Dr Poppers Day

As I sit to write up this blog it was exactly about this time last week, Lousiana time, that I began watching the clock.  They are 6 hours behind, so that makes it roughly 12.30pm at the moment.  When I am guiding I rarely watch the clock and it is only when a client says “christ is that the time”, that I suddenly realise how quickly time has flown by.  One of the joys of fishing.  But now the boot was on the other foot and knowing that at about 3pm Doug would fire up the 115 Yamaha and scoot us home at a tremendous rate I began praying that we would start seeing some Reds.

Because unlike day 4; day 5 had started out slow.  The weather reports had all been saying that it was the best weather day and in the morning James had mentioned that he had a “good feeling” about the session as we made our way from the Big Easy Diner.  But here we now were, poling the marsh with a cool wind scudding across the waters surface, catching nothing more than fleeting glimpses of our prized Pigs.

So much so that in fact James had not made a single proper cast at a fish when we decided to swap places.  And you know what happened then don’t you!  Snuffling along the bank comes a little pig, I pop out a cast, whack home the hook, wind it in and stick the rod back in the holder.  Well, small white lie, it wasn’t a Pig, a nice Redfish for sure, I just love them, but this was just an average Rat as Doug would call it.  Even so, no blank for me!  And so the day kind of continued, every time James stood on the platform nothing much happened but as if I had some kind of magic Redfish attracting Eau de Toilette on, every time I took my turn a fish appeared.

Nick Hart casts at a Redfish in the Biloxi Marsh

The classic bum in the air casting at a pig pose!

And then there suddenly right in front of us was the pig from the day before and guess who was on the casting platform again?  This was a fish that originally we had spotted up a channel and it was bloody ginormous.  In fact this really, really was a PIG.  Doug is thinking high 30s and this man has hooked, landed, guided and seen more giant Redfish than most.  Even better the fish had its back out of the water and seemingly not a care in the world.  Its girth looked so big that I reckon you could have saddled it up and rode it.  So with absolutely no knocking knees, a perfectly stable heart rate and not a bit of the shakes I made a cast, smack bang right where Doug had asked me to, pretty much hitting that Pig on the nose.  Which it turns out it did not like, so that was that, opportunity gone.

Whether or not it was the same fish that we had seen the day before, I find myself on the platform again, about to take a shot at this hulk which is now about 40 feet away.  So this time I give it a little lead, slide the fly into position with a nice smooth strip and exactly the same happens!  Arrrghhh!!!  It’s been a tough morning and I am pleased to have landed some fish, but right there was the fish of the trip so far and now it was gone.  I slipped the reel back into its case, stuck the rod in the holder and got down to give James a shot at the next spot feeling more than mildly frustrated.

We were now in a cracking little lagoon, which formed the end of the channel , a feature which we had learned during the week often held Reds and sure enough as we arrived two fish appeared, but spooked as we were almost upon them.  And then there was another one to the left and one to the right.  James is up, gets his shot in and is all hooked up.  Great stuff, this fish means that neither of us have had any skunks this week and oh how much sweeter our New Orleans beers would taste tonight, as we were all set to paint the town red prior to heading home.

But despite some fish coming on board, things were still very slow compared to day 4 and being made even more difficult as some of the spots Doug wanted to poll had guides already fishing them.  So we reel up and go looking for something that might kind of save the day, stopping for lunch around 12.30pm and now as I said at the top of the post, I begin watching the clock.  We stop in an area that I don’t recognise and as we scoff Oreos with copious amounts of water I begin to wonder if in fact we were just going to experience one of those days although by now we had some serious sun and the wind has died.  We also have the best visibility of the entire week.  Come on, all we need are some fish!

Which Doug found of course.  It was a large lagoon area as per the descriptions above and it seemed to be frigging heaving with Reds, in fact we didn’t know which way to get a shot off.  James is soon hooked up and Doug is telling me to get on the platform too, the fly is undone and I am ready “1 O’Clock Nick, decent Pig, get casting!”  “Woah, Nick be carefull theres a smal .. l .. e .. r … OH S**T!”  All I had done was drop the fly ready to chuck at the big Red and up hopped a Rat that would certainly have been around 8lb and smashes the fly, right at my feet.  I didn’t even strike and in fact gave it line hoping it would spit my fly back out, but not a chance!  This thing was having its meal.  But heck it didn’t really matter because here we now were, doubled up with fish, coiled up with laughter and having the time of our lives.  While keeping one eye on the bloody great big Black spotted tails appearing in various corners of the lagoon!  Were we in Redfish heaven?

I think James would say yes, because after those fish went back we came across a little channel leading out of the lagoon and of course there was a Bull Red working the shoreline.  By now it was so calm and quiet, that Doug said nothing more than “DON’T TALK!”  Remember guides from this area are often succinct, they are not being rude, they just want to get the job done and help you catch as many fish as possible.  James nailed that shot with one of Doug’s flies which he asked us to tie on resembling something close to a gigantic Cats Whisker.  Game on, PIG on … James you beauty that is the 20lb+ Red you have been after!  Just take a look at this picture, how cool are these fish?  Please take it from me they just make an angler grin from ear to ear, especially as this is sight fishing.  In fact I reckon that if these don’t give you a fishing hard on then you probably don’t have a pulse.

James Warbrick-Smith with a Redfish from the Biloxi Marsh

James with a his Cats Whisker caught Red


Now you would think that having just landed this fish on Doug’s Cats Whisker (all 7 inches of it!) that James would be content with looking for some more of the same, but that, as anybody who has fished with James knows, is not his style.  Instead he just turns to Doug and says “Time for the Popper?” to which Doug responds in the positive.  So I joined in too with my home tied Not Your Average Popper which turned out to be very average as per the conclusion to my last post here.  So enough about that, because far more exciting things were about to happen!

The catalyst for the trip to Lousiana had been watching; no scratch that, gasping at videos showing Reds hitting Poppers on the surface.  James now seemed to have the bit between his teeth and was determined to experience this for himself resulting in a couple of hours of hectic fishing as I screwed up and he nailed pig after pig!  Now we both spotted Reds within moments of being on that platform, but every time I chucked at a fish it would charge down that big blob of foam and then bugger off.  Meanwhile James experienced perfect Redfish Popper takes which go a little something like this.

Make the cast.  Big strip.  Fish charges.  Little Strip.  Fish flairs gills.  Add another strip … fish sticks head out of the water and eats it as if slurping down a Sedge!  Whack the hook home, giggle like a kid and watch as the Pig grunts itself to 50 yards and back for 10 minutes.  With each one he hooked, James confidence grew and there was no doubt that the cape was on and this was Dr Poppers day.  He saved the best for last, just after I had screwed up the “oh that’s a Shark, no f*** it’s a giant Redfish” shot, teasing yet another twenty pounder to stick its head out of the water and give the Popper the WUMF treatment.  And that was to be the last of our fly fishing for Redfish this year as I checked my watch, realised that 3pm was upon us and that Doug was clipping the pole down for the journey home.

Redfish captured by James Warbrick-Smith on a Popper

Just one of Dr Poppers, Popper caught Pigs!

It had been a fitting climax to an epic trip catching a new species that had absolutely delivered on every count.  This is wilderness fishing, for wild big fish that love to smash flies in stunning surroundings.  What more could you want? Watch the videos like Rebound & Poppa and tell me that this isn’t some of the coolest fishing there is.  It is also worth taking a look at Capt Doug Hendersons own show reel.  But beware, these fish do not just throw themselves at every fly cast at them, you will need to practice accurate casting at both long and short distances, have the weather on your side and the knowledge from a great guide like Doug to offer any kind of opportunity whatsoever.

Is it really a week since I was there?  It’s been too long … I want to go back.  I must go back!!!

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