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...


  1. Now that's a sweet fish!! If they fight anything like the freshwater drum we have around here it had to be a hell of a battle.
    Good Stuff.....

    1. Thanks! To be honest they are pretty slow fighters, but they have a lot of power. This one only took a few minutes to bring in, but the last one I hooked fought for over an hour!

  2. Woo hoo! Nice catch man! I'd love to get to sight fish to black drum again. Congrats!