Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Secret Spot

Almost two years ago, I paddled into a tough-to-access local bayou and caught my first sight-fished marsh redfish in what became the original "secret spot". Due to its difficult entrance and the success I've been having in other locations, I hadn't paid a visit to the secret spot this year since early spring. I was even beginning to wonder if the "secret spot" was really that special or if I'd just been oblivious to the quality of redfishing all along the coast.

This weekend I finally made my way back. The "secret spot" did not disappoint. From the hours of 7 am to 11 am, I was absolutely surrounded by redfish. I cannot believe how many shots I had. There was a period of about an hour where I poled up a narrow branch of the bayou and spotted redfish literally every 15 yards. Some were cruising down with the tide, periodically crashing bait at the edge of the grass. Others were laid up on the edge of the channel, heads pointed into the current. It was nonstop action.

I had 6 eats and landed 4 on the day. Given how many fish I saw, I could have done a lot better. My conversion rate was abysmal. The great thing about having like 500 chances at fish in one day is that you learn a ton. It was like a whole season of fishing packed into one day. 

Why so crabby?
My main excuse is that I was fishing solo from the skiff today. I fish for reds three different ways: kayak, two people in the boat, or alone in the boat. Having owned the skiff since March, I've learned that at my current skill level, it is easier to catch redfish from the kayak than from the boat. The biggest reason is that they simply spook much faster when you're in a boat. That's assuming there is a person poling and a person fishing in the boat. When its only you, it gets even harder. This was actually the first time I've managed to land a red in the boat by myself.

Poling from the bow is the best option when going solo
One of my big lessons from the day is about fishing in current. As I described earlier, I found a lot of redfish while poling up a narrow branch. The branch had a very defined channel (~3 - 4 ft deep) and shallow edges, with most of the redfish being spotted in the shallows right next to the drop off. The current was ripping through the channel, and I was usually trying to cast my crab fly from one side to the other. Many times, I cast the crab fly within a foot or two of the fish. As the fish turned to make a move on the fly, the fly would get pulled into the current. Instead of chasing it down, the fish would nonchalantly disappear into the depths as if they were able to sense something was amiss. I'm not sure what the takeaway is here. I didn't really solve the problem - I actually caught most of my fish in areas where the narrow branch opened up into a wide marsh pond. My ideas are casting further into the shallows, using a heavier fly, or using a minnow imitation which might look more natural swimming in the current. 

Overall, it was still a wildly successful day in my opinion. The best development is that most of the fish I spotted were not breaching the surface in any way, which I depend on when kayak fishing. Instead, I was able to take advantage of the height of the boat and spot fish in the relatively clear water that can generally be found in the Mississippi marsh for the next few months. Its going to be a good winter.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fishing Guide

Things haven't exactly been busy over here at Michissippi Fly, but I've been fairly busy in the real world. I got to play fishing guide last weekend to three good friends who visited with fishing on their minds. My goal was to get everyone to successfully sightfish a red. I was optimistic as Aaron has been killing it lately (and making some pretty sweet videos), and I had caught a few the previous weekend. But if I learned one thing, it's that being a fishing guide is tough. We didn't strike out, but our fish per hour rate was pretty poor. Instead of boring you with a detailed report, I'll just throw some pictures at you.

Check out the spots on this guy

Best fish of the weekend

Solo scouting trip

What a fatty

To be caught again...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

If You Find Yourself...

If you find yourself on a Gulf Coast beach not catching the fish you were hoping to catch, try your hand at some "redneck bonefishing." Head to a shallow flat with little to no wave action and start scanning the water. With some luck, you should start seeing dark shapes milling around in about 6 inches of water: the elusive hardhead cat - er, I mean bonefish. Wade out a bit and start targeting fish. Don't be fooled, these fish aren't stupid. It takes some patience to get one to eat - your fly must be stripped just right to lure them into a strike. They also put up a fair fight. The great thing about redneck bonefishing is that if you miss that single at your 2 o'clock, there's bound to be a trio heading your way at your 9 o'clock. None of that "I stared at the water all day and saw two fish" crap.

The elusive "redneck bonefish"
If you're good, you'll catch several of these fine, native specimens. If you're lucky you'll pick up some other species in the process. Needlefish, croaker, and ladyfish are all possibilities for the glamor fish specialist. You can catch flounder too, I mean, if you're into that.

Perfect camouflage

Just watch out for the venomous, barbed spines on the dorsal and pectoral fins of those bonefish. Didn't know bonefish had spines? Well now, I don't know what to tell you...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Michigan Memories

I just got back from a week's vacation in Michigan, and I managed to do pretty much everything that I wanted to do. My time was consumed with visiting both sets of families, camping, going to weddings, and, yes, a decent amount of fishing. It was a vacation to create memories and bring old ones to mind. Since this is a fishing blog, I will focus on the fishing memories I managed to create.

I hopped off the plane in Detroit at around 12:30 am. 8 hours later I was fishing the Huron River near Ann Arbor with a good friend of mine. We definitely didn't kill it, but we managed a few small ones. Surprisingly, the woolly bugger I started with produced less than the Chernobyl Ant I eventually tied on. I was happy to land a few fish on the Chernobyl Ant as I had tied it specifically in preparation for fishing in Michigan (adding one more pattern to my slowly increasing repertoire). The Huron River is known for its healthy insect populations, and the bass were actually rising fairly regularly. I believe they were going after damselflies, as there were abundant damselflies just above the surface, and the bass were sometimes flying completely out of the water. Next year I will be armed with this.

I certainly criss-crossed the state on this vacation, and on the way from Muskegon to Harrisville my wife graciously allowed me to stop briefly at the White River near Hesperia, MI. One hour of fishing brought me my first couple trout of the year, two small brown trout taken on a Parachute Adams fly.

This was just a primer for the real trout fishing I managed to do the next two days while camping in the northeastern part of the mitten. I sampled a couple truly fantastic small trout streams and was greatly rewarded. The first day I fished a picture perfect brook trout stream. The trout were easy to find - they literally inhabited every single spot you might think would hold a trout. I was using a black, rubber-legged fly in the general shape of a Stimulator, and they hit it on any drift that didn't drag. I had plenty of action and brought several brook trout to hand. After a year without trout fishing, I was in heaven.

The second day was even more spectacular. Amidst some national forest land with no human actvity in sight, I found a beautiful trout stream awaiting. This 15 ft wide stream contained rainbows (plus one lonely brook trout) that struck my flies with reckless abandon. I quickly lost count of how many I brought to hand. The stream was my ideal image of a Michigan trout stream. Small, clear, surrounded by cedar trees, and full of trout. After catching several on my preferred black Stimulator, the stream opened up into a beautiful meadow, and I switched to a grasshopper fly. This was my favorite part of the stream, not to mention the most productive. My favorite memory from the day came upon reaching the head of the meadow. I had decided that this was the last spot I would fish before heading back to camp. My first cast brought a small rainbow shooting out of the water, and the resulting fight brought the "big one" out of hiding, chasing the small one around in the confusion. After releasing the small one and giving the spot a brief rest, I made a few more casts. A cast to the far seam brought the "big one" to the surface and I landed a handsome 9 incher.

After roughly a 2 year absence from fishing in Michigan, I made a serious comeback. There is something about trout fishing - especially in small streams - that really gets me. Landing even a small trout can rival the excitement of landing a good sized redfish. But I suppose it is the diversity that really does it for me. If I fished in Michigan all year, a redfish would really be something. Regardless, it was a great trip, and I am already dreaming about future trips to trout country.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Nationwide Rivers

I don't usually do posts like this, but this is quite remarkable, and I haven't seen it through any fishing media yet. As a person who loves rivers, I could explore this website for hours. It should also be a useful tool for the exploratory stream fisherman - I often find Google maps to be too cluttered and have difficulty finding stream names.

Check it out -

Try out the upstream and downstream tracing tools, and notice that the whole map is separated into drainages. It also tells you where stream gauges are located.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

An Evening Out

Its the wonderful time of year when as long as the tide isn't too high, you can successfully sightfish for reds pretty much every morning and evening if you look in the right places. I haven't been taking advantage of that as much as I'd like for one reason or another, but I did manage to take my friend Jason out on the boat recently after work. We headed into the Pascagoula River Marsh around 4:30 pm and immediately found redfish making wakes.

Why are you taking a picture of such a small fish?

Jason used a spinning rod, and it allowed me to really see the pros and cons of redfishing with a spinning rod vs a fly rod. There are a few obvious advantages to the spin fisher, particularly ease of fishing deep, and ease of casting. One fairly obvious fly rodding advantage is the fact that flies land more gently on the water, preventing fish from spooking. But the main fly rodding advantage that I finally realized on this trip is that a fly fisher can pick up a cast and immediately make another when necessary, but a spin fisher has to reel all the way in first. This was a big one on the day because Jason did a fair amount of blind casting (which was somewhat successful), and I kept calling out fish locations, expecting an immediate response from him, but forgetting that he had to reel in first. In sightfishing, it is sometimes crucially important to get a cast out quickly, particularly if the fish is close to the boat or moving toward the boat with pace.

Plans almost derailed by this thunderstorm
It was a different day than what I was used to, but still successful. We pulled a few fish out of the channels and a few off of mud flats that we knew held a fish or two but couldn't pin point their exact location. We found several crawlers, and Jason had 2 nice fish follow his jig up to the boat, but we couldn't seal the deal. I was disappointed about that, but overall I was glad we caught fish and glad we got to see some redfish doing their thing.

Another conclusion I drew from this trip is that sightfishing weeds out the little ones. Most of the fish I usually catch are in the low 20's (inches), but these were much smaller. I guess it makes sense that the big ones make the most commotion and therefore are easier to sightfish.

On a side note, Aaron was fishing out of his kayak in the same area, and it was fun to have all of us in the marsh at the same time. He one-upped Jason and me and found the biggest redfish of the evening.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Flea Market Finds

A few weeks ago I took Mrs. Michissippi to the flea market in Mobile, Alabama to look for a birthday present for her. She'd been wanting to go the flea market for months, and I'd been avoiding it like the plague. We didn't find a birthday present, but we did find something else. Funny how things work out...

Two new (to me) rods and a reel. One of the rods is fiberglass and the other is graphite. I believe that both are 8 weights. Time to land a red on glass! I'm not really into vintage fly fishing gear (at least I wasn't until this), but the reel in particular has a very classic look. It has two drag settings: on or off.

Add some backing and some old 8 wt Rio line I had lying around, and voila, a whole new rig!

Moral of the story is, if you're looking for some low cost classic fishing gear, take your wife to the local flea market.