Mice… A Father’s Day Breakfast Treat!

I bet I got your attention with that weird title 🙂 One of the advantages of neighborhood living in Baton Rouge is, many of these neighborhoods have their own lakes and ponds. I am blessed with having two lakes in my neighborhood. I have documented in the past about how good the fishing can be there too. Well the other morning I got up early and walked on over to my bank spot and I found that another gentleman had already beat me to it. No problem, there’s plenty of area to fish without actually getting into someone’s backyard. Well, come to find out I knew that gentleman and we struck up a conversation while I watched him fish. He was fishing with some very large swim-baits, one of which was a giant rat. I commented to him that I had never seen a bass eat a big rat like that and he told me he had caught several on it, including a 7 pound behemoth. He changed to another large swim-bait and I watched him pull out a 3 plus pound bass. This tweaked my interest and I set out to tie a mouse pattern that I could fish there.

I had seen great videos of fly fishermen catching big trout on mice imitations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMvjbz8hG9s I just don’t recall seeing many videos where largemouth bass were targeted with mice. I just had to give it a shot. So I got my vice out and decided to do a segmented pattern using deer hair. Here is what I came up with. IMG_2562.jpg
I know it’s kind of crude for my first one but I planned on fishing it in very low light conditions and I didn’t think the bass really cared. So, I rigged up last night and set my alarm for 4:45.IMG_2569.jpg
I actually woke up early, turned the alarm off and drank a quick cup of coffee before making the five minute walk to the lake. I arrived there around 5 AM and things were still pitch black. The only sounds were the chirping of the frogs and the morning calls of the owls. My first cast in the dark was greeted with an explosion that frankly, I wasn’t prepared for. I set the hook like an amateur and needless to say, my mouse came back to me unharmed 🙂 By the way, It took me a while to tie that fly so I tied on a good, strong tippet. No bass was going to break my line this morning! A dozen casts later and I landed this opportunistic little guy.IMG_2571.JPG
As you can see, it’s still dark out and all I brought with me was a camera phone. It would have to do. Understand, I still couldn’t see where my fly was actually landing and the only guide I had to let me know I had a bite was to listen for the splash. Five minutes later, I heard a very loud splash and I strip set the hook. Immediately, I knew this one had “shoulders” and I felt the pressure of the fish on the rod. I recently bought a new reel and loaded it with a fly line that advertised that it was a 7-8 wt. specifically designed to throw big flies. I haven’t bought a 6-weight rod yet, so I’ve been fishing with an Allen 5 wt. I felt the fish take off to an area where I knew there was a sunken tree. OH NO YOU DON’T!! I’m not going to loose that fly! I was able to turn the fish and after a short while, I landed what I guessed to be a three-and-a-half to a four pound fish. It had a huge head IMG_2572.JPG
This picture doesn’t really do it justice. All I have to judge the size of this, is the same mouse put in the mouth of the only mounted fish I have.IMG_2577.JPG
I’ll be darned but the mouth on this morning’s fish looks to be about the same size or even bigger. By the way…the mounted fish? That’s my personal best, caught about 12 years ago on conventional tackle (before I ever began fishing with a fly rod) and it weighed 8 pounds. IMG_2578.JPG
This morning’s fish didn’t have the girth but it was nearly as long, so I think 4 pounds would be a conservative estimate!IMG_2575.JPG
I wanted to get it back in the water quickly so I didn’t waste time taking more pictures. After all, I was ready to catch fish number three for the day. Shortly after, the sun began to brighten up the morning and the shad came out in full force. The bass feeding frenzy began, but I couldn’t get one to eat the mouse again. I left and was back home for 6:30.

So, my summation of the situation. I think the bass assemble by the dam and wait for the shad to get there to feed or spawn or whatever they do in the slimy foam on the water. Once the shad arrive, there is a gourmet table of live bait that make easy pickings for hungry bass (of all sizes) to eat. During that feeding frenzy, it’s hard to get a bass to fall for foam, hair, and feathers. However, for that magical time when the bass are assembling at the breakfast table and the shad haven’t arrived yet, they can be fooled into eating…a mouse. On a sad note, my mouse lost its tale this morning. No problem, because I can tie another one on pretty easily. Stay tuned for more mouse fishing because…Mice…it’s what’s for breakfast! Happy Father’s Day!

 

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Happy Birthday To Me :)

Traditions. It’s what makes us who we are. Every culture, every family has some sort of tradition that identifies us uniquely to each other. One such tradition in our family was each year we got to fish in Daddy’s homemade kayak for our birthday.P1181303.jpg

That’s it on top the car. I thought I had another picture somewhere but this was all I could find. Of course, I’m not in the picture…I’m taking it with my birthday present, a brand new camera of my own 🙂 There are so many things about that picture…oh my! Like my dad’s shorts, my brother Keith’s baseball socks, the white rabbit (that our dog ate for supper one afternoon), and the fact that there are only four (plus me) children. Kory wasn’t born yet. I’m thinking mom looks pretty hot here and lets’ see…Kory came soon after 🙂 I know, T.M.I. and this is supposed to be about my birthday, fishing, and family traditions.

Well, for our birthdays, we could fish with either mom or dad in that tandem kayak. BTW, daddy made it from a kit. I can remember one birthday when dad and I paddled to Lake Boeuf and he pulled under a tree branch to rest in the shade. I was in the front of the boat and there was a huge snake sunning itself on that branch. I freaked out and nearly jumped out of the kayak! Then there was the time when I hooked a monster bass near Lake Des Allemands and mom couldn’t get the net quick enough to land it and I lost what would have been my personal best. However, most of my birthdays were spent fishing a farm pond in Labadieville and it was a special treat to be able to fish out of the kayak.

This year, I decided to celebrate my birthday early. My options were 1) do some sight fishing for redfish in Point aux Chenes, Delecroix, or Hopedale or 2) visit one of my favorite nearby farm pond/lakes. One thing I knew I didn’t want to do was paddle out a mile or so into the marsh and have to haul butt back to the landing and try to outrun a thunderstorm. I chose option 2. With this heat, I knew the bite would be early so I hustled out early and launched shortly after 5:30 AM. Within five minutes, I had netted bass number 1.GOPR3904.jpg

Then came bass number 2GOPR3905.jpg

Then…well… you get the picture (pun intended)GOPR3907 2.jpgGOPR3909 2.jpgGOPR3910 2.jpgGOPR3911 2.jpgGOPR3912 2.jpgGOPR3913 2.jpgGOPR3914 2.jpgGOPR3916 2.jpg

I caught 11 bass and probably missed 8 others. I also caught two bull bream on poppers. After my third big bass, I decided to downsize my popper to the small frog. I continued to catch bass but I noticed they would only slurp the small popper, whereas they smoked the large one! I put the big popper back on before I called it a morning and that’s when I caught that last big bass. Of the 11 I caught, only three were under 15 inches, so they are quality fish! IMG_2563.jpgSo going fishing has been a very important tradition in my life. As I look at my fly rods, I cannot help but think that I relish the peace and tranquillity that fly fishing brings me. I only wish I would have been introduced to the fly rod sooner. As for that old kayak. It dry-rotted many years ago, but the memories it holds are still imbedded in my mind. I’m sure it’s the same for some of my siblings. Now…to continue that tradition with my granddaughter. IMG_4734.jpg
Hudson models her very first monogrammed fishing outfit 🙂

 

Summer Bassin’

Now that school is officially out, I thought I’d have some time to do some fishing and head down to the coast to target a species that I haven’t had a chance to target yet…the speckled trout. Yep. When I look at what I’ve caught this year, it shows I’ve caught only 4 redfish, no trout, but a ton of bass. That’s because whenever my schedule does allow me to fish, the weather does not. I’ve been off this week and the winds have been blowing 10-15 mph all week long. I’m thinking I may have to say, “damned the torpedos!” and head to the marsh anyway.

No more venting here though. This is my fishing blog and I will conform and write about my last two or so trips. One of my friends had me over and told me they will be selling their home, complete with acreage and a small pond that has provided me with lots of fun mornings and late afternoons chasing small bass and nice bream. I decided to give it a shot one last time and I was rewarded with a nice mess of bream for the fryer. The bream didn’t bite until around 7 PM, but they were smacking a small popper in some moving water and I was able to put about 20 of them on a stringer before the mosquitos ran me off the water. I told my dad he would be so happy with me. He grew up in the Great Depression and he cannot stand to see anything go to waste. He cannot understand why I would spend a morning fishing and not keep any of the fish I catch 🙂 I Told him that the thrill for me is to catch them on flies I tie myself and I have a freezer full of bream, sacalait, redfish, tuna, and snapper. I don’t need to keep any more. I mostly practice “catch and release” these days. However, when I get on a good bream bite and most of them are between 7 and 9 inches long, I practice catch and release all right…release them into a hot skillet of grease 🙂 So, I kept eight for myself and I vacuum-sealed the rest for my buddy and his wife to enjoy. IMG_2469.jpg

I mentioned earlier that I’ve caught a ton of bass this spring. I made it out to my neighborhood lake and my doctor friend’s lake and caught 10 on frog poppers and shad flies. I find that I loose as many as I land, though, and it gets a bit frustrating. I think I have good hook sets but somehow, when the fish changes direction, it spits the hook. I’ve tried setting the hook harder but even then, I find I’ve pulled the hook right out of the fish’s mouth. I’m using sharp Gamakatsu hooks too. I guess it’s part of the game. A couple trips ago I had another friend and his wife fish the same lake with conventional tackle. I easily outfitted them 2 to 1, so I guess I’m not complaining 🙂

GOPR3896.jpgGOPR3894.jpgGOPR3898.jpgGOPR3901.jpgGOPR3899.jpgNotice, they are all healthy fish. The largest in these pictures weighed 2.9 pounds. I did catch one in my neighborhood lake that was 3.1 lbs on a subsurface shad fly.GOPR3902 2.jpg
When I haven’t been fishing, I’ve been preparing for my various summer band camps that I will teach and a deer fly tying class as well. That had led me to refine my tying skills and experiment with new patterns. One of my latest is this baby duck. While I know that bass are opportunistic and will eat anything that looks like food, this baby is going to go under glass somewhere and sit on a mantle. IMG_2481.jpg
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Here’s a commission job I did as well.

One more thing. Many people look at these flies and wonder about durability and fishability. I think the pictures of the bass speak for themselves about the fishability. As for the durability, I find that they hold up pretty well. Here’s a frog fly that I used during a recent trip. I landed 8 bass and probably lost at least as many. It did get messed up and the bass had knocked both eyes out of their sockets.

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Glue and eyes are cheap, so guess what? I think it’s going to catch another 8 or so before I have to retire it.

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Bass Therapy

It seems we have all kinds of therapies available to us today. Of course there’s physical therapy, music therapy, occupational therapy, and a host of others we won’t mention here. Today’s post is brought to you by the bass therapy. That’s the kind of therapy I needed today. I got a good report from some of my band parents after our spring concert last night and I decided to load the kayak on my truck for a couple hours of bass therapy. That is, a couple of hours of peaceful solitude on a quiet lake with hungry bass that eat what I’m tying.

Well, at least, that was the plan. I got to the lake a little after 5 PM and was throwing one of my deer hair poppers shortly thereafter. I got to one of my favorite spots in the back of the lake and I missed a monster strike by one of those hungry, post-spawn girls. She made one good jump and threw my popper. That’s OK. Being a fly fisherman, I get used to missed fish. Anyway, I was just really starting to relax when three vehicles approached on a dirt road and five young 20-something-year-olds got out and started setting up to do some target practice. They were very nice about it and told me things were going to get loud. I had plenty fishable water so I didn’t mind but the constant shooting did get annoying.

So I paddled away from the shooting and caught my first bass of the afternoon on a fire tiger deer hair pattern. GOPR3855.jpgThings were really getting slow when I noticed a nice bass that nosed on up to the popper but refused to eat it. I had a crease fly tied on to my other rod so I tried seeing if it would eat that. Still no bite. At this point, my bass therapy was going to need more therapy.

I paddled to the opposite end of where the shooting was taking place and around 6:45, someone turned the switch on. I proceeded to nearly be able to call my shots. The bass were taking some explosive shots at my crease fly and boy was that fun. Each one seemed to be right around the 15 inch mark with a couple that pushed 16. I tried to switch back to the deer hair popper, but they only wanted the crease fly. I finished the afternoon off around 7:30 with my largest bass of the day, one that pushed just a little over 18 inches and probably weighed over three pounds.  I wish I had gotten a good photo but my GoPro is acting up and I was only able to get a few pictures off the sim card. None of my video came out 😦 and I thought I had gotten some really good video of some good eats. I’ll keep working on the card and hopefully I can extract some of that video.

In conclusion, the bass therapy did the trick. I ended up catching and releasing a dozen bass and probably lost just as many. The action was fast for about an hour, as the fish were feisty and fought hard. Here are a few pictures that I was able to get off my GoPro.

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This is my last freshwater trip before my Mission Six Tournament this weekend. Catch Cormier and I look to defend our title from our big win last year. The trash talk has been going on for quite some time. Now it’s time to get out there and catch a couple big slot redfish. I plan on posting a good report here early next week.

New frog patterns

I haven’t been fishing in a while; mostly because of home commitments and a back issue that has been very painful. I got a short-term fix on the back and most of my “honey dos” taken care of so I’ll traveling to CENLA to try to catch my buddy, Catch Cormier’s, big bass he entered already on the Massey’s Fish Pics Tournament. I also hope to catch some sacalait and big chinquapin for a Friday Lenten meal soon too.

In the meantime, I’ve found some time to sneak away to my tying vise and I’ve developed my version of a frog popper that I learned from master tier, Bill Laminack. I also learned a new way of putting a weed guard on my popper that’s frankly, ingenious. Again, kudos to Bill.

First, are a couple pictures of the frog popper/slider:IMG_2203.jpg

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Notice the hard mono on the back side. It fits well into any fly box because the mono is behind the fly. When I’m ready to tie it on my tippet, I just run my tippet through the weed guard and tie off through the hook eye. I used some backing in the following picture so you could see how I do it. IMG_2204.JPGIMG_2202.JPG
Her’s a view from up front. I can’t wait to see some bass gulp this thing up. I should be able to bounce it over cover too with that weed guard.

Mardi Gras Madness

Many in south Louisiana think of parades, king cake, masked balls, and floats during this time of year. Me?  I think about where can I get on some water and fish. While others think about catching beads and doubloons, I think about catching some fish that will make it into the grease for a lenten Friday meal. The past few years, I’ve been fortunate to hook up with my buddy in Central Louisiana to catch some bass, chinquapin, and sacalait. This year, our schedules, the large amount of rain, and other factors have made it impossible to fish in CENLA. That left me with plan B, plan C, and of course, no plan at all 🙂

When the weather was too windy or rainy, I stayed in, tied flies, and took care of some “honey dos” around the house. That didn’t mean I didn’t sneak out for a couple hours at sunrise or sunset to try out some of my new flies on some of the locals. We had some really foggy mornings that gave way to some windy days. My first fish of the week came from my “Plan B,” our  Mylocal neighborhood lake.GOPR3821.jpg
As you can see, it ate one of my crease flies. My next bass also came from Plan B but I was fishing for sacalait and bream when this guy came up and ate my fluff butt.GOPR3822.jpg
Since I do not keep bass (especially during the spawn) and I really wanted some fish for a Friday lenten supper, I made an hour run over to Black Lake to see if the sacalait wanted to play. After talking to a couple of the locals at the launch, I learned that the sacalait bite hadn’t started yet but the bass were biting. I got this one to eat one of my deer hair poppers. GOPR3828.jpgIt’s really cool when they eat flies a tie myself. My deer hair poppers are pretty but I want something that will catch fish. I didn’t catch any sacalait, but I did hook this angry choupique on a 3 wt. For those of you who don’t know, a 3 wt. is like a very ultra light.GOPR3830.jpg
I can remember catching the heck out of those when I was a kid. I also remember that a friend of my mom’s used to tease her that eating them had some kind of relationship with fertility. There must be something to that…I’m the oldest of 6 children 🙂
Plan C took me to an old reliable lake that’s owned by a former band parent. I found a couple bass that wanted to play. GOPR3826.jpgGOPR3824.jpg
They were both nice at 16 and 15 inches respectively. Notice that I went to my trusty crease-fly. Bass love ’em!!

Plan D took me to my cousin’s pond behind her house. I know there are bass there that will eat my flies but I also know we’ve caught sacalait there too. I didn’t think the sacalait would be spawning yet but I did bring my 3 wt. and some fluff butts. I ended up catching 3 bass, GOPR3832.jpglost a couple more….but….the sacalait came out to play 🙂 I only kept 10 and released about 10 more. Only two of the ten were females so I guess these were males getting the beds ready for the females. I’ll save the big females for my cousin’s family 🙂 By the way, I have to ask. “Does this stringer make my butt look big?” GOPR3841.jpg
Looks like we have a fish-for Mr. Vern this Friday 🙂

 

The Great Flood of 2016

I haven’t been able to post anything here because I haven’t been fishing. Well, I did make one trip to my favorite private pond but the fishing was slow (only two largemouth bass and two nice hybrid stripers). That same day, I planned on making a float trip with a good fishing buddy of mine up the Amite River. When we got to our “take out” point, we noticed that the water was a bit high and dirty, so we did a walk in trip nearby. The fish did not cooperate so we called it a day, ate a sandwich, and drank a couple of good brews. Little did I know what would come the following week. The following is typed up from some notes I jotted down in a notebook during this past week:

It’s been 6 days since we got the message on the radio that school had been cancelled due to the eminent threat of flooding in our area. That was Friday. My initial thought was that this would last a day, people who lived in flood prone areas would flood, and then that would be it. The world would just go on as normal on Monday. I took the time Friday morning to get caught up on my school paperwork. I completed 2 weeks of lesson plans and I even created an online “homework” assignment so we could claim that day as a full day.
Later that night, I received a frantic call from my cousin’s husband asking for help to put his furniture up on cinder blocks. My wife and I promised to go over there Saturday morning to help them. During the day, I learned that my 26-year-old son had spend the day rescuing people stranded by rising waters with his shallow drive boat, a boat that is built for this kind of work but is still treacherous in the raging waters and current of a flash flood. Nothing could make me prouder! I personally spent time rescuing people with a friend on mine on Sunday.
The media calls this the Great Flood of 2016. I imagine tens of thousands have lost everything (I later learned that an estimated 110,000 homes had been flooded). My emotions have run the gamut, from guilt (we didn’t experience flooding in my house), fear, anxiety, and sadness. I just can’t list all the emotions I’ve felt. The main good thing I guess is…I continue to feel. I feel for those who had to swim out with their children on their back. I feel for those who did not have flood insurance. I feel for those who have lost everything…house, vehicles, and businesses. I feel for those who will have to bury loved ones.
Monday, after the flood waters began to recede, I helped ferry people back to their destroyed homes to survey the damage. That was difficult too. I had to watch proud fathers cry when they first saw the damage. I watched mothers sob when they realized they had lost one-of-a-kind family photos. Photos of deceased family. Photos of a deceased first-born child. I’ve seen panic attacks and more! I’ve had to try to console people and tell them that their “things” can be replaced and that the lives of their loved ones are all that matters. Stupid me! They know that!! I just don’t know what to say!
For 5 days in a row, I helped lead a team of faculty members into the homes of our dear friends, family, students, and colleagues. We gutted 11 homes in five days!   I am exhausted. When I ask God why was my family spared? I hear “I’m just granting you the answer to the prayer you pray multiple times each day. I pray, God help me to use the gifts you’ve given me to the best of my ability. My son is pulling people out of harms way, some of whom would not have survived had he not been there. My wife is working night shifts to help manage the disaster from the state level.
And through it all, I do what I pray. I use my God-given gifts to the best of my ability. I plow on through achy bones, joints, and extreme fatigue. The most difficult part for me has been my inability to help people. While I’m working to rid one house of soaked flooring and drywall (what an oxymoron right now), I get phone messages and emails with names and addresses of others seeking help. One of the things that has gotten me through this is humor. My colleagues and I have continually ribbed each other and joked around through this. I laugh to get me through the day and I cry for ten minutes in the shower at the end of the day.
As I talk to God about this, I have tried to get quiet and listen. What I hear is Him telling me to keep going. I really think my family was spared from this thing because God knew we could help so many. It doesn’t, however, mean that just because our home didn’t flood, we still aren’t traumatized.
So to my friends and family members whom I’ve seemed to ignore these past few days, who’s group text messages have aggravated me to the point where I seemed disrespectful, I say that I do love you with every fiber of my heart. If I sound tired, I am. If I sound overwhelmed, I am. If I sound frustrated and cross, I am. It doesn’t mean I love you any less. I do know that I will get up early tomorrow and do it again because there are people that need me.