The Ghosts of Redfish Past

Ever since my first trip down to Louisiana to fly fish for some of the giant redfish, I haven’t been able to get those pigs out of my mind. I think redfish, sleep redfish, and, well, eat redfish. Luckily, I get down to New Orleans quite a bit and always try to tack a day of fishing onto my trip. But just one day was never enough. Getting great weather on any one single day isn’t a guarantee, and even if it is great, the day goes by WAY too fast. So, I booked a three day trip back down to the marsh with Captain Greg Moon of Louisiana Fly Fishing Charters.

As it turns out, three days isn’t enough either. I booked this past weekend almost one year ago. September and October is historically some of the best weather and fishing conditions you can get, so those months are often 100% booked six months or more out. The best tide days can book more than a year in advance. Of course, booking that far in advance, you have no idea what the weather will be like and if you’ll have seasonally unusual conditions. It didn’t cooperate.

Day 1

The forecast called for high winds and an 80% chance of afternoon thunderstorms. To top it off, the marsh had been dealing with high water conditions for almost the entire month of September. Nonetheless, Greg said we’d be able to get out there.

Morning time came, and we hit the launch, greeted by the predicted high winds and overcast skies. We ran out to where Greg thought the water would be the cleanest and we’d have a little protection from the wind. Not too long after we get out there, we see some fish working, but I couldn’t deliver the casts. Battling the wind and low visibility from the cloud cover made fishing a challenge. A few giants came and went, ignoring my inaccurate casts.

Greg finds me a medium sized fish that was eating and happy, and I finally deliver a decent cast that the fish sees. It chases down the fly as I’m stripping it back to the boat. Just as the fish lunges to eat, I snag a small piece of marsh grass, tricking me into thinking that was the strike. I strip set, only to realize I hadn’t connected and simply pulled away the fly from the fish.

Close to noon, we see a tail waving at us from 100 yards away. We both knew this fish was a monster. We worked the boat closer and closer, Greg doing everything he could to keep the boat on the flats in 20-plus knot wind. The tail looked to be the size of a dinner plate. I got the line ready as we slid into position. This fish was as happy as could be. I knew if I can drop the fly in the right spot, I’ll be battling a 35 pound redfish.

I double haul and shoot the line out. The wind carries my fly about 4 feet left. I pick up and cast again with the same result. One more pick up, but I compensate for the wind this time. I drop the fly, and the wind dies, leaving my fly 4 feet right. One more pick up and lay down, and the tail disappears. I blew it.

We stayed out another 20 minutes or so as the wind kept picking up even more. Finally, we had to call it a day. Casting was near impossible, and holding the boat in position was even more of a chore. The giants evaded me today, but I still had two more days.

Day Two

I wake up at 5 AM to get ready. Ten minutes later, I see my phone light up from Greg. It’s the dreaded call. Winds are even crazier, and water levels are a foot higher than the already high water levels. Rain was certain, too. Greg said he’d take me out if I wanted, but recommended we save up for tomorrow. While you never want to lose a day fishing on your trip, it’s a sign of a great and ethical guide to not take you for an expensive boat ride in crappy conditions with little chance to catch fish.

I hit the hay for a few extra hours of sleep before waking up, watching some football, and grabbing a couple beers and raw oysters.

Day Three

My last day on the marsh was shaping up to be a little better. The forecast called for the clouds to clear and the winds to lay down. We couldn’t shake the high water though. No one is really sure why the water won’t fall. According to the local guides, the only time you see water levels like that is right after a storm – which they didn’t have. But, we were still going to make the best of it.

The morning started off with a few clouds and still a pretty good breeze, but definitely fishable weather. With the high water, fish were more spread out with more places to find food. Most of the fish were laid up on the bottom. Since the water wasn’t gin-clear yet, the low light made it tough to spot most of them until you’re on top of them. My sweet spot for casting on the mark is 30-50 feet – we were getting 10 foot shots at best. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried casting an weighted fly accurately with little more than a leader, but it is not easy.

I get a shot at a 20 pound fish. Stripping the fly, I can tell it was just far enough outside the fish’s strike zone for it to ignore it. Out of nowhere, a decent slot redfish nails the fly. I put it in the boat, happy to have the skunk off my back for the trip.

The clouds finally start to part, giving us some much needed light. It was still tough seeing some of the laid up fish, but at least we had more shots from more reasonable distances.

We still hadn’t gotten the giant I was hunting. Greg found me another, but I just never saw the fish. It’s pretty amazing how a 40 inch fish can be completely invisible to someone 30 feet away. I put several more slots in the boat over the rest of the day, but that would be last giant fish we’d have any opportunity to catch. One more bull made an appearance, but disappeared before we were in casting distance.

Even though I didn’t get the trophy I was after, I still had a blast. The weather didn’t particularly cooperate, but that’s part of fishing. The difference between a good and great guide is in how he handles the situation. With the high water and tough weather, many guides would either call it, or give up before the day even started. Greg dealt with what he could control – reading the conditions, finding the fish, and positioning the boat for me to get a shot – in the best way possible and gave me as many opportunities to catch a fish as possible. I have learned my lesson though. Next year, I’m doing four days.

If you want to fly fish for some trophy redfish on the fly rod, there’s no better place than the marshes of Louisiana. If you go, look up Greg Moon and let him know we sent you. After you go, come back and leave a review for Louisiana Fly Fishing Charters!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *