Monday, March 26, 2012

Any Redfish is a Good Redfish

A friend and I managed to spend a good amount of time on the water this weekend and were rewarded with a few redfish.  My buddy also managed to land his first redfish on the fly.  Friday evening involved stalking redfish in a marsh near my house from the kayaks. It was tough fishing, with spooky fish and absolute swarms of mosquitoes, but I managed one decent red on my go-to fly, a chartreuse Clouser minnow.

Blue Tail
On Saturday, we took the ferry to Ship Island where we sightfished some rat reds from the beach and got sunburned.  The fish were super aggressive and it was a blast to watch them chase and eat the fly.

First redfish on the fly
We were more or less satisfied until we saw two guys walking down the beach dragging huge stringers of redfish.  Each stringer had three reds that were probably just below the upper slot limit - way bigger than the reds we had caught.  They kindly told us where they had been fishing so we quickly hiked over there and fished for about a half hour before literally running back to catch the ferry.  We didn't hook up with anything, but I watched a big bull red swim about 10 feet from me before spooking.  It left us with an overwhelming feeling of 'what if'.  In the end, I had to remind myself, any redfish is a good redfish.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lessons in Naval Architecture

Let me start off by admitting that I am a naval architect by trade.  I of all people should know the relationship between center of gravity and the stability of watercraft...

At 22" wide and 15' 2" long, my Prijon Catalina sea kayak is built more for speed than for stability.  While sitting in the cockpit, if I simply bring my knees up toward my chest, the craft immediately becomes tender due to the slight vertical shift of the center of gravity.  I recently bought a bag that attaches to the top deck of my sea kayak forward of the cockpit.  Despite this relatively high location, I've never had a problem simply keeping some snacks, some tippet, and some flies in the bag with all other supplies going in the hatches.  More and more, however, I've been tempted to place other things in the deck bag out of convenience, and on Sunday I loaded it down with everything I could possibly need while on the water.  After a couple hours of paddling I leaned back and pulled my knees up out of restlessness, and, with little to no warning, over I went.

I was up to my knees in mud and up to my chest in water.  The kayak was swamped and was more stable upside down than right side up.  The best part?  The hand bilge pump I just purchased was back at my house - after all, I was just going kayaking in the bayou.  Simply brilliant.  With one hand holding the kayak upright, I spent the next 20 minutes bailing the cockpit with a sponge.  Fortunately, things would get better from there.  My fly rod luckily survived the incident no worse for the wear, and all of the electronics (phone, camera, flashlight) in my deck bag were spared due to my diligent practice of putting such equipment in plastic bags when I'm out on the water.  Furthermore, I've actually been dying to practice flipping over and getting back in with assistance from my paddle float.  I eagerly set it up and proceeded to get back into the kayak with no troubles, just like I'd learned from (I seriously love that site).

The experience could have been much worse.  I was prepared for the incident as a whole but will probably never leave my bilge pump at home again.  I got to test out some of my emergency gear in a non-threatening environment, and it passed with flying colors.  Most of all, this naval architect now knows the relationship between center of gravity and kayak stability.

Hope you enjoyed this and learned something from my experience.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Speckled Trout on Glass!

Cabelas CGR. Okuma SVL. Speckled Trout
I finally got the chance to put a fish on my Cabelas GCR (Custom Glass Rod), and it was fantastic!

With the recent warm weather, I'd been thinking about finding some bluegills to test out the new fiberglass rod.  There's a trail near my house that parallels the very upper reaches of a bayou, and I decided to check it out, expecting the water to be mostly fresh that far up the bayou.  In fact when I first got the hit and realized it was pulling a bit too much to be a bluegill, I thought it must be a bass!  Boy was I surprised when I pulled a speck into the shallows.  He eagerly devoured an unweighted, black woolly bugger, and put quite the bend in the 6'6" 4wt.  I've been telling people he fought harder than the black drum I caught this weekend!

To be honest, the rod has taken some getting used to.   Much of my fishing these days involves casting as far as humanly possible with my relatively stiff 8 wt while double hauling and shooting large amounts of line.  Picking up the tiny 4 wt is a very odd feeling, and getting any sort of distance out of the rod is difficult.  I'd also never cast a rod this short before, so that took some adjusting as well.  But as soon as I backed off on power and lengthened my stroke slightly, I found that the rod handles short casts beautifully, which, of course, is what its meant for, and the line lands with hardly a ripple on the surface.  It will be a great small stream rod, and I am looking forward to trying it out on some real trout this summer.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fly Fishing Horn Island

This weekend I had the opportunity to tangle with a black drum on a fly rod.  You may remember my previous black drum encounter.  This one would end differently...

A friend was kind enough to take me and several others out on her boat for a weekend camping trip to Horn Island, a barrier island off the coast of Mississippi.  The wind was howling and the sea was rough as we made the 12 mile trip from Ocean Springs harbor out to the island.  After setting up camp I put together my fly rod and hit the beach.  The conditions were not ideal.  The wind was killer, severely limiting my casting in distance and direction.  The water as was as murky as I have ever seen it at the barrier islands, and the sun was hiding, making sight fishing nearly impossible.  Finally, fishing the gulf side of the island was completely out of the question with large waves crashing in, and even the sound side was a little rough.  I decided to walk the sound side of the island, casting periodically, but mostly searching for a sheltered stretch with calm water and maybe a little clarity. 

I walked for about a mile or so.  And then I saw a huge fish only 20 ft from shore.  I immediately knew it was a black drum.  It was cruising along with its face in the sand and its tail waving just under the surface of the water.  I hurriedly cast several times at the beast, but it ignored my offering and slowly moved away from shore until it was out of sight.  Foiled again...

I started casting at every dark spot after that.  Some of them were rocks, a lot of them were big rays, and a few of them were actually black drum.  I would get one or two hopeful casts before losing sight of the fish or determining that the dark spot wasn't a fish.  I tried wading, but the change of angle killed what little visibility I had.  At one point while I was wading, a drum swam about 5 ft from my boots before turning on a dime and spooking when I moved my rod.  It was very difficult and frustrating fishing.

Eventually, I gave up for the moment and headed back to camp to see what the others were up to.  They had gone out on the boat and drifted a deep spot with no luck.  After a brief hiatus, we headed out as a group, armed with a collection of surf rods, spinning rods, and fly rods.

We lingered on the lee side of a point, where the water was actually fairly calm.  The wind had died down significantly as well.  Despite the improvement in conditions, I was pretty much checked out, watching my friends mess with hermit crabs and giving casting lessons.  My roommate, however, is never one to give up, and he was fishing with a Gulp shrimp under a popping cork.  I heard him yell from down the beach and immediately knew it was a big one.

Black drum!
He muscled the big drum in fairly quickly, and we snapped some pictures and celebrated getting the skunk off our backs.  We were hoping to catch fish for dinner, but apparently black drum of that size are not good to eat, so it was released.

This all got me thinking.  My overall experience of the day was telling me that there were black drum everywhere.  And if my roommate could catch one on a plastic shrimp imitation, why not a fly?

Armed with a new confidence, and with a light wind at my back, I started just airing out casts.  Then I would strip in the line very slowly, allowing my Clouser minnow to hop along the bottom where there was bound to be a black drum nosing around.  Only 15 minutes later it was my turn to yell.  Fish on!

Just a little bit excited...
I knew I wasn't in the clear yet, but I'd learned a thing or two from my last battle.  This time, I was using 20 lb tippet, and I didn't mess around, maxing out the drag on my Redington Rise reel from the get-go.  It paid off and I pulled the monster on to the beach in just a few minutes.

Revenge is so sweet...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hiking the Black Creek Trail

This past weekend, my fiancĂ©e and I had the chance to go hiking on the Black Creek Trail in southern Mississippi.  I had read that this was the best hiking trail in Mississippi, so I was excited to check it out.  It was a very pleasant hike, with the temperature in the upper 60s and plenty of sunshine.  The terrain varied from the pine savanna common to southern Mississippi to cypress swamps and of course to the Black Creek.

Black Creek is the only designated Wild and Scenic River in Mississippi and is named for its tannic acid colored water which is referred to as "blackwater" down here.  The creek itself was muddied up from recent rains, but the small feeder creeks featured the tea colored water which reminded me of rivers such as the Fox River in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

We enjoyed the wildlife, plants, and flowers along the way, and I snapped a few pictures.  The bigleaf magnolia leaves were particularly interesting to me.  I'd love to see what the trees look like later in the year. 

It was a very nice day.  We accessed the trail at Janice Landing north of Wiggins, MS and headed west.  If I do it again I'll try a new section of the trail.  We had to hike several miles before we found the river, and the trail was much nicer after that.  When the river is lower, there are numerous sandbars that provide convenient campsites.  The trail is 41 miles total and would make a very nice backpacking trip which I would like to do someday.

Me and my hiking buddy

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Fly Fishing Movie

I just became aware that there is a movie coming out in a few days that is fly fishing related:  Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.  It has Ewan McGregor using a spey rod, so its gotta be good - I'm sure he's a natural after all of that light saber training.  It is only opening in select theaters so I probably won't be able to see it any time soon, but hopefully some other bloggers will see it and report back.

This is the second semi-mainstream fly fishing movie to come out in the past couple years.  The River Why, which is based off of one of my favorite books, came out a couple years ago but to my knowledge never made it in theaters.  Now it's available on dvd and blu-ray from the website for around $20 or from Amazon for $12.  I haven't bought it yet because I'm a cheapskate, but I'd like to watch it at some point.

I just thought other fly fishermen might want to be aware of these movies.  So much of fly fishing culture these days is focused on videos, but these feature films have been generally ignored.  Who knows, maybe one of these will rival A River Runs Through It.