If Redfish Could Talk

Well in fact they do, also known as Red Drum, land a male and it will emit a very powerful bass like drumming sound.  But the title of my post does not stem from this fact alone, instead it was something that our guide Doug Henderson said during one of his many perfectly to the point sentences, so often used to answer our questions.

So it goes a little something like this.  Nick “Doug, when we find a proper big Bull Redfish and I make a cast at it, can I expect it to charge the fly?”  Doug “Yes, you can expect that big Bull to swim right up to your fly and say What’s Up Mother F*****!!!”  You see what I mean; succinct.

And so very true.  Because here I was with my first real opportunity on day 4 to cast at these true gangsters of the marsh, as three godfather like hulks floated menacingly just ahead of me.  Indeed the first fish swam straight up to the 6 inch streamer and gave it the WUMF treatment; I did my best not to scream but did somehow pull the fly out of its massive maul.  I think I may have got the WUMF treatment from Doug for that mister meaner had I not slammed the fly back down only to have it smashed by one of the other fish from the pod.  The hook was home, 5 good slams with the rod against a tight drag to make sure (remembering my previous lessons!) and our first proper PIG was on.

Nick Hart lands a 25lb Bull Redfish in the Biloxi Louisiana Marsh - Oct 2014

Our first PIG on the skiff – all 25lbs of it!

How do you describe such elation with mere words?  I am not often stuck for something to say and to some anglers out there a 20lb+ fish sight fished on fly may not seem all that special but right then this was one of the most magical moments I have ever experienced in fishing.  Sure there is all the technical stuff, the casting, challenge and all that but sometimes just chucking at what a friend of mine would term a good honest fish is just plain off the scale.  I would term Redfish honest fish for sure, which basically means if you get the presentation something about right then they will have it, good and proper with What’s Up Mother F***** thrown in for good measure.  Yes if these fish were human that’s definitely what they would say while no doubt rapping and packing the gat a lot!

These fish don’t jump like Tarpon nor run so hard as a Bonefish but they do pull and shake their head.  It’s like being attached to a big disobedient dog that doesn’t like the lead as it does its best to yank your arms out of your shoulders, with the occasional decent run and some serious water displacing surface thrashing all aimed at beating the living daylights out of your body.  But despite all that, this particular Pig was about to become bacon, metaphorically of course because I could not imagine for one second why anyone would have the desire to despatch such a magnificent fish, a smaller “rat” for sure but not one of these magnificent specimens.

Nick Hart returns a large bull Redfish to the Biloxi Marsh

One of my most memorable fishing moments

This is of course America so for those who do want to take for the table there are strict limits in place.  Wouldn’t it be great if our own coastline was protected on both a recreational & commercial basis with the attention to detail seen on the State of Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries website?  Check out this 52 page booklet of Louisiana Fishing Regulations.  Watching that fish go back was just as awesome as seeing it engulf the fly, Redfish have such presence and remain unbelievably calm on deck, posing for the camera with the kind of confidence played by Denzel Washington in Safe House.

Day 4 was to be my day and as luck would have it my turn had arrived to stand up on the platform once again resulting in one of my most memorable moments from the trip.  A big bull or in a fact a cow as this turned out to be a female, was travelling fast down the edge of the Marsh.  This required a proper cast, some accuracy and it all needed to happen pretty damn quick.  For once I didn’t let the knock knees get the better of me or the fish fever and dropped that fly right where it needed to be.  One strip, a twitch and guess what, she swam right up and gave it the “What’s up Mother F***** treatment!”  God I love these fish, they could stick them in packets and call them Viagra.  Weights don’t really do it for me, but even Capt Doug seemed excited by this fish which yanked the Boga down to 26lb.  Two fish for over 50lb on the boat in less than an hour.  Thank you Louisiana!

Above: Bad Boys!

It was a top, top day and I now had two big pigs under my belt, so I could head home happy that the long journey for some Salted Flats Fly Fishing had been worth it.  But travelling nearly 5000 miles to experience these fish was only going to be perfect if James could also get in amongst the big lads.  As he described it, he had a serious monkey on his back with shots at fish that didn’t go quite right, hooks that pulled out coupled with the annoying fact (not for me!) that every time old milk bottle legs got back on the platform a Redfish would appear from nowhere.  He need not have worried as on day 5 he was set to show us all just how it should be done.

Nick Hart with a 26lb Redfish caught on fly in Louisiana - Oct 2014

Redfish – Viagra with Fins!

Perhaps it was the giant baseball cut steaks, or maybe the two for one LA31 beers or just the fact that James is a serious angler with a serious amount of experience under his belt.  Whatever it was, the cape had been donned and now standing on the casting platform was none other than Dr Popper.  With “I would take 1 of these fish on a surface fly over 10 hooked subsurface” ringing in my ears, I had to sit back and watch the master at work.  That is not to say that I did not have my chances with Poppers, hell I even stuck a few fish with them as we traded shots & fish like gentlemen.  But somehow I managed to stuff up my best Popper shots, yearning to hook one on the damn Not Your Average Poppers (NYAPs) that I had been busily creating prior to my visit.

Turns out that 30lb + pigs seem to have met their match when it comes to bright Orange NYAPs coloured in with purple nail varnish, finding them to be distinctly average.   I had the best floating fish shot of the week, requiring a 60ft cast towards a huge pumpkin like shape in the water which quickly turned into a charge down of the NYAP … and then a huge water displacing refusal.  Arrrrghh, that fish wasn’t honest it was totally spooked!!!  I should have learned my lesson, especially as I work as a guide and swapped back to Doug’s preferred Popper system which is a streamer style Purple & Black concoction lashed on to a Gamakatsu hook, with a foam rubber square threaded on to the leader beforehand.  This gives maximum pop for you money, but makes sure the fly doesn’t ride too high, which the Reds definitely don’t seem to like.

And then came my second chance.  When Doug almost slightly hyper ventilates you know the fish he is watching is big, no scratch that, colossal.  In fact it had been mistaken for a Shark at first but now we were right up alongside it, watching a massive Red snuffling its way down the bank, not a care in the world.  This thing was Humongous!  The shot goes in, right on the money and instantly the fish charges.  Head out the water, looking to smash the NYAP into next week and I am getting ready for the war cry when it does the same as the best shot of the week fish and blasts offshore, rocking the skiff in the process and leaving me to lick my wounds.  You couldn’t tell that they haven’t healed yet could you?!

In fact I have to go and lick them again but next time I will recount how it should be done as Dr Popper threw the monkey off his back, got his game head on and treated us all to a master class in how to get Redfish to talk.  “What’s up Mother F*****!”

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  1. Pingback: Dr Poppers Day | Nick Hart Fly Fishing – Blog

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