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Back in mid-July I managed to get a saltwater kayak daytrip in. The destination I chose was Leeville, for no reason in particular, it just seemed like it had been a while since I fished out of Leeville. I had every intention on making it out super early and watching the sunrise in the kayak, but we had gone to a party at a friend’s house the night prior and getting out of bed was a task in itself. It worked out to my benefit as I’m pretty sure a storm had rolled through the area at sunrise so I was able to avoid that. That was the theme for the day, avoiding thunderstorms, but I was able to do that for the most part.

I piddled around the marsh close to the road early on with no luck and made my way into a bay where I could tell the water was looking pretty fishy. There was a lot of bait activity and that bait was looking pretty unsettled. I even had a mullet jump in my kayak while I was just sitting there. Soon I caught a trout under a popping cork.

I pulled out the fly rod and started throwing my own version of a popping cork bait which was a Vlahos’ combo crab suspended off a an old crease fly Blake had tied. It wasn’t long before I had a nice fish on and after a good fight which had me wondering what the hell it was I had on the other end of the line I soon found out.

It was a gafftopsail catfish, which was definitely a first for me on the fly. It was amusing and slimy as hell. My leader was all slimed up and it took effort getting that slime off my hands. Shortly after that fight a storm chased me off the water.

I retreated back to the vehicle and hunkered down until I felt it was safe. After that I ventured back out toward the marsh. In between storms the winds were actually fairly light so I felt like I might be able to sightfish a redfish or two provided I could find flats that held them. The tide was high when I launched and had been falling all morning so the later it got the better conditions were. Eventually I put myself in a position to catch a redfish.

I kept fishing, hoping to catch a better one for the BCKFC/Massey’s yearlong CPR tourney, but I really wasn’t having much luck. As I got into skinnier marsh I was hearing fish crashing bait, which is usually a sure sign of redfish in the area, but it wasn’t redfish this time. It was sheepshead! Another fish I needed for the tourney and with them acting so aggressively I figured I had a shot to get one to eat and eventually after putting fly in enough of their faces I managed to get a strike.

It’s always fun catching sheepshead on the fly. I really don’t recall when my last one was, I think it’s been a few years. They are picky as hell though, I was thankful to have been on the water with some aggressive ones. I kept searching for reds and sheepshead, but started working my way back toward the vehicle as the afternoon was waning on. As I got closer to the road I connected with a solid redfish that actually broke me off. My line didn’t clear and got caught on something on the boat and the fight was over just like that. I was bummed because it was clearly an upgrade, but undeterred. I paddled around an island and soon enough had another opportunity. This time everything went right and I was hooked up to a nice upper slot red.

After a few pics I sent him on his way. I was satisfied to call it a day after that fish. I didn’t catch many, but I caught a few memorable fish and I figured I came out ahead having to dodge thunderstorms.

I put a link to the fly that caught the sail cat, but I wanted to take another moment to plug Nick Vlahos and his flies, which you can find at Sandbar Flies. Nick actually went to the same high school I did over in Georgia, Milton HS in Milton (was in Alpharetta I went there). Nick is a great guy and a fantastic fly tier, you can buy flies tied by him at his site, but you can also find some of his patterns at Orvis stores. I don’t know if it’s Fulling Mill or Orvis that carries his patterns, but the Baton Rouge store tends to keep them in stock as he did live in Baton Rouge for a number of years. Nick’s got some great patterns, be sure to check them out.

Met up in Grand Isle with the boys from Alabama this past weekend and despite conditions being pretty favorable the fishing was still somewhat tough. I’m not sure if Hurricane Zeta had anything to do with that, but it seems like a pretty convenient excuse that I’ll go ahead and use. The island had just got power back a few days prior to the trip so the locals were still feeling impacts from the hurricane, maybe the fish were too.

I drove down after working Friday morning and got a few hours fishing in off the side of the road in Leeville. It was windy, the tides were high, and the water was dirty back in the marsh – so sightfishing wasn’t happening. The bays were in decent shape and I was able to get on a trout bite right at dark catching 12-15″ trout that I found holding behind an island in a bay where the water was being blown around it.

After talking with everyone that night it seemed like high dirty water was everywhere, so since I found some clean water in the bays outside of Leeville I decided to head back up there Saturday. The tide was actually low in the morning so there was some optimism that fishing would be pretty productive. That really didn’t prove to be the case as fish were few and far between for me. I did a ton of paddling and really didn’t come across many fish at all. At about 10:30am I caught one red out of a pair of cruisers I saw after a morning where I may have seen a handful and had very few opportunities to even get a cast off to a fish. Just tough fishing.

Fishing was so slow I actually stopped and ate lunch, something I almost never do because I’m usually so focused on fishing I never remember to eat, but Saturday I was hungry. I did catch a rat red a little later on in the day, he was hanging out in front of a broken weir that had water moving around it. Shortly after that I got on another trout bite. I had seen some diving birds in a bay and near where some canals meet and I went to invesitgate and sure enough trout were holding there. Unfortunately none of them were keeper sized. They were still pretty fun though as everything I caught was on the fly, it was a mix of small specks and white trout, and they were pretty voracious tearing apart a clouser I had tied on. When I was tired of catching them I headed back to the truck, paddling into the wind to get there.

Sunday would be the best day of fishing for me. The tides stayed low longer, winds weren’t as steady, and a move to a different spot proved to be a good decision. We fished the mangroves on Sunday and even though the water was fairly dirty I was seeing a lot more fish in this area. I was seeing less mullet and more shrimp popping out of the water too. For some reason there was a ton of mullet in Leeville.

My best fish on Sunday went 28″ so no kayaker bulls as the skiff guys call them, just a bunch of mid to upper slot fish, which are still a blast on the fly. One of my favorites was a 24″ fish I caught was way back into one of the skinny mangrove creeks and he was hot when I hooked him. It was kind of chaotic as he ran up and down this tight channel, there was no way to keep a tight line the whole time, but thankfully I was still able to land him. Another red had the eye of Sauron, which was pretty crazy looking. I have no idea why that happens sometimes, but I’ve seen it before, not often though.

Sunday morning was a lot of fun, I left right after lunch to make the drive back home, but Sunday was a good redemption day for me. This weekend the fishing wasn’t easy, which was a shock to some of those Bama guys. It ain’t always topwater blow ups and bull reds down here in Louisiana, especially when you fish from a kayak. The weather cooperated too and I think that’s what was throwing people off.

This is the 10th year a group of guys has been coming down to Grand Isle from Alabama to fish, so they’ve experienced the good times and the bad and everything in between by now. I look forward to their trip every year because even if the fishing is bad I have a lot of fun hanging out with them. They’re good for a belly laugh at least a few times throughout the course of the weekend. It reminds me of the early days of kayak fishing when there weren’t so many folks doing it and it was a real small tight knit community. Tournaments weren’t cutthroat, they were excuses to just get together and fish. That’s what attracted me to the sport after getting started in it and I’m glad that idea still persists in places.

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.