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.