Contributing editor, Dustin Schouest, shares the tale of a new fly fishing tournament which was hastily put together, but turned out to be a fantastic event down in Louisiana! Check out Fly Fishin for the Mission!
Friday hadn’t come fast enough. It had been one of the worst weeks at my new job yet. To put a long story into a few words, I was ready to quit, or die, or both. I hopped into my truck and sped off from the parking lot of the premiere Isuzu engine service facility in the South, heading off to my house with a good soundtrack of Primus going.
I was heading down the bayou to get prepared for the arrival of my fishing partner, Rob Bergeron. We were fishing together for the Mission Six Fly Fishin For A Mission tournament. Mission Six, an organization focused on taking veterans, EMTs, firefighters, and police officers fishing, had started setting up this tournament over two months previous. What started out as a post in the Louisiana Fly Fishing page had turned into a full blown, sponsor driven affair. The members of the group and members of Troll Squad Fishing had gotten prizes from Allen Fly Fishing, Orvis of Baton Rouge, a local custom rod builder Zook Rods, and somehow they had convinced both Pack and Paddle of Lafayette and Eddie Mullen of PAC Kayak Rentals to donate a brand new Jackson Mayfly kayak to raffle off.
The tournament had a great format. There was a boat division and a kayak division. To allow for a man on the poling platform and a person casting on deck, the tournament director had decided on two man teams. There were three divisions decided upon: biggest two redfish from the kayak, biggest redfish from a boat, and biggest overall stringer of redfish. There were also divisions for overall biggest redfish and a side pot for biggest sheepshead. The entry fee was 30 dollars per person and included a meal at the end of the day.
After stopping at my house to get some fresh clothes and brush my fangs, I headed to my father’s camp down in Montegut, Louisiana to wait on Rob. I didn’t have to wait long: his Ford F150 showed up not long after I received a calzone I ordered from a local pizza shop. We shook hands and I hopped in his truck: we needed to get some drinks and supplies at a local gas station, and he wanted to see what the premiere kayak launch in the nation looked like.
The whole way down Highway 665, Rob and I caught up about our lives. Rob and I were members on the Fin Addict Fly Fishers, a club hosted by world record holding fly angler Stephen Robert out of Houma, Louisiana. We met at one of my first meetings and we got along famously ever since. One of our first times going out fly fishing together I had taken him to a special redfish hole in Lafourche Parish and we found huge numbers of sheepshead and slot reds.
Right before the turn for Paw Paw Court, construction had been started on a set of flood gates. In the past due to land loss and subsidence (not “rising sea levels”), Pointe Aux Chenes had flooded quite a few times for various storms. Hurricanes Juan, Andrew, and Lilly had caused many a resident south of CC’s Corner Store, the only gas station in the village of “PAC”, to flood. I could still recall riding my little aluminum hull in feet of water down Highway 665, looking at flooded homes of friends and family. Insurance rates in the area had skyrocketed over the years, and policies required homes be elevated. That is why most of the homes found down this far are on pilings.
We rounded the construction and turned down Paw Paw Court, going over the speed bumps made by thick tug boat rope. Rob whistled, seeing how much the place had grown since his last time here over half a year ago. Campers lined one side of the road, with camps on the other. As we pulled in by the bait shop, the sound of 80’s music filled the air. This time, Mr. Eddie’s music channel had picked Ultravox’s “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes”, ironically one of my most favorite songs of the period.
Kayaks and kayakers were strewn about, with the owners of the plastic boats talking in groups and joking around. Cajun body fuel, aka beer, was everywhere. But the thing that drew our eyes was the red and black Jackson Mayfly seated on the picnic table on display. Every detail of the boat was made with the fly guy in mind, from the one piece peg for your feet to the side compartment big enough for a fly box. I think it is safe to say we were both in love.
The wind, which had been calm as a Buddhist, went completely bipolar and was now blowing a steady 15 to 20 out of the south. This south wind would keep the water up, making fishing hard for everyone. Rob and I talked to a few folks before heading back up the bayou to the camp. It was early, but, we headed to bed around 9ish in the cold room my father’s charter clients sometimes used.
Around 4:30, we awoke and got our gear prepared. In the shadow of our pale companion, Luna, we headed down the bayou toward the launch. The contrast was drastic: Highway 665 was desolate with only the lights of the poles along the winding road being the only other illumination besides my headlights. But over at Eddie Mullen’s PAC Kayak Rentas, cars and kayaks and people packed around the floating docks. Chatter drowned out the sounds of “She Blinded Me With Science” that blasted from the speakers outside the bait shop. Rob and I offloaded our gear and got our PFDs on. Around 6, the horn was sounded, and kayaks took off.
Rob noticed that a bunch of the kayaks were heading in the direction that we originally wanted to head. Above his head I saw a lightbulb turn on, flicker, and then short out. “Hey Dustin,” my compatriot said as we got his Hobie Outback in the water and got my Kaku Kahuna on the dock, “We should go to your usual spot.” My usual spot was towards the Isle de Jean Charles Road, aka The Island Road.
Me, being ever the optimist, slid my Kahuna in the water, hopped on the paddleboard, and shouted at my buddy. “Sure, why not?” And with a laugh, I shouted my catchphrase. “What could possibly go wrong?!”
Spoiler Alert: THINGS WENT WRONG.
We turned the corner, heading due south passed the houseboat that PAC Kayak Rentals uses for events as well as for personal rentals. After seeing the chop, I decided to take point, and lead Rob down a dredged canal lined on one side by a camp. The end of the canal opened up into a few ponds and marshy islands. I pulled out some fly line, and started blind casting.
We had quite a few things working in our favor for sure. Bait was everywhere: mullet and crabs (large crabs at that!) were all over the place. The water was clearer than in the water in the main bayou, making sight fishing a little easier. However, the forces of Nature decided to work against us in more ways than we benefitted from. The wind, forecast the day previous to be about 5 knots, was blowing a good 20 knots, with clouds everywhere. To the north, a large storm was back building with moisture from the south wind. Sprinkles happened all morning, with one very good soaking of rain hitting us around 10 o’clock.
By that time, neither of us had even so much as seen a redfish. Rob had seen a few sheepshead, but by the time we had spotted any of the Louisiana permit, we were already on top of them due to water clarity issues.
After the large shower moved thru, a rainbow appeared in the sky. Rob and I are two very different people. “Look at that!” He said, pointing to the beautiful bending of light in the water vapor to the south, “That rainbow is a sign man, we are gonna catch some huge fish!” At his enthusiasm I chuckled solemnly. “Podnah that is an omen. It means we are screwed on this tourney.” Not long after saying this, I noticed a large swath of nervous water near some weeds. I fired one of my Doomed Krab flies at it, and as soon as the fly hit the water, the fly line went taunt. With the excitement, I thought I had hooked a legal redfish. However, the fight was short and my excitement was for naught: a gorgeous golden rat red had eaten the crab instead of one of his bigger brothers.
While I was fighting this red, Rob had found him a spot where speckled trout were busting on bait. While not one of the targeted fish of the trip, Rob is not the kind of guy who can refuse fish to eat. He landed a nice 14 inch speck on his first few casts, and I kept trying to find good fish for the tournament.
We doubled back to spots we had hit previous. The sun was finally poking its shy head out of the cumulus clouds, and the sight fishing was a bit easier. But, the south wind had pushed more water in, making the water rise. The sheepshead were in the marsh grasses and super shallow ponds. While getting to them wasn’t necessarily an issue, spooking them was becoming increasingly frustrating.
I saw another pile of nervous water, and saw a red streak under the water. This time, I fired a shrimp imitation out, and after three strips of the fly line I felt a hard pull, and line escaped my fingers. Again, I raised my hopes that the rainbow was providing its pot of fishy gold. But instead, I was again disappointed. The redfish was barely legal: 15 and 7-8ths. I am pretty sure even the organizers back at the launch heard my cry of frustration over the 80’s jams coming over the speakers.
3pm reared its ugly mug, and we decided to head back in. I really wanted something to bring to the scales, but, it wasn’t going to happen today. Rob and I checked a few more small ponds and, upon seeing no action, we quickly made our way to the docks. After having loaded up, we ran into our good friends Kevin Andry and “Catch” Cormier, a writer for Louisiana Sportsmen. They showed us their bag, and we were impressed: a large redfish and some trout greeted our eyes. My friend Nik Dinger came by: he and his partner Sarah had caught a huge sheepshead. Regrettably, he hadn’t put money into the sheepshead side pot, so he would not be eligible for winning.
After an hour, at 4 sharp, Matthew Roberts called the weigh in closed. It wasn’t long before we were all brought to order around the tent. In many of the anglers’ hands (including my own) were heaping, steaming plates of freshly cooked jambalaya. After my second helping, I was refueled and ready to hear the awards.
Matthew spoke loudly and clearly, all the while still being funny. He even managed to Steve Harvey a few of the awards. The results of the tournament are as follows:
BOAT DIVISION WINNERS:
MARK MCCAIN AND SHANE COLEMAN
KAYAK DIVISION WINNERS:
KEVIN TIPPET AND JERRY BOURGEOIS
MATT ABBOTT AND CHRIS HUDSON
PAT CORTEZ AND MAURICE DAQUIN
GLENN CORMIER AND KEVIN ANDRY
NICK DINGER AND SARAH GILES
MAX DOUGAS AND STEPHEN BOUDREAUX
After the awards were handed out, the Jackson Mayfly was raffled off. The winner of the Mayfly wasn’t Rob unfortunately. It was Daniel Sanchez. Hats and reels and decals and fly line and tons of other goodies were awarded to people with the winning tickets. With my own luck, I had somehow managed to win an Arctic tumbler with the Mission Six emblem on it. My buddy Ross Matherne was nice enough to give me an Orvis hat he had won. It seemed a bit more fitting for a fly fishing tournament than the Legend of Zelda hat I was rocking.
The awards and raffle ended shortly after 5pm. Rob had decided to head back up to Gonzales instead of fishing more, as he had originally planned. I myself was bone tired and weary, and desperate for more sleep. We shook hands, and I said goodbye to Catch and Kevin. All four of us caravanned out of Pointe Aux Chenes, with me pulling off of Highway 24 before they did. I got into my house and proceeded to my room, where I and my cat Dumplin promptly passed out.
For a tournament that was ad hock thrown together over the course of only two months, Fly Fishin’ For The Mission was quite a fun turn of events. With a great format, amazing company, great food, fun raffle, and the money raised having gone to a great cause, the tournament was well worth the money and time invested. I have a feeling this tournament is going to become one of the biggest fly fishing competitions on the Gulf Coast.