Longtime Yak Outlaws supporter, Dustin Schouest, shares with us a great story about fishing the Louisiana marshes doing some fish chasing with their fly rods.
Every trip I had been making of late had been gold. Even with the winter still trying to make a comeback like some pop star from the 80’s, the redfish had been eating. Spring was warming the waters, bringing life into the marsh. I parked my truck at the small launch on the Pointe Aux Chenes Wildlife Management Area. From where I was I could see the house of my long deceased great uncle “Dovvee” Naquin. The old Cajun made his living showing tourist how he lived off the land; hunting and fishing from his back porch, wrestling alligators, basically making the folks on Swamp People look like chumps. My father had long told me stories about him, and all I could wonder is “What would Dovvee say about us out here on kayaks and paddleboards?”
My YOLO Board came off the truck, I loaded up my fly rod and gear, and quickly jumped on, paddling out a long ways. I found my favorite break in the marsh, and slipped in. I was greeted with a wonderful sight, garfish pushing and feeding on baitfish. That was the sign I wanted to see, action! I tied on a brand new fly I had whipped up for this area, and started poling around looking for tails and wakes. The first tail I saw was blue and bright, and belonged to a long and fat redfish that was rooting around the mud. It took two casts to get the fly where I wanted it, but once he saw it, I knew what was coming. As quick as a bullet, I saw his mouth open and mud fly as his gills flared, and I hammered the hook home. The first run was hard, with the 9wt fly line burning the tips of my fingers. But when I tried to strip in more line, I heard the one sound no angler ever wants to hear.
POP! I was in disbelief, mouthing a mantra of “No’s” and expletives. But the empty tippet I pulled out told me everything: the 10 pound tippet had snapped. My head shook as I looked at the snapped line, and I sighed. “I guess that’s just the way fish chasing goes,” I resigned, and tied on my favorite crab fly. It would be another two hours before I saw another redfish feeding: the rest of the time I spent fishing was used trying to get the Louisiana permit, aka sheepshead, to eat anything I had. But, those picky, spooky convict fish wouldn’t eat anything.
The redfish I saw had been spooked by my YOLO Board hitting a stump, but I was able to fire the fly out in front of him before he ran out of my range. I stripped the fly right passed his eye, and the big brute turned on a dime to eat my fly. This time I was easier on strip setting and playing the fish, using the reel to my advantage before I pulled the fly from his mouth. After a short five minute fight, I had the beauty in my hands. At around 25 inches, it was the perfect size redfish for a tournament: heavy without the fear of going over the dreaded 27 inch mark. But, there was a little something special about this fish: the tail. When the redfish was younger, it had been attacked by something. Judging from the size and shape of the bite, I knew what had done it. Now, I’m no expert on anything but doom metal and retro video games, but even I could tell the bite came from a garfish.
This beauty was coming home with me for supper: it had been a long minute since I had had redfish on the half shell, and I wasn’t missing out on this chance to have it again. But right as I got the redfish in the ice chest, I heard a splash as loud as a bowling ball hitting water. I heard it again, and started poling toward it. But, I had to stop and catch my breath when I saw the school. It was about ten to fifteen slot sized reds cruising and busting on bait. My hands shook with “red fever”. Just like the last redfish, I fired it in front of the school and stripped it fast, hoping for a reaction strike. And boy did I get it. The redfish was right out of slot sized, about 15 inches, but the strike was hard, and I got to watch the eat. Even as I played him out, he kept trying to rejoin his school. It made me laugh a little, and I quickly snapped a picture or two before tagging and releasing the beast back into the depths, so that he could get back to his friends and mates.
The sun had worn me out, and I wanted to get home and clean my catch. So, I waved bye-bye to the school, and started paddling back toward my truck. I could have stayed and caught more. I could have stayed all evening. But, I knew my limits, and I was right at it. But, that is just the way fish chasing goes.
With my recent successes in PAC, I decided to invite my long time fly fishing and duck hunting friend, Rob Bergeron, to come grocery shopping with me. And by grocery shopping, I meant fishing. I pulled up to the launch blaring some Electric Wizard, and saw Rob walking towards me with a topwater-tipped rod and reel in his hands and a grin on his face. “Dude, I just casted out in the canal, and I had a blow up on my Mirrorlure first cast!” I gave him a high five; this was the sign we needed. He would be rocking my old Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 for the day. He had some interest in buying a YOLO Board soon, but he would make do with my Tarpon for now.
We paddled toward the marsh, with Rob trying a few cast at waking garfish along the way. As we moved, giant garfish rolled in the canal, looking like tarpon leaping on baitfish at times. It was all I could do to not get the shivers: this was the kind of stuff I lived for. Not ten minutes after we entered the marsh, we started seeing and spooking redfish. Rob tied on a spoon, and got his fly rod ready with one of his awesome redfish flies. As we made our way toward some of the old trees, Rob pointed out two backs sitting up out of the water. We parked our crafts and tried casting at them to no avail. However, Rob did manage to do something I hadn’t seen done before: he caught a crab on his fly.
The biggest problem we would have all day was the thick slime and snot grass that had started to cover the marsh. It was so thick in some areas that the garfish had started making tunnels underneath it. And the flies I had tied were a bit too heavy for it. We paddled all around the marsh, only seeing a few redfish and a handful of sheepshead. Sadly, nothing would eat. The reason being had been the tide: when we came in, it was falling, but as we started fishing, it went slack. It wouldn’t change until right before we would leave. After hours of fishing, Rob was getting the idea to leave and go find some trout. I was inclined to agree. “If I don’t catch anything on this cast, I am heading to catch some specks man,” Rob said right as his spoon hit the water. Not even five seconds later we watched his rod double over as it loaded on a big redfish, the brute turning his boat ninety degrees as it tried to escape. But Rob was quick to net it, and load it into the ice chest for later consumption.
Not even twenty minutes later, my buddy had another small red in the net. He told me that we would leave soon if he couldn’t catch another redfish. I agreed, and started blind casting my fly. A few minutes later, I felt a tug on the fly line, but saw the redfish spit the hook right as he realized he was hooked. Soon, we decided to just hang it up for the afternoon, and start paddling in. We got all our gear loaded up, and we shook hands. “Man, I don’t know what happened,” I confessed. “I would have thought it would have been as good of fishing as it was when I was here earlier this week.” Rob patted my shoulder and looked at me.
“Dude, it’s all good. We had fun, caught a few fish, and got back safe. It is all good.” My friend was right. I hopped in my truck and waved at him, heading back home. Rob was right. Sometimes the fish are biting hard, and sometimes they are not biting anything. But ya know what? That’s just the way fish chasing goes…
About the Author
“Born and raised on a boat” as his father says, Dustin Schouest, creator of Dark Marsh Flies, is mainly a fly rod and paddleboard loving Cajun fishing,
and trying to expose, the little known paradise of Pointe Aux Chenes, La. Dustin is also a team member associated with Hook1 Kayak Fishing Gear, Muddy Water Paddle Company, Salt Life Optics, and Filthy Anglers.