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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.

Spring Fishing South of New Orleans

By Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

It is not really Spring yet, being the end of Feb, but the fish think it is along the Mississippi Delta fifty miles south of New Orleans. I ventured over that way from my Florida home because the weather was going to be perfect and I actually had a floor to sleep on. The aftermath of Katrina has left little in the way of rooms down that way. Rich Waldner, fishwithrich.com a guide friend has a house almost habitable while he works on it and lives in a FEMA trailer beside it. With the walls up and carpets in, camping is allowed.

I fished two days, the first with another guide, Brian Carter of voodoocharters.com. Rich was monitoring the carpet install on day one so I would have a floor to sleep on. The skies were clear, wind less than 15 knots and tides favorable to give us a fine view of the fish. Off we pressed in anticipation of a winter day chasing big reds on the flats near the ocean behind what is left of the town of Port Sulfur.

The water was especially clear this day and the water warmer than usual for winter. It was about 72 degrees, also warm for February. The day started with a thirteen pound redfish and a fifteen pounder followed in a couple of minutes. I was using a ten-weight rod because of the wind and would be happy I stuck with that. Five or six reds in the eight to ten pound range followed in the next two hours but I missed on a couple of monster reds that just showed up for a scant look at the boat. I could not get the fly "just right" and they did not see it or got spooked at a second cast.

We got nearer deep water and the size of the fish increased and big black drum came into play. The first one of them I got was well above twenty pounds as was the second. That was enough of these fish as they are not the prizes the huge reds are. Along came two black drums that could not be ignored so I hooked a monster that made the ten-weight a nice tool to have. While I was fighting this guy and barely moving him off the bottom, spring showed up. Around the boat appeared jacks, big ones. They are spring fish and when they pop up you never miss a chance to hook one. I was engaged and could have broken the big drum off but wanted to get him in. Brian tried to get me to hand him the black drum pole so I could cast to the jacks. I kept my fight and insisted he toss at the jacks circling the boat. He tied on a popper and first cast was hooked to a fish which started its' run toward Cuba. The drum and jack were offsetting the rotation of the boat as they fought. I finally got the black monster to roll over and signal it wanted to come up. It was nearly fifty pounds and I was going to have to have some help. When I asked Brian to help with the net so I would not break a rod, he announced the saying of the day: "we have a situation here." He held his fish off and dipped the net to get the head of my fish in it. I then dropped my pole and took over the landing by grabbing the tail so the head would keep in the net while Brian went back to trying to stop his fish. I did get the Boga out to weigh mine; it came in at 44 pounds.

Just before I was going to ask Brian to take another break to snap a picture more jacks were coming by the boat. I shoved the monster over the side and made sure he recovered and then tried the crab fly on my line on the jacks. They were only mildly interested so I sat down and put on a popper too. First cast in front of four of them and one cast set off a gang fight over my lure. I was then hooked and mine joined Brian's in pulling the boat across the lake. Sometimes they pulled opposite and stopped all rotation and sometimes they were side by side and almost had us on a plane. Brian got his up under the boat and the "situation" got reinstated. There were jacks all around us still and I contemplated making a real situation by having Brian hold both of the rods now hooked to fish and letting me toss at yet another jack. We both decided that, although notable, that would be somewhat piggish. I held the net to get the nose of the fish in and he grabbled the tail to pull it in the boat. Brian revived that one and sat back resting while I tugged endlessly on mine. I thought it was mighty big but it was really about the same size as the first one. My fight was enhanced by the fact that in the "gang" fight this fish got hooked on the anal fin. That gave this mighty fighting fish even more power than if it were hooked on the tail. It took all of fifteen minutes to get this 24-pound fish in. When this one was under control and documented on film Brian and I both hooked up again. The pods of these fish just kept on coming. This time Brian got hurried and the fish was a little green. Mine got off when I got it near the leader length away which was a nice touch. Brian's ten-weight rod cracked once and then a half minute later broke. He grabbed the leader and landed the fish by hand but he was out of the fight.

I hooked and landed one more and lost another after a long fight. They were still floating by when Brian noted my lack of excitement at hooking another. If I had thought about it I would have broken the hook off the popper and kept on working. The surface strikes were fantastic but another fight was not what I was after. Four "jack pulling" contests was a new record for me. When we looked at a clock again we figured out that about three hours had been spent playing with these jacks. Spring really had arrived.

Our last flat was with a failing sun and some clouds making it difficult to see the fish. Two monster reds showed up but when we positioned for a shot they disappeared and saw us before we could get an unannounced shot at them. One last one popped up right in front of the boat and took off towards the rear of the boat. I threw out in front of him as he went into the glare for me up front but Brian had a prime seat for the show. He said the act went like this; "The big fish just stopped when your fly hit the water and he almost did a back flip to eat it." I had the eight-weight in my hand now as the wind was down some and the fish ran off a hundred feet of line and just into the backing. This ended up being a 26-pound beauty but after all the jacks this was a very comfortable fight. It was over in a few minutes and the fish set free into the setting sun.

On the ride in we marveled at the day. With the fish Brian caught, jacks and a black drum or two and the one sheepshead I got we had over three hundred pounds of fish in the boat. A hundred each of redfish, black drum and jack cravelle, plus a five-pound sheepshead.

Day two was not a repeat of the first but three of us landed about 20-25 nice reds and one 40-pound black drum. If the jacks had showed up we might have had even a better one the last day. Perhaps spring was over already? I just think we did not get in the area the jacks were roaming. Brian was not on the boat and that may have been a factor.

There is little fishing pressure down there yet and few are out taking the crabs and shrimp as most of those boats are gone along with the houses and fishermen. My guess is this is going to be a banner year for fish to feed and grow. The fishermen who find a way to get on the water may have the best ever. The guides who are able to fish and find rooms for their guests will be some the first down that way to get outside money back into the area. Don't miss the chance if you can make it work. Either Rich or Brian can make it happen and they have more guides to draw from. They can find them if you cannot. ~ Capt Scud Yates/ Mar 2006/ scudyates@cox.net

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