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I had an incredible day on the water last weekend.  I touched seven reds and only two made the slot – the rest were over.  It was really one of the better days I’ve ever had for quality redfish.  The problem is, it could have been even better.  It became an unforgettable day when I let the big one get away.

It started off with a nice, long paddle down a boring canal, then into some big water, and finally taking a cut into some classic southern Louisiana marsh.  Conditions were pretty good for sight fishing with calm winds and low tide, but spotting fish was a little tough early on due to the cloud cover and poor water clarity.  Patience paid off though, and soon enough the redfish were giving themselves away.

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The day was progressing nicely, I had caught a handful of redfish ranging from 26-33″ and was starting to lazily make my way back to the launch, not quite ready to call it a day and fishing along the way.  As I was paddling a large, featureless canal heading back to the truck I see the distinctive wave of a giant redfish tail from a distance away.  Low tide in the canal had turned the bank into a nice sand flat and I just so happened to be in the right place at the right time as this beast of a fish was slowly cruising my way.

I was in a great spot to catch this fish.  My momentum was carrying me toward the bank as he was swimming toward me, still a distance away.  I was able to get set up and quickly strip off some free line.  I had time to make a few false casts to assure that I was on target with my cast and sure enough my aim was true.  I led him by a good amount and when he saw the fly he inhaled it.  A few solid strip sets later and the fight was on.  This was a huge fish, definitely bigger than anything else I had caught today and maybe bigger than anything I had caught this year (42″ being the largest).  I fought him the same way I fought every other bull redfish I’ve caught this year and I think that is what ultimately led me to lose this fish.  I don’t baby these fish, I don’t let them run, I typically crank down my drag and win the fight in 10-15 minutes.  I can usually do this because I fish a short, stout leader that can take the abuse.  But I underestimated the power of this redfish in particular and 15 minutes into the fight, when I thought I may have had him whipped, he made one strong head shake and my line went limp.

He broke me off and left me speechless.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is always heartbreaking.  What could have potentially been the biggest redfish I’ve ever caught on the fly and I farmed him.

The only thing I could do was re-tie and keep fishing.  Fortunately I was able to seek a little bit of redemption in another 32″ fish, who did his best to give me the slip.

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Overall it was a crazy good day, but it’s going to be really tough to forget about what could have been when I let that big one get away.

I was able to get out and fish for the fourth weekend in a row, which is surely some sort of a record for toddler dads.  I can’t thank my wife enough for that.  Sunday’s forecast was too good to pass up so I headed to the coast for more bull red action.  What has been nice about each one of these trips is that I’ve been able to explore new areas, fish new water, and still find some success at each new spot.

There was frost on the truck and the yak as I left the driveway early yesterday morning, temps had made it in to the 40s though by the time I arrived at the launch.  It was chilly to start, but with a nearly three mile paddle ahead of me to get to where I wanted to fish, it never really felt that cold.  I was appropriately dressed and was taking off layers before I even got in the kayak.

On my paddle I couldn’t help but notice that the marsh in January, despite the cold, is so full of life.  Nutria, otter, dolphin, and countless numbers of birds had their morning activities interrupted as I glided through their habitat.

The tide was very low and the water was much dirtier than it was last weekend, but winds were light and it was a bluebird sky, so conditions would be favorable for some sightfishing, I just needed the sun to get up and warm up the flats.  Surprisingly, it did not take long for me to see some activity.

I was in a canal making my way toward a large bay when I noticed a lot of nervous baitfish near the opening of a marsh drain.  There was a big red chasing bait in some super skinny water along the bank of the canal.  I had a rod in front of me still rigged from last week’s Minimalist Challenge and was able to flip a Vortex shad in front of the red and he inhaled it.  This was a fairly narrow canal an without much of an area to run the fight was actually much shorter than you’d imagine, maybe just 5-10 minutes.

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This red measured just over 42″ and I was back in the 40s for the first time in a long time.  This red had to be fresh from the Gulf as it was covered in sea lice.

I put the spinning rod down for the rest of the day and picked up the fly rod.  The next few hours were pretty quiet.  Not many fish spotted and quite a few rejections from those I did see and was able to lay a cast in front of.  Conditions were at their best about mid-day and things started to pick up.  I made it to a point in a bay that was surrounded by shallow flats.  The flats were loaded with skittish redfish.  I caught a few fish, but had dozens of refusals, it was a very humbling experience to say the least.

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I began the long paddle back to the launch and was a little bummed that I didn’t tie into any bigger bulls with the fly rod while conditions were at their best (Biggest I had caught on the fly so far was 31.75″).  I had a few chances, but just couldn’t connect.  As I made it back into the same canal I caught the big red to start the day, a chance at redemption floated to the surface.  After a good cast and a slow twitch, the line came tight and I had caught another bull.

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This fish was a fat 35.5″, which is the same length as the big red I had caught on my trip with Hays. I think this fish was probably heavier though, he had a full belly.

It was a great way to end the day and really made that three mile paddle back to the launch much easier.

That just may be my favorite music video.

I fished a tournament this past weekend, Bayou Coast’s Minimalist Challenge.  It’s got a unique format as they provide you with the tackle you’ll use for the day. Five soft plastics, five jigheads and a topwater is what was provided. The goal is to catch and weigh as many legal trout, redfish and flounder as you possibly can.

This has never been my favorite tournament, not because of the provided tackle part, I actually like that – it simplifies things.  Rather, I hate that I may actually have to keep forty fish, which will likely never happen, but I hate the idea – that would be some day though right!

We had a shotgun launch at 6:00am from Leeville and 125 kayak anglers spread out across the adjacent marsh.  I knew early on I wanted to put some distance between myself and the launch because frankly I don’t like fishing with a crowd.

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I made my first stop on the backside of an island where a trenasse emptied into a larger bayou.  Clear, moving water was being swept around both sides of the island and my first cast toward the island was inhaled by a junior bull of about 32″.  It took a while for me to figure that out though because he shook his head like a big trout and nearly gave me a heart attack.

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After a good fight and a few quick pics I sent him on his way (can only keep slot reds for BCKFC tourneys).  A few more casts and I soon began catching trout.  In short time I had six in the boat, from 14-16″, and then I found out I hadn’t put enough distance between myself and the launch.  Some dude had the nerve to paddle right through the spot I was catching fish even after I told him to come around behind me.  I was displeased so I pushed further.  As I got further I decided to sabotage my tournament plans and target bull reds.  The weather was too nice not to.  Winds were light, water was clear, the tide was right, and we’d have plenty of chances for bright sun.

I paddle-poled my way through a lot of good looking water looking for redfish sign, but really wasn’t seeing much of anything.  Finally as I was working the flat of a long, wide bayou I started to see some activity.  At the mouth of a smaller trenasse I caught one that went about 33″.

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Then later I spotted a pair of bulls cruising the shore and was able to pick off the closer one with a good cast.  He went about 35″.

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Each of these fish I tagged and sent on their way.  They weren’t tournament fish, but I didn’t really care.  When conditions allow for sightfishing bull reds, that’s what I want to be doing, so that’s what I did.  I hooked up with another fish after I rounded the corner into a cut and saw him cruising down the shoreline toward me.  I didn’t get him to the boat though as he eventually spit the hook.  He was another junior bull, not a monster like I was hoping.

I finally decided enough had been enough and I may as well weigh what I had, so I made my way back toward the weigh-in, figuring I might be able to run into some slot fish along the way.

I did run into slot fish, that were way up in the skinny water ponds, but they were the spookiest fish I’ve ever encountered, I couldn’t get them to bite to save my life.  It is a strange day when sightfishing bull reds is easier than catching slot fish.

I picked up a few more trout under the Leeville bridge along the way, but really I had already conceded the tournament.  It was a sabotage and a successful one at that and I would do it again if given the opportunity – it was a lot of fun.

 

Got out in the kayak a couple times in the past two weeks with a new friend, Hays from Little Rock.  Like any good man Hays is a fly fisherman, so our goal was to catch some reds on the fly.  With it being winter, our hopes were for bull reds on the fly – they tend to migrate into the marsh this time of year.

The first time we got together conditions were terrible.  It was cold, windy, rainy, and the water was high in the marsh.  Sightfishing was brutal, but we were stubborn and tried to force the issue the whole day.  Redfish were seen, but by the time we saw them we were on top of them and we either couldn’t make a cast or they spooked.  We may have covered 18-20 miles of water in 12 hours – it was a long day.  Fish were caught early and late with a whole lot of nothing in between.  I got on a trout bite as the wind and tide swept the water from a bay around a point and into an outlet.  I probably could have sat there and worked my way to a limit, but trout weren’t what we were after.

We didn’t catch another fish until late in the day when we were headed back to the launch and in the deep corner of a bayou I saw some nervous bait.  I cast toward the area and missed a fish, then cast back and had my first red of the day, it wasn’t big, but it sure was pretty.

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After that it was on.  Redfish were stacked in a deep hole.  It was too cold for those fish to be on the flats and we were morons for thinking there would be a few holdouts.  Hays was blind casting into the hole and pulling out reds while I opted for the trusty Matrix shad.

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Most were small, some filled the slot – I worked my way through a limit but never caught any with any size to brag about.  I did have a nice bass on the line once, but he got off before I could get him in the boat, who, no doubt, was taking advantage of whatever warmer water was down there.  Hays finally tied into a really nice fish and got to experience a how much better redfish fight in deeper water.

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That was a good way to end the day, unfortunately we still had quite the paddle to get back and we didn’t make it back until after dark – which was when the heavier rain started to fall.  With extremities frozen we parted ways until next time.

Well “next time” happened the next weekend, this time conditions were a little more favorable.  It wasn’t windy or nearly as cold, but a fog hung over us for the entire day and made seeing fish a little tough.  The good news was the tide wasn’t as high as it was the first time we fished and the water wasn’t nearly as cold, so redfish would be on the flats.  We picked an entirely different area, with a lot more oyster beds and I think it would prove to be a good move.

Hays got into the action first when he connected with a slob who was crawling around on a tidal shelf.

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This red had some serious head trauma at some point in his life, but seemed to come out of it alright.  It was an odd looking fish for sure, it wouldn’t take long for me to catch a better example of what a bull redfish should look like.  Just around a marsh island from Hays’ fish was a crawler of my own.

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Nearly 36″, biggest redfish I’ve caught in a while on a fly rod.  What a good feeling.

We continued sight fishing and eventually parted ways for a short while.  I saw a few more nice fish but never had a good shot at any until I had a picture perfect set up.  A monster red was in shallow water swimming toward me, I flubbed the first cast, but laid the second one in front of him and as he went to eat I got excited and pulled it from his mouth.  A huge mistake as he disappeared into the adjacent, deeper water.

I caught back up to Hays and heard he had caught a second bull and we decided we should start heading back to the launch so we wouldn’t be as late as we were the first time we fished together.  We covered a lot of ground this trip as well, not nearly as much as the first trip, maybe 10-12 miles.  Lucky for me we hit a good flat on the way back and I was able to stick another red before nearly running him over.

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Hays had an opportunity to double as he hooked up soon after I did, but that fish unfortunately came unbuttoned.  That would have been the cherry on top of an already great day.

I was really glad we were able to have some success with some bigger reds on our second trip after a rough first outing.  Hopefully Hays and I will get to fish again next time he makes it down from Arkansas.  He already told me he’s having withdrawals, so maybe it will be sooner, rather than later.

Back in October the ARF crew made their annual pilgrimage to Grand Isle.  Of course the weather was terrible and fishing was tough, which is pretty much why I never got around to posting about it.  I only managed to make it down Saturday into Sunday morning.  The wind blew and the tide was high but clarity was good and the trout were out there to be caught. I stopped in Leeville on the way in and caught about a half dozen before I decided I had had enough of the wind.

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No reds for me which feels weird, but that’s how the weekend went – at least for me. This was my first opportunity to give the new Kraken 13.5 a go and it is very nice. One trip is hardly enough for an adequate review, but I liked what I saw in it on Saturday. Can’t wait to use it in good conditions. If there is any question of it’s stability – I was standing in the marsh fishing with 20+ mph wind gusts and it was no problem. Way more stable than I thought it would be, and I’m thrilled about that.

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That night under the lights, while most were asleep, I could have caught a million undersized white trout and specks with the fly rod off the dock if I wanted, but then it started raining – and it didn’t stop until Monday.  Big thanks to the guys from ARF and their perennial drought relief services.

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Head to the ARF website to read the rest of the reports: Bayou Bash 2015 ‘Embrace the Blow’