Thursday, June 28, 2012

Weekend Observations - Tropical Storm Debby

Speckled trout from the weekend
I spent a lot of time on the water this past weekend, and besides fishing, I got a chance to observe the effects of Tropical Storm Debby and do some exploring.  On Friday and Saturday I was annoyed by the fact that the predicted tides I count on were completely off.  It ruined my sight fishing for the second week in a row.  Last weekend I knowingly went out on a high tide just to see what would happen.  This weekend was supposed to be ideal.  Why was the tide so freaking high?  It was a forehead slapping moment.  I had completely forgotten that Debby was spinning out in the middle of the Gulf, producing a foot or two of storm surge for the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  The sea was calm and the sky was blue - a storm was the farthest thing from my mind.  Other parts of the Gulf Coast were probably experiencing large waves, but the barrier islands of Mississippi keep the surf from impacting the coast.

The abnormally high tide produced an interesting opportunity in the marsh.  The water had risen enough to flood wide expanses of grass.  There were no borders.  You could kayak anywhere!

With a little extra effort, the grass was open for paddling.
I felt like I was in South Carolina on a flood tide.  The only difference is there probably weren't any redfish - unless they plowed their way through the grass like me.

A newly accessible pond

You can just barely see my trail
Another interesting thing I observed is that there were several Magnificent Frigatebirds soaring high above the coast.  Frigatebirds are regulars out in the Sound and are seen every once in a while from the coast, but the last time I saw them in large numbers was in September during Tropical Storm Lee.  Apparently storms out in the Gulf drive them toward land, although they never seem to actually make it to land as evidenced in my poor photographs.

Its a frigatebird, I swear...

Here are some other poor bird photographs from the weekend.

Black Skimmer - one of my favorite local birds
There's a white ibis at the top of that dead tree.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Trade Off

My recent attempts at sight fishing for reds have been busts, but that has been more than compensated by some awesome fishing in the Mississippi Sound.  Last weekend I took two friends on what was planned as a sight fishing expedition, but after a couple fruitless hours we paddled to the Sound where my buddy promptly hooked up with a beast of a redfish during a feeding frenzy.  It was feasting on baitfish from below while a flock of birds was diving from above.  Rough day to be a baitfish.  This weekend it was my turn.  I paddled into the Sound, found some birds, and immediately hooked up with a nice speckled trout.

After another identical speck, I hooked up with something with a little more power it.  I knew pretty quickly it was a BIG red.

This guy gave me a real fight.  He took me literally 2 wraps from my backing on one of his many runs.  Having never had a fish take me to my backing, I was rooting for him to make it all the way, and he would have for sure if I wasn't in a kayak.  Since kayaks move with the fish, they actually help keep the fish closer to you.  The red moved near the shore, and I seized the opportunity to hop out my kayak, making it much easier to land the fish.  I was absolutely giddy as I slid him into the grass.

At 29 inches, he was by far my biggest red, eclipsing the 24 incher that became my personal best just a few weeks ago, but I was really hoping he was going to break the 30 inch mark, which is the upper slot limit for reds in Mississippi.  On the other hand, now I have something to shoot for.

Big head
Big tail
Beautiful coloring
The fisherman, his fish, and his boat
Ready to go?
See you later...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gear Review: Frogg Toggs Wading Boots

This past weekend I got to finally test out my relatively new wading boots for stream fishing.  They are Frogg Toggs' Anura Wading Shoe.  I had worn them in the surf before, but this was their first freshwater trip.  Overall the boots are good.  They are high quality, provide great ankle support, and best of all, cost a fraction of what nice Orvis or Simms boots cost.  They are a much higher quality and provide better ankle support than my low end felt bottomed Orvis boots (for close to the same price).  But there is one major problem.  Rubber soles.  I purposely bought rubber soled boots for two reasons.  One, I wanted them for surf fishing as felt isn't great for walking around the beach.  And two, I wanted to do my part to prevent spreading invasive organisms from stream to stream as felt bottomed boots are accused of doing.  I knew that rubber doesn't grip rocks as well as felt, but I never expected the difference to be so drastic.  I don't often fall while wading, but on Saturday, I fell twice, inviting some cool Toccoa River water down into my waders.  I was having an absolutely brutal time walking on the very rocky bottoms of the rivers we were fishing. In the evening I switched back to felt and had a much easier time.  I can hardly fault the boot - I wanted a rubber soled boot after all.  But I'm definitely wearing felt from now on at least for rivers with slippery rock bottoms.  The Frogg Toggs will still get plenty of use fishing in the surf here in Mississippi during the winter, and they will work fine for gravel and sand bottomed rivers.  But this is my warning to you: before you hop on the anti-felt bandwagon, know that felt is highly superior to rubber for sticking to rocks.  If invasive organisms are your concern, there's bound to be a better solution.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Southern Trout

This weekend I made the trip to northern Georgia and had the chance to chase trout for a day.  A friend and I have been preparing for this trip for a while.  Being new to fly fishing, he practiced casting on the lawn and on a local pond to get ready, and it paid off.

First trout - pretty happy
In the morning, we fished on the Toccoa river near McCaysville, GA for stocked rainbow trout.  The fish were holding seemingly everywhere in the river, and we were pleasantly surprised to find them taking flies off the surface.  We both caught several trout on Elk Hair Caddis flies.  None of them were huge, but they were big enough to make each fight enjoyable. 

A River Runs Through It
After lunch, we drove around the back roads trying to find a smaller stream with some wild trout.  Being from Michigan, stocker trout are somewhat of an anomaly to me, and I craved slightly less gullible trout with fully formed fins.  We eventually found a very scenic stream that looked like perfect trout habitat.

We didn't find any trout, but we found lots of wild fish.  In fact, we could barely keep them off the hook.  They hit dries and nymphs alike.  I did some research upon returning home and found that we were catching Warpaint Shiners.  They are actually very colorful and pretty fish.  Most were tiny like the one below, but one of them was pushing 7 inches, a real monster.

After taking a break to watch Germany vs. Portugal, I headed out solo for an evening session.  I briefly stopped at another small stream with warpaint shiners before heading to a new spot on the Toccoa.  I managed a couple more trout on a beadhead nymph before pulling out this surprise, a beautifully colored green sunfish.

It was a great weekend in Georgia, and I only wished for more time.  Its a long drive from Mississippi, especially for just a weekend trip.  Next time, I'll have to stay longer.