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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.

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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.

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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.

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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″.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

I never got around to writing a report until now, but back in June I found the time to wade fish a Feliciana parish stream with the long rod.  I made it on the water as the sun was rising and actually caught a bass on one of my first few casts.  The action was slow after that, but it was, and has always been, time well spent and a great way to beat the summer heat.

The usual suspects were around – spotted bass, longear sunfish, and bluegill, but I also had the pleasure of catching another shadow bass.  This was likely the biggest I’ve ever caught too.  He came off some submerged timber in the very middle of a deep bend in the creek I was fishing.  True to form, he hit a dead drifted crawfish pattern I was running behind a big hopper.  It’s always fun to catch these guys as they are pretty unique.

Google Earth tells me I fished maybe half a mile before I was ready to call it a day and turn around to head back home.  It never fails that when I’m fishing I think I’m covering at least a mile, but in reality it is always much less.  It’s funny how that works.  It makes you wonder about all the untouched water that lies beyond a mile or two from an access point?  How much better is the fishing if I put in the work to get there?

After driving north through the Ouachita Mountains and the Arkansas River valley we made it to our next destination with daylight to spare.  At an overlook we got to see the river we’d get a chance to fish over the next couple days, it was as it looks in a summer time aerial image, low and teal in color.  A sign told us the color was due to the high mineral content in the water.  Large quantities of sulfur, manganese, and iron combined with the sediment load carried in the water causes it to appear aqua in color.  We continued on and got camp set up fast to walk down to the river and try our luck.

Chucking spinning rods it didn’t take long to get into fish.  The big green sunfish were ever present on this river as on the last, but so were the juvenile Neosho smallmouth.  We were able to catch a few before it got dark.  I even managed to catch a rock bass, a fish I haven’t caught since I spent some time in the Tennessee River watershed in North Alabama.  This river was quite different than the last, far less elevation change, no more big boulders, but tons of gravel.  Big long gravel bars along big long pools, not many fast flowing sections.  A tougher place to fly fish due to the slow water, but we’d give it a shot tomorrow.  I wasn’t too worried about tomorrow at this point, I was looking forward to dinner.  The NY strip, onions, and potatoes that were made on the cast iron pot were incredible.  I think we are getting better at camp cooking, even with interruption from dive bombing cicadas.

The next day was spent dodging rain showers and spot hopping along the river.  There were several access points upstream of where we camped that we checked out.  We fished at a few of them and probably should have spent more time at some rather than others, but that’s the joys of scouting.  It was nice to have a road alongside the river for much of the way, the only slight annoyance was when the large groups of ATVs drove by.  We must have been near some major OHV trails with the amount of ATV traffic that was in the area.  The fishing was pretty good, no real big fish, mostly smallmouth with some spots and sunfish mixed in.  There were plenty to keep us interested though which was nice.

After lunch we drove up to the local general store to have a look around.  The Ozarks seem to have no shortage of these types of places.  We each got a slice of caramel apple pie a la mode that may have been the real highlight of the trip.  Really good stuff.

After pie we hit arguably the best spot on the river that we had found, where a major trib emptied into the main stem of the river, we fished sections of each and caught multiple Neosho smallmouth.  This spot had more riffle and run than any other section we fished and that suited us perfectly.  Wish we would have stumbled upon it earlier.  It was there we wrapped up the fishing portion of our trip.  We had a long drive ahead of us on Sunday so we would not be hitting the water in the morning.  We had another solid dinner that night when Blake cooked up some chicken fajitas that had been marinating a couple days in the ice chest.  The trip, even with the shorter planning period, came together nicely.  I don’t know where the next one will be but I always have ideas.

 

With the itch to take a trip and a weekend set aside, Blake and I set out for Arkansas after work one Thursday earlier this month.  We drove 7 hours to a campground in the Ouachita National Forest and set up our hammocks as fast as we could to maximize the time we’d have to sleep.  Just like everywhere else in the South, western Arkansas is hot in the summer, even at midnight.  Despite the heat I slept pretty well and woke up to a sweet lakeside campsite.

We aren’t much on fishing lakes so we headed on over to a nearby river where we met Jason who drove over from Little Rock to fish with us for the day.  This trip was all about smallmouth bass, a fish Blake has never caught before.  We were hoping to catch both the Ouachita strain and the Neosho strain on this trip – two unique forms of smallmouth found in Arkansas.  First up was the Ouachita, which are found on a few different rivers that run south off the Ouachita Mountains.

The river was beautiful.  I feel like I say that about every river, but this one seemed special.  It was a classic freestone river, with water as clear as any you’ll find in the South.  There was a riffle at our point of access that was too appealing to pass up so that’s where we started fishing.  The riffle was chock full of boulders and loads of bait darted around as we moved upstream.  Upstream of the riffle was a long pool and as we continued further it was clear this was the set up – riffle, long deep pool, riffle.  We caught a few sunfish (some were massive green sunfish), but it took a while before we figured out the smallmouth.

We got to a point where a tributary emptied into the river and it was there that Blake caught the first smallmouth on a RLD.  

Blake explored the trib a bit further and caught a few more fish, while Jason and I focused on the main stem of the river.

It was in the bubbles to the left of the run above that I finally caught my first Ouachita of the trip.  It hit a streamer almost as soon as it hit the water.

Blake met up with Jason and I soon after and we continued our way upstream.  As we got further from our access point the river got prettier and the fishing got better.  This is nearly always the case, but we tend to get caught up fishing a new river right where start wading because it just looks too good to pass up.

I tried several different flies out early to try and establish a pattern, covering the water from top to bottom.  What I ended up using most was a crawfish pattern tied on a jig style hook that Blake had tied for me prior to heading to West Virginia last year.  Blake had good success on a RLD, the crawfish loved it too.

Not wanting to set up camp again in the dark we parted ways with Jason and left the river some time in the mid-afternoon.  I really wish I had budgeted more time for that river, it was an awesome one, definitely somewhere you could spend a whole weekend.  We only saw a few other people when we were leaving too.  I’ll be back at some point.  Right now though we had to drive north to the Ozark Mountains and Ozark National Forest to make it into a watershed that held Neosho smallmouth.

Got an hour to kill?  Enjoy this film shared by Joe Tomelleri of the native trout of Mexico.  A description of the video reads “Truchas Mexicanas is a bi-national group that has been studying the trout of Mexico since 1997. As many as 12 species of native trout inhabit Mexico’s rugged and forbidding Sierra Madre. This is the saga of her trout, her native people and the struggle to save a dwindling resource.”