Don’t assume that difficult weather conditions dictates staying a home!
On The Fly Saltwater
Article and featured photo by Jimmy Jacobs
The weather was rather blustery to say the least, as the On The Fly South crew pulled away from the dock. Our trip was shoving off from West Pointe a La Hache, Louisiana on the west side of the Mississippi River and roughly 35 miles south of New Orleans. Our guide for the day of redfish action was Capt. Shane Mayfield and the conditions meant he had his work cut out for him.
Water levels were already high because of an incoming tide during the full moon phase. When wind gusts of 15- to 20-miles per hour began to kick up from the south, even more water poured into the extensive marshes that stretched for miles to the west. Finally, clouds rolled in to block the sun. The situation was a perfect storm of poor sight-casting conditions.
These flats average less than 3 feet deep, fringed by marsh grasses. The water is stained a dark tannic hue, but is ordinarily quite clear, making spotting fish easy. Although the area holds seatrout, flounder sheepshead and black drum, the year-round action for redfish is the mainstay of the fly fishing here.
The redfish in this region regularly run up to 12 pounds, but fish in the 25- to 30-pound range occasionally show up in the shallows. The usual tactic is to pole slowly along the shoreline, watching for singles or small pods of reds. Once spotted, the fly needs to be cast beyond and then stripped across in front of the fish, making sure not to bring it directly at the red. They are not used to seeing bait run toward them, but rather fleeing away.
As Capt. Mayfield maneuvered his 18-foot Boston East Cape flats boat through the maze of canals, bays and lakes it was clear the fishing was not going to be classic long-distance casting action. The redfish would suddenly show up in the range of 5 to 20 feet from the boat. Making such short casts can be just as challenging, or more so, that throwing 50 feet of line at a fish. Also, when they are that close, accuracy really counts. You have to get the fly right in their face in a hurry to get a reaction strike.
This proved to be the case during our outing. The day with Capt. Mayfield proved to be a textbook example of dealing with the vagaries of the weather. He used his knowledge of the region to find some protection from the wind. Still, the lack of sunlight and chop on the surface of the water reduced visibility to only 15 feet or less in front of the boat.
“Keep just 4 feet of line out,” the captain advised. “With this type of fishing, you want to be ready to make short casts.”
After seeing a number of reds that spooked just as we spotted them on the edge of our arc of visibility, a bit of discouragement was setting in. At that point, the guide’s advise paid off. A big redfish appeared virtually under the front of the boat.
At first I hesitated to do anything, figuring that the fish would bolt at any moment, like all the others that we had run over. Also, I was so close to the fish that I feared that any movement would surely send it darting away.
Finally, at Mayfield’s calm insistence, I flipped a backhand cast the short 5 feet to the red. Rather than swimming away, the fish delivered a vicious, wallowing strike, as it inhaled the crab pattern.. Now turning to run, the redfish three times took my 9-weight rig into the backing. Once the brute was brought to the gunnel, on the Boga Grip, the red tipped the scales at 13 pounds.
The fishing in this part of Plaquemines Parish can always be good when the conditions are favorable. But, this day on the water proved that with the right guide, even the times when the weather is not cooperating it’s possible to take reds on the fly.
To arrange a redfish adventure of your own, Capt. Shane Mayfield can be reached through the Adventure South Guide Service website.