I made it to Percy Quin and Lake Tangipahoa in time for the start of the big bream contest. Catch Cormier was running the show and, as I suspected, it was a very laid back, no pressure affair – just my style. “Go out and catch some bream, take some pics, and we’ll see who’s got what and afterwards there will be some prizes.”
I took off for the northern part of the lake and found shallow water with lilies and vegetation and loads of grass carp. I spent a little bit of time trying to fool one and had a rod at the ready, but I wasn’t really all that prepared for carp so I focused more on targeting bream. I started with a popper-dropper setup and things were pretty slow early on in the lake. I caught my first bluegill off some vegetation closer to the river channel and decided maybe it was best I stick to the deeper water if I wasn’t having any luck in the shallows.
I took the popper off and put on a bobber so I could fish the dropper even deeper and continued to target the vegetation and structure closer to deep water and I then started catching more fish. I had heard there were some big redear in the lake and I was really hoping to run into one, thinking I’d need at least 9″ to compete in any sort of big bream contest, but the best I could muster was a 7.75″ bluegill. Oh well, let’s go see what everyone else caught. As it turned out that 7.75″ bluegill was good enough to tie for first place, lol. The sunfish gods had rewarded me for the many years of targeting these fish!
I met up with Brian, my cabin bunkmate for the next two nights, and really enjoyed his company over the weekend. Be sure to check out his blog over at Down South Fly Fishing, he’s been putting out some great content this year. He made some bomb fajitas that night with limited resources (I totally dropped the ball on food or any cookware for the weekend) and we discussed a wide variety of things. Strategy for the next day’s big bass tourney was anyone’s best guess. The wind was howling through the chimney of that old cabin as temps began to plummet. Fish were going to be put off, there was no way around it. I had some 7wt sinking line and some streamers that I figured I’d dredge through the deepest parts of the lake to say I gave it my best shot. Being a mostly fair-weather fisherman had me pretty unprepared for the next day’s event.
I had a weekend in November set aside to fish and I wanted to continue targeting different species. It was getting increasingly difficult to target different species in the watersheds close to me(for a variety of reasons) so I was looking to venture out and do a solo overnight trip. I wasn’t interested in fishing the saltwater, even though that could have been a boon for new species, and it was getting late in the season for freshwater, so I figured a trip to some spring fed rivers in the Florida panhandle fit the bill. It had been a while since I fished over there and I really enjoyed the one river trip I made so it was time to head back.
I made the drive east on I-10 after work one night and set up camp in the dark. I woke up to an empty campground and the creek I wanted to fish within walking distance – can’t beat that!
I paddled downstream hoping to check out a large spring run, but was stopped by a giant laydown blocking passage downstream. I didn’t care to portage through the swamp around it so I headed back upstream a ways and began chucking my trusty popper/dropper rig around all the timber in the water. The dropper nymph I had on was quickly attacked by the local shiners.
This was a new species for me, a weed shiner, so I wasn’t made at him. Eventually I started catching sunfish too.
The swampy scenery found along this creek gave it a Louisiana feel, but given that the water actually had a decent flow to it, there was no mistaking I was somewhere else. In my mind this was old Florida, a place overlooked by tourists who were quick to pass it up on their drive to the beach. They’re missing out, but let’s not shout that out to the rooftops.
Next fish to the boat was a redbreast sunfish. A sunfish species I am familiar with from my time in northern Alabama, but one I had not caught in a while – add it to the list. This one was not as colored up as others I’ve come across, it may not be the right time of year for that.
After the redbreast I landed another new sunfish species for the year, the spotted sunfish. I’ve caught lots of their cousins, the redspotted sunfish, but this was the first spotted sunfish for me this year. These little stumpknockers are subtly beautiful with red tinged dorsal fins, brilliant blue halos under their eye, and a purple iridescent sheen on their flanks. It’s safe to say the old adage holds true that pictures don’t do them justice.
The sunfish bite wasn’t fast and furious, but it was frequent enough to keep me entertained. I knew Choctaw bass and chain pickerel could also be found in this creek, but they were eluding me on this morning. I picked up at lunch, fixed a bite to eat, and decided to explore a different stretch downstream.
After chatting with a nice lady who worked for the Northwest Florida Water Management District(the folks that managed some of the launches on this creek and the campground I was staying at) at the next put-in, I hit the water and again headed upstream. Being solo on a river with current, it just makes sense to paddle up and fish back down, so that was my strategy throughout my trip. Soon after starting my paddle the skies opened up and of course I had left my rain jacket back in the truck. I did my best to hide under the trees for the hard stuff, but man that rain was cold! When I made it to an area with heavy aquatic vegetation that’s where I began targeting the resident chain pickerel.
I was stripping a big articulated streamer around the big mounds of salad in the slow bends of the creek and before long I had a massive eat from what was probably the biggest chain pickerel I’ve ever seen! This thing absolutely nailed my fly – it was incredible! After a short fight, that had me trying to maintain pressure while the fish ran through the weeds, it then leapt out of the water and crashed back down. Shortly after that jump my line went limp and I realized I made a serious error in my tackle set up. I thought I didn’t need to switch to a wire leader for the little ‘ol pickerel I was targeting and that decision cost me dearly. My line had been cut and I lost one of my favorite articulated streamers that Blake had tied. It was one that has fooled several big trout at the cabin, so it was almost just as heartbreaking to lose that fly as it was to lose that fish. Oh well, lesson learned, I had to re-rig.
I pressed onto a different stand of vegetation and now, armed with a wire leader, threw a much less appealing fly into the water and began stripping it back. Luckily the pickerel didn’t mind and soon enough I was rewarded with another eat, this fish though didn’t hold a candle to the previous one. Still it was a 20″ fish and netted me another fly caught species on the year.
I tried to take a picture of the plant I was fishing around and the place where I found the pickerel, but with the rain it did not come out that great at all. I’ve got some pictures of it from my last trip out this way in 2016 that I posted a link to earlier. If anyone knows what it is please let me know. I’ve tried doing a bit of research, but I’ve yet to figure it out. Whatever it is, the pickerel love it, and so I love it.
After a bit more rain I was soaked and decided to just paddle down the creek through the fog. It was cold and beautiful. It actually felt like Fall here in north Florida with the color in the cypress trees. I didn’t come across any bass as I had in my previous trip to this creek, but I did have a pretty good day on the water, despite the rain, and accomplished my goal of landing a few more species on the fly.