By: Eric Fey
Just a couple of years ago a few college buddies and I decided to give backpacking a try. Aside from being out in the wild and sharing these incredible experiences with some of my best friends, I had an ulterior motive. I knew that the mountain streams and high alpine lakes held some beautiful freshwater trout. Fly fishing in the mountains had always been a bucket list item for me. So prior to our first trip in the Weminuche Wilderness in southwest Colorado, I purchased my first light weight fly rod and got to practicing. I will never forget the serenity and excitement of fly fishing those crystal clear waters of the lakes nestled over 11,000 ft up in the mountains. The trout were hungry and in my success, fly fishing became a part of me.
The following year (last year) the same group hiked up into the eastern Sierra Nevadas in California in pursuit of golden trout. A very similar experience was had and returning to Louisiana to hang up the fly rod after dozens of mountain trout was always bitter sweet. There is an elegance to fly fishing that cannot be denied. It is difficult. And it is addicting. Even though I was spending at least one day almost every weekend on the water in Louisiana, I could not shake my desire to be fly fishing. But why couldn’t I be? Just a little research turned up an entire community of local fly fishermen who were targeting the exact species of fish that I was chasing every weekend. So I decided to take the dive.
I purchased a new 8 weight fly rod and reel and set it up specifically for targeting inshore redfish. After practicing my casting for a week or two, I set out on my first trip in the kayak with the new fly rig. I missed a couple of opportunities early in the morning due to inexperience casting from the kayak. Once the wind picked up I was unable to get any decent casts down so I picked up the conventional gear and finished out the day. I wouldn’t be defeated however. The following weekend I returned to the marsh. The wind was in my favor and the water was clean. Mid-morning I peddled the Hobie Pro Angler into a shallow pond and soon after spotted an impressive redfish cruising the bank ahead. I threw out my line and began my cast. The first one was a little short so I picked up and casted again. The fly landed just a couple feet ahead of the fish and on the first strip the fish reacted. The redfish began its pursuit and I continued to strip the fly. The fish lunged forward and inhaled the fly before immediately turning and running back towards the marsh grass. It pulled all of the slack out and got onto my reel in less than 1 second! The fight lasted around 6 minutes before I was able to get the grips on him and pull him into the kayak. This was my first redfish on the fly and I was ecstatic. The fish was approximately 29.5 inches and weighed somewhere around 10lbs. I took a few pictures and released him back into the water to fight another day. Luckily I was able to catch it all on video to share.
After this incredible experience of catching my first red on the fly, I knew that there was no chance of shaking this hobby. So naturally, it only made sense to take it a step further. And so began my journey into fly tying. I watched countless videos on tying different salt water patterns and equipment reviews before I pulled the trigger and ordered my own tying gear. I started out by only getting the materials that would be required to tie two different flies. I chose these patterns based on what I thought the reds would like during typically weather/water conditions for this time of year. One was a black and purple Lafleur’s Charlie pattern which is a variation of the famous Crazy Charlie bonefish fly. The other was a typical kwan pattern tied with blue crab colors. I received my gear and materials last Thursday and tied my first two flies that night. Happy with the results, I tied a couple more of each on Friday afternoon in preparation for the Saturday morning trip.
Delacroix was extremely hot on Saturday morning but the water was very clean. Spotting the fish wasn’t the problem. Getting the fish to eat was the challenge. Most of the reds I saw gave the cold shoulder to my typical sight fishing lures. I soon realized why. I spotted a mid-20 inch slot red cruising the flats and made a few perfect casts with my conventional rod and reel that it simply ignored. But immediately after giving me the snub, the fish barreled into a pack of shrimp feeding furiously as they scattered away. The fish were keyed in on shrimp, and I had the perfect fly! My blue crab kwan fly was already tied on to my fly rod. I picked it up and made a blind cast towards some commotion near the grass line. During the retrieve I noticed a flash of red about 10 feet down the bank. I picked up the line and made a well-placed cast right where the flash was seen. On the third or fourth strip a red appeared out of the bank shadows and ferociously hammered my fly! I boated the fish soon after and achieved my goal of catching my first fish on a self-tied fly.
I consider myself very fortunate to have had these experiences back to back and so soon in my fly fishing adventures. I fear that I am even more hooked now than before. It is hard to explain, but being able to fly fish the coast brings a little of the backcountry down to Louisiana. It is a way for me to bridge my love for mountain fly fishing and sight fishing reds. Plus, it is awesome to be able to say that I sight fish redfish from a kayak with a fly rod! Whether you are an avid fly fisherman or never picked up a fly rod in your life, I implore you to give it a try. You might find that it is as addicting as I do.