This video is a bit older, but it’s appropriate right now as I’m currently working on a presentation for the Red Stick Fly Fishers for their upcoming Red Stick Day Fly Fishing Festival that is taking place Saturday March 3rd at Perkins Road Park. I’m going to be talking about bluelining North Georgia and shed a little light on what is probably the closest wild and native freestone trout water to Louisiana. The event is free so if you’re in the Baton Rouge area and you’ve got any interest at all in fly fishing come check it out.
If you have a spare 30 minutes this is worth a watch, I actually found it on Amazon Prime. It’s amazing to see what fly fishing can do for a community. The people of Rewa, Guyana knew they had a special fish with the arapaima and wanted to make sure it was around for future generations. They decided to protect the fish, establish an eco-lodge, and try to become a tourism destination. Costa sent a few anglers down to figure out how to reliably catch these fish on the fly, which may have never been done before.
I fished BCKFC’s Minimalist Challenge, the first tournament of their annual tournament series. My drive to compete in tournaments has all but disappeared, however, they do provide great opportunities to see old friends and force me to get out on the water. It’s not that I don’t like to fish any more, it’s just that my priorities have shifted now. Thus, the lack of posts you see here. I’m still documenting my trips, but I take far fewer trips than I use to.
Back to the tournament – it has been a bitterly cold winter for our part of the country. Leading up to the tournament we had a few consecutive days below freezing with snow/ice on the ground, which is unheard of down here. While the air temps rebounded by tourney time, the water temps did not, so finding fish was going to be a chore, especially for someone as stubborn as myself who refuses to run a depth finder.
It was a chilly, but beautiful start to the day. I’ve mentioned it in previous years, but the Minimalist Challenge is a pretty unique tournament in that it is a shotgun launch where every competitor receives the same bag of baits to use and launches at the same time. The tournament this year, as in years past, was based out of the public launch in Leeville, a launch I’ve had mixed results fishing from.
With patchy skies and cold water, sight fishing was going to be spotty at best, but that’s how I like to fish so I stubbornly continued my ill-fated pursuit. The north winds of the strong cold front the week leading up to the tournament combined with the low tide had the tide way out, like 1.5 feet below normal, which meant lots of shallow areas that normally weren’t shallow. If water temps had been normal this would have been awesome for me and put lots of fish on the flats, but it was the opposite, fish were huddled together in the deepest, warmest water they could find. I tried to fish some deep spots, but without luck. My only hope was for the sun to pop out and hopefully some fish would return to the flats during the warmest part of the day.
I enjoyed the new Cruise FD that morning, pedaling provided a whole new dimension to kayak angling. I covered ground a lot quicker than I had previously, which expanded my range. The boat was fast and nimble and I put the flex drive to the test running up on a lot of shallow flats. Somewhere along the way I snapped off a fin on my propeller. I really don’t know when it happened, I just noticed a different pitch while pedaling so I pulled it up to take a look and there were only two fins.
Thankfully, it really didn’t seem to slow the boat down any, I was surprised at how well the boat moved on 2/3 prop power. I need to be a little more cognizant of the drive, the thing is not bomb-proof. It wasn’t kicking up as readily in the soft mud so I was often pedaling until I realized I wasn’t moving, which may have been a contributing factor to the break. I’m not used to having a moving prop in the water below me, I’m still very much a newb with a pedal drive so I’m sure the prop break was more user error than anything.
After speaking with a few folks at Jackson the propeller fins were designed to be the first things to break when the drive is stressed, thus protecting the internal gears and allowing for a cheap and easy fix to the unit rather than a super expensive one. This is the first time I’ve had to go through the warranty process on Jackson’s website, but it was a quick and easy online form. I had a new fin at my door later that week and it took all of five minutes to pop out the old one and put the new one on.
Back to fishing – activity was very minimal that day. I didn’t see a ton of bait or fish movement at all. I tried deep holes in bayous, drifted flats in big bays and everything in between. I pedaled over and spooked a small school of reds staged in front of a cut and was never able to get a bite out of them.
Later I was drifting a flat in front of a cut that another angler, Nick, was fishing in. He actually hooked up with a red as I was passing. He told me he saw another and told me to come try to catch it. I was a little hesitant with it being a tournament, then he told me that was his third red on the day (we could weigh a max of three reds for the tourney) and I felt a little better about crowding his spot. Sure enough eventually we spotted the big red who seemed to be holding in the deepest part of a tiny marsh cut, he would spook, but then circle back around. He was probably stuck in there because of the shallowness at the mouth of the cut. I made a few casts to him to no avail, then put one right under his chin, saw a little movement, felt a little weight and set the hook. A short while into the fight it was evident I wouldn’t be weighing him in the tournament because he was too big.
The bait wasn’t even in his mouth when I brought him in the boat, I hooked him right under the chin. Fair hooked or not he went 30.5″, which is par for the course for me during Minimalist Challenge – I never do well in this tournament. I was happy to at least boat a fish on a day when it seemed like I was destined for a skunk. I thanked Nick for letting me catch that red then moved on, letting him have that little cut to himself.
I tried to find a similar cut holding fish, but didn’t run into any the rest of the day that were holding fish. I did hook one other fish while drifting a flat when I threw my bait on top of a black drum foul hooking him. Thankfully he pulled free before I was able to land him.
Fishing had been tough and I had covered a ton water, so I headed back to the launch with nothing to weigh, but at least feeling accomplished for having explored some new water thanks to the new Cruise FD.
I was not planning on fishing this past weekend, there was way too much going on for me to even consider it, but it’s funny how plans change.
We took a family trip to Disney last week and I assumed that the long road trip back would have eliminated the desire to pack for a fishing trip and drive down to the coast. I underestimated the power of social media though.
The Bama group was down in Grand Isle this past weekend and it seemed whenever I had a little down time to glance at my phone all I saw were fish pics and good times. It was during the drive back on Friday that I happened to check the weather. Near-perfect conditions meant that I had to try to make it happen, even if it was for just a day.
We made it back to Baton Rouge around noon on Saturday after having spent the night in Mobile. What should be a 10-11 hour drive turns into a 14 hour one when you have two small kids. I unloaded our vehicle then packed my stuff and took off hoping to squeeze in a little time to fish that evening.
I made it down to Leeville, pulled off the side of the road and squeezed in about an hour and a half of missed topwater strikes, wind knots, and otherwise dumb mishaps that hurried anglers make. I did catch the smallest rat red in the world to eliminate the skunk, but I really probably would have been better off just holding off until Sunday.
Shortly after the last light of day dwindled on me I met up with the group at the camp and had a great time catching up with everyone. This year brought a fresh batch of new faces mixed in with the old and all the talk was about how nice it was to not have to fight Mother Nature.
Since the weather looked fortuitous on Sunday I pitched the idea to some of the guys to try and hit some water that really required good weather like in the forecast to access it and found a few brave souls interested in the adventure.
Armed with our fly rods, James, Bjorn, Drew, and myself, headed out on Sunday hoping to find some big reds in shallow water. It didn’t take long to find the shallow water and run into the reds, but they all seemed to be the same 18-22″ size.
The reds were roaming the marsh in small packs of 3-5 fish and were terrorizing the massive amount of bait that was holding tight to the banks. After landing 5 mid-slot clones I began sightcasting the outside waters hoping to run into a bull red. I saw a few bulls, but was never in any position to make a cast at them, usually seeing them too late.
I posted up on a shell island to get out and stretch my legs. It had a good bit of current running around it from an incoming tide and I ended up catching a few decent trout tight lining a Matrix shad across a hard sand/shell flat.
The tide was very low at the start of the day and it rose throughout the day, allowing access into areas that were previously inaccessible. With that incoming water though the clarity decreased and spotting the fish before they spotted you was becoming more of a challenge. We headed back to the launch shortly after satisfied with a pretty successful day on the water.