Monday, December 17, 2012

Daylight Savings Time Sucks...

For those of you who read my blog regularly, I think it was very obvious how successful of a fall I had fishing.  Then daylight savings time hit.  When the sun goes down at five, it really doesn't lend itself very well to fishing after work.  That coupled with some busy weekends haven't left much time.  Priorities right?

Last weekend, the tide was super low and so I made the plans to hit the bayou.  When the bayou is low, paddling far from the launch to find shallow untouched bayous is not necessary. Boats won't go far from the channel, but kayakers will.  And we did.  A half mile from the launch and we found some eager bruisers in the shallows.  Not fifteen minutes after launching, I managed to land my first fish.  The fish were everywhere, but I had to share with my buddy. It was the least I could do after he took all my pictures.

It was a later morning. We didn't hit the water till 9 am and after about 10:30 am, the bruisers stopped rushing the shallows.  I saw a few more fish, spooked them, and hooked up with only one more flounder who was swirling and making a rukus.  Life was good though.  I hadn't been on the water and getting a red on the line was good.  They're like crack, and I hadn't gotten my fix in a few.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spankin the Specks 2012

Its not very often I pick up a fly rod with the intention of getting competitive about it.  There is always a slight competition over who can catch the most or biggest fish with whoever I'm fishing with, but its all in good fun and never very serious.  It's tough enough to catch a fish on a fly rod let alone, try to do better than somebody else.  I typically take the offshore fishing kind of attitude where the crew wins when somebody catches a fish.

Last weekend was the exception. I entered in the "Spankin' the Speck's" 2012 Kayak Fishing Tournament in Ocean Springs, MS. There were two divisions, fly fishing and conventional gear.  Conventional gear was pretty much a free for all type of tournament in which fisherman could utilize cut bait, artificial tackle, ect., ect. Fly fisherman however, could only have fly fishing tackle onboard their kayak.  The next exception, you had to stay in your boat (no wadefishing).

Prizes for largest speck, red, flounder and overall fly fisherman were to be had. There was also a three speck aggregate for which you had to pay an additional five dollars.  I opted out simply cause I knew I couldn't compete with the fisherman using live and cut bait.  Given the relative popularity of fly fishing, I figured I had a good shot at winning the tournament.  This was further confirmed when I showed up to the captain's meeting on Friday night and only THREE other fly fisherman had entered the tournament.  At this point, I figured if I could put some fish in the kayak, I'd have a pretty good shot at the prize, a free night stay at the Gulf Hills Hotel, a plaque, and $100.

The week before I had some real trouble deciding where to fish.  As you can see from previous blog posts, I've had some luck with flounder, specks, and redfish and there were prizes for all three.  After much deliberation and generally cause I enjoy sightfishing reds from my 'yak much more than blind casting in hopes of catching a speck or flounder, I decided to concentrate early on limiting out on redfish.  Fortunately, the tides and weather cooperated with this plan.  I had a perfect tide, lowest at first light which lent itself well to finding tailing redfish.  I decided to first try the "secret spot" that has made it onto several other blog posts of mine.

Also a rule stated that you (obviously) had to conform to state watercraft laws.  Therefore, I really had to consider crafting a light so that I could paddle before the sun came up.  I purchased a battery powered safety strobe, taped it to an old broom handle, and stuck the broom handle in one of my rear flush mount rod holders.  With my light, I was able to leave prior to the sun rise and be to the secret spot literally as the sun poked over the horizon.

As the small channel opened up into the shallow pond I have come to love to fish, I immediately realized the fish were there. The catch was whether they were hungry. Earlier in the week I had tied some Merkin Crabs that I was excited to use and had a pretty good feeling about.
Finally got them right!!!!
 With my new merkins tied on, I began the task of finding and targeting the bronze backs wallowing in the shallows.  I immediately found a couple of spotted tails flapping clumsily in the air. One thing I couldn't help but notice was how calm I was compared to previous trips.  Whether it was the competition aspect or the experience, the jitters that typically have to combat didn't seem to have an effect on me.  The things I forget to do like check my surroundings to ensure nothing was in my way that could cause my fly to get hung up on my back cast I seemed to be doing without thinking about.  This was a great feeling.

Immediately, I put the merkin in between the two tails.  The waving tails disappeared under the surface and two swirls shed opposite my offering. The reds were racing to catch it.  My first cast, fish on.  After a few seconds of fight however, the fish spit the hook.

This happened several more times, getting a follow from a swirl in the water or a disturbance of water that lifted from the below and moved towards my fly.  I finally got my initial hook up on a beautiful specimen who actually gave me little sign he was there. A small flick of the tail on the surface was the only clue this fish gave me.

My Buddy.
Keeping fish when I'm kayak fishing is not a habit of mine.  However, this was a kill only tournament so I brought a floating mesh bag to keep my fish alive. This way culling would be an option.  My first fish measured in at 21". Not a brute by any stretch of the imagination, but still a keeper. I placed him in the bag, hoping that I could catch a bigger one, let him go and let him live to fight another day.

With my livewell in tow, I paddled onward. The tide was just low enough. Another half inch would have made the redfish difficult to distinguish from the bait.  The next fish revealed itself by an explosion in the shallows followed by a wake transitioning to deeper water.  I saw the water mound the fish pushed stop and decided to pound that area where the wake dissipated with my fly.  I hooked him initially with an immediate hook spit. The following offering hit home and after a spirited fight only a redfish can provide, I landed and measured him.  21"! Again. I had no scale and therefore had no clue how much the fish weighed so I had no choice, but to keep him.  I didn't want to miss out on the prize cause I had released a fatter fish with the same length.

Fish #2

With two fish in the bag and it barely 8:00 in the morning, I was well on my way to a solid redfish limit from which I could start culling.  In a small cut, there was much thrashing and splashing.  I entered it carefully attempting not to spook the fish.  Here the fish were shallow enough to see there backs sticking out of the water. The weed clumps in this cut would explode periodically and at least three fish were within casting distance.  One exploded on shore and I took my opportinity.  This was my best presentation of the day and I believe it was the biggest fish, although it measured the same length.

Somebody must have figured out that I had limited out on reds (Mississippi is limit 3 w/ only one being over 30") on a fly rod for a tournament cause almost immediately after landing the last fish, the wind kicked up running the span of the bayou. It kicked up strong and hard and I had quite a haul of fish to drag back.

I eventually made it back to the launch; winded, tired, and with much time, five hours, till weigh in.  The entire paddle I struggled with the wind and with the thought even showing up to the weigh in.  Three 21" redfish, which for me was a fantastic day, would barely get me on the board at a tournament during the time of the year when the big breeder bull reds come in and routinely get caught along the gulf coast. I had no doubt one could easily have been caught on a fly rod.  Also to boot, the tournament was called "Spankin' the Specks."  I had no specks.

After stopping off at my house for a quick sandwich and rest, I decided to go fish Fort Bayou right near the weigh in at Gil's Fish Camp.  Fishing that close to the weigh in would give me the most opportunity to find and catch a few specks before the weigh in that ended at five.  I fished Fort Bayou with no luck.  One white trout was all the blustery afternoon produced.  I did scope out Fort Bayou more which I will have to fish more often given the proximity of my new townhouse.

Great afternoon on the Water!

 My time in Fort Bayou quickly came to an end. It was time to weigh in.  I pulled my kayak out and headed to Gil's Fish Camp, a local bar located on Fort Bayou that my friends and I frequent.  As I walked up to the weigh station I received several hoots and hollars from the spectators as I carried my full stringer of redfish.  I gave my name and handed my fish to the weigh master.  He weight the first one. 4 lbs -4 oz.  Not as heavy as I would have thought, given how hard the little suckers pull when you hook them.  I handed the second fish to the weigh master. 4 lbs.-1 oz. 3 oz difference between two fish of the same length. If only he had eaten another two or three mud minnows.  The last fish was clearly the last one that I caught.  His darker coloration was brilliant and this guy just looked fatter.  He was. 4 lbs.-7 oz. None of my fish were monsters, but as people clapped when the weight was announced, I realized I may have a shot.

4 lbs. - 7 oz.

 The weigh master went to the books to record my fish. He conveyed his congratulations on a good day of fishing and then he said, "You're winning the fly fishing Division." WHAT!!!!!? NO WAY!? It was 4:45 pm and I was the only fly fisherman who had checked a fish in. I went to the bar and got a celebratory beverage. I was floored.

In the final fifteen minutes, two more kayakers weighed in with the fish below:
My fish are on the cooler next to this guy.

The second fish weighed in at 20 lb-8 oz. He won the spin cast division biggest redfish. No more fly fisherman checked in.  I won. At the beginning of the tournament, I didnt think I had a shot. Talking up the other fly fisherman that was at the captains meeting the night before, I figured I didn't have a shot against these locals who had been fishing for years.  Its amazing how events transpire sometimes. A little luck and planning and you never know what can happen.

I shot some pictures of my fish compared to the winning fish.  Comparatively no contest. HOWEVER, what a fantastic new goal I now have.  Get a 20 lb bruiser on an 8 wt. fly rod. Sounds like a fun kayak ride to me.
My fish has a minute till he's this big.

Moral of the story. Always weigh in. You never know.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

That Cold North Wind Begins to Blow.

It was one of those mornings that happen all too often in the dead of winter. The problem was that it was only October, two months early. My eyes opened early before my alarm went off and I looked out my window.  The trees were swaying and the nip in the air inside my shut up house made it all too clear.  The temperature outside dropped off and a strong north wind moved in.  I struggled with the thought of leaving the warm and comfort of my bed for the cold and wet bayou, and more than likely, a skunk of a day.

I finally rolled out of bed and went about getting my kayak strapped down to my truck.  The instant I stepped out of my garage, the chill hit me.  I thought to myself, "I must be nuts." This can be said for all fly fisherman I think and since I wasn't enduring quite the extreme environment that steelhead fisherman experience, I think looking back, I was being a wuss.

 I pulled up to the launch and began to get my gear ready. Not long after, my friend Brian (Michissippi Fly Author), pulled up with his kayak strapped to his truck.  We unloaded and noticed off nearby, a flock of birds seemed to be working a spot nearby. We also noticed how low the tide was.  The tide was out and the North wind that had chilled my bones had also blown the water out, causing the water to drop further beyond the typical tide. This turned our typical fishing destination into a giant mud pie.  We couldn't have made it up in our normal spot with our kayaks even if we had wanted to.

After tip toeing into our kayaks to avoid getting any wetter than we had to, we were off. A few minutes later we were huddled up to the opposing shoreline, attempting to avoid the wind, working our way to the birds.  We turned the corner of the bayou and the birds were up in a smaller branch.  Upon entrance to the smaller branch, there was an immediate eruption and swirl on the water.  This made me feel better; swirls typically mean redfish.   We paddled further and suddenly on one of the exposed banks, a back emerged from the water to my right.  A red back. A fish back.  I went into hunter mode.

Brian was paddling to my rear and says to me, "I think there's redfish in this bayou." In my head I was giggling at this comment. Unfortunately I over paddled and drifted by the back and didn't get a shot at the fish.  As I drifted back I snuck up on a red sitting in the shallows chasing shrimp. I saw him clear as crystal. He actually chased the fly I dangled in front of his nose, but spooked immediately once he saw my kayak!

Behind me, Brian targeted the fish I left and hooked up with him.  He gave out a hoot as he began to get dragged through the bayou by the redfish.

Fish On!

Brian eventually landed the redfish for a nice trophy shot!  Halfway through his fight, all I could think was geeze, just land him already so I can get a chance.

Brian's First of Three!
Once I was certain Brian had his fish landed, I took off to find a fish of my own. The wind would prove to be much more difficult to deal with for me on this trip.  As is in hunting, being aware of your surroundings and location from which to cast your fly is crucial.  Often times during this trip, I saw a fish, but was unable to place an effective fly on the fish because the wind or the reeds were in an inconvenient location. After spooking several, I decided to set up at a location where I had seen a few fish while I was passing through.  I meticulously beached myself, pulled enough line out of my reel such that the line would load immediately on my back cast and waited.

Five minutes after, the sediment I kicked up settled and shortly after, a v-wake appeared at the mouth of the inlet heading my way.  As it moved, little shrimp fleeing the hungry predator popped out of the water.  I prepped for the opportune moment.  In the middle of the small channel, a seagull feather floated.  As the v-wake approached, it stopped and swirls of a stopping fish continued in the direction the fish was headed.  As I watched, the redfish surfaced to analyze the feather. It's back pierced the surface, it analyzed the feather, and after determining it was not food, he lowered.  At this point I placed my fly.  The wind stopped for just a second and the fly landed perfectly! After a small swirl the line shot out of my rod. Drag screamed as I tried to unbeach myself to take the tension off my line.  I couldn't unbeach myself!  The fish began to turn left down the next maze and I desperately struggled to unbeach myself. Grabbing my paddle, I swiftly shoved it down into the mud while holding my rod in the other. Slowly I slid as my weight shifted from being supported by the mud to being supported by the buoyant force of the water. The redfish continued to head down the maze.  Suddenly the mud gave way and I was free.  As I made ground on the lively redfish, my heart began to slow after that near close call.  The redfish made two or three more spirited runs with me in pursuit before I lipped the fish and placed him in my lap. Victory.

This fish likes feathers.
To make the situation even better, the fly I was using was an original fly I tied myself to impersonate a shrimp.  I'd had good luck blind casting it in the surf out front, but I hadn't had the opportunity to try it yet on tailing redfish.  After having several shots with other flies that weren't original designs leading up to this fish, it was great to switch over to my fly and have it get gobbled up by a hungry redfish shortly there after.

I continued to fight the wind and the reeds which were more difficult to work with than typical due to the extremely low tide.  I managed one more hook up with a redfish that spit the hook and also landed a very tiny flounder that happened to snag itself.

Baby Snagged.
At first, I was very mad.  All the fish I saw and I only managed to hook one.  The one fish does make for one great story though and when I got all my gear put away and my kayak hung in my garage I had to smile.  The fish rose, looked at a feather, and then ate my fly and gave me a fantastic ride. I caught an October Red which I had been wanting to do since I picked up a fly rod for the first time last year. It still is amazing to me that what is a normal weekend activity for me, people pay hundreds of dollars to do. I also did it on my new fly rod to boot. Once the sun came up, it actually was a pretty nice day on the water. I also learned that if you get a good north wind, its going to cause the tide to fall a little more which is good for the redfish. This gives me warm and fuzzies for my Thanksgiving and Christmas Break.

I'm sure shortly, Michissippi Fly will have a nice post on this trip from Brian.  Check it out!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Workin' Overtime

The fall seems to be, in my two and a half years here on the coast, my favorite time of year.  The hot weather breaks and the morning and evening temperatures can be down right chilly.  The bait also seem to enjoy the cooler temperatures as it moves into the area in droves.  Schools of pogeys can stretch on for football field lengths and the shrimp is so abundant that it pops out of the water with every step as you wade.  With the bait comes the game fish.  The reds pour onto our shores and at least one keeper speck is guaranteed whether the fish are biting or not.  And with the cooler weather come the bull reds, which I am TRYING to get onto.  I've been working mullet and white trout schools cause supposedly, that is what the bulls follow.  On the days when I have focused my efforts on the bulls, I usually spend most of my day taking small white trout off my hook. They say you have to kiss a frog or two before you find a prince.

Tonight was no exception to the rule.  I decided to meet up with my friend Jake, who doesn't get a lot of time to get away from his family to fish. His time on the water is precious.  We went to my spot to wade fish.  I like this spot because it's not far from where I live, it's far enough away that people don't bother me, and the fishing is phenomenal.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to test out the gurgler pattern I've recently started tying.  I've wanted to do a tying post for some time and think I may start with this fly.  It's pretty easy and has proved absolutely dy-NO-MYTE! for surface speck fishing at dawn and dusk.

We got to the spot, Jake with his spin cast gear, and me with my fly rod in hand.  We both began working the shore and not long after our arrival, Jake managed to hook up with his first speck.  He threw it back, and on the next cast, BOOM, redfish.  This was a special trip for me because I love it when people can say it's a first for them. Well Jake has lived here a little longer than I and he said after this redfish, "I've caught a total of 1 redfish since moving down here." He then continued to talk about how much more colorful the fish here are.  This makes me excited. I love getting people on the fish.

Jake let the redfish go and on the immediate next cast, he hooked up with a real nice flounder.  Mississippi Inshore Slam in THREE CASTS!  I was very impressed.  It was about this time that the bite took off for me and soon there after, I had a Mississippi Inshore Slam on my chartreuse and white Clouser Minnow.  The redfish was absolutely unmistakable.  I set the hook and the brute took off pulling all my loose line out.  The harder I pulled, the harder he pulled. After a gallant ten minute tug of war, I landed the fish and released him to fight another day.

The end of the night found Jake with a total of four reds, quadrupling his lifetime total! GOOD NIGHT!

Because of work, I've been working funky hours. 9 and 10 hour days have been the norm.  I usually get down to the water and fish about an hour of light and then fish in the dark for a little bit. When the transition occurs, I've found that that is the time to throw on my gurgler flies. If the conditions are right, it makes for some of the most exciting fishing I've experienced.

By conditions being right, I've gone on both nights where it was dead calm and nights where the waves were crashing the shoreline.  Neither nights produce optimum conditions. I've found that if there is a light breeze from any direction but the north, this spot lights up.  I suspect it is because of the wind pushing the bait into the indentation where I fish.  The oyster bed nearby helps. 

I've seen a preference towards yellow and white foam, although this is unverified as I haven't tried another color.

I tied this on with about five minutes left of daylight and began working some of the bait schools that were visible on the surface.  Apparently it was a dead ringer, because the bait would flock to it and follow.  Five minutes after i started gurglin', a huge explosion erupted just a few yards in front of me.  My line went taught and began to pull harder than anything I had caught at that point.  A nice 18" speckled trout had found my gurgler.  I love speckled trout. They attack lures and flies with reckless abandon and this one was particularly angry when he hit.  When I landed the fish, the gurgler was all the way back in the back of it's mouth. The fish were hungry apparently.

This continued for a while.  All the sea trout were big and aggressive. At one point I actually hooked three in a row.  Trout were launching themselves fully out of the water to eat my fly. With each hookup, I let out a little giggle at how hard and aggressive these fish would attack.  All and all I ended up with 4 monster trout that my buddy Jake kept (gotta feed them little ones!) and two giants I threw back.  On a fly rod in about two hours time, that's a good night.

Jake caught the flounder. I take no credit for that!

This has been the norm for a few weeks now. Me by myself or with a friend catch the evening bite and go home with a nice dinner and a few great laughs about fish on top water. I suspect this will continue on a while longer too until the trout go into winter mode and you need sinking fly lines to get to them.  I also suspect my work schedule to continue like it has into next year. Until then, I'll be fishing on the weekends and workin' overtime on the specks.  Tight lines everybody.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tip for Hard as Hull

A friendly tip for those of you that use hard as hull head cement when you tie your flies.  If the lid is stuck, stick it in the microwave for a few seconds (5 max). It loosens it up enough to get the lid off.  Please be smarter than dumb with this as I suspect it works for all head cements. However, if you place a bottle with a metal cap in the microwave, it will arc and kill you.

Four or five layers of this stuff substitutes as a good epoxy coating.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Good Things Come to Those who Wait.

There is irony in the title of this blog post. I'll explain.

I neglected to mention in a previous blog post that during my fishing trip to Michigan where I caught Bass at my Grandmother's house, I snapped my rod.  I've been fishing with spinning gear since, waiting for LL Bean to get back to me on the warranty information.  Well today while I was in the airport coming back from a business trip to Michigan, I spoke with a customer representative and found out that there was no replacement parts for the section of rod I had broke. They were going to have to send me a new one (which is covered under their 100% satisfaction guaranteed warranty, which is a huge plus for buying a LL Bean fly rod outfit.)  The catch....My rod is on backorder till January.

This reality left me in panic mode. As many of you know, we are 4 short days away from RED OCTOBER. In October, the bull redfish migrate inshore following the bait and shrimp that are abundant in the shallower waters as the water begins to cool.  This is an opportunity I do not plan to miss.

After work, I was shopping online for a replacement rod when my girlfriend saw what I was looking at and asked me, "Do you always buy presents this close to your birthday?"  I have been known to do such things in the past causing the headache of having to return the gift.  Nicki didn't want this to be an option.  She quickly told me to put the computer down and follow her.  I asked why and she told me we were going to go get frozen yogurt. We didn't go get frozen yogurt.

I followed her into her house and she pulled from behind the couch a fly rod tube, a box, and a bag and handed it to me.  She informed me that she had to give me my birthday present early to prevent me from ruining her surprise, which I would have done had I purchased one of the rods I was looking at.   In her hand was a 9' 8 wt. 4 piece Orvis Clearwater fly rod, an Orvis Encounter IV fly reel spooled with backing and 3M Saltwater Taper fly line (the good stuff.). 

This is a significant upgrade from the LL Bean outfit and believe me, I'm incredibly excited to test it out.  I'm going tomorrow to get a leader and give it a good round of practice. I cannot wait to go out this weekend and give it a try.

I'm a lucky guy. She got everything about the rod and reel correct. It honestly is the rod I've woke up in the middle of the night fantasizing about since I started fly fishing.  She even got the guy who sold her the fly rod to pitch in a hard cover for the reel for free. I think I'd be smart to keep her around for a while. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hurricane Isaac

As many you probably know, Hurricane Isaac hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a Category 1 this past week. My plan was to ride the storm out as most people say that a category 1 or category 2 storm is typically safe to stay for.  This all changed once Ocean Springs issued a mandatory evacuation for all residents south of Highway 90.  Doing as I was told, I evacuated to Kennedy, Alabama where I was largely untouched by Hurricane Isaac.

Last night we drove back to the coast, witnessing the massive amount of destruction the storm caused. Houses on and around rivers had several feet of water in them.  The amount of water that the storm dumped was unfathomable for this relocated yankee.  Witnessing some of the destruction caused by the storm was truly sobering and affirmed my decision to leave.

This morning, I took a drive around Ocean Springs to see how the town had faired. During my drive I passed Bayou Simmons in Gulf Park Estates.  All around the bayou, there were birds. Pelicans, Terns, Seagulls, and even a DOZEN Magnificent Frigate Birds which typically stay far out at sea were swooping down at the water grabbing fish. The fisherman in me associated birds with feeding reds and specks so I went home to grab my kayak.

magnificent frigate bird
Never have seen this many frigate birds in one spot.

What I found was quite opposite of my expectations. As I approached the launch, I immediately noticed that I was witnessing a unique phenomena.  In the shallows of the launch, flounder, baitfish, and crabs were beaching themselves.  Their gills seemed to be frantically working.  It almost seemed as if the fish were suffocating.  The flounder were so stunned I was able to literally grab them out of the shallows with my hand. Unbelievable.  I got in my kayak and paddled around the bayou finding more of the same phenomena. Fish everywhere struggling to breath. They would stick their mouths above the water and seemingly were sucking air.  I never pulled the fishing rod out as I thought to myself that these fish seemed to be trapped and anything worth catching on a line and hook was probably concentrating on breathing at the moment.  The fishing was not going to be good. However, the bird watching was breathtaking. The frigate birds were unbelievable, diving and swooping at the oxygen deprived fish.

Upon arrival at my house, I googled the phenomena. According to my search, what I was witnessed was a fish kill caused by several factors: 

1.) The salinity levels in Simmons Bayou had dropped drastically due to the report over 20" of rainfall during the storm. This was definately apparent when I tasted the water and when the actual temperature of the water (typically in the 80's this time of year) was much cooler than usual.

2.) High winds typically blow the oxygen rich water on the surface of the bayou into one spot causing the low oxygen water from the depths to rise to the surface. Typically this low oxygen water is accompanied by decaying plant and animal matter which is eaten by bacteria, thus lowering the oxygen levels in the water.

3.) With all the flooding water, it swept decaying plant matter which would typically decompose on land into the water.  The increased organism activity in the water further lowers the oxygen levels for the fish.

These causes were consistent with my observations that the fish were literally suffocating.  I don't claim to be a biologist, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, its probably a duck.  While I understand that this is a natural phenomena which these animals have had to adapt to survive, it is very concerning to see this happening in the waters I enjoy fishing.  I never realized how difficult a hurricane can be not only on humans, but also on the surrounding wildlife. I hope that this phenomena is isolated and not widespread as I could see more disaster coming from such an event.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back to the roots....

Recently, I took a trip back to Michigan for a couple of weddings which fell on adjoining weekends.  The weddings were a week apart so rather than make two separate trips, I figured I would use that week to try fishing the waters I fished growing up.  In particular I was excited about my grandmothers property.  When I was a child, I remember the summer that my Oma (German for Grandma) finally let me row the aluminum boat on my own.  My mother would drop my off at 7:30 am and my dad would pick me up at 5:00 pm after he got off work.  During that time, I stopped fishing to only eat lunch.  I would fish all day, and get incredibly sunburned in that little aluminum skiff. And I loved it.

It's been a while since I've fished like that.  I wish sometimes times were still like that where I could do that most everyday of the week.  The bass, crappie, and panfish at my Oma's house used to be unreal.  I wanted to see if it still was as it's been probably about 5 years since I casted a line at my grandmothers. (living in Mississippi and finshing college away from home.

View of the pond from the back porch

Another wrap around leg....

See the swan?
My grandmother used to raise swans and so they still circle the pond frequently. The pond  is an old gravel pit and it is spring fed so the water levels stay pretty constant.  The swans are quite unusual actually because they never leave. Apparently migrating is something they require to be taught once. So when they take off from the pond, they never make it very far and end up in ponds in and around my hometown.  They are dumb and mean, but very beautiful and a unique aspect of my grandmother's pond.

On a free day my family didn't have something planned for me, I pulled my rod out and went for a walk looking to see if I could sight fish from shore.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find any fish big enough to throw a fly at in the main pond.  When I asked my Oma where all the fish went, she said they had a really bad freeze which killed most of the big ones, which was incredibly unfortunate.  It's hard to believe there aren't any big bass still in that pond, but thats what my Oma claims.  I wish I would have had a little more time to prove her wrong.

All was not lost. My uncle happens to live next door to my grandmother.  When I was younger I would never fish there because the fish were smaller in his pond. However, it was worth a shot.  As I walked up, there was a mother and her goslings swimming away.
Run away...

Instantly, I could tell the old rule of thumb regarding the fish in my uncles pond no longer applied.  Small fry were swimming in the beach he had made for the dogs. Huge bluegill chased my clouser as i stripped it to shore. I was unable to hook up with any and decided to move on.  It didn't take long for me to locate some larger fish though.

A short stroll to a ledge where my uncle throws his old christmas trees (bass heaven) and I was casting at 4 and 5 lb. fish. It was amazing. I managed to hook one and land it. I had to drag it up a steep ledge. However, I was able to release it unharmed.  I was using a chartreuse and white clouser minnow.

Minnows in shallows.

It was a nice little fish and reminded me of the days when I was younger and felt like the worlds best fisherman. It was at that moment I thought to myself, "Wow, do I miss this."

After a few more casts, I decided to move to another spot.  I actually didn't wear shoes for this trip and I think there were better choices.  I roughed it through some pretty thick brush to get around to the other side of the pond. It was funny cause I think I frequently make irrational decisions when it comes to fishing to save time. However, walking through this bush barefoot took longer than it would have to just put some shoes on. At Oma's though, you never wear shoes.

I finally made it to where I wanted to fish and waded into the muck.  I spooked a very nice bass and began casting excitedly almost immediately. I was amazed about how difficult it was to cast with trees directly at your back.  As I fished, I understood the advantages of spey casting.  After a frustrating 10 or 15 minutes I saw my clouser dissapear in the gin clear water. A bass came out of nowhere and inhaled it and the fight was on.

On several occasions the fish "burrowed" into the algae on the bottom of the pond and I was amazed at how difficult it was to pull him out of it with the 8 wt fly rod I was using. After an uncharacteristically long battle compared to what I was used to when I was younger, I landed the fish.  It is amazing how changing one technique (spin cast to fly rod) can have such a drastic effect on something that I thought I was an old pro at.

Released...Bass are not for eating.

I released the fish and decided to head back to get some good grandma cooking.  It was a fantastic trip down memory lane that afternoon. It makes me mad that I never learned how to fly fish while I lived in Michigan.  All the experiances I missed out on that Michigan has to offer.  It makes me glad my family still lives there.  I may have to head back to try fly fishing at another place, like the Au Sable for trout or on Lake St. Clair for a Smallmouth.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Luck be a Lady...

That past two weekends were chock full of activity.  Some were fishing, but most was drinking insane amounts of beer, much to my dismay.

Last weekend my roommate's friends from Georgia came into town and we drank...till 5 am on Friday Night. Poor life decision? I have no qualms with people who partake in alcohol from time to time, but in this case, I had made early plans to go look for redfish tails in one of Brian and I's secret spots. This was a poor life decision. 

I woke up dazed, confused, and fully aware of the previous evenings events.  I gathered my fishing gear and loaded the kayak into the truck and was off. Brian, who has sense moved out in preparation for his marraige, met me at the launch.  I sucked down a Capri Sun and a bottle of water (Capri Sun was left over from the previous evening's "Capri-la" Tequila Shooters) and we were off. I was hung over.

As I battled the hangover, each paddle seemed to taunt me. The bayou opened up into Brian and I's favorite marsh and we began to search.  As my brain throbbed, redfish tails and feeding frenzy's eluded me.  Off in one of the bayou offshoots I noticed some surface activity. Must have been the sensitivity to light and sound...

I tossed my supreme hair shrimp at the swirl and instantly there was a slurp on the surface.  Suddenly a missile shot out of the water and spit my hook. I found a lady fish.  No luck, payback by the fishing gods for thinking that I could kayak fish with a hangover.  Off to my right, another swirl within casting distance. I once again placed the shrimp near the shore and this time, a bigger lady fish took. This one decided to stay hooked. After a lively fight (I thought I had found a Baby Tarpon bastion, which would be the first I heard of in Mississippi) I landed him and got a few shots.

I'm not hungover...

This day produced no redfish.  They were there, but the tides were higher than typical and even low tide wasn't low enough. Also, the previous week was wet and rainy; no doubt reducing the salinity and sending the bait that had been in the bayou previously out into the Mississippi Sound. Honestly though, I think this was the lesson the fish god's have tried to teach me before.  Late night drinking and early morning fishing typically don't mix, unless you get a lady to take your shrimp. Yes I went there.

This past weekend, I went to Ellijay, Georgia at the base of the Appalachian Mts. We stayed approximately 10 miles from the trail head for the Appalachian Trail, on the Coosawattee River. The cabin was amazing and we celebrated Brian's Bachelor party.

As would be expected at a Bachelor Party, I spent the weekend intoxicated or hungover, which once again caused my plan to have a successful story to post from the Coosawattee to go awry. I managed to catch two small bluegill in a slow moving pool on the river. Sorry, no pictures.  There was, however, a foe swimming in the Coosawattee that I am traveling to Michigan to try my hand at.  After walking up on the Golden Ghost, I got an opportunity to see how spooky they can be, which I think will be a valuable lesson during my travels.

Thursday, I travel home to try to get an opportunity to land a Carp on the flyrod. Blog posts to come.