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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.

Winter Fishing Trip with a Body Count

By Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Winter fishing in the northern gulf region is a lot of waiting and some suffering but the fish are around for those who can be flexible and react to the few favorable situations that pop up. You can go out and spend a lot of time cold and miserable if you don't hit the conditions needed or sit "alert" and respond when it gets "right." Rich Waldner of www.fishwithrich.com called me with the "right" conditions happening in the second week of January, even if it looked like it would be for only one day. "Right" conditions mean the sky cover, winds, water temperature and tides are correct for finding the fish. I dropped everything and ran for my truck when he called.

Four hours later and 11:30PM found me checking into a hotel near the Delta and six hours after that I was up and heading for Rich's house south of New Orleans. The "right" window was only going to be the first half of the day as the clouds were coming from Texas with some more wind. The day before had been a mess with a cold front just passed. This day it was 35 degrees with less than 10 MPH of wind and mostly clear skies at 7 AM. The tides were going to be incoming all day which meant clear water on the outer edge of the flats near the gulf. We pressed to the ramp less than five miles from Rich's house with wild expectations but full appreciation of the wild place we were fishing, as just about anything can happen to make the conditions change. Little did we know what this day was going to hold?

0830 saw us getting out of the truck to ready the boat for backing down the ramp. "Ramp" is a relative description along these flats and it could be a double concrete beauty, or like this one, which was a mud and gravel slip behind a shack. Here you need to nose up between a garbage pile on one side and an old school bus lying on its' side so you could change direction and back down the ramp. Any better ramp and someone without teeth will collect $5 for the launch.

We climbed out of the truck between the two rubble piles and Rich noticed red fluid on the road beside the truck. He called me to look stating that, "someone is either leaking steering fluid or blood." I looked at the four-inch puddle and could see it was turning black as it dried and commented, "that is blood and somebody got hurt here." It is a launch for duck hunting also and there were several trailers about. I looked at the truck nearest to see if someone was in need of help and then saw the blood was even thicker under our truck and a trail led off to the left towards the bus. It took me about a two-yard jaunt to see a body lying over there. It did not appear to be taking a nap. I called to Rich, to show him that somebody had thrown away a perfectly good young man. That started an interesting two-hour delay in us getting fishing.

Four other boaters were at the ramp. One twosome was leaving and another two were trying to launch to do some geological work. Both had made the same maneuver we had, to either get in or out of the water, but nobody had noticed the trail of blood. It was easy to have pulled right over the whole blood puddle and the man at the side of the road had a camo jacket on so was not all that easy to see in the tall weeds. The six of us exited the immediate area after Rich felt for a pulse and noted he was "mighty cold and stiff." We got the truck out of the way, but not far enough as it turned out and we found a casing from a pistol and put a stick to mark it without touching it. I had seen CSI Miami and knew the drill.

It took about 25 minutes to get the first of a dozen official vehicles to arrive after the 911 calls. There was no ambulance, as they believed us that it was too late. The crime scene tape (surrounded a 50' by 100' area between the poles, trees and bus) included our truck but not the boat so we were stuck for the duration of crime scene processing. Eventually, each of us was interviewed and made to write a statement of who we were, what we were doing there and what we saw or did to the scene. When the whole area had flash burns for the photos, about 20 little yellow markers were laid out marking evidence, enough people were in attendance to almost fill the marked off area and the big Captain of Detectives arrived they finally turned the body over. It was a mess. The coroner did the deed but he had waited for the big cheese also. It was a pretty good show of CSI Port Sulfur and judging by what we see on TV, pretty much along the same lines except there was not one good looking woman among all the scene processors.

The young black man was quite dead and covered with blood. He had been on his side away from the road with a hood on so we could not see him before. We heard later that he had a bunch of holes in him but the blood was everywhere including along a three-yard trail where someone had dragged him out of the blood puddle in the middle of the road. The dummies had not only missed a casing but had driven off through the blood leaving some nice tire tracks.

We were pretty sure there was nothing more they needed of any of us so we asked one guy near us if we could go. The big boss let us go. The other two parties left for home. We would have had to drive though the hallowed yellow taped ground so all we could do was launch and park on that side of it. We were finally headed out about two hours late.

The shock of the whole starting event sort of settled in as we motored about 15 minutes to our starting spot. When we started we had talked it out and decided our day should go better from here on out.

Up I jumped on the front platform of the boat and Rich climbed on the tower to pole. It took about five minutes until the damnedest two hours of fishing either of us ever experienced started. We first saw two big reds but too late to get a fly in front of them as they bolted from the boat. It was still cold out and they were tough to see on the bottom where they sat. I next saw a school of several large fish coming at us down the bank. I pointed them out to Rich at about a 100 feet way coming at us and he noted, "They are either fish or nutria as they are almost out of the water." Rich stopped the boat and I tossed a 30-foot cast to the biggest one I could see. He turned on it but a little fish (six pound perhaps) tried to grab it. I snatched it out of his way and put it back in front of the big one who was looking for the food that had gotten away. The little one made another lunge at the spoon but the big one beat him to it. This guy took off and Rich tried to get down and get a second pole out as the others tried to get my fly out of the big one's mouth as he shook his head. It is not an easy feat for Rich to stake out the boat, climb down, unfurl another rod, strip out line and then climb by me fighting a big fish and then find another to throw to. The other fish waited until all five events were just about accomplished and then left as Rich stood and looked for them. Instead, he helped me land a very nice 13 plus pound fish.

I tried to let Rich catch the next one but he said he would fish, "after you catch five." It took about two minutes of poling and I hooked another one. This was a single and I landed him easily as he was only about 10 pounds. In another a few minutes another herd of fish popped up coming at us. About half of the things Rich needed to get ready to throw at a second fish were already done when I hooked another big one. He did the stake off and was up on the front and hooked up almost instantaneously. My trick, to not scare off the others when I hooked mine, was to let off the pressure so the hooked fish would not scare the others off. It worked and we were both sitting with big fish on and arguing about whom would get theirs in first. I had a ten-weight rod and Rich had a little seven-weight one. There was really no deciding who should go first as I could easily get mine in and he was going to be fighting for good while. What we managed to do during the discussion was let both fish come unhooked when we put the pressure back on. Good plan but bad execution.

Not to worry, I did get Rich up front and I started us down the flat to a corner. Less than twenty feet of poling and Rich was tossing at another fresh batch of fish running us down along the shoreline. He got tight with about ten casts. He had the fish worked up in a feeding frenzy and pulled it out of one's mouth three times finally hooking up. I stopped laughing and did the trick of staking off, got down and hooked up in one cast. Not wanting to mess this up, I let Rich handle his fish with the little rod and landed mine in a minute or two. Instead of helping him, I stood back up and hooked the third big one of the many still hanging around. I did let Rich finish and then got my second in. I don't think we had one less than 9-10 pounds yet but we only weighed the two biggest and the second was slightly over 12.

Rich took the poling back as I had done too good a job. He needed to get his job security back. We rounded that corner and were going into a little bayou since named "Scud's Corner." It was less than a hundred yards deep and about 40 wide. We would move about 20 feet and hook another fish. If there were more around Rich would come down. We had two on two more times on this run. I got a shot a monster trying to slip out of the corner up in the shallows but my first shot at this four-foot long fish caused him to swirl in the shallow soft muck and it made it so he could not see the fly. I got a bunch of shots but since neither he nor I could see, I finally hit him with the fly and he ran off to deep water. I was at fault for missing this fish that wanted to eat in the worst way.

I talked Rich into going back up front and got another 10 feet of poling before a second big one tried to slip out the same route. Rich shot a 60 foot laser cast and landed the little fly about three inches from the fish's nose and it just got sucked in with a monumental splash and a jolt that almost pulled him off the boat. Now, he was still pulling on this fish with the seven-weight and there were no others with this one, so I just eased down and let him fight his fish. The fish was taking out two for every one yard Rich would retrieve in the beginning. It was going to take awhile.

I stood on the front tower and noted the end of the bayou was about 50 yards in front of me and it was about 40 yards to the far side opposite Rich's fight, which was still a toss up. Reds were slashing along each shoreline throwing minnows and shrimp three feet into the air. I could not reach the end of the pond but could just make the side if I reared back and really let it rip. My best effort fell about three feet short of the left edge and just out of area the fish were busting. A failure at the long cast, I decided to help Rich. He had the fish up near the boat but with the light rod he could not get the leader near enough to catch without breaking my rod. I helped and he got another 12+ to his credit.

The fish were still busting all over but just out of range. Rich, instead of getting us moving, decided it was time to "Marine" the boat. That means that I had made a mess while poling and there was some little spot of muck somewhere that was in need of cleaning up. I frothed watching the fish and tossing three feet short repeatedly and he mopped out the boat, folded the fishing rags, polished the Boga grip and primped the feathers on the flies he would use next winter. When he finally decide it was time for fishing again, he did not go forward or even to the left where the fish were, he pushed us out of the bayou to, "get a better angle for sighting the fish." Sighting the fish my butt! I could see their backs out of the water for 180 degrees behind us as we went back and started down the far bank. Of course, he was right about the better visibility and I had another fish on before we got anywhere near the bank. I forced him back up front and took him to the corner. What happened was comic. There were so many fish and the water so shallow that one hook up and the rest of the fish went wild. In short order fish were bumping into fish and the bottom of the boat. You could not see anything but muck and mud flying in every direction. This bayou will be on our list of fine places to look in the winter forever. We had spent about two hours overall in that corner and caught what we estimated as 15 to 18 fish. None were less than 10 pounds.

The clouds came and went through the next three hours and we caught another 8 to 10 fish in the two other spots we tried. There were hundreds of fish but the tide had quit rolling in and we could not see most of them until we were up on them. There were some notable casts and beautiful fish but the wild two hours in Scud's Corner could not be topped. It may not be ever. The correct combination of conditions and two guys who could put the fly right in front of hungry fish all came together making for a lifetime memory. I have been lucky enough to have had a bunch of these so far in many different parts of the fishing world with several types of fish.

The last stop of the day yielded a couple of fish but that was out of several hundred we had running all around us throwing up water in their wild runs for safety. One ate, of perhaps 300, and that was just lucky as these fish were spooked. We worked around through some really nice little cuts only to keep on spooking herds of fish with little chance of getting to one before it was in full afterburner leaving. On the way out of this little area into a sunset that would take your breath way, we kept on moving fish we could not see. One did almost take our breath way as he went by. Rich thinks it was in the 20-30 pound range. I couldn't tell, as it was too long for me to see all of it at once in passing.

Only on the 20 minute ride back to the ramp, having seen about 500-700 fish and catching over a two dozen, did we think about the poor guy who met us at the ramp some eight hours back. He missed out on a life, not just a good day of fishing.

Arriving at the ramp, all that remained of the scene was a camera crew from FOX News, New Orleans. I stayed with the boat but we decided we needed to keep our mouths shut or we would be on the 11 o'clock news. Rich walked right by the cameraman on the way to the truck but was stopped by the stunning news lady on the drive to the ramp. She almost climbed in the truck with him.

Rich stuck the trailer in the water and I drove the boat on while the cameras rolled. Rich pulled it out with me sitting in it with the cameras still cooking. He stopped and we strapped the boat down and secured for travel. The cameras were still using up film. I tried to get into my side but it was locked. That was when I noticed Rich on the other side of the truck pinned up against it with the leather flying jacket and "fish with Rich" hat on spilling his guts out to this much-too-pretty lady. I was still in the background so I eased around behind the camera just as Rich was going into his next commercial about fishing with Rich. He did mention that he lived nearby and they usually went several days without a murder in this part of the world so fishermen should not worry that much.

I was starting to make faces at Rich when they were going into the second round of questions and getting to subjects Rich had not thought about since childhood. Somehow, he got around to the fact that neither of us was upset about dead bodies 'cuz we were trained killers in our country's military services. This young lady was about to faint at the chance of having to see our dead fish let, alone being around trained killers or a dead body. I was certain the batteries on the camera would fail as the history of the Marine Corp spewed forth and when some story that included Hannibal with elephants and mountains came out. I was making bottoms up motions to tell Rich to give up.

I was about to puke when Rich bothered to pull me over and introduce me as the one who had first spotted the mort. The camera turned on me and the fine young lady was in my face with the mic. I manage to say something PC before telling her to keep the riff raff from New Orleans off our fishing ramp, especially the dead ones. The hoods from up north can dump them in the river up there and save us all time on the water. That ended it. I only talked for 30 seconds. I think she was only interested in me, as I had peed off the far side of the boat while Rich was getting the truck.

I drove home the four and half hours with plenty of thoughts about the day. It seems dead bodies do not bother us so much with the current line up of TV shows that dissect them before us nightly. Fishing is more memorable than dead bodies. I would drive nine hours any time in 24 hours to fish the "wild two hours," but would not walk ten feet to see a dead body.

The next morning a detective called to ask me what kind of cigarette I smoked, as they found butts at the scene. "None," says I, and then I asked who the body was. He said he was a long time offender on parole, 28 years old, from a town 50 miles north and was probably brought down to "our" ramp and executed. He had been shot about 11 PM the night before. An arrest would probably be forthcoming. I asked him to pass on my request for the bad guys to quit using our ramp for their games. He said he would pass that on.

Rich called to say I was famous as I was on the news, both coming out of the water and they used 10 seconds of my blabbing. Rich did not get shown at all. I asked what I was shown saying and Rich said he could not hear as his dad was laughing too hard. I am changing my name and will fish with bullet-resistant underpants from here on out.

Don't miss a chance to have your "wild two hours" with the winter reds of the delta. You too, might have the makings of a fine story. If Rich is busy, Capt Brian Carter can show you these same fish; www.voodoocharters.com. ~ Capt Scud, scudyates@cox.net, Jan 2005

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