Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One Year

Hard to believe, but I have now been blogging for over a year.  At almost 50 posts, I've made it farther and posted more often than I ever imagined.  It has been fun, and I really like having a record of my fishing expeditions from the year.  But I think what I've enjoyed most of all is being exposed to the many other fishing blogs that are out there.  I love reading about other people's fishing adventures and seeing just how many different fishing experiences are out there, waiting for me to give them a try.  If you're a fellow blogger, I hope you've enjoyed reading my posts for the past year - I've enjoyed reading yours!

In case you've just started following recently, here's a few of my favorite posts from my first year of blogging.

Trade Off

Tearin' It Up

Fly Fishing Horn Island

January Kayak Fishing

Drum Beat

Fly Fishing Pensacola - Day 2

Fly Fishing in Mississippi: Two Weekends on the Barrier Islands

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Epic Sightfishing - Sunday

Saturday night found my buddy and me anxiously preparing flies for a highly anticipated trip to the "new spot" the next morning.  My buddy tied up some shrimp and crab patterns.  I attempted to recreate the gurglers I had seen in topwater redfish videos.  To that end, I went to Walmart and found some sheets of craft foam that looked like just the ticket.  The lady at the checkout asked what I was doing with the foam, and I replied, "making fishing lures."  She laughed and said, "Get down with your bad self." 

We got down with our bad selfs bright and early Sunday morning.  We booked it from the launch as the place is a multi-mile paddle.  I couldn't wait to show off the new spot and see if the magic would repeat itself.  Long story short, it did.

Within minutes of arriving, I saw several tailing redfish.  I got the attention of one of them and was rewarded with a huge explosion.  I proceeded to break off on the hookset.  ASlkdfjiwoefj!  Not only was I angry about losing the fish, but also about already losing one of the gurglers I had tied the night before.  Crazily, a few minutes later I spotted something small and red floating on the surface of the water.  It looked like a piece of foam.  It looked like a gurgler.  It was my gurgler!  

Meanwhile, my buddy spotted a fish with its back out of the water.  HIs new shrimp pattern was just the ticket.  Redfish on!

The redfish in this bayou are extremely dark compared to all other redfish I've seen.  I absolutely love how their appearance varies based on habitat.  The redfish I've caught out at the barrier islands and near the coast tend to be more pale and silvery in color.  Fish caught in other sections of the marsh tend to have a beautiful gold color.  These ones are more of a dark bronze.  It must have something to do with the clear water and dark, weedy bottom, but I can't say for sure.

The day continued with lots of action.  We saw tails, backs, and wakes galore.  I must have had 5 hits and no hook ups.  Setting the hook while popper or gurgler fishing can be tough.  With a Clouser, I often just strip once to twitch the fly and then watch the fish to suck it down before strip setting.  However, with a popper, the fish will often hit and miss and you have to keep the fly in the strike zone as well as keep stripping to continue the action.  This can make timing the strip set very awkward.  With the first fish of the day, I felt the take on one strip and tried to set it with another one.  This was too late as he was already bolting with fly in his mouth - an easy way to snap your tippet.  Another time I got too excited and lifted the rod like I was trout fishing.  This pulled the fly out of the strike zone and didn't give the fish a second chance.  Even when I didn't screw up, the fish still missed.  But I knew it was only a matter of time.  

Unfortunately, time was against me.  I had arranged to watch the Wimbledon final with a friend in the afternoon.  With less than 30 minutes before I had to start paddling back, I spotted a wake.  It was headed diagonally toward me.  My cast wasn't perfect - it landed several feet in front of him - but I knew right away he was on to it.  Strip, strip, strip, strip, WHAM!  Fish on!

It was another big one.  He took me on a journey, weaving in and out of patches of grass.  Several times he propelled my kayak into the grass at the edge of the marsh.  But eventually, I brought him in.  Sweet victory. 

This one was 27" - my 3rd largest of the year.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Epic Sightfishing - Saturday

I tied on the popper and started paddling around looking for tails.  I spotted one and approached.  The popper landed directly in front of it - no change in behavior.  The redfish slowly meandered across my field of vision.  I put the popper in front of him again.  Nothing.  The tail changed in direction and I could tell that it was now headed away from me.  Against my better judgment, I cast the popper all the way over the fish and popped it right back over his head.  This time I watched as the fish rose up to the surface, slowly turned around, and started following the fly.  In slow motion, his giant head bulged the surface of the water like a submarine, and in one mighty explosion, he attacked the fly.  He missed, but in a matter of seconds, my fishing life was changed forever.  Never have I experienced such a rush.

Saturday morning produced several moments like this.  In the end, I only managed to hook one fish.  But it was a big one.  I remember saying in a previous post that a 24" redfish is probably the biggest you'll find in the marsh this time of year.  Haha what a joke.  This guy was 29".

Let me just take a moment to complain about the size of fish I've been catching recently.  Its become increasingly difficult to take quality pictures of these fish.  Simply holding the camera in front of my face like normal doesn't allow me to fit the whole fish in the picture.

I have to either hold the camera over my head...

or off to the side of my head.

I know, life is rough...

I literally stopped fishing at this point and just soaked up the moment.  The fish were still there, but I didn't care.  I got out some water and snacks, and it wasn't till a tail popped up 10 ft to my left that I couldn't resist and scrambled to get my rod out again.  That one got away, and I paddled back to the launch after the activity cooled off.

The cause of this epic topwater sightfishing is that I finally made the decision to give the "secret spot" a rest and try another place that I'd been scoping out via google earth.  It turns out this new spot is even better.  I hadn't seen a tailing fish since last November, but this weekend I saw many, many tailing redfish.  I guess there is just something about this spot that encourages it.  The new spot is unlike anywhere I've paddled on the coast.   Deep, deep, into the marsh, the water is clear, and the bottom is covered in weeds.  All of the marshy places I've fished before in Mississippi have had fairly mirky water with bare mud bottoms.  The weeds are what prompted a switch from my trusty old Clouser minnow to a small popper - the only thing high enough to not get tangled.

I've watched videos of redfish taking topwater flies (like this one from R.A. Beattie) but up to this point I'd never experienced it myself.  I even recall a local fly fisherman telling me that redfish don't feed on the top as their mouths are designed to feed on the bottom.  Now that I've experienced it myself, I can truly say that fishing for redfish on the surface is the most exciting fishing I've ever done.  It might not be the most effective method - they seem to miss a lot - but I'll gladly trade a few redfish brought to hand for the adrenaline rush of a big red chasing a topwater fly.

I could go on and on about this spot, but I'm going to save that for another post.  After all, I went there on Sunday too!