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.
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.
Another Story About Bull Reds in Mississippi
Flyfishing for bull redfish along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast can be a backbreaking experience.
Just ask “Fly Fishing America” host Chad Foster.
On second thought, wait a few days before giving Foster a call. You see he’s recuperating from back surgery earlier this week.
And while the surgery wasn’t necessarily a result of his fall 2002 trip to the saltwater flats near Biloxi, the experience of battling a 45-inch redfish not once, but twice, on a fly rod probably didn’t help his aching discs, either.
“I have never seen reds that large in a shallow-water, sight-fishing situation,” Foster said. “Those were literally 30-pound fish. Those are bull reds, what you normally see out in the deep water.”
“To have access to fish that big in the flats is pretty special.”
Last week, Foster and Chandeleur Outfitters guide Richard Schmidt did battle with a 30-plus-pound redfish for 45 minutes before Foster’s tippet snapped.
This week, fellow guide Rick Lauman mans the poling platform and guides Foster to another backbreaking experience with a bull redfish.
“ Hooking a big redfish is one thing, but landing one is quite another. ”
— Redfish guide guide Richard Schmidt
“A 30-pound fish in a foot of water with his back sticking out is quite a sight,” Lauman said of the real star of this weekend’s episode.
Now for the $1 million question: Does Foster land the big redfish this week? Wait and see, wait and see.
Despite growing up flyfishing in southern Louisiana, Foster admits these shallow-water bull reds along the Mississippi shoreline had him a bit frazzled.
“I think one of the most exciting aspects of redfish is that you can see the fish,” Foster said.
“You can actually see these fish; you just don’t see the tail, but you see the entire fish cruising right toward you.”
And when that fish measures more than 40 inches in length, even a seasoned flycaster is bound to get a little shaky in the knees as opportunity knocks.
“You know what you’re getting into before you cast to them,” Foster said. “Plus, you’re using 12-pound tippet, which doesn’t help.”
But if that isn’t enough to get the adrenaline pumping, Foster chuckles that he had another excuse for not landing the bull red of a lifetime.
The unheralded Mississippi coastline offers some of the nation’s best flyfishing action for redfish.
“And then my good-for-nothing guide tells me that he’s sure it is a state record the minute I hooked him, which didn’t help, either.”
Foster’s guides aren’t feeling too sorry for the ESPN Outdoors host, however. Both guided him to big redfish up to 15 pounds that actually did pose for skiff-side pictures.
“Chad Foster is the luckiest guy in the world,” Schmidt laughed. “The fish were doing back flips to eat his flies.”
All kidding aside, Schmidt admits that Foster indeed had his hands full on the Mississippi coastline. He should know, having landed a personal best bull red of 25 pounds and guided clients to redfish in the 45-inch, 30-pound range.
“Hooking a big redfish is one thing, but landing one is quite another,” Schmidt said.
“The big guys usually swim around like they’re not even hooked for awhile,” Schmidt added. “You can’t put enough force on them to move them around.”
“But once they figure out that they’re hooked, you’ve just got to hang on because you’re not going to turn him. You’ve just got to wear him down. After he makes his long runs, it’s like pulling a bucket in filled with concrete.”
Lauman agrees with his partner, having landed his own redfish in the 29-pound range.
“A big bull red 20 pounds or better is impressive on an 8-weight (rod),” Lauman said.
“A bigger fish will take off and you’ll have to chase them in the boat. You’ll gain some ground and then have to do it again.”
But a flyfisherman doesn’t have to hook a 20-pound redfish to know he’s been in a hotly contested tug-of-war, either.
“A typical (Mississippi redfish) is 8 to 15 pounds,” Lauman said. “You’ll get a pretty good run out of them and then they’ll start bulldogging you.”
While redfish often fail to get the respect of bonefish — which make sizzling runs deep into a fly reel’s backing — that’s not to say that a good redfish can’t do that, as well.
If you’re going …
For more information on flyfishing for redfish in Mississippi, contact Richard Schmidt or Rick Lauman of Chandeleur Outfitters at (228) 818-0030.
“Those big redfish I hooked in Mississippi ran 200 yards, which is a long way for a redfish,” Foster said.
Foster admits he is perplexed that redfish aren’t an even more popular species among American flyanglers, given the beautiful flats and marshes that lie within easy reach of many U.S. cities.
“I think they’re very underrated and I’m surprised that more people don’t fish for redfish on a fly rod,” Foster said.
Call them the workingman’s bonefish, if you will, but Foster thinks that redfish on the fly offer angling sport that is difficult to top anywhere in the world, especially near Biloxi, Miss.
“I can’t ever remember fighting a bonefish for 45 minutes and I’ve caught some 10-pound bonefish,” he said.
Chad Foster should know; he’s got the aching back to prove it.