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Back in June I had the pleasure of joining my friend Josh on a trip to fish out of his “new-to-him” Sabine Micro. Sabines are designed and built by another friend of mine, Brian Little, over in Texas. They are aluminum technical poling skiffs that are designed to have no hull slap on the water. They are very nice boats and what a joy it was to finally fish out one! A long time ago, pre-kids, I fished with Brian out of a fiberglass skiff he built in his garage in New Orleans. I was floored then by his craftsmanship and attention to detail and things have only gotten better now that he has full blown production models.

Josh picked his boat up in Texas and was on his way back home to Alabama. He wanted to fish the marsh somewhere in Louisiana and I was lucky enough to get the invite to go and lucky enough that I had time to break away to fish. We arrived after sun up in St. Bernard Parish to excellent conditions and had a pleasant ride out to the marsh. The tide was a bit higher than I like but eventually we caught our first redfish on conventional tackle and got the skunk off.

It was a privilege to slide the first fish into Josh’s new boat. It was a beauty of a redfish too, a typical sweetwater red like you find down in da Parish.

Neither of us are purists so I was switching between fly and conventional, mainly due to the water level. We weren’t seeing a whole lot of fish and when we did it was a little late to get a good cast off to them. It’s kind of frustrating when it works out that way, but that’s usually why I have back up conventional gear, for those just-in-case situations. In a deep bayou I caught a little trout and lost him at the boat, then I hooked into a hammer trout and after a short fight lost him at the boat as well. I was trying to work my way down from the casting platform to get the net for a no doubter 20″+ trout, but he ran under the boat and worked himself free from the hook. It was heartbreaking. I rebounded with another redfish, but losing that trout was tough.

Later in the morning with the fly rod in hand we spotted a redfish moving some distance ahead in a pond we were in. It was at the far end of my comfortable casting distance and after a couple of false casts I bombed a shot to this fish and hoped for the best. It happened to land exactly where I needed it to and even curled the line so as to not spook the fish. A fool would think I did it on purpose, I can’t explain it, but that’s how it worked out. The fish pounced on the fly and I set the hook on what I thought was our first fly caught red for the boat. Shortly into the fight I realized it was a sheepshead! A welcome swap for me, the ‘ol Cajun permit was eager to eat my friend David Roger’s fly.

Throughout the morning storms were popping up in the distance and shortly after the sheep was landed lightning started popping off that was a little too close for comfort. We decided it was better to be safe than sorry and call it a day. Josh had time to make the drive back home by quitting then too so it just made sense.

It was a treat to fish with Josh out of his new boat, I’m very thankful for the invite. The boat was fantastic and I can’t recommend Sabine enough if you’re in the market for a bombproof flats skiff. It’s the quietest aluminum boat you’ll ever ride in. That Yeti chair you see in some of the pics is the real deal too. Josh had picked that up and it was a perfect fit in the Micro. It made for a super comfortable ride. The fishing wasn’t on fire, but we were able to land a few fish and I think it was a good shakedown run.

Back in June I got a wild hair to spend a morning fishing in City Park down in New Orleans. I wanted to target the non-native Rio Grande (or Lowland, apparently there may actually be two different species in the Park) cichlids that have made a home for themselves in the Park. I’ve caught a few in my life, but never really targeted them explicitly, so today was the day. I settled in on the lagoon where I’ve caught them in the past and went to work.

Southern Swamp Lily (Crinum americanum)

The water was super clear, as is typically the case in this lagoon, and probably a bit lower than normal due to our mild Spring drought (it didn’t rain 1000″ in South Louisiana this Spring). Temps were on the abnormally hot side for June which meant a pop-up thunderstorm could happen at any point. We had already reached our summer weather pattern here in South Louisiana. It was going to be a hot, humid sweatfest of a day.

This lagoon is pretty heavily vegetated aquatically and around the perimeter so you can really only cast in select spots. I popped into a few and eventually found one where I could see a pair of cichlids in the super shallows. They looked like they may have been preparing to spawn as they displayed some “guarding the nest” behavior. I’m not real worried about disturbing an invasive species during it’s spawn so this worked in my favor in terms of being able to sight fish them. After a few errant casts I was able to place a nymph close enough to illicit an eat. The eat was slow, but deliberate, and in short time I had my first cichlid on the day.

I botched an attempt at the other cichlid, a bigger one, that this fish was paired up with and after bidding my bird friend behind me adieu I moved on.

Yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea)

I switched from a weighted pattern to an unweighted nymph and that slower sink rate proved to be just the ticket in this shallow vegetated part of the lagoon.

As I worked my way around the pond I missed a couple more sightfishing attempts, including a fish on a beetle pattern I was using above my Tellico nymph, before bringing another one to hand. I had him all the way to the bank, a big one, but lost him as I went to lift him above the tall vegetation along the shoreline.

I was able to redeem myself though and did catch the next couple of fish on the beetle. The topwater eat was a very slow slurp, almost like a cutthroat sucking down a dry fly, so it took a little more patience to not pull the fly right out of their mouth.

Content with the handful of Rios I caught I decided to pack it up and head to some nearby canals to continue targeting non-native species and try my luck with a more discerning freshwater fish, the common carp.

The beautiful, majestic straight-line canals of Metairie hold plenty of carp and gar for the fly angler who likes to be frustrated. They aren’t hard to find, you can see them rooting around the bottom of the canal searching for food. I have a hard time connecting with them though, it seems like you’ve got to have everything perfect in order to get an eat. By perfect I mean the fly has to be right, the distance ahead of the fish has to be far enough so that it doesn’t spook on the splash, but close enough that it can pick it up while it hoovers the bottom, and then you have to be able to set at that critical moment when they do eat, which is often fairly hard to detect. This is why I’ve only previously caught only one of these bastards. Thankfully my second came about an hour into trying for them which, I’ll admit, could have been far worse.

It was lunch time at this point and starting to really heat up so I packed it up and headed on out. I’m not that dialed in on the carp so it seems to me like only someone who is a real glutton for punishment could enjoy carp fishing. That being said the challenge of trying to fool a carp was exciting and catching Rios at City Park was a lot of fun so overall the morning was a complete success.

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to get back out in the still-new-to-me kayak, the Crescent Crew, and settled on fishing down around Shell Beach, over in St. Bernard Parish. The wind forecast on the eastern side of the state looked a little more favorable than that of the central coast, which drove my decision to fish over there. I made it out after sunrise and paddled my way toward some familiar marsh. The water clarity was a little stained in some areas, but crystal clear over the thickly vegetated ponds. I started with one of the bigger Ron Braud stippled poppers I won last year, working it at the usual fishy looking spots – points, cuts, intersections, potholes, and the like. I caught a few cookie cutter 10-12″ largemouth bass and then decided I would start looking for redfish.

The white flowers of the arrowhead were blooming in the marsh, interrupting the sea of green of the Spartina grass. It was pretty cool to see so I stopped to snap a pic of one to help me figure out what plant was actually blooming; that’s when I realized that if I was taking pictures of flowers in the marsh than the fishing was pretty darn slow. Five hours passed, nearly the entire morning, before I caught my next fish. I caught those three bass pretty early and then had very few opportunities at redfish after that. Those opportunities I did get were all botched. Either I messed up the cast, saw the fish late and he spooked, or it just wasn’t a great situation to get a good cast off, nothing went right in that time. I did eventually put it all together and ended up catching three reds on back-to-back-to-back chances.

Those three fish all came after I tied on a new fly. I tried my darnedest to catch a fish on the awful Clouser minnow I tied at the first Flies & Flights, but it was honestly off-putting and scaring them away. I switched to a fly that David Rodgers gave me and it was just what I needed to be throwing. The flash tied in made the fly glow in the water and the slow sink rate was perfect for these grassy ponds. I took the pic above just to give anyone reading an idea of what the water looked like. The 30″ red was big fish on the day and he was one of the smartest fish I’ve ever caught. It was a hell of a fight on my 7wt! He would bulldog himself deep in the grass, I’d then have to paddle over to him and negotiate my rod trying to free him without coming up with pounds of matted grass on the leader, then when I’d get him out, he’d do all over again a little further away. It was a forearm workout for sure. I was thankful that my knot and my tippet held and I had something to post up for the fly rod category of the BCKFC Massey’s Fish Pics tourney. I failed to catch anything else after the stroke of genius I had catching those three redfish in a row. I didn’t stay out long after that, but there were more opportunities that were blown. I slowly made my way back to the launch content to call it a day.

A few observations I had on the day:

  • Gar were all over the place and the spawn was on for some of them. There were mostly spotted gar, but there were a few big alligator gar out there as well. I didn’t fool with them too much, but that’s as good a place as any to target gar.
  • I still need to figure out a better way to sight fish from the Crew. My paddle clip belt has worn itself out to the point where the paddle falls out unless it’s perfectly situated. As soon as the paddle falls out it makes a loud bang on the deck and you may as well be playing death metal underwater when that happens. Nothing will eat at that point. It seems like a long way down to drop a paddle and that deck is loud.
  • Speaking of long way down, I need to shorten the distance between the fly rod and myself while standing. In most of my Jacksons, I don’t remember that ever being an issue, but in the Crew it just seems so far away. The seat riser helps, but I’ve got to figure out how to raise up my rod without impeding my paddle stroke.

I’ve got a fix on the way, or at least ideas, for both of those situations, so hopefully I can hammer it down and be totally comfortable sight fishing out of this boat. I like it, it paddles great, but it needs a little help to turn it into a fishing machine.