For the last couple of years our families have planned and taken incredible summer camping vacations together. This year’s trip included five days in the New Orleans, LA area and four days in and around Destin, FL. We departed for New Orleans on July 19th about 4am so we could get through St. Louis before the morning traffic got too thick. After more “pit” stops than what were originally planned, bouncing our way across the bridges in Mississippi, then bucking across the bridges entering the wetlands around New Orleans, and 14 hours of road time we arrived safely at our home away from home known as Bayou Segnette State Park. Bayou Segnette State Park is a nicely laid out park inside the city limits of Westwego, LA, but we really didn’t notice we were in city limits once we were tucked back into our campsites. Prior to our departure we had decided on a few things we all wanted to do while in Louisiana and around New Orleans, so we had a couple of things booked to introduce our families to the culture and history of the area. Saturday we toured Lafayette Cemetery Number 1, the Garden District and a portion of the French Quarter and Jackson Square. Sunday was spent visiting Oak Alley Plantation in the morning and a ghost tour around St. Louis Cathedral and the French Quarter that evening. We took a swamp tour with Cajun Encounters then drove through a portion of the city still showing the aftermath of the affects of Hurricane Katrina on Monday.
Dan and I knew that we were going to fish for Redfish while on this trip, but boat, kayak and canoe rentals were difficult to find to say the least. During our second day in the city, we had a little bit of time to stop into The Uptown Angler Fly Shop located in the downtown area. After sharing stories with one of the employees about our mutual fondness of the White River in Arkansas (small world), he helped us realize that our only real chance of fishing for Redfish was going to have to be with a guide. We were given the name and number of a guide that seemed to be dialed in recent days, and with that we had a decision to make. Hire a guide and fish some of the greatest saltwater flats in the entire world, or miss out on the opportunity on this trip. No brainer. We put a call in to Capt. Greg Moon of Louisiana Fly Fishing Charters. After a day or two of watching tide and weather forecasts, we got a call to meet him at his place at 4am on Tuesday, July 23rd.
I have never been able to sleep the night before a big trip or fishing new water, so it seemed as though it took forever for my alarm to go off on Tuesday morning. Dan had a similar night’s (un)rest, but we were both ready to roll by 3:30. We drove past our guide’s apartment a time or two, but we finally found his place, parked, grabbed our gear and loaded up in his truck. We stopped for breakfast at a diner that survived Katrina, and met another local guide that grew up fishing around Montauk State Park and the Current River (small world). We shared some stories, finished our breakfast and headed toward the water. We were able to pick our guide’s brain and try to get to know him a bit while on our drive to the put-in. Capt. Moon is a “salty” guy that studies the tide, weather and wind conditions so he can put his clients on the best possible situations to see and catch fish. While he chose Tuesday as the best of the days that we had available for fishing, he warned us that the sky was not favorable and that the wind was going to make it difficult to catch fish on that day. He explained that bluebird clear skies are most favorable for spotting tailing fish, and that the wind would blow the tailing fish over causing them to avoid tailing and feeding until the wind sat down.
Once on the water, Capt. Moon pulled into one of many “lakes” in the Biloxi Marsh. Dan was first up, and it wasn’t long until a tailing fish was spotted. But the wind was making casting difficult, and we spooked the fish out of the “hole”. Dan had a few more chances in this “lake”, but the wind remained unkind and he just couldn’t get the fly in front of the fish. We moved to Capt. Moon’s next spot, and I was up on the casting platform. I struggled as the wind and poor casting technique spoiled my chances of hooking a fish in this “lake”. We moved around to a few more locations with the same results before Capt. Moon finally decided to take us further out into the Gulf to an area that had been “hot” lately with the thought that there should be some cover from the wind as well. As we approached we spotted another guide already fishing clients in that location, so off to Plan B and further yet into the Gulf. This ended up playing to our favor, as we ended up in a large “lake” that was relatively free of wind and tailing fish were all over. After a few casts, Dan had fish on and landed his first ever Redfish after a short tussle. We snapped some pictures and released the fish unharmed. I was again up on the platform. After missing opportunities at bigger fish, I was able to drop my fly right under the nose of my first Redfish. Fish on! This fish was smaller than the one that Dan had caught, but just a beautiful specimen. More pictures and a successful release. Back up on the platform, Dan had several shots at some bigger tailing Redfish, but they weren’t willing participants. Capt. Moon spotted a “donkey” of a Black Drum tailing, and Dan had it hooked shortly thereafter. It gave Dan a pretty good fight, but eventually came to hand. Once landed it weighed in at 35 pounds. Ugly didn’t quite describe it as it truly had a face that only a momma could love. Our day was nearing an end, but Capt. Moon circled back to our starting point in this “hole” to give me a chance at some of the fish still tailing. I made a few casts then dropped my fly in the face of a nice Redfish. I had it on ever so briefly, but was unable to get a good hook-set. Meanwhile, a black tailed shark came into the area for a little snack, and all the fish disappeared. Game over and so was our time.
We learned plenty during our time out in the salt with Capt. Moon. First of all, you gotta be able to cast with precision to salt species. Redfish and Black Drum need that fly to be placed right under their noses. Secondly, the tide and weather make a huge impact on salt fishing, but especially on species that “tail” when they are feeding. Thirdly, Skiffs are pretty special fishing boats. With a draft of about six inches and the ability to cut across three to four foot wakes, skiffs are versatile fishing machines. And finally the flats in the Gulf near New Orleans are a healthy fishery full of big Redfish that are a ball to catch. Dan and I both left ready for more saltwater action and wanting another crack at the Redfish of the Biloxi Marsh.