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Welcome to Fly Fishing The Salt! If you are just discovering the joys of fly fishing the salt (or salt chuck as some call it) here you will find information to steer you in the right direction. Tips on what equipment to use, why, where and how to fish. And we will try to include a little inspiration to get you going. For the experienced salt water angler, there will be personal stories about real fishermen and their experiences, tips on what flies for which fish and techniques that work. Your stories and articles are also most welcome. Share the knowledge and adventure. Pass it on! This is for you.

Maxi and the Monster

Maxi's Monster
By Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Maxi and I had to go back one more time to be sure we were not just dreaming. My total on redfish personally is about 175 this year starting in July and with all the guys who have fished with me during the ten days spent on the water, I have seen close to 350 come over the side of the boat. I don't know if this venue can continue so if you have not taken the time to try it you should. Someone will have to find out about this place and make it a restricted zone. Of all these fish, one died from overstress (found him the second day) and we ate two this trip. That story is included here. The rest are out there breeding and waiting to stretch more lines.

This trip hatched when Maxi got "paid" for a lecture in 'fishing time' with a new guide to us, but widely known as, Theophile Bourgeois. He only had one day for us so we made a date with Kirby LaCour for the day before Theophile's "Cajun Style" fishing experience was promised.

Maxi picked me up in his new airplane and we toured the beaches from my place in Florida all the way to New Orleans. I took digital shots of all our fishing spots along the way and of more spots that look promising, then we rented a SUV for the two days. Our accommodations were once again in the world-class bed and breakfast of Spike and Leslie just south of the big city. The party was on as usual even if Spike was sitting alert the first night guarding the southern US from terrorists. A dinner with the worlds largest margaritas at a local beanery led to an early night and an early get up to drive the hour and a half south to meet with Kirby.

I walked outside at o'dark thirty and the fog was so thick we had to hustle out to get on the road for the two and a half hour trip. It did not really matter as Kirby was going twenty miles an hour too and he was only about five miles ahead of us. We even ate a breakfast along the way to wait for the light to see fish.

Kirby had suggested it was the right time of the year to catch some big fish, verses just a lot of fish. That is what we needed to hear. Both of us have a bunch of these nice six to twelve pound reds in the picture books but we both had in the back of minds that our luck could not keep up. You are NOT supposed to be able to catch fish every time you go out. If that was possible it would be called "catching."

We launched the boat about eight-thirty and Kirby motored for less than fifteen minutes and started to pole. He told us the big ones were going to be out roaming around in an hour or so. Until the sun popped out we would see if we could find some 'normal' sized ones for a few minutes. Maxi started up front and I backed him up from the rear. He got a couple shots in close but I hooked up first try with a fish only five feet from the side of the poling platform. This fish took off and gathered about ten pounds of weeds and then came unbuttoned. The angles of me pulling up, the weeds pulling sideways and the fish doing circles to gather more weeds bent the hook 90 degrees. Without a barb it just came out of his mouth. I got a second one on and the line came apart at a knot in the leader. My fault, I used a leader from the last trip that was probably just worn out. Maxi was still tossing at fish and had not hooked up when I got the third one on only to bend a second hook and lose my third. Maxi got one in and released and then another while I was still scratching my head in wonder. I did finally get one but was certainly behind. Kirby had threatened to come off the tower and tie me a leader that could pull up a submarine but I fought him off. This one was interesting as Maxi was fighting his and there was another following the fish hooked. I just tossed in on top of the swirling fight and the other one lunged at the fly. We figured out how to unwind from each other and fought the fish from opposite sides of the boat.

About that time we had pushed through the shallow flat and to the deeper one Kirby wanted us to fish. As we came over the brink, up swam two or three nice "little" fish like the ones we had just boated, the eight to ten-pound kind. We started in on these until we spotted a monster that followed these fish. This guy must have been four feet long. Maxi got him to look at his spoon fly a couple times as he knew there was something around to eat but did not like that fly. We swapped places and I tossed a different color spoon but I could not get him to eat that either. He left us with hearts pumping and longingly wondering what that would have felt like.

Kirby did a circle out to deeper water and came back across the deep flat from an up sun angle giving us the best chance to see the fish in the deeper water (three feet maybe), which was somewhat murky too. I was thinking we were not going to see anything in these conditions after ten minutes of looking, but was smart enough to know that something was going to happen if Kirby was still trying. Boy was I right. Kirby yelled, "big red eleven o'clock thirty feet." Right where he was talking about was a long orange smear going right to left big enough to be a large child in a pumpkin suit swimming just below the surface. I tossed a fly but did not get it in front of this fish. Kirby thought that it might have been a thirty-pound fish and I sure could not doubt that.

The fish started showing up in ones and twos and they all looked like monsters. If they were down on the bottom you did not see them until they were right under the boat. If they were near the top, and down sun, you could see them for fifty feet. They did not stay up long and getting a good shot on one was proving to be hard. We both switched to ten-weight rods and heavier flies with more "meat" to them, which made the casting tough in the short quick shot scenario necessary in this situation. We did get a couple of them to turn on the fly but these reds were so big they needed it to be right in front of the nose on the first cast or they would pass it up. If you pulled it out of the water near them or waved it over their heads they spooked. These fish were not big because they were dumb. Like tarpon, the fly needed to end up in front of them without them knowing how it got there.

Maxi was up and I was changing flies when Kirby called out a school of fifty fish coming by on the left from the rear. Maxi tossed right in the middle of them hoping for one of the big ones but a little ten pounder grabbed it up and gave him a mighty fight. He was now well in ahead of me in numbers of fish and larger ones two. He did lose a fish and fly to a failed leader (I tied it, damn it) in a weed situation but my earlier three losses meant he was still ahead.

My time up after this school was active with several fleeting shots, one at what looked like Nessie. It was two really big ones in close trail showing an eight foot long bar of gold/orange going by. I think they were doing some ritual smelling thing as I got the fly in the snot locker without even a notice taken. I tossed at one big one going under us and felt a tap. I had the hook snag on the underside of the tail for just an instant and pulled the tail up near the surface ten feet out. I came unhooked fortunately but that tail was easily a foot wide. These fish were big.

Just after that two medium sized fish showed up coming head-on up high in the water at fifty feet. I got a shot off that landed a couple of feet in front of the left fish and he "lit up" like Alfred E. Newman (the gills flared out and caught the sun like big ears) and just flat sucked up the fly. I set it and the eight inch wide head swung back and forth before he turned away and started pulling the boat along.

The fish never got a big run on me as I had the drag down pretty tight and had a rather heavy leader (fifteen pound) because of my earlier line breaks. He did, however, slice down and through a pile or two of weeds doubling his weight. Kirby moved the boat deftly allowing me to keep the fish and the weeds in line so as not to bend another hook. Kirby was yelling at Maxi to help me with the weeds but he had taken advantage of the moments Kirby and I were busy and hooked up another fish from the back and was busy pulling on yet another ten-pounder. I fell into the tarpon end-of-fight routine with the fish trying to pull away and me countering the direction with heavy pressure. If he went right I would pull left. If he switched I did too. We finally got Maxi to put up his pole and help me in clearing weeds off my line. IGFA be damned (not legal to get help in a record fight) I wanted to get this one in.

End game was that he finally started rolling on his side when the pressure was applied which usually means you are tiring a fish out. Kirby pulled out the only net he had but the fish would run out of range when he saw Kirby's pretty face. When I could finally get him near the boat, the net was just a little small for the fish. Kirby had to half net and half wrestle him into the boat. It was just about forty inches long and weighed in at over twenty-three pounds. The fight took about ten minutes but seemed like an hour. Maxi told me that I was chuckling like the idiots on TV do when they fight fish.

Kirby with MY Fish!

That fish put me in the back-end position until Maxi could get a big one. It was dead for a long time and we went through the flat twice again after motoring back to the other side once and then with Kirby polling to the reset position just in case that would keep the fish there. It was at this point that Kirby said we were through here and 'we be gone to another spot.' Maxi looked down and about twenty feet away was another good-sized fish bearing right down on him. He got his first cast right on the nose and this one also 'just bit it,' right below the rod tip. The same flair of the gills and everything but this time this was really close so the show was rather fantastic.

The setting of the hook happened when the fish swirled and headed off. Maxi tugged twice to set the hook and the fish ran off about thirty yards of line. Maxi did not have his drag as tightly set as mine was. About the time he got on reel and was starting to put on some pressure the fish reversed and had him stripping again as it came by the nose of the boat and headed off in the other direction. Maxi ended up 'on the reel' and palming to slow this run down. This resulted in the fish doing the reversal trick again. Back to stripping again and off to the races on another run it went but not so far this time. This area was mostly weed free, but deeper, so the fish just kept circling around and under the boat. I stood my ground looking for fish to toss at. The tromping around the boat by both Maxi and Kirby finally scared all the others off and I just watched the show and tried to keep out of the way. Once again Kirby trying to apply the net looked like someone attempting to pick up a pumpkin with a tablespoon. They managed to get it to boat after at least a 15-minute fight. Maxi swore it was over a half hour. This was some feisty fish. Long fights can damage fish but both of these big fish almost drenched Kirby when released like they were giving us the one finger salute while leaving. Maxi did chuckle several times and I did not have to comment as he caught himself at it and tried to suppress it. It must come natural when you are doing something you did not even imagine was possibly that good. I remember back when I was fifteen and. . . This fish's picture is the opener for this article.

We did leave after this fight and then did something I have never done before when fishing reds. . .we killed a couple of them. Maxi liked the term 'harvested' but it was like hurting your kid brother. Why we did this was because we were accepting the hospitality of a New Orleans famous caterer and he wanted some fresh redfish to put on a dinner, for us. Maxi accepted this deal and started working on me two weeks earlier. I am not sure if I ever bought into it but the quest was established and the feast already planned and heavily anticipated. What was a man to do?

Well, all I could do is set the standards of the sacrificial act. No big fish (over six pounds), no fish with multiple spots, no really gold ones (they vary in color), none early in the day, no right handed fish, only ones with blemishes, and then only if Kirby would let us. Maxi got Kirby, reluctantly, to go along.

I really am not dead set against murdering fish, if there are plenty of them and then only enough for a meal. Kirby would have never let us kill one of the big ones as they are probably older than 16 years at the size we caught and just getting into breeding. They could live until over forty if nobody kills them and fill the seas with new fish to giggle at. These two were probably just over two in age.

We went to a spot I had been to before and got a couple more fish each. Maxi had to throw back both for rule violations, one for too big and the other for too many spots. I, unfortunately, got the two small ones we kept. One was a seven-pounder and the other about five. They were back in the live well for over an hour banging around complaining about the unusual treatment before they got butchered.

It was, once again, a great day provided in a long line of great days Kirby has hosted. I hope he does not throw me off his list for eating his fish. It will be a while before I do that again. These fish are worth catching a few times in their lifetime.

The meal that night for six, with the fresh fish done a couple of New Orleans' ways, was beyond comparison. Spike is the master of a kitchen any master chef would drool over. He had four or five apparatuses going and turned out the meals while entertaining the crowd much like Emeril on the food network, only the cook and the guests had a lot more wine than they show on camera. I almost got over my lack of zest for "harvesting," but it was the wine speaking. Maxi and I were full, happy and asleep by ten that evening.

I'll tell the Theophile story later. It deserves its' own pages and this is too long, again. If you have not experienced fishing like this, and would like to in this life, I'd be quick to contact either Kirby LaCour 504-464-1697 or Rich Waldner, Kirby's partner, 504-319-2256 and do a trip with them before this show ends. There is no better sight fishing for reds on this earth. I'm going back over very soon with another friend to try for the big ones again and could make it a foursome if we got both guides freed up. Send me an email if interested. ~ Captain Scud Yates scudyates@cox.net

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