Monday, March 19, 2018

Marsh Fishing 2018

March 4-10, 2018

Tough start to this one with DF going down or up 104 F fever and chills, ultimately abed for prolonged period.  JM (Carp on the Fly) boarding and unboarding a plane hearing about weight calculations and ultimately going back home, unable to fly south on schedule.  Only TT (FlyCarpin) there to meet in Louisiana; statehood 1812.  JM had the rental car; we needed to get out of metro area asap (no restos, no tourist facets) and we elected to use Uber; took some collective work to get up to date on that program but ultimately a car was summoned.  After 35-40 minutes the driver said I've lived here my entire life and I have no idea where in the hell we are right now.  We had indeed made many turns and our destination was not of interest for probably 98-99% of the people who live in that urban center. 

Before we even rigged a rod then, we were treated to a very memorable bit in exiting a car in darkness after trackless turns, taking in a moored houseboat, illuminated by jar lights.  Yesterday I told some of this fishing chapter to a top man at a geological survey - a fisherman in his own right - and his first reaction was that fishing is cool but I would love to just live on a houseboat for a week in the middle of nowhere.  While one could not actually do that without fishing, he is at least right in that the accommodations and setting in this case were not to be taken as just utilitarian and/or amenity. Rather they were part of the experience.  Seventy year old boat.  Heavy metal doors on each cabin; round porthole/windows; standing on the deck up top looking at stars over the marsh; listening to fish surface just over the rail on all sides; surfacing at night so the sound is only indicator.  All activity in the immediate area having to do with boats, fishing or marina general.  The ship's captain had gumbo waiting for us.  Salty, dirty, legitimate gumbo.  Poured over rice.  Afterward retiring to the top deck we were directed to a simple enclosed room with windows on three sides; sufficient bar and stock that was to be ours to manage for the duration.  Doors never locked; we had the run of it.
Home for a week.

Along the road to the houseboat.  Evening ditch fishing didn't happen this go-around, the gar just weren't there.  Unsure why; presumably water temps and/or other seasonal factors.  

JM did arrive evening after first day of fishing; in time for crawfish boil.  
We learned to twist tail, remove from main carapace, eat tail meat.  I think we consumed maybe 30-45 each.

Day one fishing was tough; fish had been beat on by tournaments, light was bad, and in general fish were not reacting well to flies.  TT got a couple redfish to hand; I hooked one and lost it.  Only saving grace for me was that I landed a pretty big gar; maybe biggest I've caught.  No photo though because boat conduct code suggested better to release giant mean thrashing MFers without inviting into vessel.  Day two we were weathered out.  So we three went into "town" and fished canals and caught around twenty carp.  This was one of the bigger specimens, estimated at around 10 lbs but it doesn't matter as they were all pretty small; 5-10 lbers.  Still pretty fun though, fishing amidst traffic in a major metro area.  This being the only call or need that would bring us into New Orleans.  Number of people asked us what the H we were catching.  I watched TT fish to a couple nice gar; one really big one; both ate, neither hooked well enough to stay.  Overall we did what we could do with the day as presented. 

Days three through five were all solid and offered some notables.  In summary we all three (DF ended up not making it and we missed him) caught our share of great redfish.  We marveled at the marsh - its vastness, its winding bayous and crazy small water, ranging out to the expanse adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico.  Highly interesting place.  Really tight in there in some places; we didn't know where we were at any given moment (although we could rest easy because at one level we knew precisely where we were); navigation is a challenge to be met by the guides. 

Boating or walking better here?  We often had more marsh grass than open water in our 100 yard radius.

Oyster bed and crab.  Drum tail on big oyster beds; imagine try to set a fly on that substrate and move it slowly without snagging up.

Up on the platform hunting.

Hooking big fish in tight quarters.

Fished with three different guys; great dudes.  Enjoyed talking with them and watching them work.  The multi-tasking elite.  I like to see how guys operate on their home ground/water; hear them talk about the place. 

Stripping basket is nice.  I like it because being on that platform spotting fish takes great focus and I think it's good to eliminate variables whenever possible.  Worrying about your line catching on shit is a concern that can be eliminated with a $15 collapsible leaf bucket bungee corded to the pipeworkings.

TT caught the only sheephead of the trip; pretty big one.  Here he is fighting a redfish; I don't have the sheepie pic.

Angler and guide both use platforms.
Number of good gear notes from these guys.  This is a $4 item that I noted worked really well as a hook out because the spring loading closes the sheath on the hook, thereby grasping it.

LSU fly.  Used this one on the last day; it caught a lot of redfish.

Redfish Gallery

Suppose if you count all four days this trip, and maybe 1-2 days from last August (we fished three but targeted drum water mostly) that'd be 5-6 days of hunting redfish for me.  Not many so I have no official or particularly qualified comments on the fish or fishery.  What I have observed and learned is that (when the act like they "should" per the guide notes) they are aggressive, fast, mean eating machines.  They close with remarkable speed.  I can't think of a freshwater equivalent: a target that you can sight fish, that eats so well, and that by all accounts is strong and relatively long-running.

Think it was this fish that was spotted while we were motoring along (traveling, not fishing); yelled to stop the boat; put one cast beyond at an angle; stripped past face and fish just murdered it.  Shallow water; ridiculous visual.
JM started off day four with first cast of the morning landing a great fish.  It was holding in a notched pocket; big head just flared up on the fly.  Mean bastards.

This fish hung around the boat and was not aggressive at all.  Guide applied some outstanding poling and pivoting to keep us in good position; I kept putting the fly on the fish and it wouldn't move to it.  So I closed the distance; got out the teaspoon.  Basically fed it to the fish and when it got that close it indeed ate.  21 lbs scaled.  Biggest for me at that time.

So much mass in the fish head.  I kept thinking of and using the word mean while we were out there.  Mean in the sense of intense, non-discriminatory hammer-droppers.  There was actually a shade of comedy in there for me - watching these giant fish so predictably (again, when they were on; I did get stoned like a MF one day) perceive and charge flies.

Never thought I would want a boga.  I think they would rip and damage carp lips/mouth.  But after seeing it applied to these fish, I left thinking it could work well for pike.  It would allow one to control the pike while leaving most of the fish in the water which would mean less stress.  Might try it.

Some more doubles on this trip.  We have a pretty good log of them.  This day got pretty silly; think we boated 19 redfish.  At lunch time I was 7/7 on targets (although one cut me off on the power pole).  Did not get #8 to eat, and #9 is pictured below; last fish of the day. 

We were spotting a lot of the fish ourselves and in general the guides did not tell us "how to fish."  There were a couple cases of micro-advise and observation though, and this fish was one of them.  JM spotted it first, tailing.  As we approached it, my view from the platform put the fish in a glare patch and while I could see it generally I couldn't discern head vs tail (it had stopped tailing and we were coming up on him quickly).  I lost the fish in the glare then completely; guide told me angle and distance to cast; then gave me prompts to strip, rest, strip.  So in this way the fly got where it needed to be; I did see the giant head move to eat and I gave it a strip set.  The redfish left the scene so quickly he put a knot in the fly line while ripping it out of the basket.  Nine weight rod had big guides and fortunately the knot made it through.  We maneuvered in the boat and the guide actually undid the knot while I fought the fish.  Pretty remarkable and I appreciate it.  27 lbs scaled.

I wasn't there to see this go down but it was the big fish of the trip at 28 lbs for TT FlyCarpin.  

I think TT is right in noting that his fish was fatter; this fish here longer and skinnier.  Had it been filled out like his, who knows how big.

Black Drum

JM came to hunt one specie and he caught the only black drum of the trip.  This fish too was tailing and we thought it was a redfish.  I watched over his shoulder as JM presented the fly.  Cool setting - out in the big water off a point; this was the only fish present.  He got the fly where it needed to be and in a rush of discernment understood (when the fish didn't attack the fly) that this wasn't a redfish.  He kept his cool and eased the fly through the fish's cone.  The line came tight and it was all good from there.

The guides tell stories and claim that some people won't even cast to them.  They come to fish reds and have no interest in black drum: fish that tail, grow to ridiculous size and take relative skill to approach and capture.  Kind of floors me.  In no world could I imagine seeing a giant gray tail flopping back and forth in three feet of water and deciding that the target is not worthy; carry on; take me to the fish that's 25% of the size and will eat 4x as readily.

He got the fish he was looking for but they get a lot bigger and for that reason (and maybe some others) my suspicion is he may be back.  I value the time spent with these good dudes; thanks again for having me.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Presidents' Day Weekend Captions

Kid II at 3,947 days

Kid I at 4,898 days, very near his 5K milestone.

Many many photos at this vantage point over the years.

Tricky descent due to ice conditions.

We recalled having tea in that cave at the base of the chimney; some years ago.

Ski on Sunday morning, back into the WMA with some local friends who are also top guides for this landscape.

1.  He needs to cut toe nails.

2. Pretty good job not noticing or saying anything during the ski about his beat up feet.  He skis well; he's fast.

Standard lunch.  No cooking and few dishes.

Climbed one of the "other" bluffs, I think unnamed. 

Tea at the top.