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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 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.

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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.

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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.

The boys from Alabama made their annual trip to Grand Isle the weekend before Thanksgiving and I was able to join them for a couple of days of fishing and fraternizing.  The forecast looked bleak before I made the drive down and I was fighting a bit of sinusitis, but I knew that they would be having a good time no matter the weather and I hadn’t gotten a chance to see them last year so I was in no matter what.  Luckily for us the forecasters were wrong that weekend and we had two days of decent fishing weather before the bottom fell out.

Day 1 had three of us, James, Matt and myself, fishing together in a spot I picked because it would be somewhat wind protected and it had been a fishy spot in the past.  Plus a good biscuit spot was on the way down – always good to know the good biscuit places to meet at.  Conditions were great considering the forecast, the only real negative was the wind.  Winds were constant, but they certainly were not the 15+ mph that was predicted.  Water clarity was good, the sun was shining and the tide was out and coming in slowly – sightfishing wouldn’t be a problem on day 1.  The other positive was cooperative, aggressive redfish.

It took me a while to get set up as I was fishing out of a new boat (more on that later) for the first time and by the time I met the other two, James was on his way to a limit of redfish on the fly rod.  James had stumbled on a spot that I’ve had success at in the past on trout, only today it was stacked with reds.  It is an area where a few different bodies of water run together and make a little deep spot with oyster bars on the shallow ledges.  James was bumping his fly on the bottom and wearing out the reds with a fiberglass fly rod.  I parked a short ways away and found a spot of my own and figured out a similar pattern with a Matrix shad on a 1/8 oz jig.  We were basically nymphing for redfish, letting the current take our baits through the hole as we fished by feel along the bottom.  In no time we pulled our two man limit of slot reds between 16-22″ with one upper slot kicker that was around 25-26″.  Matt pulled up during the slaughter and announced he had his first redfish on the fly and it was a stud too at 25.5″ – would have made a great tournament fish.  I was thrilled that we had such early success at the spot I picked for us to fish, given the conditions and the fact that I hadn’t fished saltwater since June’s Trout Challenge tournament.

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After my limit I began tagging reds and after tagging another limit I decided it was time to move on.  We made our way further into the marsh and found that pretty much anywhere you had big mounds of oysters there were redfish hanging around.  Think of redfish and oysters like peanut butter and jelly or spaghetti and meatballs or lamb and tuna fish.  I caught a few more reds before lunch including the biggest I would land on the day at 29″.  He was pretty fun to catch as he broke the hook off my jighead on hookset, I had time to reach behind and throw my popping cork rig to him, but instead of him eating the Vudu shrimp he inhaled the cork.  I gave him some slack and let him try to swallow the cork then as he spit it out I set the hook.  Somehow the plan worked and I was able to hook the outside of his jaw with the Vudu – it was a wild sequence of events!

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After lunch I did more paddling than fish catching but did end up catching a few more reds.  I have to say it was probably my best day fishing for redfish this year.  I haven’t dedicated a whole lot of time to saltwater this year so it was awesome to have a great day.  When we were tired of the relentless wind we headed back to the camp to clean some fish and tell stories with the other guys.  My one request was that someone bring some beer I haven’t had and Rhodes came through:

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Day 2’s forecast was worse than day 1 so we weren’t very optimistic about our chances, however things change when you wake up to dead calm conditions.  I imagined things would get worse as the day progressed but at least it was good now.  James and I set out for a different spot, no matter how good the day before was I just don’t have it in me to fish the same spot two days in a row if I have a say so, must be the explorer in me.  We set out for spot 2, but upon parking we realized that it wasn’t in the cards.  A private landowner moved us along, which was a first for me, but I’ve heard it is happening a lot more down here.  It is unfortunate that all natural tidal water is not available to the public, but I have no argument against the rights of landowners so move along we did.  We went further up the road to a spot I haven’t fished in a while, but have had a lot of success at in the past.  Conditions were different than yesterday.  The skies were overcast, there wasn’t a whole lot of wind, water clarity wasn’t as good here and we would find that the redfish just weren’t as opportunistic as the day before.

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It took all day for us to catch a limit, but we each got one.  The average redfish size was better too, with several upper slot reds being caught.  In fact I had a slot red that went 7.9 lbs. – talk about a tournament fish!  The sight fishing was a lot tougher, but when I did see a redfish it was because his back was out of the water, which is a lot of fun when it is like that.  It felt a little more like hunting on day 2 and what a relief to end up getting into some fish after the slow start.  It wasn’t that I didn’t see them early on, it is just that I botched all my opportunities with missed hooksets and awful casts.

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We ate well that night with Cole’s legendary deer balls and boudin from Ronnie’s in Baton Rouge.  I had some Truck Stop in a can courtesy of Tidwell and Mark.  It’s always a good time when the Alabama boys come down and this might be the first year that there wasn’t a skunk for anyone that made the trip.  The redfishing was pretty darn good given the weather forecast, but specks were non-existent, I think there was one caught in the whole group and it was undersized.  I hope that is just an enigma and not a pattern, either way I don’t think anyone left disappointed.  Can’t wait to do it again next year!