Mathew Roberts had a New Year’s resolution. The avid kayaker and co-founder of Mission Six wanted to catch his first redfish on fly rod. In early Spring he did. And as he put it, his curiosity became an obsession!
Almost immediately, Roberts began thinking about holding a fly fishing tournament to benefit Mission Six, an organization dedicated to giving back to veterans, law enforcement, and other heroes.
If you missed Chris Holmes’ column about Mission Six in the January issue, check it out online at www.louisianasportsman.com/details.php?id=10355.
Roberts wasted no time in getting things organized. He and Shawn Babin teamed up with Eric Fey, Eric and Nicole Ditch, and others and came up with a date (June 17), a name (Fly Fishin’ For the Mission) and a format. It would be a team event with divisions for Kayak, Boat and Overall.
Awards would be based on two heaviest slot reds weighed in. A sheepshead calcutta was also added.
Roberts then approached Alex Beane, manager of the Orvis store in Baton Rouge, for his input and support. Orvis came through big time, as did many other sponsors including Scientific Angler, Allen Fly Fishing, Zook’s Custom Rods, AJ’s Flies, Yak Tribe, and BlackStrap.
For a post-tournament raffle, Pack and Paddle teamed up with Jackson Kayak to donate a Mayfly kayak, their boat designed primarily for fly fishing.
As for location, it was decided for Eddies Kayak Rentals in Pointe-aux-Chenes. Eddie and Lisa Mullen have served host to many yak tournaments and provided the Mission Six group with much support in the past.
When I first learned about this event, I wasted no time in contacting my good friend Kevin ‘Doc’ Andry and asking him if he wanted to pair up. Doc was excited about this event as well.
The day before the tournament, we launched our yaks at dawn and paddled out to some promising marsh. The skies were fairly clear and there was no wind. This weather held up for most of the day and we enjoyed good action sightcasting to reds, even though all of them were smaller slot fish.
The weatherman was forecasting a repeat for Saturday, but as usual his forecast was fake news!
At 6 a.m. of tournament day, under stormy skies and a stiff breeze, over two dozen teams gathered at the launch site for final instructions and the shotgun launch.
Young fly anglers are booming in numbers across the country and many are attracted to fly tournaments. FFFTM was no exception. My partner and I were clearly the old men in this group. Older but hopefully wiser!
With the heavy cloud cover, I opted to go with Pete’s Perch Float Popper. Created by Louisiana fly fishing icon Pete Cooper, Jr, it’s a great attractor pattern for bass, reds, and specks.
I’d paddle to a spot where baitfish were present, anchor up, and fan cast the popper. Watching a red hit a popper is one of the great joys in life!
At first, it was mostly small slot fish that came up. Those small fish were released. I was hoping for better luck on bigger fish.
Soon my luck showed up.
A large Spottail Elvis was cruising a flat only a few inches deep. I laid out a 60-foot cast, and no thanks to the wind, the popper landed two feet behind him. When I made a hard strip to give it a “ploop” noise, that fish turned 180 degrees and nailed that popper! In no time, the red was into my backing. Unfortunate for him, my wiser skills got him to the net.
An hour later, Doc messaged me and said he’d landed a 26 ¾-inch red, close to the maximum slot size. It was turning out to be a good day for Team St. Micheals!
When we arrived back at the launch about 2:30 p.m., we discovered the boat folks hadn’t done so well. They had banked their hopes on sightcasting, and conditions for that had been terrible.
Turns out several boat teams anchored up together around noon and enjoyed a few microbrews, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad day for them after all.
Kayak teams took all three Overall awards. Doc and myself finished first. All the winners received prizes donated by the tournament sponsors. Most of us donated our cash winnings back to Mission Six.
Everyone had interesting stories to tell at the weigh-in. The group was treated to an amazing jambalaya prepared by Aaron Mitchell.
And then there was the raffle. A whole bunch of folks came away with some nice items donated by the sponsors. Daniel Sanchez of Thibodeaux was the lucky one to win the Jackson Mayfly kayak.
The “Fly Fishin’ For The Mission” tournament was a huge success based on turnout, feedback, and the fun factor. Already plans are in the works for next year.
Fly Fishin For the Mission Results
1st – Kevin Andry, Glen Cormier
2nd – Sarah Giles, Nick Dinger
3rd – Max Dougas, Stephen Boudreaux
1st – Kevin Tippet, Jerry Bourgeois
2nd – Matt Abbott, Chris Hudson
3rd – Pat Cortez, Maurice Daquin
1st – Derek Johnson
2nd – Mark McCain, Shane Coleman
Ross Matherne – 3.60 pounds
Fly Pot – Largest Red
Kevin Andry – 6.74 pounds