Contributing writer, Dustin Schouest, shares a tale of fishing the marshes of Louisiana, returning to fly times chasing fish on his kayak and catching a very welcome surprise. Enjoy getting back to fly times in PAC’s marsh.
Ever spend time away from something you love for so long it makes you sick? Like, feeling-like-a-part-of-you-is-dead type longing. It could be from a woman or man, a hobby, your pet. I started to get that way a few weeks ago, mainly because I hadn’t been fly fishing, or heck even fly tying, for over six months. You see, I started spending too much time bass fishing in the freshwater that I had neglected my affair with the brute redfish from July all the way to December. Even as I learned how to feel bites on wacky worms and fish a drop shot on rocks, I was feeling a hole develop in my heart from not poling the flats, looking for tails.
This became even worse as I started duck hunting, and started seeing redfish around my duck blind. One morning I even had a red easily reaching 35 inches finning himself within spitting distance of my shotgun. This just ate at me like a cancer, and shortly after getting back in, I decided I needed to get back to filling my fly box. I got in from my last hunt, grabbed a drink, and went up to my record player. I grabbed the latest vinyl I had bought, the 2002 masterpiece The Mantle from Oregon doom/black metal gods Agalloch, and put it on the deck. Right after I put the record to play, I sat at the vice, thumbed through my materials, and let the moment overcome me. I don’t even remember what materials I used on the creations I made. But, in the end as the final growls and distorted guitars faded into a melancholic ending to side A of the album, I was pleased with the streamers that I had come up with in my haze.
In the end, there was bucktail, chenille, bits of feather, and Conga hair clippings everywhere. Even my young kitten Dumplin thought that this mess was too big for her to play in. But to contrast the carnage I had four gorgeous flies in front of me. These beasts were going to taste salt soon, and would hopefully find the maw of a hungry fish. I should have went hunting. That was all I could think of as I heard the reports of shotgun blasts from all points of the compass across the Pointe Aux Chenes Wildlife Management Area. A small cold front had pushed in, but the warmth of our latitude had perservered, and the air had come back to a comfortable 67 degrees Farenheit. Little did I know from reports I would get later (and looking up in the skies)that there weren’t many ducks in the area, and that most of the shooting was on pooldeaux, or coot.
I put my precious Priscilla, the camo colored Vibe SeaGhost 130 that I had bought a year previous into the water, noting how high the tide was. For some reason in Pointe Aux Chenes, a low-to-rising tide is better for redfish and speckled trout than a falling tide. I believe that this has to do with bait being pushed into the marsh rather than out. I started paddling, taking time every few minutes to prepare my Temple Fork Outfitters Lefty Krey 9wt. I passed the fly line thru the eyes, tied on a straight eight pound leader, and tied on one of the previous night’s flies: a white and tan streamer made of synthetic hair, flash, chenille, and rabbit fur. To me, it looked like a large white shrimp that take home in our marsh.
As I made my way toward my favorite redfish spot, I heard a whooshing sound. My head turned up to see a most gorgeous sight: dozens and dozens of white pelicans, their white bodies and black tipped wings contrasting with the semi-cloudy skies, flew right over my head on their mission to do whatever it is pelicans do, which I assume to be eat lots of fish and look derpy. After seeing that amazing show, I stood up and started to pole around. The trouble with a high tide in the marsh is that the redfish tend to not tail when the water is so high. A lot of times they will just root around in the submerged grass or make wakes in semi-deep water. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem with the use of my SaltLife Optics Venice II frames. However, I had left them at home like a dummy. So, I was relying on my natural eyesight on a day where the sun was coming up fast and the mercury was climbing.
I paddled toward an island where I saw quite a bit of disturbance, and I saw the back of a redfish, or at least what I thought was one. I guessed where the head of the fish was, and fired off the fly. The water was clear enough that I could see about a foot into it, and even so I was not expecting to see a white and black barred body come up behind my fly. I was even more shocked to see yellow teeth part and come around the body of the shrimp. In fact, I was in such shock, that it took me a second for my mind to come into play and say “Hey dude, you miiiiiight wanna strip set!” And strip set I did. The first run that the sheepsead gave me pulled me into the island, and I figured I might be able to get him in from here. But, as more fly line zoomed into the water, the kayak turned and the fish pulled it off the island, pulling the kayak behind it. Three times I got it boat side before it would either pull off to the side or even under the boat. But, I soon grabbed the leader, pulled the fish to the side of my plastic boat, and got the heavy 5 pound brute into the boat. After a few pictures, I decided to put the sheepshead in the cooler for supper. Sheepshead is actually called the best eating fish by many locals in our area.
I started to pole around a little further, and after about fifteen minutes, I heard a splash/slurp that I recognized as a fish hitting bait at the surface. I saw the ring of ripples and fired my fly at it. As soon as the fly hit the water, my line went taught, and I felt a familiar tug on the line. It felt like a strong speckled trout or small redfish. But the green tint and the jumping form of a largemouth bass brought a “What the hell?!” look to my face. It is important that at the time I explain the eccology of what Pointe Aux Chene’s northern marshes is. You see, back in the old days before our coast was slammed by such storms as Juan, Andrew, Lilly, and Katrina, PAC’s northern marsh was brackish. Oak trees would actually thrive on the banks of the ponds and lakes. But, as the salt water began to take over the coast thanks to errosion and intrusion, the freshwater began to fade away. However, thanks to the efforts of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, new methods to prevent landloss and saltwater intrusion were created. Projects like the Morganza to the Gulf began to reintroduce freshwater into the marsh.
And that brings us to this warm January day, where the largemouth bass had began to come back in my favorite stretches of marsh, and one had decided to eat my fly and give me some jumps that would make Michael Jordan jealous. I got the fish to the boat, and looked at the fish. My dad had always told me stories about the fish they would catch on the WMA when he was a kid. He always said they would catch bass, speckled trout, crappie, redfish, and flounder right around each other. I never thought I would ever get to experience that before in my life. I kissed the bass on the head and sent it back on its way. The sun was begining to burn my face, and I was getting hungry for the sheepshead in my cooler. I about faced from the deep marsh and paddled back toward the launch. As I put the kayak on my trailer, I was greeted with a sight for sore eyes: a flock of teal flying high in the sky. It was the only ducks I had seen all day, reaffirming my decision to go fishing that day. But, the ducks would only get a slight reprieve, as the next time I got in my plastic boat, they would feel the wrath of Dustin Schouest and his hunger for duck jerky.
About the Author
Dustin Schouest is a veteran angler from the small disappearing village of Pointe Aux Chenes, La. When not fishing, Dustin is usually found tying flies, editing video, or writing about his adventures from his Vibe Sea Ghost 130. He is a member of the Hook1 Fishing Team as well as a member of Team Filthy Anglers.