Every year, the speck season kicks off right in the bays just out from Empire and Buras.
Ask the conventional angler in our state if they’ve ever heard of Tony Accardo, Pete Cooper or Tom Nixon, and chances are Nixon is the one that comes up with a blank. Yet, among these Louisiana fly fishing greats, it’s Nixon who is probably most renown among his peers worldwide. Some consider his contributions to warm-water fly fishing to be the greatest of any since James Henshall.
Nixon literally wrote the book on fly fishing for bass and panfish. His work “Fly Tying and Fly Fishing for Bass and Panfish” was first published in 1968, and is in its third edition.
The story goes that during his years as an engineer for a chemical company in Lake Charles, he would spend most of his free time in a johnboat, armed with fly rod and in pursuit of finned adversaries along the Calcasieu River system and its many tributaries. Like a good engineer, he was constantly devising new fly patterns that might improve his odds against the fish.
Then one day in the early 1960s, Nixon was approached with the proposal to teach fly fishing and fly tying to a group of boy scouts. The lessons were supposed to last six weeks, but ended up being 20 weeks with a field trip to Anacoco Creek thrown in for good measure.
During this session, Nixon tried to document all the various aspects of the sport he could think of.
As Nixon told me a few years back, mostly everything at the time was dedicated to cold-water trout and its flies. Failure to find sources to recommend to others led him to putting his notes into book form.
The book is chocked full of great stories and useful information. You’ll find methods of finding and catching fish, techniques for everything from tying knots to repairing fly line, as well as several dozen fly patterns. There are lots of photos and illustrations to help beginners, but even advanced anglers like myself love to browse through it again and again.
Purists beware! If you object to having spinners on flies, or even worse, the use of plastic on your fly tackle, then I strongly suggest you avoid the book. Nixon was the very first to pioneer “match the commie hatch,” long before such things as the spoon fly or the helicopter fly ever took form in a vise.
That doesn’t bother some of our sport’s greatest names. Lefty Kreh and Dave Whitlock are proud to have associated with Nixon over the years, and have fished his flies on many occasions. In fact, Nixon was an invited tier to the very first International Federation of Fly Fishers Show over 30 years ago.
When I was a young lad, growing up in the paradise known as the Atchafalaya Basin, it was not uncommon to catch a few dozen bass a day on fly rod when conditions were right for poppers. Otherwise, you just didn’t fly fish. Submergent flies for bass weren’t that popular. That was, until we all got introduced to the Calcasieu Pig Boat.
Nixon says his creation first hit water in early 1951. At that time, the Hawaiian Wiggler was one of the best bass lures around, and so he designed the Pig Boat to imitate the conventional lure. This fly most resembles the bass angler’s jig.
Over the years, it’s not only taken thousands of bass, but it’s been equally deadly at times on brown trout, walleye and other species it was never intended for.
A few years ago, my son Jacob sat next to Nixon while he was demonstrating flies at one of the conclaves. Jake was handed a new creation that best resembled a Mepps Spinner. Jake’s always loved fishing with spinners on regular tackle, so he was anxious to try this new fly out.
Thousands of fish later, Jake continues to terrorize all species in all waters with this fly. He affectionally named it the Tom Nixon Spinner. I can’t think of anything more appropriate.
Although Nixon is over 80 years young, he continues to fish every chance he gets. When he’s not fishing, he’s giving programs or demonstrating his patterns at shows throughout the mid South.
One of his upcoming venues is the Red Stick Fly Fishers Conclave, on Saturday, March 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the LDWF Waddill Education Center in Baton Rouge. The seminar is free and open to the public, and will feature a variety of great speakers and tiers. More info is available on the club’s web site at rsff.org.
For those interested in Nixon’s book, Lafayette Shooters, Gulf Coast Outfitters in Baton Rouge and Uptown Angler in New Orleans carry copies. Or you can order directly from the author by sending a check for $53 (includes shipping) to Tom Nixon, 5000 Leon #170, Lake Charles, LA 70605, or by phone at (337) 562-2021.