Redfishin’ with Hays

Got out in the kayak a couple times in the past two weeks with a new friend, Hays from Little Rock.  Like any good man Hays is a fly fisherman, so our goal was to catch some reds on the fly.  With it being winter, our hopes were for bull reds on the fly – they tend to migrate into the marsh this time of year.

The first time we got together conditions were terrible.  It was cold, windy, rainy, and the water was high in the marsh.  Sightfishing was brutal, but we were stubborn and tried to force the issue the whole day.  Redfish were seen, but by the time we saw them we were on top of them and we either couldn’t make a cast or they spooked.  We may have covered 18-20 miles of water in 12 hours – it was a long day.  Fish were caught early and late with a whole lot of nothing in between.  I got on a trout bite as the wind and tide swept the water from a bay around a point and into an outlet.  I probably could have sat there and worked my way to a limit, but trout weren’t what we were after.

We didn’t catch another fish until late in the day when we were headed back to the launch and in the deep corner of a bayou I saw some nervous bait.  I cast toward the area and missed a fish, then cast back and had my first red of the day, it wasn’t big, but it sure was pretty.

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After that it was on.  Redfish were stacked in a deep hole.  It was too cold for those fish to be on the flats and we were morons for thinking there would be a few holdouts.  Hays was blind casting into the hole and pulling out reds while I opted for the trusty Matrix shad.

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Most were small, some filled the slot – I worked my way through a limit but never caught any with any size to brag about.  I did have a nice bass on the line once, but he got off before I could get him in the boat, who, no doubt, was taking advantage of whatever warmer water was down there.  Hays finally tied into a really nice fish and got to experience a how much better redfish fight in deeper water.

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That was a good way to end the day, unfortunately we still had quite the paddle to get back and we didn’t make it back until after dark – which was when the heavier rain started to fall.  With extremities frozen we parted ways until next time.

Well “next time” happened the next weekend, this time conditions were a little more favorable.  It wasn’t windy or nearly as cold, but a fog hung over us for the entire day and made seeing fish a little tough.  The good news was the tide wasn’t as high as it was the first time we fished and the water wasn’t nearly as cold, so redfish would be on the flats.  We picked an entirely different area, with a lot more oyster beds and I think it would prove to be a good move.

Hays got into the action first when he connected with a slob who was crawling around on a tidal shelf.

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This red had some serious head trauma at some point in his life, but seemed to come out of it alright.  It was an odd looking fish for sure, it wouldn’t take long for me to catch a better example of what a bull redfish should look like.  Just around a marsh island from Hays’ fish was a crawler of my own.

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Nearly 36″, biggest redfish I’ve caught in a while on a fly rod.  What a good feeling.

We continued sight fishing and eventually parted ways for a short while.  I saw a few more nice fish but never had a good shot at any until I had a picture perfect set up.  A monster red was in shallow water swimming toward me, I flubbed the first cast, but laid the second one in front of him and as he went to eat I got excited and pulled it from his mouth.  A huge mistake as he disappeared into the adjacent, deeper water.

I caught back up to Hays and heard he had caught a second bull and we decided we should start heading back to the launch so we wouldn’t be as late as we were the first time we fished together.  We covered a lot of ground this trip as well, not nearly as much as the first trip, maybe 10-12 miles.  Lucky for me we hit a good flat on the way back and I was able to stick another red before nearly running him over.

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Hays had an opportunity to double as he hooked up soon after I did, but that fish unfortunately came unbuttoned.  That would have been the cherry on top of an already great day.

I was really glad we were able to have some success with some bigger reds on our second trip after a rough first outing.  Hopefully Hays and I will get to fish again next time he makes it down from Arkansas.  He already told me he’s having withdrawals, so maybe it will be sooner, rather than later.

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