My previous couple trips having been to the Grand Isle area to learn a bit about wade fishing for trout, this week I was focused on getting some good sight fishing time in, and luckily the weather cooperated for both the fishing and some decent photos. After getting up before 3am for the last couple of trips, I was pretty happy to sleep in a bit. If I do most of my preparation the night before, I can get loaded up, drive down and launch in just over an hour, which is fantastic. Both trips were successful, but required a fair amount of paddling and work to find the fish.
Tuesday, 5-31, I launched at about 10am for a solo trip. The weather was pretty ideal for sight casting, with a good amount of sun and low wind. I got a hell of a wake-up in the canal that leads into the marsh, as one of the resident alligators surfaced right beside my kayak, and banged right into the side of it. It was pretty cool to see it underwater, but it scared the bejeesus out of me! There were big schools of baitfish in the canal, but the water was a bit off from its usual clarity. As I paddled through the flats of the area I was fishing, I realized right away that the summer pattern was coming in quickly - the water level was much lower, and the vegetation is coming in fast and thick. I checked a few spots, and saw a handful of fish, but wasn't able to get any casts in for quite a while. Eventually, I found some good clear water and some better numbers of fish. I finally lined up a good shot, cast at a redfish, ran the lure right in front of him, got ready to set the hook, and watched him swim directly in the opposite direction. Hmmm. Ok, perhaps that fish was just not in the mood. Second fish, same result. I switched from an inline spinner to a gold spoon, thinking I might be able to sink the lure down lower, where they were in the water column, and thinking that they might be keying in more on crabs then minnows. Same result. They just didn't want anything to do with the spoon either. I sat down, drank some water (not drinking water while sight fishing is one of my great personal sins) , and gave the situation some thought. Seeing as how the fish were spooking off the lure, I decided that I needed to eliminate any flash, and went with a dark colored TTF XL MIno, rigged on a weightless, weedless hook. While I still had some rejections, I was finally able to land one fish, then another fish that was tailing. One issue with that particular lure, is that it does not sink when rigged that way, and I eventually switched over to a weighed weedless hook. As usual with sight-casting, I got a lot of visual feedback from the fish on the presentation - they seemed to want it to either be swimming steadily, or barely moving right in front of their nose. They weren't really attacking the lure, just sucking it up casually. At one point I came up on one that was facing away from me, just sitting in the middle of the water column. I put the lure out in front of him and carefully brought it back towards him, and basically dropped it. He didn't move his body at all, just sucked the lure in. I had quite a few other fish slowly follow the lure, checking it out, before deciding against it at the last minute. One even swam right up to it and sort of rested it's face against the lure but didn't bite. I have a feeling this is one trip that would have hugely benefited from either Gulp or a scent gel. All in all, by about 3pm, I had landed 3 redfish, probably getting 10-15 rejections for those 3 fish. In the area I fish, there are some wide open bays that are slightly deeper and typically have clear water and grass in them, though not on the surface. They can be tricky to sight fish in because of the grass, but I decided to have a look, since I could drift easily in the light wind. At this juncture, I had a glow/chartreuse TTF XL Mino on a weighted weedless hook. The wind had picked up just a touch, and it was getting a little hard to see in the water, but I saw a redfish pass under me. Then another. Then one after another, a pod of fish passed all around me, but they were headed in one direction, and I was drifting the other. I knew it was fruitless to pursue them immediately, because they had slightly spooked when I passed over, but I thought they would stay in the general vicinity, so I started blind casting as I drifted, thinking there might be a few more stragglers. Bam, fish 1, redfish. Bam, fish 2, wait, trout? Okay. Bam, fish 3, nice 15" bass (I love you St. Bernard). By the time I landed the bass, I was drifting out of the clean water, so I doubled back around, paddling in a loop so I didn't go right back over the pod of redfish. From that point on, I caught 7 reds in a row, just casting the lure out and retrieving it steadily with the rod tip up so that it rode fairly high in the water column. It was a blast, and these fish, unlike the others I had encountered during the day, were actively feeding, crashing on the minnow as it came through the grass. A couple of times, I got a great view of them coming out of nowhere to smash the lure as it got closer to the kayak. Eventually that bite petered out, and I called it a day. It was nice to get a rush of action like that, after tough fishing in the initial part of the day. I'd love to know why some of the fish were so skittish and picky, while the others were ganged up in a pod and feeding. The heavier action did come close to lining up with the minor solunar period of the day, something to keep in mind.
Thursday 5-2, I was joined by Josh Reppel, getting an even later start to the day. He had fished the same spot the day before, with great success. The sun was out again, but the wind had picked up a good amount, and would continue to build throughout the day. We planned to work further into the area than we usually did, to check out the water and terrain. The fish seemed to be a lot less skittish than the my previous trip, but it was much harder to see them due to the wind whipping up the water. I spent a good amount of time paddling though new areas, enjoying looking at how much life you can see in that aquarium-clear water in the grass beds. Once again, there was areas of clean water, and also some areas of very turbid water, the reason for which I'm not entirely sure. This time I was able to catch some fish on the inline spinner, although I also used a weedless soft plastic. The first fish I caught was around 30", and managed to run through enough grass to add a ton of weight to the line. The action was sporadic throughout the afternoon, but in the end I managed to sight-fish 7 reds, which I have to consider a success when considering the stiff wind we dealt with. Josh fared similarly, and caught a few on a topwater frog. Bass were nowhere to be found on this trip, despite our best efforts to blind cast for them. I did have one hooked momentarily, but it came loose. Lures of the day were: TTF XL Mino glow/chart, inline-spinner with DOA Cal, and a Zoom Fluke on a weedless hook. Below you'll find a quick video of me missing a fish right next to the kayak, before being saved by another fish that came along. It was the usual kayak-fishing circus - standing up, facing the wrong way, tangled braid when I first wanted to cast, one handed cast etc etc. Good times!