Friday, August 29, 2014

Refuge on the fly - keeping it interesting.

Well I wasn't planning on fishing today.  I have a busy weekend of fishing planned for Labor Day so I didn't want to push my luck with my family.  BUT, as it turns out the weather is not looking good for the weekend so I decided not chance it and go when I could...TODAY!  Having had some luck at Felsenthal this week I knew the fish were there.  However, I wanted a change...3 days in the same area, same temperatures, same presentations.  I decided I needed to mix it up, since this trip was on the fly, might as well bring my 5wt.  Plus I need all the practice I can get with the fly rod.

Long story short:  I started with a frugal frog popper, tied on to 5ft of 8lb fluorocarbon leader.  Made a couple presentations and caught a few blue gills.  Casting a fly from a kayak in 90F is too much work for blue gills.  I decided to tie on a streamer.  First cast, caught a lily pad.  Next cast a tree.  Next cast my fly line got tangled in my rudder.  Just about done with the fly for today when I saw a fishylookn spot and made a "ok" presentation.  The streamer landed with a thunder and my fly line looked like six "S"s stacked on top of each other.  I got a take but no fish...too much slack in my line.  I guess I needed to get warmed up b/c after a few more fails I started getting the hang of it.  My presentations were close enough...about 1-2 feet from the cypress trees.  And then it happened, hard take and nice fight.

At that moment I figured out that the fly better be in the 1-2 foot range of the trees, other wise the bass weren't interested.  No chasing today...better be close.  My thoughts...well this is gonna be fun.  Spent the rest of the day trying to get close, but mostly ended up in the tree or the vegetation surrounding the tree.  It was great practice and I was certainly doing something different...chasing down my fly from the many tree branches overhanging my targets, GREAT FUN!  But the hard work was rewarded a couple more times.

The good news was I didn't lose any fly's despite my best efforts to place them high in the trees.  I spent the better part of the day making technical presentations from a moving kayak.  And I brought a few bass to the net.  Getting out of your comfort zone takes more effort but I feel like a better angler b/c of it.

Now I need to get this blog published before my wife gets home from work and thinks I spent the entire day goofing is hard work I tell you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A plan comes together.

Last Friday I hit Felsenthal NWR for a few hours.  It was tough fishing but as the afternoon came to an end, I felt I had learned a few things.  Not wanting to waste the knowledge I worked hard for I made a plan to get back out there ASAP and test my plan out.  The time had come and today was the day.  Arrived at the same location in the refuge at 8am.  Unloaded and paddled south this time. Headed to an area I redneck GPS'd (RGPS - is that a beaver hut...yup...better remember where that is) last trip.
Beaver hut = place to fish.  

At 9am I was at the spot.  Located a fishylookn spot and pitched in.  Nothing on the 1st attempt.  Moved a little further out into some trees in deeper water and found a spot that looked promising.  Made a cast AND hit my target...last trip I was off target by a foot almost every cast.  This is going pretty good!!  Then I saw the line moving away from the cypress tree.  Reeled down and on.  This is going pretty great!!!

Fishing was photography skills need work. 1st fish at 9:05

Not a huge fish but it was a keeper and I had been fishing 5 minutes so I'm excited.  Plan seems to be working.  After I released this guy I didn't move far, found some shade and a group of trees.  Made another presentation...and on.

Not going to bore anyone with all the details.  But the rest of the afternoon went as planned.  I had an idea where the fish were setting up and I executed well enough to catch some fish.

My favorite catch...those marking's are cool.

I think I had 13 bites and I caught 10...not a bad average.  But I'm still haunted by the one's I missed.  I lost 1 really small guy when I jerked him out of the water and over my head.  I had to duck to avoid getting bass slapped.  The other 2, I just blew the hook-set.

The bite was very soft last Friday and I didn't pick up on it until late in the afternoon.  Today, was the same but I was expecting it.  I watched for line movement rather then feeling a tug or thump.

Last fish of the afternoon, caught around 1pm.  Like Friday, it was the biggest and I never felt a thing.  Just saw my line swimming away.

Nothing beats time on the water when it comes to catching more fish.  Out of everything I learned Friday, the knowledge I value most is knowing that the more time I get out...the better my success will be.  I'm ok with putting in the time!!!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Felsenthal NWR - Friday is for FISHING

My favorite day of the week is Friday, not b/c it's the end of the week (hardly if your a parent) but b/c Friday starts with the letter "F" and so does "F"ishing...any reason is good with me (no matter how lame)!!!  Didn't have an idea of where to go or do any pre-planning...just woke up itching for some catching.  After my morning routine was done, I decided to head to the refuge.  I don't expect much from the refuge, it's a nice place to paddle, especially if you like natural beauty...the place is full of water fowl, wild game, many interesting types of plant life.  But my experience is there is SO much water and covering it is the key to catching bass...bream on the other hand are readily available.  That often means paddling many miles (8-12) casting at every cypress tree in sight.  But the fish are there, and it's nearly in my back yard so the work had to be done on this trip.

It was a late start at 9am and getting hot quickly.  No real breeze that I noticed.  I was starting to wonder why I didn't just wait until Saturday morning and get out early.  The past few trips I have thrown a frog but knew that wasn't going to work.  Actually, tackle choices were simple, it was 85F and under blue skies.  Gonna be flipping shaded side of cypress all day.

It didn't start out great.  First few hits I completely goofed on.  I felt the strike but hesitated...feeling again to be sure it wasn't a cypress knee.  Sure enough I got the "give me that back" tug and then blew the hook set.  It was about 2 hours later and half a pound lighter (dehydration) when I finally got to unhook a fish....RELIEF!! Not much to look at but it's success!!
It's small but it's a catch
I started getting a few more thumps but could never get the hook inserted properly.  It was like they were too lazy to fully commit to eating.  I guess the 101F temp day was slowing them down too.  So I got to my mid way point a cool 4 miles away from where I started and was wishing for a thunderstorm or maybe a hail storm.  Nothing dangerous just golf ball size hail to lay on in my kayak.  
The half way point
  On the return, I did much of the same, cursed the sun, sweat, and fished shade.  I managed to catch a few more but nothing spectacular.  I thought it was ironic that I would SIT in the sun and fish in the shade...being careful to not GET in the to not spook the fish...sound crazy??
I think the fish were sweating.
I kept struggling but like I mentioned in my last post you gotta keep believing.  On back-to-back casts I hooked 2 nice fish that didn't want to have their pictures taken.  Frustrated and melting, I was ready to throw in the towel.  So I started paddling back.  About 10 minutes into my paddle of shame, I had a change of heart...I wasn't done.  I had an hour before I had to be home.  I looked at the water clarity and noticed it was very murky...maybe 1-2ft visibility.  I decided to change to a black/blue craw.  However, it didn't really change my fishing fortune.  Lot's of casting, few missed fish, and more sweating.  At 2:15 I decided I was really done...but the "1 more cast rule" had to be applied.  So I found that last fishylookn spot and pitched the craw in...ready for battle I waited.  Then I saw the line tick, reeled down and set on.  It dives down and then comes straight up...I saw a flash and knew it was the best fish of the day.  I swung it beside the cuda and reached down and grabbed my prize.  It was over so quickly the bass wasn't done fighting so he started tail smacking me in my kayak.  Even drew a little blood from the bass rash he gave me on my thumb.  Worth it all!!

Pulled it out last minute=win!
The last fish on the last cast of the day wasn't the biggest ever but it reminds me to keep giving it your all.  Stay positive and positive things will happen.  Keep at it until you get your prize.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chasing the greenies

Last week my brother received a brand new Ascend kayak from his wife celebrating their wedding anniversary (awesome gift for those that need ideas).  On our last canoe trip, Ozark float post below, I let him know that I'd sink that canoe before I did a 12 mile float again in a he'd better get a kayak soon.  So when he called with excitement in his voice I knew what we had to do....I'll bring my kayak up Saturday and help him break it.  In good fashion he backed Thursday but once I'm that close to a trip, it's game on regardless.

Sticking to the plan I was up at 2am...I can never rest when I have bass brain.  Worse part of bass brain is the forgetfulness, lunch a few times, tackle, garage door a month ago...this trip I couldn't remember if I had locked the front door.  I was an hour into my drive so it didn't matter really but it started to bug me and then I couldn't remember closing the door...eventually it passed as I turned into the park and saw the lot empty.  The lake was empty and I was happy!!  I unloaded and paddled North.  I started with a ribbit frog.  10 minutes in and I heard that sound all frog throwers love to hear...deep hollow toilet flushing sound.  Eventually a 4lb bass was in hand.

Sorry about the poor quality, it was dark and I was fishing.

Very next cast and the same result, only it was 3lbs.  I was really thinking this was going to be a good day.  Few minutes later, fish on and then OFF.  Paddle to the next point and put the frog in a fishylookn spot...move it...swoosh!!!  On and off again!!!!  Now the sun is up and the frog bite went away.  Good thing b/c slinging a frog is hard on the emotions.

In 30 minutes I went from an incredible high to questioning why I ever go bass fishing.  The day wasn't all bad and it picked up slightly as some clouds developed.  I had to remind myself it was August and fishing is generally slow.

I pitched the edges of pads the rest of the afternoon.  Kept thinking that next thump could be a monster, you have to make yourself believe it or you'll miss the opportunity when it arrives.  Same advice for life in general.  But it never materialized on this day.  Oh well, I'll be ready next time!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Family vacation and a little fishing - Grand Isle, LA

It's been a crazy busy summer, filled with camps, birthdays, and various other events.  Planning a vacation has been very difficult to say the least.  But in the middle of July my wife and I decided that we wanted to combine a few of our annual trips in to one big trip.  So we hatched a plan to hit Grand Isle, LA...our base camp for 7 days.  This would allow us to get some much needed beach time in with the kids, make a trip to New Orleans and get a little fishing in for me....these are the 3 trips we regularly take each summer.

Super moon

I rented a nice beach house just big enough for us.  The short walk to the beach was much appreciated as I acted the part of a pack mule for the better part of 5 days...carrying the shade canopy, coolers, floaties, chairs, drinks, snacks, and many needed toys.  The beach was just our speed.  Seems we timed it just right b/c school started the Monday after we arrived and the beach was only busy 1 day the entire week.  We had it to ourselves nearly all week...perfect.  The only visitors we had were the constant parade of dolphins, crabs, gulls, and shrimp boats.  We enjoyed beautiful sunsets, rainbow's and a super moon.  We'll be back again for sure...can't recommend GI enough.  It was fantastic.

Dolphins playing

Empty beach just right for us!
I fished from the beach everyday but mostly caught dink specks.  We set a crab trap just for fun b/c our neighbors had boiled about 4 dozen crabs and shared them with us.  So all the crabs I caught were released after a little time in front of the family.

Caught about a dozen in a few hours.  Just for fun all went back into the surf.
These on the other hand were delicious.  Donated from a neighbor....they also donated their traps, boogie boards, net b/c they flew in from KS and couldn't take them back.  Cool with me.

On Friday and Saturday some friends drove down from Dallas with their kayaks.  Friday we got out about 6am.  The tide was rising and I could hear the reds in the grass.  At about 8:45, the weather changed for the worse.  I could see rain to the north of us.  I checked my phone and saw nothing close.  Then I looked behind me and what is best explained as a wall of water was headed straight for us.  So with a few minutes head start I made it back to my car soaked and had the pleasure of watching my buddies get punished by the blinding rain..those ascends REALLY are slow.  Having caught a few fish we waited it out.  After a 1.5 hour rain delay we were back out in the marsh chasing reds.  I caught 2 right away then the bite went dead until about 1pm.  I saw plenty but they were spooked easily.

Friday morning around 7am.  Clear skies. Water high in the grass.

Sight fished this guy before the storms.  ~30" red

Clock shows 9:29 and pouring outside.  Looked like this for over an hour.
Caught this one when the tide started to fall...afternoon delight.

The tide started falling pretty quickly and that's when the best bite happened.  As the reds were forced to flee the grass they were easy to spot cruising the shallows just along the grass line.  I sight fished and caught around 3 limits that day.  Most were caught on spoons, a few on a fluke.  I tried top water but it drew zero interest.  The water was stained and and the wind was light...ok conditions to sight fish.  We decided to pack it in at 5.  It was a full day of fishing with 3 limits of lower slot reds on ice.  I released several in the upper slot and 2 that were over 30"s.  A good day in my book.
Cooler full of reds = good day

So on Saturday the buddies wanted to rest and head out after lunch and meet the falling tide.  I met them in the same location and upon arriving I noticed something very peculiar.  It looked like they were making outriggers out of their kayaks.  I looked closer and sure enough, they had linked their 2 kayaks together.

Engineering masterpiece, but will it fish?

Very stable - yes.  Marsh machine - no

 I asked about it and they said they wanted them to be sight fishing machines...and they were the most stable things I have ever seen...many jumps and a few "toes on the nose" were witnessed.  Unfortunately for them Saturday was much different...muddy water and windy.  I managed to catch 13 reds and spooked about 25, I would spot one, lay the paddle down, and proceed to drift at mock 2 directly over the red.  At this point the red would go crazy and headbutt my cuda.  Catching 13 in 5 hours isn't bad, and I'm not complaining b/c the guys in the marsh machine caught 2, I guess they were wind catching machines.  But watching so many reds practice their hurricane evacuation plan was frustrating.

5 in the slot, most released yak side.

Wish I had gotten more time to fish but that's the compromise I made to vacation in GI and not Gulf Shores.  Sunday was more beach time.  On Monday we made our way to NOLA.  Hit the aquarium as the doors were opening at 10am.  It's a little jewel that we have taken our kids to the last 3 years.  Being a stay at home dad my wife makes a point to stop by the sea horse exhibit (google it and you'll understand)...I believe it's her favorite part of the aquarium.  After a few hours we made our way into the quarter for lunch, followed by a few beers, and then beignets at Cafe-Du-Monde.  At this point everyone was exhausted but we had one last stop.  We always take time to walk the grounds at Tulane (wife is an alumni).  We like to see the changes on campus from 1 year to the next.  Several years ago we noticed that our first apartment on 6440 So. Claiborne wasn't where we left it.  Upon further inspection we noticed that a new baseball field had replaced that old family housing building. A surprise for sure.

The last day was more beach time and surf fishing.  But nothing real interesting to report about the fishing...more dink specks.  This year I missed the RTB tournament by 1 year I'm planning on moving this trip back 1 week.  Excited!!!!


We couldn't have asked for a better place to spend our family vacation.  It ended way too soon.

This was one of those vacations that DIDN'T end with, "I'm sure glad to be home."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Life in the way

I realized Saturday afternoon that it had been a few weeks since I had a fish in my hand.  Life has been keeping me busy, job stuff (not mine), family birthdays, a funeral, 14 yr anniversary to mention a few.  So a last minute trip was planned.  Nothing special I took my 5wt and 8wt, a few poppers and a clouser and stayed local.  I was thinking maybe I'd find a carp or 2, if I was lucky maybe a bass .  Not expecting much since it's August and the temps, although they have been mild, were still in the 90's.

On the drive I noticed it was clouding up...I was excited thinking that my best chance for a top water bite would be with some clouds or even a shower.  But as luck would have it upon arriving at my spot it was blue bird skies.  I even had to apply sun screen, go figure.

Hit the water and threw a clouser at all the fishylookn spots, timber, pads, deep structure without any interest.  Found bait balls all over the water.  I mean big giant shad...maybe 4-6 inches long.  Expected to see bass chasing the schools I camped on them, but that never happened...probably spent too much time waiting.  At about 6 the sun was setting low and shade was on the far bank so I tied on the popper and paddled over.  The wind picked up and was pushing me pretty good.  The rudder made it possible to make 1 good cast to a spot but I could only work the popper a few feet before it was well behind me.  Frustrating me in every way. Finally I turned into the wind and started my way back dropping my dumbbell anchor at every downed tree.  I did start catching fish but not what I was after.  The sunfish were very aggressive they'd attack the size 2 popper hard but couldn't get the hook...well 1 did.  So I audibled and went to a size 6 on the 5wt and caught sunfish...lots of sunfish...and it was LOTS of fun.  Wish I had a 3 wt but I don't...maybe in the future.

Very colorful and fun to catch.  Made note to pick up a 3wt for my future pursuits.
In many ways the fishing was uneventful but to me it was VERY rewarding and just what I needed.  Now that July has run it's course I'm eager for August and the ROAD TRIP that will have me chasing tail in SELA.