Day 3 – Madness in the Marsh
I have to say New Orleans was getting the best of me because we had two days where the weather was terrible so we visited bourbon street, played mini golf with beers, went out for crab cakes, crashed a party after a horse race and went out into the city until the late/early hours of the night. On the third day we just couldn’t sit around anymore so we went through the effort of launching the boat to see what the hell we could find! We ended up packing it in very early and I only made a few casts that day because the weather was absolute shit. We went home and ordered pizza and called it a night and hoped for a better outcome the following morning as the forecast was calling for beautiful weather for the next two days.
My expectations were already met for a lifetime of red fishing after the big fish I caught sight fishing from the beach, but Jim assured me that today was going to be epic. It was calm and sort of humid, I rolled out of bed and walked outside and felt the warm blast of the southern early morning air. I don’t smoke cigarettes but lit one in celebration and anticipation while sipping a coffee during our drive. I was so excited to be on the water again and when Jim first started the boat up we were on our way. We didn’t go far and Jim slowed the boat to kill his wake. Next thing I knew he was up on the polling platform and that’s when I knew to get on the bow. It’s silly to have somebody up top with eyes on the players and no one ready to make a cast. As we approached a big mud in the distance, the calmness and clarity of the water was new to me. We neared the mud and before long Jim was shouting commands from his perch. My eyes weren’t use to seeing these redfish yet but I casted and blew up my chance as the fish darted away in a cloud of mud. I was pissed off but focused when my next shot came only 20 seconds later. I’m pretty sure I screwed that one up too as I remember missing about 5 chances in a matter of minutes. This was already more action than I had ever seen red fishing and it reminded me of why I do what I do. Words couldn’t describe what was happening all around us and we were having the time of our lives. There were hundreds of fish to cast at and they were all eating the fly. That was truly a moment I will never forget in fly fishing and all of my life.
I thought about all of the great sportsmen of the world and how much they would appreciate this day. I thought about the open spaces of the world and all the great fisheries in America, many I have yet to visit. I thought more about open spaces and bodies of water and forests or even just a beautiful meadow with some native wildflowers and about the importance of protecting these places of worship. I thought about my Uncle Bill and how he would love to see these photos of monster redfish. Mostly I thought about those moments in fishing that make it what it is, moments that you can never duplicate and moments that you can’t describe. Fuck I hope there are beautiful rivers and wild marshlands and tailing redfish and endless places to explore for our future generations. I hope there’s always access to these free places where a person can visit and interpret the land and do so without influence. It doesn’t have to be fly fishing either, there’s wisdom in hiking and skiing and backpacking and biking and kayaking too. It’s a connection with the land that’s most important.
It went on for a couple of hours like this. I caught lots of redfish during some of the most unique sight fishing opportunities of my life. It was so totally insane and I was excited beyond belief. Finally we were drifting up on a shadow that looked a little different to me and Jim got very excited as it was a big black drum, hovering in the shadows. He instructed me on what to do differently for this fish and as I tried to move the fly but more or less keep it in place, I saw the fish spook and disappear into the marsh. Jim grabbed my fly and cut it off and replaced it with a more black drum specific fly and told me what to do differently next time you see a black drum. Not even 20 seconds later we drifted into another big drum and I casted beautifully and crossed the fish and lead it a few good feet. I tried to play the current too and drifted my fly right into his mouth. This was all happening only 20 feet in front of me in about three feet of water and it looked like I was dealing with a 30 lb. fish. I stripped when I saw him eat it and kept my rod tip low, maintaining a constant pressure. After a long fight I landed this 30 lb black drum!
Eventually it was my turn to stand on the polling platform and call out fish and when that time came, it was brilliant beyond words. I have spent a total of 4 days on a flats boat prior to this trip so when Jim wanted a turn on the front I was eager to give it up and see what this polling bit was all about. I wouldn’t say I was a Jedi up there by any means but I did call out a couple fish for Jim and one of those fish ate the fly literally 10 feet off of the boat. We saw a really fresh mud, so fresh in fact the fish was still there digging around and Jim slapped the fly as a sort of announcement in the mud, waited 3 seconds for the fly to sink then started stripping. Then the most amazing thing happened, and the largest bucket mouthed redfish lunged out of the mud and inhaled his fly, all within a fly rods length away from me!
As the day wore on we came across the most beautiful sand flat that will be etched in my memory forever. We drifted into the leeward side of this beautiful island and it felt like the Caribbean the water was so still and perfect. It had been an hour of calm and only spooking a few fish when Jim started talking really fast like he does when he sees a redfish in the distance. It only took me a second to see it as this beautiful fish was glowing red on the white sand. The grass bank was only about 20 feet away from this fish and I remember it all so perfectly. The fish was swimming right at me and you bet your life I took my time and started false casting and of course made a perfect cast right in front of the fish. It was the most perfect fly fishing scenario, something you can only dream of. The fish ate and I saw everything happen at once, strip, inhale, set, rod bend, clear line, fish took off on a big run then uncontrollable hysteria from the boat as we were laughing with joy.
What an incredible trip this has been! Thanks again to Capt. Jim Dietz of Mountains to Marshes for hosting me on the fly fishing trip of a lifetime! Also, stoked to announce I’m heading back to the Louisiana marsh at the end of February! Anyone want to Join…?