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Exploring

I made it to Percy Quin and Lake Tangipahoa in time for the start of the big bream contest. Catch Cormier was running the show and, as I suspected, it was a very laid back, no pressure affair – just my style. “Go out and catch some bream, take some pics, and we’ll see who’s got what and afterwards there will be some prizes.”

I took off for the northern part of the lake and found shallow water with lilies and vegetation and loads of grass carp. I spent a little bit of time trying to fool one and had a rod at the ready, but I wasn’t really all that prepared for carp so I focused more on targeting bream. I started with a popper-dropper setup and things were pretty slow early on in the lake. I caught my first bluegill off some vegetation closer to the river channel and decided maybe it was best I stick to the deeper water if I wasn’t having any luck in the shallows.

I took the popper off and put on a bobber so I could fish the dropper even deeper and continued to target the vegetation and structure closer to deep water and I then started catching more fish. I had heard there were some big redear in the lake and I was really hoping to run into one, thinking I’d need at least 9″ to compete in any sort of big bream contest, but the best I could muster was a 7.75″ bluegill. Oh well, let’s go see what everyone else caught. As it turned out that 7.75″ bluegill was good enough to tie for first place, lol. The sunfish gods had rewarded me for the many years of targeting these fish!

I met up with Brian, my cabin bunkmate for the next two nights, and really enjoyed his company over the weekend. Be sure to check out his blog over at Down South Fly Fishing, he’s been putting out some great content this year. He made some bomb fajitas that night with limited resources (I totally dropped the ball on food or any cookware for the weekend) and we discussed a wide variety of things. Strategy for the next day’s big bass tourney was anyone’s best guess. The wind was howling through the chimney of that old cabin as temps began to plummet. Fish were going to be put off, there was no way around it. I had some 7wt sinking line and some streamers that I figured I’d dredge through the deepest parts of the lake to say I gave it my best shot. Being a mostly fair-weather fisherman had me pretty unprepared for the next day’s event.

Back in the beginning of March I drove up to Percy Quin State Park to attend the FFI Gulf Coast Council Sweetwater Classic. The Sweetwater Classic was an event for area fly fishermen which featured regional fly tiers, fly fishing presentations, and a couple of fishing contests. Normally early March would be a great time for such an event as things are just starting to warm up and the freshwater fishing is getting good around here, but Mother Nature decided to bring one of the last few frigid cold fronts of the year down to the Gulf Coast that very weekend. I think it scared away a potentially larger crowd and made for some difficult fishing conditions on Saturday. The front rolled through overnight on Friday which meant there were decent conditions on Friday to fish and the big bream contest was held that afternoon, so it wasn’t a complete crapshoot weather-wise. I decided to scout different rivers and accesses on the ride up before joining the group to hunt for big bream.

Florida Anise (Illicium flordianum)
Striped shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus)

A striped shiner saved me from a skunk on the scouting trip, but I did get to see a lot of pretty water – good habitat for spotted bass, longear sunfish, and potentially shadow bass. It was probably a better place to fish a little later into Spring, the rivers usually take a little longer to warm up than the lakes, but I liked what I saw. Future trips saved for a later date, for now it was off to the Sweetwater Classic and the big bream contest which would be held that afternoon.

Back in June I had the pleasure of joining my friend Josh on a trip to fish out of his “new-to-him” Sabine Micro. Sabines are designed and built by another friend of mine, Brian Little, over in Texas. They are aluminum technical poling skiffs that are designed to have no hull slap on the water. They are very nice boats and what a joy it was to finally fish out one! A long time ago, pre-kids, I fished with Brian out of a fiberglass skiff he built in his garage in New Orleans. I was floored then by his craftsmanship and attention to detail and things have only gotten better now that he has full blown production models.

Josh picked his boat up in Texas and was on his way back home to Alabama. He wanted to fish the marsh somewhere in Louisiana and I was lucky enough to get the invite to go and lucky enough that I had time to break away to fish. We arrived after sun up in St. Bernard Parish to excellent conditions and had a pleasant ride out to the marsh. The tide was a bit higher than I like but eventually we caught our first redfish on conventional tackle and got the skunk off.

It was a privilege to slide the first fish into Josh’s new boat. It was a beauty of a redfish too, a typical sweetwater red like you find down in da Parish.

Neither of us are purists so I was switching between fly and conventional, mainly due to the water level. We weren’t seeing a whole lot of fish and when we did it was a little late to get a good cast off to them. It’s kind of frustrating when it works out that way, but that’s usually why I have back up conventional gear, for those just-in-case situations. In a deep bayou I caught a little trout and lost him at the boat, then I hooked into a hammer trout and after a short fight lost him at the boat as well. I was trying to work my way down from the casting platform to get the net for a no doubter 20″+ trout, but he ran under the boat and worked himself free from the hook. It was heartbreaking. I rebounded with another redfish, but losing that trout was tough.

Later in the morning with the fly rod in hand we spotted a redfish moving some distance ahead in a pond we were in. It was at the far end of my comfortable casting distance and after a couple of false casts I bombed a shot to this fish and hoped for the best. It happened to land exactly where I needed it to and even curled the line so as to not spook the fish. A fool would think I did it on purpose, I can’t explain it, but that’s how it worked out. The fish pounced on the fly and I set the hook on what I thought was our first fly caught red for the boat. Shortly into the fight I realized it was a sheepshead! A welcome swap for me, the ‘ol Cajun permit was eager to eat my friend David Roger’s fly.

Throughout the morning storms were popping up in the distance and shortly after the sheep was landed lightning started popping off that was a little too close for comfort. We decided it was better to be safe than sorry and call it a day. Josh had time to make the drive back home by quitting then too so it just made sense.

It was a treat to fish with Josh out of his new boat, I’m very thankful for the invite. The boat was fantastic and I can’t recommend Sabine enough if you’re in the market for a bombproof flats skiff. It’s the quietest aluminum boat you’ll ever ride in. That Yeti chair you see in some of the pics is the real deal too. Josh had picked that up and it was a perfect fit in the Micro. It made for a super comfortable ride. The fishing wasn’t on fire, but we were able to land a few fish and I think it was a good shakedown run.