Tag: redfish

We came. We saw. We drank entirely too much.

The Trout’s Fly Fishing Redfish Extravaganza is over. My liver will be hating on me for the next three months.

The fishing was mixed…a couple of donkeys here, and a pile of schoolies there. A few more pigs round yonder, and some little guys in between. A tad chilly one day, and semi-balmy the next.

Bryan Carter, who I fished with for the duration of the trip, leveraged our visit to generate ideas for his upcoming book. Actually, once we were through with him the concept was up to three books, because we all know any work of fiction by a Louisiana redfish guide must be a trilogy. It’ll have something to do with a zombie apocalypse, and smartphones gaining human consciousness then fighting the zombies before turning on their owners. In the last book the remaining humans are running around in Patagonia thongs trying to repopulate Earth. Somewhere within you’ll learn how YKK zippers are to blame for the whole mess, and I also vaguely recall Carter mentioning something about Star Trek and tropical-weight onesies.

Like I said…we drank entirely too much.

MG signing off (because the trip is over and most of the memories were killed in action)

What happens in Nawlins stays in Nawlins

The title-ized statement would be true in the vast majority of cases, if only because most people that visit New Orleans, LA don’t recollect what actually happened upon return.

But…if you’ve cajoled Lensmaster Alex Landeen into shadowing your every move, there’s a solid that the rule is getting thrown out with the bathwater.

MG signing off (’cause there’s a plane to catch)

A moment of silence for redfish (UPDATED)

We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast to send our thoughts (to the guides) and prayers (for the redfish). And both, to every other creature living on the Gulf Coast, presently in the path of a very nasty oil slick.

The movie Rise, the second production from Confluence Films, highlighted the outstanding fishery that is Louisiana. A band of good folk were portrayed, happy that Hurricane Katrina had actually improved the fishery instead of destroying it.

I’ll remain optimistic about the most recent threat, based on comments from that film about the resiliency of the area. But it is difficult. Reason? We’re now being reminded of the Valdez spill, which happened in Alaska back in 1989. And it just so happens I know that spill quite well, having worked on a damage claim project related to it early in my career. There I crunched numbers provided by Alaska’s Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission – fish tickets, net statistics, boat sizes…you name it. Add pictures, and it gave me an intimate, if morbid, view to what went on.

A moment of silence is in order.

UPDATE: Here is NOAA’s forecast of oil slick movement (pdf) as of 4/28. And for those who aren’t familiar with the loop current mentioned in the comments, here’s an explanation from the University of Miami’s RSMAS.

One part trolling motor and three parts wind equals twelve parts flyline

Fly-fishing is about ambiguity: when you start the day you’re never 100% sure what to throw, but almost 1% certain what nature will throw back. If you tear the place apart it’s guaranteed that you’ll stretch the truth far beyond your success, and if you don’t you’ll pull numerous excuses out of inventory. Reaching the pinnacle of the sport, however, is just art: spend more time changing flies than casting them, catch three times as many fish as you thought you would, tell everyone you caught ten times that amount, and still reason you should have knocked down 100X if not for an equipment failure that was a direct result of changing flies so often (but that you blame on the wind).

Confused? If you are only half as much as the author you are doing well – twice as much all the better.

Fishing the flats of northeast Florida in the spring has its advantages – the water is warming and the fish are hungry. Expect rivers of grass when the tide is high, and several feet of exposed oyster beds at its low. The redfish are generally smaller (translation: significantly dumber) than they are in say Louisiana, so presentation can be relegated to afterthought. And of course you are not at work.

The downside is the weather is unpredictable. If you fish in the summer you can be sure it will rain like hell from three to five, but the rest of the time skies should be clear. During spring the wind blows hard when the weatherman (translation: teleprompter output interpreter) say it’ll be four knots, so you best bring your 10’er because they are usually off the mark by an equal factor .

Your boat will spin around a lot in this wind, so leave the pole at home and get the trolling motor battery charged. A clean flyline (new if you can swing it) will give you a slight advantage – just don’t leave it lying on the water while you are changing flies for the umpteenth time. A Motorguide running full bore combined with a flailing boat (along with a fly angler paying attention to his flybox beef jerky supplies) can spell catastrophe. Your wallet will thank you for this sage advice. Please trust me on this one.

Small craft advisory and shredded flyline notwithstanding, you should catch quite a few fish. If you’ve spent the last month and a half in Florida [insert excuse here -> after the coldest temps the state has seen in three decades] and only have a handful of sea trout to show for it, this will come as welcome relief. A bottom-of-the-ninth performance may not get you a Fly Rod & Reel cover story, but it will save you another trip to Publix’s fresh fish counter.

Assuming you get the cooler past the dockside pelican guards.

MG signing off (pending return to higher altitude)

Good friends, grass flats, and the wrong kind of heat

[singlepic id=341 w=160 h=120 float=left]When a old friend tells you the weather is steaming like a tropical jungle, you thank your lucky stars some cool mountain air is just a few hours drive. But when they describe their fly fishing spots using terms such as habanero and reactor core, you drop your socks and grab your…fly box.

I went home for the July 4th holiday. Saw some family and a whole bunch of friends. Placed multiple orders for popsicle stick/colored yarn art with my eight year old, Picasso-esque niece. Consumed too much booze, and way too much food. And I caught up with a old fishing buddy, who showed me his semi-secret haunts.

We spent two days on the water, cruising grass flats at varying tides, and missed a third outing by a hair and a storm. We had fast times and slow times, water times and snack times, but mostly beer times and fun times.

Tonight we eat ribs

[singlepic id=347 w=240 h=180 float=left]A knock-down drag out party forced us to pre-plan a late start, but there were no worries. Low tide was expected about the same time the sun hit its peak, bettered by Captain Holt’s watch always being set back two hour. And he was right ‘on schedule’.

[singlepic id=345 w=180 h=120 float=right]Cruising the grass flats and accompanying oyster beds is one of my greatest loves, and the day did not disappoint because there was already food in the fridge. We banged every nook and cranny along a several mile stretch, tossing crab and shrimp patterns along the drop-offs in front of beds and points. The fishing was by no means slow, but it did lack size. Crystal shrimp and spoons produced some strikes, but a little green/blue Idylwilde crab pattern I was testing for a friend turned out to be the hit of the afternoon. It’s called the Karnopp’s Something Suspicious, and even the smallest of fish went hog wild over it. I’ll further emphasize smallest because the biggest fish ‘taken’ was 17 inches, meaning we couldn’t take it (the tape is 18″ to 27″ in Florida). It wasn’t the fly’s fault – the bull reds just weren’t around.

That night we ate smoked baby-back spare ribs.

Dawn patrol

[singlepic id=343 w=240 h=180 float=right]If you’ve fished the incoming tide from dead low in the middle of the day and done well, the next course of action, if you’re a “variety is the spice life” sort of person, is to hit a falling tide from its peak, and at dawn. I’m a boring, one-dimensional, single-minded person, so change for change’s sake had nothing to do with it – we sought higher, cooler water during the wee morning hours because that’s when and where we now thought the big fish would be. We were right too, only now they were eating something different.

It took us a while to figure out what was going on. We started off throwing small spoons (and that bad ass crab), but forty-five minutes of hard work produced nary a strike. Meanwhile, every now and then we’d see a few stirs and some minnows haul butt into the grass. Here a splash, there a splash, and next thing you knew I was tying on a size 2 red and gold crease. After that, we found fish stacked up at the mouths of feeder creeks – they were rolling around, stirring up bait, and proceeded to do the same to the flies. At one point I had several fish in hot pursuit, swatting at the slim profile chugger from all angles. The bulls humped the fly, testing it. But they wouldn’t do the dirty deed (i.e. eat, you perverts).

The action soon slowed to a crawl, and we’d forgotten the cooler to boot. Now hungry and thirsty, we were running out of time. With the sun rising higher and the tide starting its rush back out, we resorted to [um…uh…hmm…err…eek…ugh] spinning rods and [um…uh…hmm…err…eek…ugh] aw hell, live bait. As we pulled the boat out of the water two hours later, the well was full of happy, healthy mud minnows and not much else. Deem it a day written off early if you must, but I call it nothing but a good old fashioned skunking.

Rinse, repeat replaced by spin cycle

NEXRADOur third scheduled outing was a bust, and that’s pretty bad considering the previous attempt. The plan for the day was to get out even later, fishing the outgoing tide down to its low point, and feel things out as it came back in. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating – there were severe storm warnings coming in, and a quick look at NEXRAD radar showed a swathe of low pressure bands moving directly our way.

There comes a point in your fishing life when you have to decide if it’s worth risking life and limb to execute new strategy, and if we hadn’t had leftovers in the fridge and a 60″ plasma in front of us we probably would have thrown caution to the wind. Comfort and laziness won out, and we made the wrong call to boot. About the time low tide was upon our grassy haven the skies had turned from downright ominous to a shade of guest room gray. Still, the two man crew had evening commitments, and the window of redemption had closed shut.

Things I’ll do differently next time (or, an actual, and hopefully helpful, fly fishing analysis)

Northeast Florida had seen a lot of heat the week prior to my arrival. Water temps in the flats were in the mid-80s, which likely kept the bigger fish down, and the trip was around full moon too. There’s not much you can do about the temps, but Solunar tables be damned – I never have much luck around full moon. I’ll avoid it like the plague.

strip miss-a-strike pickup

Fishing tactics should, however, change with the heat. I should have run longer leaders and weightier flies (bigger spoons, big-eyed minnows, heavily dressed clousers, etc.) and probably spent more time dredging the middle of the channels instead of bashing the banks and beds. Tossing a camo or clear intermediate line may help there too. With respect to the early morning topwater action, I won’t wait around to see if curious fish will finally eat (argh!!!) – instead I’ll toss trailing deceivers or other small sub-surface patterns behind those creases. I’ll carry more creases too – more sizes, more colors, and more varieties of tail dressing – along with digging through the bass box to see what big ugly might be re-purposed for such occasions.

Next time I’m out I’ll take the weather report with at least a half-grain of salt, and scrutinize the radar loop much more closely (within 30 minutes it was already showing dissipation, but we were too busy bullshitting to keep our eyes on the screen). I’ll also make sure Captain Holt doesn’t forget the cooler.

MG signing off (to plan the next trip)

Time, place and other vitals withheld to protect the guilty

redfishatdawnI feel pretty fortunate as this fishing season has cranked up. I’ve simply had a load of fun so far. But spring has not been without it’s minor disappointments. A fishing trip I eagerly anticipated was left high and dry due to an accomplice’s last minute scheduling conflicts, and a second slated to take its place fell victim to the same from a different partner-in-crime.

It’s always darkest before the dawn (side note: the fishing is often full tilt around the same time). And as it turns out, an old and dear friend rang today. One I’d lost touch with quite a while back, and one I’ve spent countless days on the water with. We’re talking old like BMX bicycle transport and dear like full heads of hair dear. And while we did some catching up (no pun intended…really), the conversation quickly turned to something like this…

Hey Grace, I read your blog. Good stuff…see you’re still fishing. Listen, I found this place where the redfish are thick as thieves. Never another boat in sight. I see you’re heavy on the trout…but you can still cast a nine, eh? I can get you inside fifty feet, on huge schools tailing without a care in the world. All day long I tell ya’. Last weekend we knocked off 18 in just a few hours. You interested?

This particular person is, without a doubt, one of the finest anglers I have ever known. We fished together in grade school. I quit the junior high soccer team because he told me the fishing was other-worldly, and I just had to be there. I had no regrets about that move – it was the spring to which all other springs have been compared since. Few have even come close.

The answer was obvious.

In the not too distant future I must disappear. Ticket in hand, to a point sworn secret. Chase a fish that fights like a carp (or visa versa, depending on your own perspective). One I know…tastes better blackened.

MG signing off (to stretch some saltwater tapers)

ESPN saves the fishing day

The International Game Fish Association

Even if you’re anti-TV

 Sandy Moret’s Florida Keys Outfitters and the IGFA Inshore World Championship giveth, and ESPN giveth some more (emphasis mine):

ESPN Outdoors announced Tuesday that the 2009 Florida Keys Outfitters IGFA Inshore World Championship will be broadcast as part of the second year of the ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series on ESPN2 and will be presented on other ESPN Outdoors multimedia platforms, including daily tournament coverage at www.ESPNOutdoors.com.

The goings are gettin’ in the middle of the week (July 7th to 9th), so nobody will have any excuse (i.e. gone fishing) for not checking in – no dummies those ESPN Outdoors folks. And I’m curious – do these tourney players roll with class tippets?