The Hunt for Reds in October

by Glen Davis
Magnolia Fly Fishers Club, Jackson Mississippi

The title sounds exciting doesn’t it? I hope we don’t get a lawsuit from Tom Clancy, but the members on our trip to Grand Isle October 15,16 and 17 all think we should make THFRIO an annual event. It was so much fun!

The hunt began on Friday, October 15, 2004. The launch area was covered with round bale sized piles of marsh grass that tropical storm Matthew had deposited on the highway the weekend before. Our original THFRIO date was October 8, but tropical depression Matthew had another idea. Thank you Joe Khaler and the good folks at Gulf Coast Outfitters for telling us to bail on that weekend. It would have been a disaster. We moved it back a week on their suggestion and we are glad we did.

As we readied our kayaks at our point of departure on Hwy 1, another car pulled up with a canoe on top. It was Redsticker Steve Lee, and not far behind was another Redsticker, Joe Kahler. I knew it had to be a good sign that the Red Stick club was showing up. Steve offered some tips to the members and even handed out some Charlies’ that he recommended. He also gave us the nickel tour of his outrigger/trolling motor configuration on his canoe that allows him to stand up and cast. The trolling motor eliminates a lot of paddling. It must make a difference, when we saw him at noon he looked like he stepped out of a magazine, fresh as a daisy with this fishing shirt and nylon pants all clean and not a drop of sweat on his brow. He also gave us a huge redfish, bigger than any our group caught.

We set our our walkie talkies to channel 7 and pushed off. The hunt began. I headed for my honey hole where I caught my last redfish in July and when I arrived, three redfish were having a party in the tiny opening. I lined up, dropped my anchors, and cast a chartreuse Lefleur Charlie into the mix and one nailed it on the first cast. I toggled the talk button on my walkie talkie and announced “redfish on!”.

While I was fighting my fish, Albert arrived in his honey hole and found redfish everywhere. Albert had one on soon and managed to catch three I think from that one hole. Jim Watson and I found ourselves together in fishy looking water but couldn’t seem to find any more fish. As the sun got higher in the sky, Jim and I headed further and further into the marsh bearing towards a GPS fix I had obtained from my map research on the web. We were heading for a special place, not to be described in this article on our web page. When we arrived at our special place, I found redfish tailing in some slack water next to a current. I dropped a Charlie in front of one and he nailed it. The fish swam into the current and my line shot up in the air as tight as bow string. I tried to turn him but he was in the current and pulling hard. To my shagrin, the line snapped. We all agreed later that after catching a large redfish, you should just go ahead and clip off about six inches of the end of the tippet. Better yet, just put on a new tippet because the redfish’s mouth is abrasive and the head shaking they do really abrades and weakens the tippet.

At least we knew the fish were in the current. We talked Bryan, Jim’s friend to the place using the walkie-talkie and Bryan soon had a fish on and beached a nice speckled trout. Using LSU clouser’s we began to rack up on big speckled trout with flounder and redfish mixed in. I even hooked what I thought was an anvil that turned out to be a sheepshead. We couldn’t raise Albert on the walkie-talkie to tell him and Gerald about our find. We found out later that one of the batteries in his walkie-talkie had burst. Even without hooking up with us, Albert did well on redfish and Gerald managed a nice flounder.

Friday night we dined on venison roll-ups provided by my wife Cassie, redfish, and the flounder that Gerald Triplett had bagged. We cleaned and dressed flylines and plotted the next day’s attack on the reds.

Our attack strategy Saturday morning was to hit the honey holes quick and then head for the “special place” (SP). The honey holes were quiet but our SP did not let us down. Jim Watson managed a personal first, a big speckled trout on a pretty red and white clouser he tied, his first fish on a fly he had tied himself. We did well, but Albert did the best. That ability to detect a bite when nobody but him can tell there is one, paid off big. I managed to score too with a really nice 24-inch redfish. Part of Albert’s success was on his Gold Charlie, which did quite a bit of business, including my best redfish. Gerald stayed in the marsh near the put-in and managed a really nice redfish.

Saturday night we dined on chicken kabobs, again credited to my wife Cassie, more venison roll-ups, fried flounder, redfish and boiled shrimp! Albert really outdid himself as our cook. We all went to bed with full bellies and sore arms. Sunday morning Jim, Bryan and Gerald had to bug out, but Albert and I just had to go back to the marsh. We hit it particularly early, just took a quick look into our honey holes, saw nobody home, and then headed for the SP.

It was like our SP had become a nursery. We were catching baby specs, flounder, rat reds and even a baby sheepshead, but some big ones were mixed in. The specs were small and then just disappeared from the bite. Albert managed two really nice redfish and then my big moment came. I was working an LSU clouser, bumping it along the bottom, when a big redfish nailed it. This fish must have been a weight lifter or triathlete because though he wasn’t the biggest fish of the trip, he really had power… and an attitude. I was using my 6wt with 10lb test tippet and I just couldn’t forget the fish that had broken me off. The fish got into the strongest part of the current and was using it to his advantage. The fish sensed my fear and exploited it, pointing his nose towards Old Mexico and I had no choice but to go with him. Albert went with me, shouting “watch out for the oyster shells” and basically just scaring the hell out of me. Just before we had to check in with customs, we beached him. Albert offered to scoop him up but I asked him to let me land him by myself, the coup de gras. A nice fish, 22 inches, not the biggest, but certainly the most memorable. I know I will never forget him. What an experience.

Acknowledgements
Thanks to Glen Davis, a member of Magnolia Fly Fishers for permission to reproduce this article on TotalFlyFishing.com. This article cannot be reproduced anywhere else without his consent.

Magnolia Fly Fishers is made up of anglers in central Mississippi who are interested in various aspects of fresh and saltwater fly-fishing. Formed in 2001, the organization makes it possible for fly fishers to come together and teach others about the sport, to learn from each other, and to support responsible conservation and management of the fisheries resource and its habitat.

Check out their website, www.magnoliaflyfishers.com for information, photos, and flies for fly fishing in Mississippi.