Into the Marshes in Search of Louisiana Redfish

| January 23, 2012

The Fly
Louisiana redfish fly courtesy Captain John Iverson.

I couldn’t help but feel like a “dude” as I lined up my two rods by the boat, and slipped them into the fly rod holders in the Mitzi. All clean, and pressed in Simms this and Simms that, I tell myself it’s the right gear (like the Mitzi rod holder areas) for the job, no matter what the name is. Still I feel a bit too clean.

We push off, crank up and idle out through the narrow channel lined with piers and boats. It’s not early, but early enough in The Big Easy. I always wonder if the guide wishes we were earlier or later, but the cloud bank covering the sun tells me all I need to know. This is going to be tough without Mr. Sun to light up the redfish TV. Outside the no wake zone, we are on plain in a flash, and running at 30 through the maze of channels, open water and marsh. Obviously, the Captain knows his course, there are no navigational electronics on board, like the back of his hand.

On The Fly in the Mitzi - Louisiana Redfishing
Bundled against the morning wind, up and running.

We finally drop off plane and the Captain cuts the engine. Stealth is the rule, and he hops onto the poling platform and starts moving us down the edge of a grass line. The wind is enough to ripple the water, and as we continue to pole, ripple the Captain’s confidence as well. If I were doing this, I would definitely point out the disadvantages as well, a cloudy day, a windy day, all would be noted disclaimers.

On Deck watching for signs of Louisiana redfish
On deck. Looking for signs of famous Louisiana redfish.

I’m up first, and that vision thing just isn’t working yet, as I see a few small fish dart under the boat, and larger mud clouds further away – the telltale signs of spooked reds. Then I see a huge fish pass under the boat like a subsurface smart bomb at least three feet long. Now I am the one who’s spooked. There’s still no “shot” to be had though, so we pole on, and on. The show is awesome from the vantage point of a casting platform two feet above the deck of a Mitzi Skiff in the Louisiana marshes. When the sun peaks, the water TV is on, and it’s the best episode I’ve ever seen. Right off I see a red the size of one of those Baghdad cruise missiles pass under, stabilizer fins out and moving subsonic without apparent propulsion, self correcting and gone. This, I say, is not for the weak hearted.

Goodale on Deck and looking
Captain John describes directing someone where to cast. “like playing a video game with a broken console.” However we eventually tune in.

I give my turn to JG after who knows how much time, and he steps up to the platform like a batter stepping into the box. Time to kick back and enjoy the ride. Shots aren’t coming quick, clean or often. Getting into a groove is impossible.

The sun works its way up, and I am back on the platform, when finally I get a shot, more like a point blank drop on about a 20-inch red. I drop, and it hauls under the boat in a cloud of mud. Another shot a little later, at ten feet, nets a weak set and slight tug followed by a loose fly and rocketing fish. Gone. Now I look inside, and wonder how all this will end. Overreacting to sight casting for redfish is pretty easy for me. Perhaps it’s just too much “See the fish. Be the fish,” for my mind to handle.

The hours drift by, through lunchtime shrimp poor boys, and back onto the platform. It’s amazing how weak my legs feel as I adjust to the rock-and-roll of the Mitzi. Time to get back on the bike, again with the new year resolutions.

We pick up several times and move through the marshes, sliding sideways through turns in the tight channels, out in the open and tight again. We find an unlimited supply of shores to pole and an unlimited supply of wind. The Captain is huffing and puffing a bit between cigarettes. Morale is like a top spinning down and beginning to show some wobble. My “report the story no matter what” is starting to look more like a curse than a blessing.

I take to heart “keep a line in the water” by casting blindly to shorelines and backhanding into channels. Now we are conscious of time, and moving more to find fish of any size, and get on the board. Pick up and move.

Whether because of the level of action, or self centeredness, I find myself on the platform again on the next stop – a fairly wide backwater we enter by poling through another of those narrow channels. We are about to make the turnabout and head out when I feel a stop on one of those blind backhand casts into the channel.

redfish on fly in the louisiana marshes
I finally make good. Twenty minutes worth and deep backing.

I set the hook for luck, and the fish heads about fifty feet into the wide backwater in a heartbeat. The bend in my ten weight Z Axis, and the sound of the drag on my Tibor tell us all that this is a fish. Then a change in direction, a 180, and it’s headed into the narrow channel – hoping to get all the way through and out into the open water.

The long run takes all my line, and now we’re into the backing, and into more backing. I have a good bend in the rod, and the boat is starting to move with the fish. Side pressure, side-to-side pressure, all give the same result – a standoff. She’s wanting to make the turn in the narrow channel when the Captain decides it’s time to follow for real. There’s no headshake, no turns, just a tugboat beginning to move us.

All the while, I am getting peppered from the peanut gallery; “It’s probably a big ray. Maybe it’s a black drum. Watch out for those oysters! They’ll cut you off!” All I know is there is one big head shake, and I finally get back all my backing. Finally, a tail swirls below the surface, and leaves a boil the circumference of a five gallon bucket.

After twenty minutes we get the fish down to five feet of line and a fully down leader. I finally muster the courage to put enough on the rod to make her surface, and we all see that it’s what we are after – a 30-inch plus red. She’s beat now, and the Captain reaches out the back of the port side and tails her. “She’ll go forty inches. Looks like twenty-five pounds,” the Captain said.

louisiana redfish on fly rod biloxi marshes louisiana 2012
You try holding 25 pounds of slimy, pissed off redfish – it’s a blast!

The photos are as goofy as anything I have ever been in because this is the biggest fish I’ve ever caught. She’s heavy enough, and my arm is weak enough from the fight, that I can’t even hold her out toward the camera for the distorted porn shot being demanded of me. Of all the luck to have Jerry along to witness and document with great photography skills, what he keeps calling, “The fish of a lifetime.” I don’t disagree as she is released almost exactly where she was caught.

Winded, and overwhelmed, I crash on the ice chest, we pull up and motor out to another spot. The wind is dropping now, but the sun is dropping a bit too. We start to watch the clock more intensely. Jerry is on the platform when the Captain guides his cast right to a waiting eight pound redfish. He’s on the board, and the fight is a good match to his Xi2 nine weight. We land him, and he’s a bright red specimen with beautiful mature coloration. Some more photographs follow, and I hope I can return the favor of good photographs to Jerry and his Louisiana redfish.

Louisiana redfish caught by jerry goodale 2012
A beautiful specimen caught in the Louisiana way – sunlight, sighted, cast, tempted, hooked, set, fought and landed.

Finally, we both are on the board, the winter sun is dropping, and we’ve had enough. It wasn’t a typical quantity day by Louisiana standards, but the quality was outstanding. It’s time. We pull up, grab our seats, and settle in for the hour ride back to the launch. Even the ride back seems fast. Maybe it’s the anticipation of seeing the photographs, or telling the story.

NOTE – I am going to run a post of more photographs from this trip in the next few days. I hope you enjoyed the day in the Louisiana marshes.

Category: Culture on the Skids, Destination Fly Fishing, Equipment, Fishing Reports, Fly Fishing for Redfish, Fly Rods, Life Observed, Louisiana Report, On The Road

About the Author ()

I write. I photograph. I fish, and I live.

Comments (2)

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  1. shannon says:

    Of course cudos to Captain Iverson! It was a difficult day as far as the elements, and you produced anyway. Find his services through Uptown Angler in NOLA. I highly recommend him.

  2. shannon says:

    Boy I hate seeing this post drop down the list! EGO EATS BRAIN you know. Anyway, I will be adding tidbits here in the comments and includes – restaurants / Uptown Anglers information.