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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.

Katrina Did Not Kill All the Fish

By Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

For all the mess Katrina did to the lower Delta of Louisiana, fish did better than people in general. I just fished with Captain Brian Carter of (captainc@voodoocharters.com) at the end of Oct and had two of the best days I have ever had down that way. That is saying something as this place can produce thirty plus reds a day if the conditions match a caster's abilities.

Brian, Rich and all the guides I fish with down south of New Orleans lost just about everything. Rich's house north of Port Sulfur was washed through with his boat visiting his neighbor down the road and both trucks planted in his yard. Brian's boat ended up in a tree after he took it to a safe place at his folk's home in Pass Christian. All his belongings left behind were soaked and molded into mush. Another guide has not found either of his boats yet and he lived in the city so has a mess of a house too. I did not expect to fish there for many months until Brian came up for air and said, "fights on" the last week of October.

Brian got his stuff in line first as he did not lose a house (he rented) and his fights with FEMA and the insurance companies were simple by comparison. He was loaned a boat by a good customer and then found a nice used Hell's Bay. He got his Bride-to-be in a rental trailer and, along with a couple of other guides, rented a second trailer to put up fishermen. There are no other rooms to be had in the area. After figuring out how to get through all the homeland security, police roadblocks and necessary permits halting movement through the devastated areas, the guides got out on the water and found the fish were still out there. The marsh on the west side of the river is somewhat "worn-out looking" but not damaged as badly as the east side. With no commercial fishing, shrimping or crabbing and nobody who does not live there on the water, the fish are having a fine time. This area took a thrashing from Katrina and some flooding from Rita but in comparison to either the western and eastern marshes, this one is in great shape.

This time of the year is usually special for the larger fish running the flats and this year seems to be better than ever. The storm just cleaned out the weeds that die off in the winter a little early leaving the food supply out in the open for the big fish to scoop up.

My drive there from the east was about as long as usual but the devastation of the storm starts two states from New Orleans and increases exponentially through the city and slacks off a little on the West Bank only to ramp up to total devastation as you proceed down the delta. I made the drive during the day, as there are no lights after reaching the city for the most part. People are driving the roads in wild ways and trucks are moving mounds of trash, some of which ends up on the freeways. There is not all that much highway traffic as not much is happening and few live there yet. The I-10 bridge over the lake is half back but I had little delay there either.

Going south from Brian's trailers in Jesuit Bend starts you into the smashed area where the storm hit land first with full power. The roadblock does not open until 6 AM and you have to be back out by 6 PM. We drove down in the dark but even that way the houses in the road and piles of cars and debris are easy to see. We only went 25 miles to Port Sulfur. That is about half way down and from there on little is left standing. On down, most stuff is not even around to find. The ramp is behind what was a hospital and high school. FEMA and the National Guard are camped on the sports field and have another checkpoint to get past there. A boat and trailer might not be too safe otherwise.

We hit the water on day one with clear weather, 45 degrees and NE wind of 15 to 20 MPH. Once away from the ramp it looked like a normal winter day. Most of the structures like fishing and hunting camps are totally gone but the marsh grasses and dikes are still hanging on. The birds are just getting back from wherever they went but not in abundance yet. All in all, the beauty of the day seemed to wipe out the bad stuff on the land and we were all alone on the water.

We stopped on the way out to toss at and catch some seatrout the birds were diving on and then reached clean water and were fishing in about 20 minutes more. It only took five minutes before the first couple of reds showed but they were a little spooky. It might have been from the many porpoise cruising the canals as they tear up the fish something horrible. From the fourth fish on they started attacking the fly like the fish of old from this area. I did switch over to Rich Waldner's spoon fly to get things rolling. His fly is especially good when the grasses are heavy but works all the time even if it is a little hard to throw in winds like we were experiencing this day. I kept it on for these six pound fish and got about half a dozen catches then switched back to my Easy Crab when the fish should have been bigger and all the shots were straight up wind. We fished four or five different areas this day and ended up with about 22 fish total. There was a black drum in there and I even got Brian to come down from the tower once to hook a second fish while I was fighting a big one. He got that one hooked and another came at us. For a moment we started to get a third pole out for that one coming at us but the two trashing already took all the efforts we had. Monsters did not show this day but we did not fight the waves to get to where they were. Our biggest for the day was probably about eight pounds. The smallest was five.

The day ended just as pretty as it began. There never was a cloud in the sky while the wind kept on at 20 MPH on into the night. I commented on the way home that it would be hard to beat this day and just getting out on the water for another day would be reward enough.

Day Two

The wind dropped to 10 to 15 for the start and there were still no clouds. With bellies full of perfect steaks from the night before, we decided to try for the bigger fish. It took about forty minutes and a couple of stops to get to the clean water out where the big guys roam. I knew something was up when the first fish appeared coming at the boat and Brian said, "don't throw at that one." It was a nice 6-8 pound beauty! Within five minutes I was tossing at monsters, in the twenty-pound plus size. These first three were in deep water and I needed to switch to a heavier fly and rod. Out came the nine-weight rod with a sink tip line and my special heavy weight "Miami dolphin" crab pattern.

I caught a big black drum much to Brian's scorn because I could not pass up the chance. The next fish to show was in about a foot of water and his back was almost out. I tossed, he lunged, I snatched and he missed. Instead of spooking he went wild trying to find the crab. I got it back to him and he grabbed it again and the fight was on. The big guy ran off eighty feet of line before I got him slowed to a stop. With him out there thrashing two more fish the same size appeared. Brian stuck his Power-Pole in the mud and got hooked to the second fish. His fight ended before it started with that one when it came unbuttoned. His second cast hooked him again only to come off again. He packed it in and coached me to landing mine. I had him to the Boga in about five minutes but he did put up one heck of a pulling contest. This first one was eighteen pounds.

Two or three hours later we had three this size, two in the 14-15 range and a couple at 10 pounds. My right arm was about to fall off. All these were in shallow crystal clear water and there were actually several more that escaped after short fights. The big barbless hooks did not hold sometimes especially when the fish was hooked chasing the hook right at the boat.

Once we found a big fish up in a river we could not pole up and I got out and walked an exposed bar to try and get him. I didn't get this one but when I got out again to do the same the fish swam right up under the place I was standing and when I got the fly in front of him he just rolled over and took it off the bottom like a mullet flashing his large flat side at us. This fish ran past the boat and back out the river we had poled up. It was a Chinese fire drill getting back in the boat to follow the fish back into the open water. Another big black drum got caught when I threw at a big red only to have the black fish beat him to it.

We left the big fish area before I broke my arm to look at a couple of more spots. On the way we came upon a couple of porpoise slapping the heck out of the water and slurping up mullet. Evidently the mommy of the two did like us driving through her area and she swam past us and jumped right in front to splash down and drench us. She saw the wind caused some of the water to miss and adjusted to the right and jumped twice more making sure I was wet from nose to tail. We were going about twenty MPH on the plane at the time.

I did catch one more redfish but the day was already full of fish for me, a dozen reds total. The last fish to pop up was a nice sheepshead. I got it interested and searching with the first cast. I hooked it on the third try. These toothy little guys are hard to hook on a big 2/0 hook but this one worked it to death and got to meet me for the effort. He was a five pound fish.

My smile, on the way in, probably looked like the one on the Nurse's face through the front window of the helicopter in the movie Mash after the night with the dentist, Painless.

Yes, I feel for the folks down that way and as a family we have given much money to funds for each hurricane as well as the tidal wave and earthquake victims elsewhere. It seems trivial to fish during these times but Brian and others are trying to survive too. Helping jump start the area means also helping them get back to work. I think this winter will offer some fine fishing, especially in this eastern marsh area of the Delta. Brian and others are up and running with the added perk of a place to stay. Only go if you are willing to risk your arm on some of the big fish down that way. Call Brian at 504-329-5198. ~ Capt Scud Yates, scudyates@cox.net Oct 2005

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