Jack Attack!

I had a great one day charter trip this week to Louisiana for Jack Crevalle with guide Miles (@shallowsouth) and friend Kyle.  My biggest fish was 31 lbs and most of the fish were from 25-30 lbs.  Considering that the state fly rod record is 30.56 lbs caught in 2002 and that fish was the LOWA “Fish of the Year”, I’m thinking we were doing pretty good.

Most of the fishing was waiting, watching about 200-300 yards out for approaching nervous water and any signs of disturbed bait fish.  It was largely a guide thing, Miles could spot the strange movements in the water made by the speeding Jacks several hundred yards out.   Usually a group of bait fish would fly out of the water and then Miles would say something to the effect of “here they come!”.  Even though Kyle and I knew they were coming and could occasionally spot the fast, low wakes, only Miles could really tell us what they were going to do.  We would wait anxiously for our instructions from Miles.  Seeing the fish far out made it worse as we had time to anticipate the fish and get nervous waiting for Miles to give the command to cast.  It would go something like this:

“Cast left as far as you can”.

“Further out and more to the right.  Good. Now wait. ”

Luckily we didn’t usually have to cast far as the boat was in their “lane”, similar to tarpon fishing the fish seem to follow a lane and always seemed to come from the same direction although their swimming could be erratic.  Occasionally a fish came from the opposite side which Miles referred to as a “wrong way” fish.

The wakes were not the big bow waves like redfish push.  The fish swim fast and do high speed turns which produce a strange rippling of the water.  When they move straight the wake is more V-shaped than redfish.

When the wakes were ten to twenty feet away, (they move fast!) Miles would call out, “Strip, strip, strip!”

We would begin stripping in short, quick strips and usually the water would rip wide open on the strike but sometimes the fish would follow it, almost lipping it.

When they followed, the fish were looking the fly over and you didn’t want to miss a strip and let the fish get a good look at the fly.  The fly was a Sneaky Pete style popper head with a very long feather tail.  If they got a good look they would reject the fly and turn and then finesse was out the window as we would fire at will trying to get the fly in front of them as they made high-speed turns.  If you lucked up and they weren’t spooked you would be rewarded with a going away strike which seemed to have a much better hook-up rate since the fish was going against the line.  I missed a lot of fish on the head-on approach.  Their speed was such that their forward motion put a lot of slack in the line when they took, making it hard to get the line tight.

All in all we had about 20 or more “shots” at fish.  We brought 4 Jacks into the boat but the action of trying to get a good cast, take and hook-up was incredible.  It was my kind of fishing for sure.

At one point, with Kyle on the platform, we saw wakes coming but it turned out to be a school of 20 or so redfish.  One hit Kyle’s popper and Miles quickly grabbed another rod with a crab and handed it to me.  I made a going-away cast that landed just in front of the group resulting in a free-for-all for the crab and then my friend and I were doubled up on redfish.

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My biggest Jack was my first fish and that 31 lb Jack was a wake-up call to me.   The reel screamed off even with a solid drag set.  I started palming the reel to help brake the fish as I have with many big fish in the past, but the fish gave a tremendous run which burned my palm.  With the burnt candle smell of a smoking hot drag in my nostrils and a blister in my palm, I was experiencing something entirely new.  I liked it!

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When I got the fish to the boat he wasn’t ready to give up and I couldn’t turn him as he went under the stern.  To keep the line from grabbing on anything, I shoved the rod tip down in the water and then walked the rod to the front of the boat to renew the fight.

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It was a great day!

And yes, I was using the “Samurai” System.  It was a great help during the long lulls when there were no Jacks.  Having the rod cocked and locked and not holding helps keep my wrist from getting stiff and numb feeling.   Just for comparison, I also tried using the stripping mat with the rubber fingers but those rubber fingers hold the line back too much for my tastes and result in shorter casts.  I swapped back to my system and the line flew out of the bucket compared to pulling through those long rubber fingers on the stripping mat.

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I also have a new tip picked up from the president of a fly line company.  I keep a can of 100% silicon handy.  Once the line is in the bucket I just hit it  with a spray blast from the can.  The bucket holds the mist in and the silicon gets on the line good.  No harm to the environment and it slicks the line up for the cast.

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So for big fun on a fly rod, go for my friend Jack Crevalle, you’ll be glad to meet him.

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