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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.

I truly went from mountains to marsh this past weekend after spending last week working in West Virginia then heading on a weekend guys trip down to Grand Isle Friday afternoon.

I left Baton Rouge Friday mid-afternoon and contemplated putting the kayak in once I passed Leeville just to fish for an hour or so before it got dark.  I didn’t though, opting instead to hit a culvert where water moves under the road before I went to the camp.  Not much doing there except a few ladyfish on a clouser.  I could hear reds crashing on bait in the marsh though, man what a tease that was, I was hoping that scene would play out tomorrow.

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I met up with everyone at the camp just as they were heading down to the beach to run the crab traps.  I threw the clouser in the surf for a bit, out of curiosity more than anything, but fishing was not really the priority at this point.  We spent the evening drinking good beer and catching up.

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I was the lone kayaker in the group so on Saturday when everyone took off in boats I hit the backside of the island in the Cruise FD and went looking for redfish.  Conditions weren’t ideal when I launched, but the high tide was the biggest thing putting a dent in the sightfishing game.  I managed to fool one overslot redfish and got broken off by another.  I caught more ladyfish on the fly rod and at lunch time decided to get off the water before the thunderstorms that began to surround me closed in any further.

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After lunch I hit the beach outside the camp with some of the guys where we alternated throwing cast nets for big shrimp, running crab traps, and trying our luck surf fishing.  With the cast nets we’d catch one or two shrimp every few throws, but that added up after a few hours.  We ended up putting a nice little ice chest of palm sized shrimp together by the end of the day.  The crab traps produced as well and those began to fill an ice chest of their own.  In the surf the white trout and ladyfish were abundant and fun to catch on light tackle, our target fish however proved elusive.  No bull reds and only a few speckled trout were landed, but we had plenty of seafood for a feast that night.

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That night we ate like kings, redfish from Friday and Saturday were grilled on the half shell while the crabs and shrimp were boiled to perfection.  There was even a good bit of Best Stop boudin shared among the group.  Everything was incredible.

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After a long night of cornhole and beers most folks opted to sleep in, clean up, and head home.  The weather was too nice not to get out one last time for me so I stopped in Leeville on the way out and put in off the side of the road.  I kept a watchful eye on the thunderstorms that were off to the west and the south of me this morning, but thankfully I was far enough north to be clear of them.  The high tide again made it tough to sight fish, but I found a good spot with moving water where the fish were a bit stacked up.  In short time I caught three reds, multiple ladyfish, and had another break off (I think my leader line is finally too old to be useful).  It was almost like fishing a winter hole.

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After the bite slowed down at that spot I pedaled around the area just to explore and found another spot were water was moving over a flat and fish were present.  I caught a couple speckled trout off a point and as lunch time crept up I decided to get off the water and head home.  I didn’t want to be home late and sightfishing wasn’t going to pan out so it was an easy decision to leave.

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Truly though my wife called and didn’t flat out say it, but it was inferred that I needed to head home.  She also wanted me to pick up shrimp so I stopped at the Seafood Shed on the way out and picked up some $4/lb 16/20 sized shrimp (same size as we caught in the surf) to take home.  We made New Orleans style BBQ shrimp with a few pounds that night and she got to eat a few leftover crabs from the weekend.  I put mine over instant grits and had a poor man’s shrimp and grits, which was surprisingly very good.

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I really enjoyed hanging out with the guys this past weekend.  Fishing was what brought us down there, but it’s the camaraderie that will keep us going back.  Big thanks to Ray for letting us stay at his camp.  Grand Isle in the summer is an amazing place.  The beach won’t win any beauty contests, but it sure is bountiful in it’s seafood production.  I look forward to doing it again next year.