Enjoy a cool, refreshing drink of redfish
World renown author, videographer and fly designer Gary Borger caught this 6.7-pound red while visiting South LA in March. The fish was caught on his Down-and-Dirty Crab, which pulsates when stripped, making it more enticing than epoxy crab flies.
This is no joke. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
Actually, I’ve been enjoying redfish water for decades. You put plain bottled water into an ice chest, then cover it up with redfish. When you remove the bottle from the chest, just don’t wipe it off.
Right now, there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy redfish-flavored water!
For those whose experience with the fly rod has been strictly fresh water, marsh fishing requires a reload.
That 5-weight you might be using for bream or trout will be undersized for most saltwater use. While a 7-weight, or even 6-weight, will suffice — and even recommended for calm, shallow ponds where fish are easily spooked — the choice of most is an 8-weight rod. It not only is necessary for when the wind kicks up to 15 knots or more, but it can handle the occasional bull red.
Your reel needs to be corrosion-resistant. If the description says “anodized” or “machined,” it’s a good candidate for salt use. Regardless of what type of reel it is, always wash your reel immediately after each use to extend its life.
The standard 9- or 10-foot prepackaged leader that says “bonefish” on the package is suitable for — you guessed it, bonefish. If you buy tapered leaders, consider cutting them down to 8 feet (cut off at the butt end, not the tippet end). You’ll find this makes a big difference in your ease of casting and ability to properly place a fly.
When in shallow ponds, avoid lots of false casts. Too much movement alarms fish.
Being able to sight fish is a great advantage. Wear polarized sunglasses to spot fish or to spot subtle changes in the water below.
If you fish from a kayak, you may not be able to spot fish directly unless the yak is suitable for standup fishing. In that case, look for wakes, slight differences in ripples or backs and tails.
In shallow water, fish move around more. Look for “backing” fish as opposed to “tailing” fish. Backing fish are more active and less spooky.
Here the gold spoon fly, or wobbler, is your first weapon of choice. The pink charlie a close second.
The wobbler requires fast, small strips, and casts of 30 feet or more to be effective. Pick up the line when there’s still 20 feet left, so that you need just one or two false casts to get the line back out.
Observe where the fish is moving. Some experts say cast to the nose of the fish, but a better recommendation is to cast 5 to 10 feet in front of where the fish is moving. This allows you to make an errant cast and not spook the fish. Then strip accordingly so the fly intercepts the fish’s path about a foot in front of its nose.
If the fish moves away, pick up and cast at the fish. Yes, at the fish! For some unknown reason, this sometimes ticks them off and they turn around and attack the fly.
If the reds and drum are tailing or lethargic, a crab pattern is hard to beat as it constitutes the main diet of the Spottail Elvis. Beadheads and lead eyes make too much splash and spook the fish, or may cause the fly to snag bottom, even if the hook rides up. So I’ll sometimes tie a yarn crab, for example, and leave the eyes off.
Fish these patterns with slow, small strips off the bottom. The red or drum will usually hit as it’s coming up. Remember, crabs are not speed demons.
Poppers must always be an option. Not only is catching a redfish on a popper the most fun ever, they’re also good searching patterns. Even in dirty water, their sound will bring the fish to the fly. They may not be able to spot other flies.
The best conditions for poppers are very early and very late in the day, and whenever it’s overcast. One of the most memorable redfish trips I ever made came on a day when it threatened to storm on us from sunrise to sunset. Even in the middle of the day, big bruising reds in the 26- to 30-inch range were blowing up on topwater flies.
What makes poppers so effective applies equally to flies fished under a VOSI (Vertically Oriented Strike Indicator). For those new to this column, the VOSI is the flyrodder’s popping cork.
The VOSI is constructed from a small styrofoam perch float. Cut the float in half. Next, take a Dremel cone bit and using your hand to turn it, excavate a concave face on the flat end of each half.
When fishing, you run the VOSI up the leader with the concave end facing the fly line, and use the little plug that comes with the perch float to secure it on the end facing the tippet.
Fishing a vosi requires a long tippet section. This is so the fly sits almost vertically under the float, and any small movement to the float results in similiar movement to the fly.
One of my friends caught her first red — and second, and third — using this method. I tied her a pink charlie about 24 inches under a VOSI, and she cast it into a cut in the marsh. As the tide moved the float through the cut, she made a small strip that moved the VOSI a few inches. Then she let it wait. Then repeated the process.
This is a great technique when sight fishing isn’t possible, although you really don’t need to see fish to know they’re there.
For example, on a trip to Golden Meadow with my son Jacob, we were fishing a shoreline and noticed tiny shrimp popping up in the water about 10 feet off the bank. Turns out that’s where the reds were — they were at the dropoff instead of crusing shorelines.
In this case, a size 6 Crystal Shrimp did the damage.
Thanks to keen observation, and “matching the hatch,” we were able to enjoy redfish-flavored bottled water that day.
Bluegill reach their peak this month in larger waters like D’Arbonne, Verret, Henderson, Caney, St. John, Toledo Bend and all of the live oxbows to the Mississippi River.
Popping bugs will work in some instances, but the majority of the fish will be caught using beadhead flies fished 18 to 30 inches below a strike indicator (tiny float). The indicator allows the fly to stay suspended over the beds or near structure longer.
For bass, the second season begins later this month. Unlike the spawning period when big fish are targeted on the beds, the largemouths of late spring are often smaller but more aggressive.
Poppers are effective early and late. They’re also very effective on spotted bass in the numerous creeks and small rivers of the Florida Parishes and Kisatchie Hills, which approach summer flow levels this month.
Later in the day, try shaded docks and edges of grass beds using a Sqwirm Worm, Leech, SR71 Woolybugger or other “action” fly to entice strikes.
Surf action for speckled trout begins this month. Clouser minnows — mainly chartreuse or white — will be your best bet.Upcoming events
With extended daylight, most Louisiana fly clubs have casting practice prior to their meetings, usually starting around 6 p.m. Guests are welcome to these meetings. So if you need casting help, check out these dates for clubs in your area: Acadiana Fly Rodders (Lafayette, May 3), Pontchartrain Basin Fly Fishers (Madisonville, May 4), Red Stick Fly Fishers (Baton Rouge, May 9), Cane Country Fly Casters (Natchitoches, May 10), Contraband Fly Casters (Lake Charles, May 17), North Louisiana Fly Fishers (Shreveport, May 17), New Orleans Fly Fishers (Metairie, May 26) and Fin-Addict Fly Fishers (Houma, May 30).
The last weekend of this month marks the start of the summer-long CCA Louisiana STAR Tournament. Again this year, there will be a Fly Fishing Division for the largest speckled trout in East and West. For more info, go to www.ccalouisiana.com.
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Laid Back Charter is a fishing guide service out of Grand Isle, Louisiana. We've been in business for six years and specialize in Speckled Trout and Redfish. We now offer accommodations on the Island as well.
Come fish the Mississippi River Delta south of Venice with friendly knowledgeable guides for speckled trout, red fish and flounder.