 of them in two boats on opening night 🙂  Every now and then we would stop the motor and turn the music off to listen to the swamp. That’s some kind of music! To hear the symphony of sounds of the swamp (the deep thumps of bull frogs, crickets, owls, and thousands of tree frogs) is something I hope everyone can experience at least once!

Anyway, we frogged until 2 AM and ended up with 35 nice toads! People ask me if we use gigs. Frankly, my favorite way is to use my hands. Sure, I’ll miss a few and I have to keep a watchful eye out for alligators and snakes but that makes it fun. Here’s a picture we took of a few of them adorning our ProDrive motor:
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I have to say, that my son, Dustin, has a knack for spotting bull frogs. He was able to distinguish frog eyes from all the other little rays of light that you see at night with a Q-beam on our heads. That includes all kinds of floating spiders, baby green tree frogs, and of course all sizes of alligators. By the way, we easily saw over 100 of those that evening! Dustin has a gift. I think being a little color blind makes him able to distinguish a bull frog eye from everything else in the swamp. His buddies agree with me. They have never seen anything like it. I tell you, I won’t go frogging without him! I bet we wouldn’t have even caught a dozen had he not been there to spot them for us.

Anyway, my second excursion of the week had me hoping to make a trip up to Central Louisiana to fish with a buddy of mine but when my iPhone suddenly died Sunday, and the only reservation I could make with the Apple Store was for Tuesday afternoon. It was a good thing I didn’t procrastinate because unbeknown to me, I only had two days remaining on my warranty. I was able to get a brand new phone without being charged! 🙂

So, my fishing options meant that I would have to remain close to home. No problem because I have a couple of productive lakes in my neighborhood and I have students and former students who have invited me to fish their lakes. I took a trip Tuesday to what has become my favorite fresh-water fishery. I’ve been making a bunch of crease flies lately and the fish have been more than willing to come out and play. I’ve even made some to pattern some fingerling bass because I think these bass are feeding on fry from this year’s early spawn. Between the crease flies and my shad fly, I caught and released 15 nice bass. Ten of those were 14 inches or bigger and three of them were 17.5.

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Crease fly bass

Here are some more pictures from that trip:

I think about half were caught on the crease fly popper and the other half were caught on the shad fly. I did notice that I had more hookups and fewer misses on the shad fly. I love to watch a bass explode on a popper but it causes me to react too soon and results in plenty missed opportunities. Other times, when I to hook one, it heads toward me so fast I cannot get a good hook set in it. When I’m fishing a streamer, I feel the fish on first and I’m able to strip set, thus making my chance of landing the fish much better.

At about 9:30 I decided to see if any of the hybrid bass would be willing to come out to play.  I replaced that shad fly with a chartreuse and black Clouser minnow. I cast the fly out in deep water and counted to ten to let the fly get down deep enough. On my first strip, I felt weight and set the hook. I knew right away it wasn’t a largemouth bass because this fish had some extra power. I was right! It was a hybrid striper!

I tried to catch another one for about another half hour before calling it a morning. There was no need to stay out there in the hot June heat past 10 o’clock!

Well that afternoon, I got a new iPhone and saw all my missed calls and texts. There were the expected Happy Fathers Day messages but I got a four-word text from my cousin’s husband that got my interest. It was, “Can you fish tomorrow?” My cousin has a 24-foot bay boat and I suspected that he was itching to do some fishing in the Gulf for some speckled trout. A quick phone call confirmed my suspicions and we found ourselves heading to his camp in Theriot after supper. We left at 5 AM Wednesday morning and headed to one of the barrier islands off the coast of Dularge. I brought my fly rod but the wind was blowing just a bit too much (forecasts were 5-10 but the morning started off closer to 10) to risk hooking my partner in the back of the head so I just stuck to my conventional tackle.

The morning was absolutely perfect. A near full moon gave way to a beautiful sunrise. The ride out to the barrier island was a bit choppy but both of us had fished in higher seas than that. On my second cast of the morning, I got a nice blowup on topwater. A few casts later and I was slinging a nice chunky trout in the boat. Meanwhile, my buddy, Neil, had put 3 or 4 nice ones in the boat on soft plastics. The big girls had definitely come out to play! I decided to make the switch and for a couple of hours we put some nice fish in the ice chest. It wasn’t gang busters but the bite was just consistent enough to keep us from moving from our spot. We saw a couple of guide boats in the area and one of them stopped pretty close to us. They caught only one and then left. By then we had twenty-eight trout that measured between 15-18 inches each on ice. The bite had slowed down considerably so we hopped decided to hit a couple more rock jetties. We were just about ready to call it a morning when the bite picked up again. This time, the fish were considerably smaller and we had to cull out a few 11 inch trout but by the time we called it a morning at 11 AM, we had boxed up 44 speckled trout. The ride back in was less choppy and we both had a celebratory beer! I couldn’t have asked for a better day…great company, great weather, and great fishing! We cleaned fish (two full gallon bags of fish fillets), cleaned the boat, and took a nap before making the drive back to Baton Rouge. The only regret I had was in my haste to leave the house, I forgot to pack my cameras so I didn’t get any pictures. Uh, NO, I didn’t bring my new iPhone and risk getting it wet 🙂
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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

 

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!