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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.

Redfishing in South LA (not California!)

By Tom Barnes, Niceville, FL

I have just been blessed with another new fishing adventure south of New Orleans. If you are a flyfisherman that loves redfish, this is a must trip. The whole event is a worthwhile experience. And to think of it, it is only 4 hours away from Florida!

Gary, Bill, Tony and I left on Sunday afternoon. It was still light when we passed through the heart of New Orleans. The Katrina devastation was so tragic. Even though we all have seen pictures and read about the damage, you really can't get the impact of it until you see for yourself. Mother Nature did a number. I have no concept of what it will look like 10, 15 years from now. We stayed at a Holiday Inn type motel and most of the guests were Katrina workers. They started at 4:30 am at the continental breakfast getting ready for work.

A typical day for us was to leave the motel at 5:30 or 6 am. It was a 25 min trip for us to meet the guides. We launched at Port Sulfur about 7 or a little after. The first fishing spots were 20 to 25 minutes from the launch. In the two days we were on the water, I only saw one other fishing boat. Even our two boats didn't see each other after we left the dock. The earliest day we returned to launch was 4:45 pm and couple of times it was dark with the boat lights on. The boats were first class flats boats. One a Dolphin and the other a Hellsbay. Both had elevated casting "stools" and perfect fly fishing boats. We rigged our rods at the motel and were ready to fish when the boat stopped. Everyone rigged 8 wt's and some over lined with 9 wt lines for short fast casts. A couple of guys had spinning rods for occasional blind casting from the middle of the boat.

Tony Angelino was my partner for the trip. I got up first. Fishing was slow for a short while due to a cloudy sunrise. As you know there are two things that make sight fishing tough and that is lack of light and windy water. We had both to start with. However, it wasn't long before we saw our first fish. We were poling along a grass marsh on my left maybe 25 feet off when we came to a little point jutting out. As we got a little closer at 11 o'clock/30 feet was our first red. Since he was moving straight at me I couldn't tell much about him. A 30 foot cast on his nose with the terminator crab fly did the job. He sucked it in, a hard strip set, and he was on. He turned to my right showing a huge tail and wake and the slug fest began. Once he started right we could see his length. He was big one. As Brian, the guide said, it was "a donkey." Surprisingly he didn't go very far into the backing, just slugging it out with me, back and forth, side to side. I don't know how long it took me but we finally got him close enough to know that we had a big one. Brian had a big net and the donkey filled it with the tail sticking out. My first redfish of the day and the trip was 43 in. and 32 lbs! What a way to start! It was all down hill after that having to settle for 10 to 15 pounders.

32 pound redfish

Tony and I alternated on the casting deck and we both started catching reds as the sky cleared and the wind died down. On one occasion Tony had a fish on and I was sitting on the cooler seat in the middle of the boat. Brian very calmly and slowly said, "Tom, I want you to get up slowly and quietly. Get your rod and be ready to cast off the right side. Be quiet and slow. " His calmness made me do just that. Then he instructed " I want you to make a cast 20 feet to where I am pointing. Don't worry about hitting me, do just that." I made an overhead cast to where he was pointing, the line straightened, and the terminator was eaten. The fight was on. Tony and I had a double. Tonys was a very good fish and mine was a 32 in. 14 Lb beauty. And we were just getting started!

Author with a biggie

About 11 am, Brian said "Let's switch to poppers." I wasn't too sure about that as we were regularly banging reds. But we did. I tied on a yellow balsa popper that Gene Andre taught us in fly tying. Nothing special, just a good casting popper on a #1 hook. Tony tied on a "catamaran" that he had just learned. They were both effective. It was still sight fishing with mostly 25 to 45 ft casts. We just weren't able to see them much further out.

It was a blast. You put a fly on their nose - they were not spooky - just hungry. Since they were that close and the water relatively clear it was easy to see them attack the fly.

It is difficult for a red to take a popper. They approach the fly straight on, not turning their body sideways, but raising their head. In that position their eyes cannot see the bait/fly and must rely on sound and water movement for direction. The technique was to use short strong strips for the pop, moving water then pause. More often than not, they would not get it the first time. You just kept up that technique until he was able to get it in his mouth. Several times you would have the popper pretty close to the boat and the red would keep trying. And these were not small fish - 8 to 10# reds!

One time I worked a red to the side of the boat and he still hadn't given up on eating the popper. I literally used the rod like a cane pole, moving the fly back and forth right beside the boat before he was able to eat it. Can you imagine a 27 in. redfish concentrating on a meal so hard that he didn't pay any attention to the boat, the rod and line, or me 9 feet away?

Tony was having just as much success with his catamaran as I was with the balsa popper. Brian really liked Tony's "cat".

We kept "popping" till mid afternoon and then switched back to terminators. We returned to the dock about 4:45. We lost count at 13 reds but I'm sure there were a few more. The smallest was perhaps 25 in., most were 9 to 14 lbs, with the one 32 pounder.

Day two we switched boats and guides with Bill and Gary. We met our guide, Rich Waldner, at his home which was near the launch. We were on the water at 7:15 headed southwest toward the Gulf. It was cloudy again and a stronger wind than yesterday. At one point we were 100 yards from the Gulf with a dune between us and the open water.

It took awhile for us to hook up due to the lack of sun and windy water. One of the first fish we saw was at least 200 feet away. We could see a fin, tail and back out of the water about 6 ft off the shore. Rich thought it might be a gar but as we got closer we could see the huge bronze back. Tony was up and put a few casts on him but he finally spooked and moved away. We got a closer look as he passed by off to our right. We got a good look at a 50 inch plus redfish! What a sight. If Tony had hooked up he might still be there trying to get him in.

This was a much tougher fishing day. The sun finally came out but we had to deal with a 10 to 20 mile wind off the Gulf. Our fishing was limited to the lee side of the marshes and in sheltered "ponds." We managed over twenty fish including two doubles and a triple. When one made a hook up Rich made him move off the platform and the other person looked for a second fish. As a redfisherman you know there are often more than one.

Happy campers

One time I was on the "stool" and hooked a nice red about 40 feet out. Tony took my place while I worked my hookup. Then he hooked up. Tony's fish came close enough for us to see a third red almost glued to the side of his fish. Rich had me put full pressure on mine and get it in quickly. After getting mine in the landing net and Rich freeing the fly I went after the third red. With Tony's fish moving left to right about 20 feet away we saw the outside fish still glued to Tony's fish. I put the terminator just over the back of the Tony's fish and the third red ate it. We called that a triple. Rich will have this pic on his web site (www.fishwithrich.com) soon.

We stayed until 4:45 before heading back. About 30 minutes before, with the sun low, wind up, we spooked more fish than we were able to cast to. We just couldn't see and I was casting off to the right, which is not my strength. We gave up and as Rich was poling out of an oyster bed I made a few false casts (to my right). A red hit it and ran under the boat, across the oyster shells and I lost my first and only fly of the trip. The leader was shredded and was a curly stub.

About the type of fishing, it was all sight fishing, in shallow water, usually working near the marsh grass banks. The boats do not have trolling motors and the guide must pole in very shallow areas. Also, there are times when you must be quiet particularly when the visibility is low as you will run up on a fish before you know it.

Most fish are caught within 20 to 40 feet of the boat. Just like bonefishing you need to get off a fairly quick cast as many of the fish are moving, just not as fast as bones. Some of the fish are moving parallel to the bank and you can get more than one shot. Then other times they will spook on the first cast. The fly must be right on their nose or very close for them to see it. Seldom do they turn on the fly. I had one exception with a fish right next to the grass moving slowly to my right. I launched about a 25 foot cast, perfect distance but I hit him on or near his tail, he spun around and took the terminator! He was hungry!

More Reds

Rich Walden calls it "close combat" fishing (Rich is an ex marine). I caught maybe one or two fish over 40 feet away. Most were between 20 and 40. You must put the fly on their nose. I used a 4 foot furled leader with an 18" /20lb tippet. Casting in all directions with accuracy. Rich feels that a stiff 40lb leader turns the fly over better on short casts. I tried it and I think he maybe right. Although I didn't have a 9 wt line with me, the uplining should work to load the rod quicker on short casts.

The guides and their equipment are first class. You have had guides that look on a days fishing as work, their job. Rich and Brian love what they do. They are enthusiastic and passionate about the whole experience and really want you to have a memorable time.

Thanks to Scud, Hugh and Bill for paving the way for us over there. Again, if you love fly fishing and a passion for redfish like I do, you must experience this. God willing, I will go again.

PS. I can give a testimonial for rotator cuff surgery. It really went well. ~ Tom Barnes November 2006

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