Every April, members of the Red Stick Fly Fishers converge on Lake Concordia near Ferriday for a weekend of fly-fishing for bass, bream, stripers and even catfish.
Yes, catching catfish on the fly isn’t just possible: at Concordia it’s routine. If you don’t have at least one in your box after a day on the lake, it’s a sign that perhaps you’re not the fisherman you thought you were.
A few years back, several of us who fished on Friday had few or no fish to show for our efforts.
We sat around the dinner table that night, in grave concern that our fish fry the following evening was in jeopardy. Why were the fish not feeding?
All sorts of theories came up. Perhaps it was the weather. Perhaps the water was still too cold or too high. Maybe it was the full moon.
Oh, boy: That last conjecture got everyone’s ears burning. If you ever want to liven up a conversation amongst anglers, there are two subjects that’ll do the trick.
One is politics. That’s true of anglers and non-anglers alike.
The other is what I call “lunar theory:” how the moon affects the feeding habits of fish and other animals.
My longtime fishing partner, Dugan Sabins, is a scientist. And like any good scientist, he proceeded to give a doctoral thesis about how and why the moon can affect piscatorial creatures.
For which Mike LaFleur, one of the finest saltwater fly anglers I know, suggested that the moon is definitely a factor for marsh fishing. Three days before the full moon, redfish will eat. The first few days after the full moon, they’ll snub just about anything.
Then there’s the solunar tables. That came up several times among the large group gathered at the table.
The solunar table owes its origin to John Alden Knight. Knight was born in Pennsylvania in 1890, and grew up an avid hunter and angler. After serving in World War I, he held several jobs but none for long.
Around 1930 — married and with three children to support — he decided to take up outdoor writing.
Guess it paid better back in those days.
Knight was also an accomplished fly angler. In addition to writing articles on our sport, he invented a number of flies — some still used today — and wrote the book “Modern Fly Casting,” considered the benchmark instructional of that time.
In 1926, he consulted a highly acclaimed guide about the secret of his success. The guide responded that the key was the moon.
If the moon was directly above (moon up) or directly opposite (moon down), the bite was best. Subject to weather conditions, of course.
Now, Knight did a lot of research on this, and by 1936 he had put together enough evidence to begin publishing his Solunar tables.
Solunar coming from “sol” for sun and “lunar” for moon, implying that both worked into the equation.
Today, most outdoors magazines publish solunar tables or some facsimile describing the best times each day for hunting and fishing. You’ll find charts in each issue of Louisiana Sportsman.
We also provide the charts online at LouisianaSportsman.com. And there are numerous apps for smartphones or tablets.
But the question remains: Are moon-related feeding periods reliable? Or is it “solunacy?”
As Knight acknowledged, weather is still the predominant factor when it comes to feeding activity.
Referring back to that club trip to Concordia, things greatly improved on Saturday, just in advance of a strong cold front. The bream couldn’t stay away from a jitterbee or tussel bug under a tiny cork.
It was like a sunfish mass suicide was taking place.
However, many of my friends who chase specks and reds admit that, even on hot summer days when the fish are most active in the first few hours after first light, there’s usually an additional bump during the major periods.
And when it comes to mountain trout fishing, lots of fly-fishers I know believe the best hatches occur during the major and minor periods.
As you can see, lots of folks read the solunar tables. You know who else does?
Crappie. I swear they read the tables.
This past winter, I promised Mrs. Catch a trip down the bayou for sac-a-lait. She wanted to have breakfast first.
No problem: According to the charts, the fish wouldn’t be biting until 10:15 a.m., anyway.
We arrived at the spot at 9:30 and found one of our neighbors in his bateau struggling to catch the first fish.
Over the next two hours, all our rods stayed bent. Mrs. Catch and I kept six slabs for dinner and released the rest.
And there’s a lot more anecdotal evidence I could offer.
Regardless of whether you believe in feeding periods, Cormier’s Seventh Law of Fly-fishing trumps them all.
“The best time to fish is whenever you can,” it reads.