The Baton Rouge fly fishing club, Redstick Fly Fishers, invites the surrounding clubs from LA, MS and AL to come to fish with them every year. For many years this gathering was known as “Grand Isle Weekend” and Grand Isle was the host area. In past years at GI everyone stayed at a motel/resort on the beach and the fishing mostly centered around speckled trout which tend to show up in the surf in June/July, though many of us fish the marsh instead. Leeville, which is located in the marsh, was selected this year due to difficulties in booking the usual accommodations.
Leeville is at the north end of an elevated, 7-mile long, two-lane bridge system on Hwy 1 that crosses over the bayou LaFourche and a large expanse of marsh, unfortunately a large portion of which has lost its grass banks and turned into just water. The bridge starts in the North end at Leeville and ends at Port Fourchon.
Our five members attending from the central Mississippi club, the Magnolia Fly Fishers stayed in a camp that backed up to Bayou LaFourche:
The Red Stick Club does a fantastic job of providing two evening meals where we get to
hang out and renew old friendships. Friday night is a shrimp boil, and Saturday night we eat what we catch, except this year we didn’t catch enough to feed everybody and had to add some shrimp. No complaints, it was all delicious with salad, boiled potato and corn on the cob.
On Friday night the RSFF club president announced a little challenge for everyone for the following day. He had prepared two wooden plaques, one for the biggest redfish caught on fly and one for the biggest speckled trout caught on fly. The instructions he gave were to photo the fish with a tape and text it to him during the day.
The wind howled from the time we got there and we pretty much knew it wouldn’t let up. So we chose to go on the east side of Bayou LaFourche where there were some trees, hoping they would block the southwest wind to provide some lee water.
Late in the morning I found some decent looking lee water, though it was dirty from the wind pounding the banks with wave action. Finally I saw a big tail come up. I made a cast as quick as I could but the fish was under and no longer visible. After a couple of casts that missed, basically because I was guessing where he was, the fish began pushing up a wake and I knew I was busted.
Turning the corner I found a bank with a nice current running next to a shallow shelf against the bank that was about twenty feet wide. I spotted a fish and made a cast as fast as I could but he was behind me and it was awkward. He took the fly but I had to do a trout set and the fish got away from me. I saw a narrow funnel ahead with a good rip running and I dead drifted a clouser through it and caught a legal speck, around 13 inches but I didn’t have a tape to take a pic. Fishing some other flats I caught a 19 inch red by casting in front of a push. But seeing nothing more I decided to go back to the bank that had the nice current where I caught the speck. Easing along I saw what looked like the back of a big fish laid up and chilling. I dropped a fly in front of him, felt a thump and set the hook. The big fish pushed off about twenty feet and the line suddenly went limp.
Dejected I headed back to the camp to get a bite and see what others had done. As I eased along the canal I suddenly saw a massive fish back under the water. The water was dirty and I couldn’t see him well but I could tell which way he was facing. I put the paddle in the holder and made a cast as fast as I could. When I pulled the fly in front of his face I felt a thump and stripped hard and then the fight was on. It was a massive fish that took me for a Cajun sleigh ride, turning me completely around at least three times. I had my leader I had used for bulls in March which had a 30 lb tippet so I had a good shot at getting a big fish in. But as I pulled hard on him to keep him away from a crab pot, the line went slack. The fly came back but the hook was fine, it was not straightened. I don’t know what happened. Though the fish looked pink in the water I think it was maybe a big black drum because redfish bulls really shouldn’t be back in the marsh this time of year. Oh well.
Back at the camp I cleaned my two fish without taking a pic because I figured my small fish wouldn’t be big enough to enter into the contest. Then I got a call. The saltwater chair was wanting to know if we had any fish because the fish fry was looking thin due to the wind and conditions keeping everybody from catching fish. I mentioned my two fish and found out no one had entered a fly caught redfish or speck! The wind had intimidated the fly fishers, most of them were leaving their flyrods in the room, choosing spinning gear to battle the wind.
With this news I looked at my watch and saw that I still had time to paddle back and catch a fish to enter. Some of my fellow club members had also returned to the camp and they too were inspired with the news of no entries. Everyone had a fresh appetite for a little competition.
It was late in the day now, about 5:00 and the tide had dropped the water quite a bit leaving a muddy bank a couple of feet wide in front of the grass. Thousands of little crabs stood on the bank looking at me like a small crab army as I passed. I got tickled thinking that one of them might hold up his big claw and go Brave Heart on me, declaring “they may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom!” It was funny watching them all back up at the same time when I got too close. I started to change my fly to a crab pattern but didn’t want to burn daylight changing out so I just stuck with my marabou clouser that I had used all day.
I found my bank that had been lucky for me earlier and I hadn’t been there very long when I saw Mr. Redfish working right against the bank, staring hungrily at the crabs on the bank as he made his way. He was coming toward me and about sixty feet out. If he didn’t change directions and I didn’t spook him, he would come right by me at about twenty feet. It was a perfect setup for a trap. It was such a good setup seeing the fish that far out and having him coming my way that I even broke my own rules. I slipped the anchor and then quietly laid my paddle in the water. I was so confident I even took my eyes off the fish. When I looked back up he was still coming my way.
I made an easy cast, dropping my fly up on the bank near the crab army and pulled the fly down just to the edge of the water and left it to set up the ambush. The fish kept coming and when the fish was just a few inches from my fly I pulled it in front of him and he pounced on it like it was going to be his last meal. Well, it was. I beat it back to the camp and found a tape and took a pic and sent it the RSFF club president. The fish was 20.75 inches and there were still no other entries.
Two of my fellow club members were late in coming in. The first one that came in the room, Jim, he said he caught one 17 inches but when I told him my fish was 20.75 inches he didn’t appear to react. I knew what it meant.
Bickham came in the room and said to Jim, “Should we tell him?”, teasing me and enjoying it just a little too much. His fish was 24 inches.
Well, “that’s life”, or since we were in an area of mostly French influence, “C’est la vie!”
But I did get a surprise when they handed out the awards. Apparently there were only
two specks caught and neither had a pic and a measurement. Not sure how they determined it but they gave me the plaque for the biggest speck!
It was all great fun and I am looking forward to next year.