Right approach solves weedy dilemma

When spring winds and rains roil in inland waters, turn your attention to Manchac-area catfish. They bite best when the water’s high and filthy.

Don’t know about you folks, but I’m really looking forward to settled weather.

I’ve been on this new Richard Simmons diet plan called “Weatherman Deal-a-Meal.” Everytime the local weatherman gets the correct forecast, you can have a meal. I haven’t touched food in 31 days.

Don’t get me wrong. Eating is important. Maybe not as much as fishing, but it’s something everyone should do at least a few times each week.

Take the redfish. King of the marsh, the Spottail Elvis. He eats every opportunity he gets. And he certainly doesn’t let a little thing like a pond full of grass get in his way.

As the days grow longer and warmer, various aquatic grasses spread and grow in isolated areas of the marsh. They can blanket entire ponds. Shrimp, crabs and small baitfish move into these waters to seek protection from predators.

Reds, drum and sheepshead are never far behind. They move in, rooting their noses in the grass in an attempt to force the forage species to make the wrong move.

While doing so, they’re obvilious to the fact that their backs and tails are protruding above the waterline.

Sight-casting to reds in grass-mat ponds is more hunting than fishing. To be successful, one must master the techniques of the great heron. Think like the heron, be the heron. Flapping your arms and squaking might even help.

There are certainly unique requirements for fishing this environment, i.e. the right boat, the right tackle, the right flies.

For grass-mat fishing, you’ll need either a bateau, kayak, canoe or shallow-water skiff. The depth of these ponds is often inches, and besides, any craft with a significant hull will push too much water and put the fish down. If you don’t have the needed boat, I highly encourage hiring a guide who does.

The right tackle would be a 6- or 7-weight rod for casting of small, unweighted and often weedless flies — such as yarn or furry foam crabs, crystal shrimps, bendbacks.

A second rod rigged with a popper is a good option.

Floating fly lines are a must (or else you’ll end up with more grass in your boat than a Mexican drug dealer).

Many years back, I attended a seminar in South Carolina on fly fishing for reds. The speaker, a local guide, described how reds would move into marsh grass and forage during high tide.

His presentation focused on tactical elements of wade-stalking these fish. For example, how to cast effectively to target the cruising red’s strike zone. He also pointed out that because the grass limits the fish’s mobility, sometimes you’ve got no choice but to put the fly on top the fish. But how you do that makes all the difference.

Bottom line: In fishing the grass-mat ponds, tackle and flies are not nearly as important as approach and presentation.

Forget all this double haul, triple haul, trying to cast your entire line. That doesn’t impress fish who, if you give them a chance, can get within rod’s length of you.

You must exercise patience, and make the right cast.

Around Memorial Day last year, Jake and I took the canoe down to an area south of Montegut where I’d scouted several grass-mat ponds the week before.

As I push-poled us into one such pond, Jake immediately spotted several tails and backs.

Jake’s first plan of attack was to cast the popper, either to one of several openings in the grass, or up against the bank (relatively free of grass).

Small poppers, such as Dinks and Crease Flies, have a way of bringing reds out of the grass or off the bottom. Not to mention that there’s no bigger thrill than seeing a redfish smack a surface lure.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the back of one Elvis as he made the bend around a point. Instead of casting to the fish, Jake put the popper about a dozen feet in front of his projected path. Jake first waited, then timed his retrieve to intercept the red.

Just as the fish approached, Jake gave a few tiny strips. The red took notice and BAM — he exploded on that popper.

Rather than move from this spot, we placed the stick anchor into the mud and watched the middle of the pond — literally a sea of grass — for any other signs of life.

Ten minutes later, a back stuck out about 20 feet away. This red was in the thick stuff, and getting a fly to fall to him was near impossible.

Jake picked up a second rod with a bendback and made several casts in an effort to put the fly right on top its nose. Because the grass limits the red’s zone of recognition to within inches, a misplaced cast or two was no problem.

Finally, Jake cast the leader over the fish, then by lifting his rod, dragged the fly slowly across the grass.

When it fell on its head, the Elvis snapped up and sucked in the fly. The hook was set, which commenced the worst part of this ordeal — bringing the fish to the boat.

Word to the wise: When fighting a fish in a pond, keep that rod up in the air as high as possible. Otherwise you’ll end up battling a few pounds of fish and many pounds of grass.

With two reds caught and released, we then pulled up anchor and inched closer to another spot where several reds were bunched. And when I say inched, I mean caterpillars are speed demons compared to how fast we were moving.

But it put us almost atop the fish without them even taking notice.

This pattern of identifying a fish, determining exactly what technique might work and executing that plan of attack continued for the rest of that morning, until finally the fish and us were all worn out.

The best preparation for this type of fishing is to go into a backyard or park area, and place objects around the grounds. Imagine they are fish, and imagine them moving in different directions. Don’t cast to the objects, but cast with anticipation of their next move.

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About Catch Cormier 275 Articles
Glen ‘Catch’ Cormier has pursued fish on the fly for 30 years. A certified casting instructor and renowned fly tier, he and his family live in Baton Rouge.

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