Change is good. We have all heard it, but most of us are reluctant to embrace it.
Well if you fish anywhere, you are constantly dealing with change. The weather, tides, water clarity, etc., can all change without a moment's notice.
But have you ever thought about completely changing your fishing style? I had not until Ricky Fontenot and Jack Deshotels invited me on an offshore fishing trip.
We all love to go out there to the big pond for the brute force and surprise of not knowing what may be caught. The change in my case was a switch from a conventional rod-and-reel to a fly rod. You don't have to be a master caster to fly-fish offshore. With a little practice and knowledge you too can be experiencing a whole other side to fishing.
The ride out was breathtaking. The morning started before dawn. I think that we woke the roosters. Deshotels loves to get that early start.
We were at the end of the Calcasieu Pass jetties as the sun began to crack the horizon. The sea gulls and brown pelicans were stirring as they started their own fishing adventures for the day.
As the sun rapidly ascended above the horizon, it appeared to set upon a pedestal. The reflection revealed an almost mirror-smooth surface, and not a cloud in the sky.
"We don't have as quick of access to deep water as they do over to the east," said Fontenot, "but we make up for that in action and numbers."
The near-shore area is loaded with fish, and a vast variety of them, during the summer months. You can normally catch Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, red snapper, dolphin, jackfish, bonito, spadefish, triggerfish, redfish, specks, sand trout, black drum, gafftop, pompano and sharks.
"You never know what you'll bring back to the boat," said Deshotels. "And you really never know how big it will be."
The action didn't take long to heat up.
"I like to find clear water before I start fishing," said Fontenot.
He usually heads out following the buoy chain, watching the water clarity as he passes buoys.
"When I see the bottom of the buoy, I'll start trying for fish," he said. "You can think of any structure in the Gulf as a water hole in the middle of the desert. They usually hold fish. All you have to do is get them to bite."
The first pass around, a Spanish mackerel was picked up. That was like ringing the dinner bell because on the next three passes, we all hooked up to Spanish.
After a few more buoys — and many Spanish mackerel later — we tried the West Cameron 110 block area.
Fontenot will let the conditions dictate what tactics he uses.
"I usually start fishing the buoys," he explained. "I will also work rip lines when I find them. You have not experienced fly-fishing until you've gotten into a school of dolphin.
"I will spend some time around the rigs as well either drifting around them or hooking on to them.
"I like to employ chumming tactics around the rigs and rips. The rewards are incredible. You can literally bring the fish to within 5 feet of the back of the boat. I have had fish smack the fly as soon as it hits the water.
"The tactics are fairly simple; all you need is a little current or the momentum of the boat. I will make a close pass around the buoy, then put the boat in neutral and let the momentum continue to drift the boat away from the buoy.
"I will strip out about 50 to 80 feet of line, letting the fly sink, then start stripping it back in. If I don't get a strike, I just let the line drift back and strip it back in.
"If there is a current, I let the current do all of the work getting the line out."
Deshotels said the gear could vary widely in cost. As with many things, it's worth spending a little more to get quality gear with reputable warranties, especially when it comes to a rod.
"You will more than likely end up breaking a rod out here," he said. "That's why I always bring a spare rod with me. I prefer using either a 10-weight or 12-weight rod. I also prefer to use 30-pound-test backing and 30-pound-test braided leader butt with a 30-foot lead-core shooting head.
"I make up leaders with flies already attached before heading offshore. This saves a lot of time not having to tie flies or leaders on. The leaders start with 30-pound-test, then step down to 25-pound-test, then step down to 20-pound-test, then step down to 15-pound-class tippet, then a short wire bite tippet leader and finally the fly.
"There are specific lengths to follow to be IGFA legal. The leaders are attached to the shooting head loop to loop."
As we watched the numbers of fish swimming under the boat get larger from chumming, we tried different fly patterns and colors. Fontenot likes to use a Clouser pattern.
"I like the Clouser because it gets the fly down deeper and faster than all other patterns," he said. "As far as colors go, I like anything with a flash. Solid white with flash is probably the most productive. Chartreuse is also good in solid or mixed with white. I think that little bit of crystal flash is the key."
Before Fontenot could finish showing me the different fly colors and patterns, Deshotels' reel was screaming. We rigged up and tossed out as a school of jackfish swam beneath the boat. The next three hours were spent bringing fish to the boat.
"You really feel the fish on a fly rod," said Fontenot. "It takes a little more skill to play the fish out before you can land it, and that's what fishing is all about, isn't it?"
Best estimate is that we boated nearly 100 fish, including Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bonito, jackfish, spadefish, cobia and dolphin.
Look into it if you get the chance. I promise it won't be a change that you regret making.