I’ll be presenting on a couple of different topics at the inaugural Gulf Coast Classic presented by the Gulf Coast Council of the FFI. One talk I’ll be doing with the legendary Catch Cormier will be on kayak fly fishing, where I’ll focus on sightfishing for redfish. Another talk I will be doing will be on the Gulf Coast Coucil’s Suncatch Challenge, a program the Council has developed that challenges fly fishers to target every native sunfish across the Gulf Coast. There is a lot more to the Classic beyond that, I’m not going to regurgitate all the info here, just click the link above to find out more. There will be a Mixed Bag tournament for all the multi-species anglers out there, fly tying demonstrations, and much more. I encourage all fly fishers or fly tyers in the region to come check out the event, it’s going to be a great time, there will truly be something there for everyone. The event will close with the Fly Fishing Film Tour, which if you’ve never caught a showing is always entertaining. Hopefully I’ll see some you folks there!
One of Those Days
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.
Last month I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in a kayak off old La 1 and sight fish for redfish and just like it’s always been it was a blast. It was the first chance I’ve had to take out the Jackson Bite and the first time I’ve fished inshore since maybe January. These days it takes a special occasion to motivate me to head that far south and on this particular weekend some old friends from Alabama were staying in Grand Isle and since the weather was nice and LSU beat Bama I had to make the trip.
I headed down on the Sunday morning after LSU’s triumphant victory and got a later start than anticipated due the previous afternoon/evening’s celebration.
Conditions were decent upon arrival, with winds a tad higher than I’d prefer, but the area I was fishing had a ton of mangroves so I wasn’t bothered too much by the wind.
In the first canal I stood up to fish I came upon a large pack of reds marauding shrimp along the shoreline – exactly what you want to see when you haven’t thrown a fly at a red in months. I was able to pick a lead fish off the pack with a good cast and a strong drag and the pack didn’t spook, they just turned around and went in the other direction.
I released that red and continued on down the shoreline until the pack decided to turn back around and head back toward me again. I got some grainy, Sasquatch-esque cell phone video of the reds I’ll try and attach:
Again I was able to pick off another fish, this time the pack caught wind of me though and took off. I thought I might be able to spot them again given some time, but I never did. Still it was a great way to start the day.
After a brief meetup with my friend James I kept searching for redfish. I came across some trout in the process, settling in on a school that was feeding in a cut between two larger bodies of water. The action was hot enough to break out the fly rod and catch a few on the fly as well with a few of the fish being keepers, most were throwbacks, but it was fun to mix it up and catch some trout.
I ended up catching a couple more reds on the fly with one being a nice baby bull, coming in just under 30″.
After that fish I decided to call it a day and paddle back. At the launch I was able to catch up with another buddy Matt, who had a tougher day, but managed a 30″ red on the fly as well back in the skinny water. It’s always a blast finding those over-slot sized fish in the trenasses.
The fishing was fun, but if I’m being honest the best part of weekend trips like this are the hangouts at night. Nothing beats sitting around sharing some brews or cocktails and swapping stories of past triumphs, defeats, or anything entertaining enough for a group of fine, upstanding citizens like the group from Alabama that has assembled in Grand Isle on an annual basis for nearly ten years now.
I was hesitant about fishing the next morning because I needed to be back in time to pick the kids up from school. I was hesitant until I saw that the weather was gorgeous. I saw that the marsh behind the camp was glass so I quickly made plans to get back on the water. Marcus was also planning on hitting the water that morning, so we decided on fishing from the same launch, but hitting a slightly different area, one I hadn’t had a whole lot of experience at, but should yield the same results.
The tide was a bit lower than yesterday and was visibly ripping through the canal we launched into, which told me that the water clarity would probably be a little poorer than it was yesterday.
I covered a good bit of water, good looking water too, before I started seeing fish. Seems like they needed the air temps to warm up before they were active. I found a small slot with a colored up tail in a small pond to get the skunk off.
I was only fishing until lunch time and it was already mid morning so I didn’t have much time left to make the day a success, but like I mentioned earlier as the temp warmed up so did the fish. I got into a pipeline canal and started seeing fish and managed to catch one in the mouth of an offshoot canal. I kept moving down that canal and as I progressed into the canal it got narrower. As it narrowed I was spooking redfish, the water was clear and shallow in the canal and the fish were seeing me (or feeling me) coming from further away than I could get a cast off to them. I finally made it to the end of the pipeline and the canal veered off into a ditch going in a 90 degree angle.
In that ditch I could see two reds coming toward me, with no idea that I was even there. I made a good cast leading them and the smaller fish looked like he inhaled the fly so I did a strip set and lucky for me pulled it out of his mouth and as I did the bigger red saw it and nailed it. Fighting a 26″ red in a ditch you could jump across was a hoot! He ran back under my boat a few times, I’m glad I was at the intersection so he had some room to run into the larger (6-7 ft wide).
I was getting ready to head out after that, that was a tough fish to top, it was nearly lunch time and I needed to make it back to BR before the school bus came by the house. I had to poke my head into one more pond because I saw a bit of nervous water and what I saw was another pack of redfish with some of the pack skittish while the others were playing it cool. The first few casts I made were at skittish fish who just swam right on by, but the tail end of the pack was more than happy to pounce on my fly. As I fought the fish I hooked I could tell it was a leopard red, when I got him to the boat I counted 14 spots.
The fight may not have topped the previous fish, but this red sure had him beat in looks.
I bid Marcus adieu as he decided to make his way toward another pond before he headed out and hit the road home. It was great to get back into the marsh and have some success. I miss redfishing a little bit, I certainly don’t miss the drive though.
The Bite performed admirably. It’s a slower boat than I’d like, but that’s the trade-off for the stability it offers – this thing is wide. For the price you’d be hard pressed to find a better boat available, which is why I pulled the trigger on one. It’s a fantastic platform to sight fish reds from and I will happily use it over the Cruise FD I’ve got collecting dust in the garage.