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(I hope this song is stuck in your head the rest of the day too)

The weather on Sunday was just as nice as it was Saturday so I decided to scout another new area. This area was a “best of both worlds”, it had open water and interior marsh. I decided to stick to the open water in the morning while the tide was high and see if I couldn’t get into some nice trout or bull reds then as the tide began to fall I could sightfish the marsh.

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The water clarity was excellent here, I really felt I had a good shot at catching a bull red on the fly, I just needed one to give himself away. The water was relatively deep so I was looking for a floater or a tailer. Eventually I began to see big reds, but they were always popping up right under the boat, so I couldn’t really get a good cast off to any of them. Soon I came upon a big school of mullet that was getting attacked by predator fish underneath. I worked a topwater through the mullet, but got nary a bite. Then I threw a paddletail in the school and got a hook up almost immediately – it was a trout. I had found a school of 10-14″ trout working finger mullet. I picked up a few trout from this school and even caught a few small ones on the fly rod, but was interrupted by some recreational boaters checking crab traps, sigh. The school scattered and the bite slowed so I moved on. I decided it was about time to eat lunch and parked the Cuda 12 next to a little island. I was in a little bay and had a bayou behind me that had current moving through it from the bay. While I was eating I noticed the baitfish were pretty skittish. One cast toward them produced another trout.

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I proceeded to catch 10-14″ trout one right after another while sitting in that spot, it was a blast! I ended up keeping fifteen trout that were 13″ or above and tagged and released anything that was below. I had 20 tags on my boat and used them all! I could have easily kept my limit of trout in that one spot, something I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do.

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All those trout were caught on natural colored soft plastics that were tight lined, like the ‘Opening Night’ TTF Killer Flats Minnow above. The trout were so thick that I’d imagine any soft plastic tight lined would have worked just as well, but I went with a natural color because of the excellent water clarity and sunny skies. If you ever have a question about what color soft plastic to start with on the day, see the graph from TTF below.

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This is something I picked up from my buddy Brendan and I’ve found it to be pretty useful. I will say that when you’re sightfishing redfish it usually doesn’t matter what color you use. As long as you make an accurate cast you will generally catch that redfish. They are so aggressive they don’t have time to consider color. Sometimes, though, they are spooky, like in the video I posted the other day. I find they are spookiest when the water is low and clear. You’ll probably want to use something natural in that situation, like the graph suggests. On the flip side, they’re not spooky in muddy water, but they also can’t see shit so use a dark soft plastic. Seems like common sense, but I know a lot of folks new to artificial baits don’t yet grasp the concept.

The trout bite at that spot did eventually slow down and I decided it was time to move into the marsh. I went through one bayou where the water was moving so fast I had to stop and fish it just to see if anything was holding down there. Sure enough there were trout. One drift through the bayou produced a really solid strike. It was a really nice trout that I could tell was hooked deep. I fought him through a few runs and then the line went limp. What a heartbreak! I guess the line got cut on his teeth. Oh well, I cut my losses and headed into the marsh. The interior marsh ended up being not as productive as the marsh that was closest to open water, but redfish were certainly around.

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I kept redfish the day before, so I really wasn’t too interested in keeping any more(I hate cleaning fish), but I could have had another easy limit on reds. Catching limits on two species was definitely a first for me, Sunday ended up being one the most productive days I’ve had in the kayak. I didn’t catch the big fly rod trout I was looking for, but I had an awesome two days of fishing. I was worn out too. I had done a lot of paddling scouting new areas and it was totally worth it. Pushing it to the limit to catch limits.

With Amanda out of town for the weekend and CCA’s STAR tournament coming to a close, my goal for the weekend was to try to land a speck on the fly rod worthy enough to take the top spot. 1.62 lbs was the weight to beat and given the great weather conditions the goal seemed pretty attainable. True I had never caught a speck that size on the fly rod before but I’ve also never targeted them. The good weather gave me the confidence to explore new water that had potential for holding big specks.

It was pretty early in the morning when I hit the road on Saturday.

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Somewhere along the way my odometer hit the jackpot. Could this be a sign that luck was on my side today?

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After a brief sunrise paddle from the beach into the Gulf I was ready to do battle. As I said before conditions were excellent for a day in the Cuda 12 offshore. With bait skipping out of the water, it didn’t take long for my topwater to find it’s target.

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Fifteen minutes of forearm pumping action later this Jack found his way into my net. Well, his head found it’s way into my net. The net was far too small to fit his body and as he wiggled and squirmed to free himself he managed to shake loose the one treble that held him, slipping out of the net with ease and leaving me with a tangled mess of net and Top Dog. Not to be deterred I paddled back to the nervous water and within a few casts was hooked up with another beast. This was a shorter fight and rather than another net attempt I just dragged him into the boat trusting the braid would hold.

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The GoPro never fails to provide an interesting perspective while out on the water, I especially enjoy when it makes big fish look even bigger. The Jack Crevalle were a lot of fun, they were my first from the kayak, but they cut into prime topwater time for trout. I was throwing the Top Dog hoping to locate trout first, then once I did, I would break out the fly rod and hopefully catch what I needed. It took about thirty minutes of walking the dog, but I finally got a trout to the boat, a good one too.

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At 19.75″ this fish was over 2 lbs easy and of course it came when I wasn’t throwing the fly rod. At least I knew there were big ones around, so I began throwing the fly rod. I had one of Blake’s poppers tied on hoping to replicate the previous catch. Soon enough I got a big strike from a fish, but as it leapt from the water I could tell it was a big ladyfish. It was the biggest one I’ve ever hooked, it looked like a baby tarpon as it exploded out of the water. As I got it near the boat it made one last jump and finally threw the hook. Usually when ladyfish throw the hook I’m relieved, not a big fan of the blood and slime they leave behind, but this one was so big it would have been nice just to take it’s picture. I kept at it a bit longer, keenly aware of the big thunderhead forming not too far away. Being new to the offshore game I decided to head in when I saw a waterspout form.

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After eating a snack I decided to give the marsh a try. By now the tide was falling so I figured the redfish would be pretty active and despite the pop up thunderstorms in the area conditions were still pretty good to sightfish. That proved to be the case as I was able to catch four reds in the first pond I went into, all between 18-22″.

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I spent the rest of the day exploring marsh I had never laid eyes, a lot of it was covered in mangroves and had a hard sand bottom, which made me feel like I was back in Chokoloskee. I only wish I could have had a Havana Cafe cuban sandwich for lunch. In one mangrove lined bayou I fooled a nice red to eat my BP crab fly only to have an oyster cut my line after the brief fight. Then I found a spot where the tide was falling out of a bayou into a canal and picked up a few small ladyfish and specks on Gulp under a cork. Sightfishing for reds picked up again at the end of the day as reds began crashing bait along the shoreline of a pond I was in. I caught a nice 28.5″ red on the fly rod and had him on the measuring board lined up for a picture only to have him jump off before I could get a shot of him. I kind of abandoned taking pictures throughout the middle part of the day so it was only fitting that the first one I wanted to take a picture of gave me the slip.

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After donating the fish I had in my freezer to a buddy to cook up for United Way I decided today would be one for harvest. It’s always nice when the trout rival the redfish in size, too bad I couldn’t find any more that size and on the fly. I’d be back out Sunday to give it another shot though.

Remember that fly rod I won in the CCA STAR raffle?  Well I finally received it this past week and put it to work over the weekend. I initially thought the rod would be a BVK, but I learned from Catch Cormier that I could order any rod from TFO that I would like. Catch was instrumental in providing CCA with the fly rod for raffle and went out of his way to get the rod that I requested, a 7wt TiCr. I originally requested it out of jest, but Catch said he may be able to actually get one, and went to work. The TiCr was, without a doubt, my favorite rod series that TFO had produced and then they went and discontinued it. My old 8 wt was a TiCr and it really bummed me out when I broke it and TFO had to replace it with a different series. I’ll have to be extra careful with this TiCr, because should I break this one, I’m sure it will have to be replaced with a different series. That doesn’t mean I won’t fish it hard though, after all, that’s what fly rods are for.

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Conditions were pretty good early to fly fish, but got worse as the day went on. The tide was rising and the wind was increasing throughout the day. It didn’t matter though because the redfish are still thick in the marsh and water clarity is excellent. I had a blast catching them with the new TiCr. All were caught on that same jack hammer minnow Blake tied I used last time out, this fly is really durable. I explored a bit more of the spot Blake and I have been fishing lately, making a big 6-7 mile loop this past time out. Biggest red on the day went 27.5″, but I did see bigger. I just couldn’t put a good cast out in front of the fish. I’ve got some video to edit, but until then enjoy the GoPro stills.

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I found out yesterday that this 16″ speck, caught July 4th, just won me a TFO BVK fly rod.

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I entered the fish in the Fly East division of CCA’s STAR tournament, which runs throughout the summer. The fly division rules require you catch one speck on the fly (14″ minimum) and have it weighed at a registered weigh station. No, the fish didn’t win the division, it actually got 3rd (which I found surprising because it only weighed 1.37 lbs). It won me a fly rod because this fish was my ticket into a bonus drawing that is held in both the fly and kayak divisions for all non-winners of the fly and kayak divisions. The winner of the drawing gets a TFO rod, a BVK for the combined fly divisions, and a Saltwater Series baitcaster for the kayak divisions. According to an email I got yesterday afternoon my name was the one that was drawn!

This is a tournament I sign up for every year, but never really fish for because I’m not really a speckled trout fisherman. I sign up because it’s like an insurance policy in case I catch a tagged red. That day, Blake and I just happened upon a school of specks that day in the marsh while we were heading out for redfish.

We almost didn’t even weigh the fish in. I knew it was smaller than the fish that was in the lead, so I would only be weighing it in for a shot at the raffle. Compound that with the fact that there wasn’t a registered weigh station on the way home and it being July 4th meant nobody would be open to weigh it in anyway, we pretty much had made the decision not to weigh it. I made a few phone calls to places slightly out of the way, just to check and sure enough someone answered at Eschete’s in Houma. The guy lived next door and had no problem walking over to the shop to weigh my fish. So a big thanks goes out to him for being receptive. Also a big thanks to Blake because he was driving that day.

You can check out the CCA leaderboard here: http://www.ccastar.com/current-leaderboard

America is awesome and we’re reminded of that fact every July 4th. What better way to celebrate our freedom than to go fishing. So Blake and I decided to head down to the marsh and scout out a new area we’ve never fished. It turned out to be one of those rare holidays when the weather was right to make the run down to the coast.

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It didn’t take long to get on a school of fish either. The tidal range was pretty good on the 4th and we were met with a hard, rising tide in the marsh. Blake and I set ourselves up in a cut where the water was moving at a pretty good clip. You could see small shrimp popping out of the water and fish slashing/rolling just under the surface attacking those shrimp. My first cast with a topwater produced a nice trout. Then it was ON. We proceeded to catch trout and ladyfish (and one big pinfish) on almost every cast for about 4 hours. A lot of undersized fish, but a lot of fun on the fly rod.

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I initially was throwing a Top Dog and watching fish blow it up, which was a blast. Then I switched to the fly rod where a small charlie outfished everything else. Then I set up a popper/dropper type set up with a wiggle minnow top fly and the charlie bottom fly. Ended up with several doubles. I’ve never been on a school of fish like we were on in the marsh. It was amazing, a ton of fun.

Just as the bite was slowing down at our spot, a storm came through to the South of us that looked a bit menacing, with a couple of different fingers coming down threatening to touch ground, but never actually making the connection. After that passed we pressed on into the marsh, hoping to find some redfish we could sight fish.

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Sheepshead were every where, big ones too, but they were just as stubborn as ever and I couldn’t get one to eat. I caught one red on the fly and blew a shot at a few others. I caught this black drum on the fly as well. Blake ended up catching a few on a spinnerbait. Conditions weren’t great for sight fishing as the water was high in the marsh and the sky was thick with cloud cover. Another storm came through to the south and had us heading back toward our launch.

Before we called it a day, we stopped at a different spot where the water was moving, similar to our first stop of the day. Blake had witnessed some boaters earlier in the day catch a few redfish at this spot and wanted to try it out. Lo and behold the redfish were stacked in this bayou. We easily limited out, catching slot sized redfish one right after another. The water was DEEP and the current strong, amplifying the already stellar fighting qualities of a 20″ redfish. Any fish caught felt BIG, but when they were boated everything was under 24″. I caught a nice white trout in that spot as well thinking I had a monster speck on – the fish was 13″.

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So what started out being a scout trip to the marsh to sight fish for reds ended up becoming a meat haul. We finished the day with a two man limit of reds and a one man limit of trout, including one trout that I caught on the fly that was big enough to enter into the CCA STAR tournament fly division. Now it won’t win me anything as it is not big enough to overtake 1st place, but it will get me entered into a raffle for a brand new TFO BVK. I never thought we would get on a school of trout like that in the marsh, in the summer. It was the most productive day I’ve ever had out of a kayak meat-wise. It was also a pretty diverse day with the two of us having caught redfish, speckled trout, black drum, ladyfish, pinfish, white trout,  flounder and needlefish. The fishing was just stupid easy, we basically sat in two spots and caught all the fish you see in the cooler below, from kayaks.

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When cleaning reds, it is always fun to cut open the stomach and see just what they’ve been eating, most of these red’s stomachs were empty, one had a small crab in it (majority of the time all I find are crabs – good to know if you want to “match the hatch”, so to speak). This red below had something a little different. An entire jig head/soft plastic set up. Who ever tied this bait on tied a horrible knot. The hook was in good shape too, so it could have been from the same day we were there.

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What a day! It started off at 3am with us heading down I-10 and ended with us frying fish at the house. Thanks to all the men and women out there who serve our country and fight to protect our freedoms on this day and every day. Days like this wouldn’t be possible without them.