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Tournaments

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to get back out in the still-new-to-me kayak, the Crescent Crew, and settled on fishing down around Shell Beach, over in St. Bernard Parish. The wind forecast on the eastern side of the state looked a little more favorable than that of the central coast, which drove my decision to fish over there. I made it out after sunrise and paddled my way toward some familiar marsh. The water clarity was a little stained in some areas, but crystal clear over the thickly vegetated ponds. I started with one of the bigger Ron Braud stippled poppers I won last year, working it at the usual fishy looking spots – points, cuts, intersections, potholes, and the like. I caught a few cookie cutter 10-12″ largemouth bass and then decided I would start looking for redfish.

The white flowers of the arrowhead were blooming in the marsh, interrupting the sea of green of the Spartina grass. It was pretty cool to see so I stopped to snap a pic of one to help me figure out what plant was actually blooming; that’s when I realized that if I was taking pictures of flowers in the marsh than the fishing was pretty darn slow. Five hours passed, nearly the entire morning, before I caught my next fish. I caught those three bass pretty early and then had very few opportunities at redfish after that. Those opportunities I did get were all botched. Either I messed up the cast, saw the fish late and he spooked, or it just wasn’t a great situation to get a good cast off, nothing went right in that time. I did eventually put it all together and ended up catching three reds on back-to-back-to-back chances.

Those three fish all came after I tied on a new fly. I tried my darnedest to catch a fish on the awful Clouser minnow I tied at the first Flies & Flights, but it was honestly off-putting and scaring them away. I switched to a fly that David Rodgers gave me and it was just what I needed to be throwing. The flash tied in made the fly glow in the water and the slow sink rate was perfect for these grassy ponds. I took the pic above just to give anyone reading an idea of what the water looked like. The 30″ red was big fish on the day and he was one of the smartest fish I’ve ever caught. It was a hell of a fight on my 7wt! He would bulldog himself deep in the grass, I’d then have to paddle over to him and negotiate my rod trying to free him without coming up with pounds of matted grass on the leader, then when I’d get him out, he’d do all over again a little further away. It was a forearm workout for sure. I was thankful that my knot and my tippet held and I had something to post up for the fly rod category of the BCKFC Massey’s Fish Pics tourney. I failed to catch anything else after the stroke of genius I had catching those three redfish in a row. I didn’t stay out long after that, but there were more opportunities that were blown. I slowly made my way back to the launch content to call it a day.

A few observations I had on the day:

  • Gar were all over the place and the spawn was on for some of them. There were mostly spotted gar, but there were a few big alligator gar out there as well. I didn’t fool with them too much, but that’s as good a place as any to target gar.
  • I still need to figure out a better way to sight fish from the Crew. My paddle clip belt has worn itself out to the point where the paddle falls out unless it’s perfectly situated. As soon as the paddle falls out it makes a loud bang on the deck and you may as well be playing death metal underwater when that happens. Nothing will eat at that point. It seems like a long way down to drop a paddle and that deck is loud.
  • Speaking of long way down, I need to shorten the distance between the fly rod and myself while standing. In most of my Jacksons, I don’t remember that ever being an issue, but in the Crew it just seems so far away. The seat riser helps, but I’ve got to figure out how to raise up my rod without impeding my paddle stroke.

I’ve got a fix on the way, or at least ideas, for both of those situations, so hopefully I can hammer it down and be totally comfortable sight fishing out of this boat. I like it, it paddles great, but it needs a little help to turn it into a fishing machine.

I had another opportunity to take the new kayak out to the marsh one day last month and man did I hit it right!

The last two trips in the kayak I’ve failed to wake up early enough to make it down there before sunrise, which is not a big deal to someone who sightfishes as much as I do, but it prevented me from making a longer paddle at the beginning of the day last time and I was determined not to do it again this time. It at least gave me an opportunity to see this stranded Ford Ranger, across the canal from the nearest place a vehicle should be, in the daylight. Thanks Ida.

It was near-perfect conditions though and I couldn’t have been happier about it. Apparently the fish were just as thrilled as very shortly after I got to the first flat I wanted to fish I started seeing activity.

After seeing a couple of bigger than average redfish and blowing shots at them the thought began to creep into my mind about my previous trip and how awful I was at making the most of my chances then, somehow I shook that mindset though and was able to connect on the next opportunity. I spotted a big black drum feeding on bottom and what I thought was another black drum with it. I made a cast toward the big drum and he began to track the fly, but the other fish beat him to it and I set the hook. It was a big fish and very soon I could tell it wasn’t a black drum.

This red gave me some good runs and put up a solid fight on the 8wt. I was after a redfish over 30″ for the Massey’s CPR tourney and it had been a while since I eclipsed that mark on the fly from the kayak, but this one was at least 5″ past my 30.5″ board, so goal accomplished for the day.

I didn’t have my 45″ ruler on board because for some reason the 321 ruler wasn’t stated in the rules as an approved measuring device this year for the yearlong Massey’s CPR tourney, so I quit carrying it around. This fish had to be submitted as 30.5″, which tied a previous submission by another participant, so it’ll only be good enough for 2nd place redfish on the fly in that tourney, despite it clearly being longer. I play by the rules and sometimes those rules are pretty dumb. Still I like the Massey’s CPR tourney because I can participate on almost every trip I take in the kayak, there’s a fly rod category, and I don’t have to keep the fish. It’s the only kayak tourney I continually participate in. I’m over the conventional meathaul kayak tourneys. I won one once, I’m happy with that. Sorry for the aside, back to the fishing.

I made the decision to head back to the main canal and fish the flats there on out to the bay, thinking I’d keep seeing big fish out there. The fish weren’t there though, they were on the shallow flats in the marsh. It wasn’t until I made it back into a marsh cut that I started seeing fish again. After that it was on.

One of my favorite catches on the day wasn’t the biggest fish, but the situation was pretty awesome. I got to a pond that was super shallow. Shallow to the point where I commented to myself that no self-respecting redfish would be caught dead in that pond and wouldn’t you know there was one way in the back happily cruising with his back out of the water. There is no shallow that’s too shallow apparently. There was only one way into this pond and I was at the opening so I just waited for him to swim into casting range. I even captured video of him with my phone before I put it down and made a cast to him. I put a fly out in front of him, twitched it a couple times, and he pounced on it, much to my delight! It’s nice when you don’t screw it up!

After catching those two redfish, which were both around 28″, I spotted a little shark crusing around the shallow flats of the marsh. I made a few casts his way, but could never get him to eat. I popped back out into the bay and then made my way to another marsh cut back into the marsh. After traversing that cut I made it to a big flat at an intersection of waterbodies where I could see black drum were actively feeding. They were so focused on whatever it was they were rooting around for on the bottom that I could get real close before casting and it didn’t take long to hook up with one.

I then hooked another.

These weren’t the biggest drum I’ve ever seen, but black drum over 30″ are pretty heavy fish and fun to fight on the fly rod. My 8wt was definitely doubled over as I fought to bring these guys within arm’s reach of the boat. My net was far too small to handle them so the fish grips had to work.

Just up the bank from the black drum I spotted a good redfish working the shallow bank. It gave me a good opportunity at one more redfish over 30″ and I was lucky enough to make my shot count.

It was a pretty fish with bullseye spot on his tail and a great way to end the day. I couldn’t believe the luck I had on the day and the fact that almost every fish I came across was a big fish. There’s something to be said about mild late winter days in the South Louisiana marsh – the big fish just seem to come out this time of year!

This was one of those days that make you remember why you put in all the hard work trying to fly fish from a kayak for bull redfish. It’s not easy. Nothing about the process is easy. It’s a lot of work. It’s downright difficult. It would be much easier to use a boat. It would be much easier to throw conventional tackle. It would be much easier if I could spend an endless amount of time on the water and know exactly where these fish are at all times. When it all comes together like it did on this day it makes it all worth it. This doesn’t happen nearly often enough, but when it does happen I’ve learned to cherish it.

There were three separate day trips I took down to Fourchon in January and February of this year. These weren’t extremely productive trips, which is probably why I didn’t bother to write about them, but like the Bayou Fountain trip, they were very instrumental in helping me win the fly division of the BCKFC/Massey’s kayak CPR tourney last year.

In late January I went for the homerun and made a long-ass paddle to some proven big redfish flats, but when I got out there the bulls were not there. I did manage to fool a slot red and then followed that up with a nice black drum so at least I had something to show for my long paddle.

It was a little disheartening failing to upgrade my redfish for the contest, especially because the weather cooperated for me. It just meant that I’d have to give it another shot in February and hope for the best.

I watched the weather until I saw another window to make a decent paddle in and when it came I jumped at the opportunity. This time it didn’t take long to get the upgrade I was looking for, but at 33.5″ it still left room for me to target an even bigger red.

I kept at it, but sightfishing was proving to be tough. The winds were light and favorable, but there was so much fog that it made seeing anything just about impossible. I landed one more redfish on the day coming in at 29″ and decided I’d call it a day and hope for the best with the tourney.

It was late February and I was checking the leaderboard the night before the last day of the tourney. I was sitting in first place the last time I had checked, but now I currently was not. I needed to upgrade my trout as someone had knocked me down a spot and lowered my point total. I was already planning on fishing the next day, but where I was planning to head was not known for trout so I had to hatch a new plan while laying in bed.

The wind was not as calm as the previous time I’d fished, but I had arrived at a spot that I had in mind to cover. I knew it held trout in the winter, I just hoped they were still there. After a bit of blind casting my rod came tight and after the seeing the familiar headshake of a trout I knew I had my upgrade.

It didn’t take much to best my previous trout, but it was enough to bump me back up a spot and into a tie for points, so long as other folks weren’t upgrading fish on the leaderboard.

I kept fishing hoping to run into more trout and improve my chances, but that was the only one I came across. I caught one more slot red before calling it a day. The wind was getting pretty brutal so it was getting tough to fish spots effectively.

Thankfully the one trout proved to be enough and I was able to win the fly division of the tourney. It was a pretty awesome feeling to be able to catch three upgrade fish in four trips right at the end to sneak out the W. I had fished the fly division of the CPR tourney for several years now and always come up just short so to finally win one was nice. I’ve got nothing but love for BCKFC and Massey’s for continuing to put on a tourney for us fly rodding kayak fishermen.