I don’t get out much to fish anymore, but I found some time Sunday to do just that. I loaded everything up late Saturday with plans to make the long drive to catch some redfish the next morning. When I woke up and checked the weather it was evident that inshore fishing wasn’t an option. The entire Gulf was covered in rain. Everything inland looked alright though, at least for the time being, so I had to come up with plan B fast. I decided to head down the road a bit and check out a lake in the Maurepas swamp that I’d heard good things about. I had no idea how much time I’d have before rain chased me off or if I’d even have any success, but I had to get out.
I arrived at the launch shortly after sunrise and was out on the water as fast as I could possibly load my boat. I was happy to see the black water was fairly clean and the lake seemed to have a healthy amount of submerged vegetation. I didn’t use the flex drive of the Cruise FD much today because of the grass and I couldn’t help but think on trips like this how much I missed the Kilroy. I started out throwing a hollow body weedless topwater frog and was treated to a couple of quick hits from largemouth bass. I connected on my second one and hoped that the trend would continue.
As I worked the shoreline and nearshore grass I had a few more slashing hits on the frog that were more likely from gar than bass. In time I came to a spot where the lake narrowed and a couple tributaries dumped in. It was a beautiful spot with an obviously healthy swamp. The water was visibly moving in the bayous as it drained into the lake.
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
I rounded a bend in the bayou and heard a tremendous toilet bowl flush that made the hair on my neck stand up with excitement. After scanning the area I was able to pinpoint the location of the activity and made a cast with the frog beyond the spot so I could run it through the area. On my second cast I got an eat and as soon I was hooked up the fish took to the air and I could see that I had a choupique on the line. After a nice fight and the fish getting caught in a wad of grass I was able to boat the dinosaur. A lot of people call these things trash fish, but you know what they say about one man’s trash? If I’m catch and release fishing I’ll take a fight from a choupique all day long.
After the battle with the choupique, and replacing my frog, I headed back toward the lake and continued fishing topwater. The bite began to wane so I switched things up and went to the fly rod. I began working a popper-dropper around the trees and stumps that weren’t covered up in duckweed and soon began catching fish again. The stumpknocker were active that morning and repeatedly hit an electric blue Boogle bug that they couldn’t possibly fit in their mouth. Every once in a while they’d see the dropper and I’d be quick enough to set the hook.
I continued fishing the fly rod and had a couple surprises. The first one was a fish that I thought was going to be a big bull bluegill on hookset. The popper slowly began to sink so I gave a little hookset and then I felt a lot more resistance than normal and the popper began going sideways. After a nice fight with my glass 4wt double over at times I landed a bass – and a wad of grass.
The second was a spotted gar that came after the popper and when I set the hook on the eat my popper came out and my dropper tagged him under the chin. Not the conventional way to catch them on the fly, but it sure was easier to handle than a rope fly.
I continued to fish the fly rod and explore the bayous that drained into the lake. I caught a few more stumpknocker before the rain began to fall. It was a little after noon when it began to fall hard enough that I decided enough was enough and pedaled my way back to the launch. For being a last minute backup option the Maurepas swamp sure was a good one. It was a beautiful place to explore and home to a good variety of hungry fish – I’m sure I’ll be back.