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As I pushed onward and upward, the obvious choice seemed to be to closely follow the creek as it wended down through a narrow slot that water had carved over the millennium.

Picking my way through even more deadfall, I finally gained my first glimpse of the lake. Victory!

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I eagerly began moving along the shoreline, looking for good places to scan the lake for trout activity. However, I was immediately confronted by a freshly vacated campsite. I checked the ash in the fire ring - still warm. Someone had just left the area, probably this morning. And there, sitting on top of the ashes at the edge of the ring, was a Jolly Rancher candy wrapper. I picked it up, feeling thoroughly annoyed.

Trying to keep my spirits up, I headed on around the lake, searching for my own spot to set up camp that would be far enough - 200 feet or more - from the water, as per the wilderness area guidelines. As I walked, I noticed first one additional campsite, then another, then another. They were in varying degrees of freshness. What was this, Yellowstone?!

I was practically stomping along by this point as I rounded the lake and came smack up against a large vertical thrust of rock. My fatigue was really starting to catch up with me, and I made the decision that I wasn't going to climb the scree up and over the prominence. It would've been too easy to take a misstep and get hurt.

I found a flat area at the base of the scree in a clump of pines that - no surprise, at this point - had another old camp site in evidence. I set up my Kelty Tempest 2, a great little tent, and prepared my air mattress and sleeping bag. I gotta tell you, reader, that at this point I was in a serious funk. Melancholy was the mood as I halfheartedly fly fished for a bit (no trout anywhere to be seen or felt), and snapped a picture of the beautiful sunset over the lake.

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Tomorrow I would climb the scree slope, top the promontory, and go to the head of the lake where the creek fed in. There had to be fish there. In the meantime, I was exhausted, in a bad mood, and ready to give up on my day. I clicked on my headlamp for a bit of journaling, plugged my phone into my external battery, and I slept.

 

 

1

The last afternoon of the Louisiana trip faded quickly into evening. We had been off the fish for an hour or so, searching new water and scouting different areas to add to Jeremy's bag of tricks. Rounding a shell point on an island thickly populated with white pelicans, we fired up the engine and started putting our way towards deeper water, and home.

We nosed into a broad channel created by two islands close together. Cruising forward, we noticed big pushes and wakes from fish reacting to the engine sound. Some of the fish looked huge.

Shutting down the engine, Jeremy hopped up on the poling platform and heaved us forward. I stood on the bow, battered but freshly sharpened fly in one hand, 7-weight in the other. The low angle of the sun coupled with the off-colored water meant that our chances of seeing anything were pretty low.

Suddenly, a fish spooked out beside the boat. The huge wake it made while stampeding down the waterway ahead of us literally made my chin drop. There it went, the fish I had dreamt of catching in Louisiana. She gon' now, boy.

It was all happening quickly now; more fish blew out beside the boat as I grew frustrated, trying to watch every bit of water all at once. A redfish rolled to the surface, giving me a glimpse of a big orange flank; obviously spooked, the red went right, then back left. I flopped a cast where I thought the fish might go, trying to intercept it. Somehow, she did just what I wanted, and as the red barreled past my hastily stripped fly, I saw a gill flare. Left hand goes back, rod hand lifts - fish on!

Running hard, the redfish unwound line from my reel at an impressive rate, not stopping 'til it was about 20 yards deep into backing. Fighting a dogged battle, the fish made several more short runs. I enjoyed the fight, but I really wanted to put my hands on this fish. This was the one.

At boatside, I lifted her head from the water and admired her huge maw before carefully lifting her into the boat for pictures and a measurement.

She taped at 43", not the biggest fish in the marsh but definitely on the upper end. A big thanks to Capt. Jeremy Chavez for his hard work and dedication. The following are all pictures taken by him of fish caught that day.

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Photo credit: Capt. Jeremy Chavez
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Photo credit: Capt. Jeremy Chavez
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Photo credit: Capt. Jeremy Chavez

 

Sightcast in less than 2' of water.
Sightcast in less than 2' of water. Photo credit: Capt. Jeremy Chavez

 

And drumroll (drum! ha) - here she is.

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Photo credit: Capt. Jeremy Chavez

 

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Photo credit: Capt. Jeremy Chavez

 

A trip I will never forget. I've been looking forward to the next time since I left. Fair warning - that place will spoil you.

After a morning full of 'baby' redfish, some of which taped over 30", Jeremy was ready to find some big ones. I was ready to see these giants for myself, and do battle.

Pushing off down the shoreline, we moved quickly to cover water as the sun climbed higher and allowed us better visibility. We came across a slight dropoff, and boom. There they were. Fish appeared in ones and twos, at 60 feet, at 10 feet, and everywhere in between. Some fish were obviously big - some were obviously bigger than even the massive bulls I had seen caught from the jetty. It was crazy. Never in my life had I seen anything like it.

This guy was practically on top of us when I spotted him and dropped a fly in his face. Fish on!
This guy was practically on top of us when I dropped a fly in his face. Fish on! Photo credit: Capt. Jeremy Chavez

The calm conditions of the previous night had allowed sediment to settle out of the water, leaving it much more clean that the day before. We still weren't able to spot fish that were hugging the bottom, but more often than not they would move off slowly enough for me to get a shot. A lot of the time, even after they spooked, they ate.

I'd say he liked it. I quickly de-hooked this fish and watched him swim away strongly.
I'd say he liked it. I quickly de-hooked this fish and watched him swim away strongly. Photo Credit: Austin Orr

 

Color didn't seem to matter much to these fish, so of course that led to a game of 'let's see what they won't eat.' Not much, it turned out. I landed fish up to 39". Most of the fish came on a 7wt. It was pure fun.

 

A marsh pumpkin swims away to fight another day.
A marsh pumpkin swims away to fight another day. Photo Credit: Capt. Jeremy Chavez

 

Prowling about the edges of the drop were groups of big uglies - massive black drum that stampeded when we floated over them. I quickly learned to keep a weather eye on these herds, because oftentimes there was a big redfish trailing along with them. Trying to work a fly in around the black drum in such a way that the redfish ate it first became an issue several times.

 

Dangit. Not what I wanted.
Dangit. Not what I wanted.

 

Despite my best efforts to make them spit the fly before they hooked themselves, I still hauled a few to the boat.

 

That's when you know you're spoiled.

The next morning we were out the door fairly early, granola bars washed down with water and gatorade. There was no need to be out before the sun had risen high enough to warm the water and provide light for spotting cruising marsh pumpkins.

Layered against the windchill, we headed back to the general spot that we had left the previous evening. We figured it might be holding fish waiting for the sun.

After the cold of the boatride it was great to stand on the bow again, soaking up some sun and enjoying the excellent visibility. The area that we had fished the evening before was barren of fish except for one lone straggler that we blew out. Rounding a point, we headed up a shallow shoreline after crossing a deeper gut. Jeremy heard the characteristic sound of redfish crashing bait and poled us down the shoreline towards the commotion. We didn't get far before we started running into fish.

 

Doubled up.
Doubled up.

 

First there was one, then there were five, then too many to count. ...continue reading "Louisiana – Land of Giants; The first morning."

It started with a phone call, or maybe it was a facebook message... or possibly an end-of-the-jetty bs session. I don't remember; it doesn't matter.

What mattered was that I rolled into Houston on that cool December night to meet up with Capt. Jeremy Chavez (Casting Tales Guide Service) and catch a ride on the Midnight Marsh Train headed to Louisiana. Rods loaded up, materials stashed, boat hooked up and off we went into the night.

Sunrise saw us well into Louisiana, stopping to pick up licensure. Regular ol' saltwater license for me and a bonafide Louisiana guide license for Capt. Chavez.

Paperwork concluded, we headed for the water. I was practically hanging my head out the window like an eager bird dog, tongue lolling.

I watched as cities faded to towns, and towns faded to hamlets and fishing villages with tired houses and small, locally owned grocers.  The restaurants, like the houses, were small and weathered. I expected to find myself in the middle of all the cajun food I could eat; I'd find out later how mistaken I was.

Finally arriving at the water-side in the afternoon, we messed around with trying to arrange a place to stay. Due to the offseason doldrums, that was easier said than done. Eventually, we gave up and launched the boat; we had wasted enough fishing time.

Headed out of the marina on Capt. Jeremy's Hell's Bay skiff, I relaxed in the passenger seat and tried to take it all in. ...continue reading "Louisiana – Land of Giants"

1

Flyfishermen are an introspective bunch, tending to philosophize a little more than our other fishing brethren. We like to catch big fish and high five about it, but we also like to talk about WHY we fish. I figure that is mostly because it's something we ask ourselves often as we are picking another tangle out, or standing waist deep in frigid and/or shark infested water.

That being said, there are also physical and mental attributes that make a fly fisherman respected among his peers. A few days ago I read a post on Chi Wulff where a list of "reasonable fly fisher skills" for his area was laid out. I thought it was well done and it got me to thinking about what would pass for a good list in my area. Saltwater fly fishers have to deal with a different set of obstacles than coldwater fisherman, arguably separate but equal.

At any rate, I started thinking about what made a respectable salty fly guy/gal, and started asking a few of my more crusty friends for some input. Some were more tongue-in-cheek than others. This is a shortened list of what we came up with

  • Tell by looking out at the roadside palm trees in the glow of the streetlight roughly how fast the wind is blowing.
  • Be able to tell the difference between the wake pushed by a mullet and that of a redfish or black drum.
  • Know that terns always lie, but gulls can lead you to treasure.
  • Be able to filter the sounds of jumping mullet from the sounds of bait being crashed.
  • Fully load the vehicle and have kayak strapped on top, in the dark, in ten minutes.
  • Spot a tailing redfish from over two hundred yards on a good day, from over 50 on a bad one.
  • Knows where the most sheltered spots are to get away from the wind, but generally only fishes those on days over 20kts.
  • Must be able to two-handed strip at warp speed to trigger mackerel and other pelagic species.
  • Must be as comfortable laying in a back cast as a forward cast on target.
  • Be able to maintain relative composure as a fish bigger than your duck dog approaches your fly.
  • Not locking up when a red/bone/permit/tarpon suddenly appears less than 30' from the boat.
  • Effectively pole a boat with and into the wind all day, positioning the caster for best shot on fish.
  • Know how to interpret tide chart and mentally calculate the difference in water movement for local area you plan to fish.
  • Navigate labyrinth marsh and marl while neither running aground or putting others in danger.
  • Be able to wade with ninja-like stealth while avoiding the mine field of oyster shell and stingrays.
  • Turn over a fly at 60' into a 20kt wind.
  •  Cannot drive by hobby stores without wondering if they might have gotten any new foam or tinsel in...
  • Willing to endure withering wind and endless staring at empty water to hook the silver king from the granite of the jetty.

After a delicious evening meal constructed around the fresh trout caught earlier in the day, we relaxed with a couple fingers of slow-burning scotch. Full bellies and the warmth of the living room dimmed our desire for heading back out in the evening chill, but tales of massive eruptions under mouse flies had us strapping into waders once again.

Quietly easing down to the beaver dam where I had gotten a bump the day before, Brian and I spread out and started casting.  I was chunking the same black streamer that had worked for me the evening before, while Brian was determined to experience a mousing strike. The water was cloudy, so I doubted that he would be successful, but I could definitely appreciate the goal.

The night was dead calm, and the coyotes sang from a nearby ridge as the Milky Way sprawled across the bejeweled velvet of the night sky. Long minutes of nothing ensued. The quiet shushing sounds of casting mingled with the rustling of small rodents going about their night-business. Casting at the far bank was a tricky endeavor; a wall of willow limbs waited for a fly cast just too far. Casting down the grassy near bank was much easier. I heard the plop of Brian's mouse fly down the bank a ways to my right as he too fished the grassy shore. Suddenly, a surface commotion, followed quickly by the terse call - "Fish!" I hurriedly reeled in and moved down the bank to his position to see if I could assist.

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A couple pictures later, the fish was once again a top predator lurking in the inky blackness. High fives all around - time to hit the sack and see what the morrow would bring.

 

 

After a night of waking up every couple hours to check the clock - "Is it time to fish yet?!...No... Now?!... No..." - I finally woke up the last time to the giddy sight of a thin line of light on the eastern horizon. Time to fish! I hopped out of bed, crawled from my den of fly fishing tackle, and headed for my waders.

 

The air was still as I stepped out into the coolness of the morning. Walking to my fly rod ...continue reading "Rainbrowns, Day 2"

I have a confession to make:

I don't fish for freshwater trout very much.

I flyfish in areas that earn me googley-eyed looks and somewhat bewildered queries, often along the lines of "I didn't think you could fly fish in saltwater/on the jetty/in the surf/offshore?"

On the jetty, I often get asked "Ever catch anything on that out here?", with a nod towards my fly rod; so often, in fact, that I have started using it as an inside joke greeting with my fellow jetty flyfishers.

I mean, heck, this blog's name illustrates my point - this isn't Fresh396, or Coldwater396...

Anyway, I digress. My point is that I was given the chance to join a good buddy of mine in his native state of Colorado, fishing for freshwater trout with little rods and wimpy leaders. I expected it to be a blast. ...continue reading "Rainbrowns, Day 1"

Spring is green water, and the first week of sunny days without a cold front to bust the pattern. Spring is out once again on the warm granite of the jetty, remembering the times before, anticipating the times ahead. Spring is a lightning slash through schools of tiny baitfish; a flicker of black forked tail re-entering the water in the afternoon sun, as terns dip and wheel, crying the raucous song of their people. Spring, for me, really truly starts when the Spanish mackerel arrive at the jetty.

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Breakfast is served... on the rocks.

They're not the biggest, or the fastest, but they're big enough and fast enough to make your reel sing, your heart rate elevate. They've got a face full of razors and they mean business; they'll slice you good if you're careless while de-hooking. Follow the birds and you'll often find the Spanish, ripping up the surface as they slap-chop baitfish. In the picture above, they had corralled schools of bait against the rocks of the jetty and were systematically shredding them. They can often be found right off the rocks; for this reason, they're a great introduction fish for jetty fly neophytes. In my next post, I'll talk more about that.

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My buddy Zach with his first saltwater fish on fly, a hard-pulling Spanish Mackerel.

Size 2 clousers in your favorite color combo, heavy on the flash, retrieved as fast as you possibly can. No wire needed, just 50lb bite tippet if you start getting bitten off. Simple, and at times very fast-paced. Spring has smacked, and soon... very soon... the summer will kick off for real. I can't wait.

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