Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Into the Backing

This has been a good year for my reels. I've spent more time listening to my drag than all of my fishing years combined. A big black drum, a few larger than average redfish, and one large Yellowstone Cutthroat all had me wondering at one point if they would make it to my backing. It never quite happened; they made it within a few wraps, but I always managed to start winning the tug-o-war at that point. This weekend I finally reached that milestone.

This weekend, two friends and I made the journey to the original 'secret spot' for a little bit of redfishing. The tides were super low due to a strong north wind and were supposed to be on the rise throughout the afternoon.

When we arrived, the mud flats I usually fish were bare, but the channels were full of redfish. Most were laid up, holding a position in the current, which was surprisingly still headed out. For the first part of the morning, I had good luck spotting fish, and I quickly hooked up with a good sized fish.  The fish pulled me toward the flat and beached me, then he took off down the channel swimming with the current. The line just started peeling off.  Every time I thought I had stopped his run, it started up again. I glanced down to see how much line I had left and watched as fly line turned into backing. I realized I was not slowing him down and decided I needed to make a move. Holding the rod high with one arm, I stabbed my paddle into the mud and heaved myself forward. As soon as I was free, I started gaining ground rapidly.  A few more minutes and I was holding this beauty in my hands.

Not one of my largest redfish, but certainly a memorable one. Funny that the first fish to reach my backing was of average size. After releasing this guy, I had trouble finding more fish. I don't think it helped that we had three kayaks paddling around in a small, shallow bayou.  So I paddled back to the main branch and started my way up a different bayou.  I don't know what made the difference, maybe the direction from which I was coming or the angle of the sun, but I no longer could spot fish. There were still a lot of fish present - I spooked several at very close range, one of which bumped into my kayak while attempting to escape. I eventually beached myself and just watched for any sign of movement. After a few minutes I noticed a disturbance at the edge of my casting range. I made a cast and retrieved my fly which had collected some debris. After pulling the debris off my fly I looked up to see the back of a redfish 10 feet in front of me. Thinking quickly, I literally tossed my fly with my left hand, and it landed within a foot of his mouth. He immediately ate, and I awkwardly attempted to set the hook amidst the chaos. It didn't feel like a solid hookset, but there was nothing to do as he made a screaming run away from me. This one felt like the most powerful fish I hooked up with on the day. Unfortunately he managed to shake free.

Returning to the main branch, I found my friend Jason pulling in redfish after redfish out of the deep hole at the mouth of several bayous. He landed 18 on the day! It seems that on the low tide, all the redfish that usually inhabit the mudflats were forced out. Tempted by these adverse tactics, I began blind casting and ended up picking up three redfish, including one nice one.

My friend Aaron also had a good day, landing several good fish - all of them by sight fishing. He didn't need to resort to adverse tactics! It was another great day on the bayou. The water never rose high enough to cover the flats like I had expected, but we found fish anyway. I learn something new every time I go. We stayed at the mouth until it started getting dark and headed back to the launch amidst a beautiful sunset.