In fact they are ridiculously good, awesome, amazing, incredible, stupendous and bloody fantastic all rolled into one. It has taken me a couple of days of coming down off my fish tripping to get my thoughts on the blog, coupled with the fact that I have gone over the videos we shot about 100 times (each) while taking a little pretend jet lag cat nap now and again so I can close my eyes, visualising one of those huge bulls prowling the shallows. It raises my heart beat just thinking about it.
So these massive Redfish, a speciality of ace guide and all round top bloke Doug Henderson of Salted Flats Fly Fishing reside in a few places over in the US. But up until last year I had no real clue that they grew to such proportions. What kind of proportions? Well let’s start with a picture of one of James first ever Reds on fly.
Nice eh, and on the fly, big isn’t it? Well no actually, this is a small one, in Dougs eyes. While I and my fishing buddy for the week James Warbrick-Smith danced many jigs having landed such fish, Doug kind of tutted. To him this is what he would term a Rat Redfish, or perhaps just to pacify us slightly he would say something along the lines of “Not bad, but get it back quick so we can go get a Bull” This is what Doug specialises in, Reds of 20lb+ and he will do everything in his power to make it happen. He has the space too, casually slipping into a conversation that he guides in an area around the size of Manhattan
Just for a moment it felt like it may possibly not happen. James & I had brought the weather with us and vividly began to remember the problems experienced the previous year while chasing Tarpon in Northern Florida. It seemed like once again we had got it all wrong as huge storms and fierce winds lashed Louisiana State, colouring up the water we so desperately wanted to be clear and shutting down the key area that Doug had hoped to fish.
We returned from dinner on the first night prior to fishing to be greeted by a horrific email in our inbox which suggested that quite possibly fishing might be off on the first day at least. Taking a deep breath James called up Doug who calmed us by suggesting we head to a boat slip further away than our base in Slidell, to an area that we could ride to on what turned out to be the best skiff I have ever fished from, a Hells Bay Boatworks Marquesa, specifically designed to deal with rough riding situations. I haven’t cut up the videos yet, but when I do it will show just how good this skiff is at dealing with harsh conditions and we are talking waves in excess of 4ft. Arrive at your fishing location and it poles silently, offering a seriously stable foundation to cast from, even when standing an extra foot in the air on a platform.
Despite the far from perfect conditions we still did what all anglers must do when faced with adversity, stay positive and most important of all, trust in your guide if you are hiring one. A cracking breakfast at the Big Easy Diner just around from the corner from our hotel helped with the good karma not to mention the American hospitality that had us feeling like we were locals by the end of the week. With “Your Welcome” ringing in our ears and a belly full of buttermilk pancakes (James consumed 30 during the week!) we met up with Doug and I was instantly reassured by his laid back Southern style. You could just tell that even though things were going to be against us for a couple of days at least, that he would do everything in his power to make it happen. And he did.
Day one was tough, but we caught some Reds. Only Rats as Doug would call them, but to us, very special fish. Although having seen the serious presence of a fish in the low doubles bracket I think we both silently prayed that at some point during the trip we would tangle with a Bull or as Doug fondly refers to them … A PIG! So far all we had managed for him was Piglets although we had hooked larger fish that for some reason neither of us seemed capable of keeping them on for more than a few moments. Poor James in particular stuck some serious fish, but they just would not stay on! So it was to be that day two and three offered fleeting chances at the big fish but nothing arrived on deck that had Doug reaching for his camera. However, we sensed that this was all about to change as cool nights, requiring fleeces to stay warm descended upon us and Doug became confident that our last 2 days were going to produce what we had set out to achieve. A big Bull Red, sight fished on fly tackle. He was not wrong.
But first of all we had to land another fish that cruise or is that terrorise the Biloxi Marsh area during the warmer September/October months. Jack Crevalle. I have landed a few of these in the past but nothing big and certainly not as powerful as the one which smashed my fly, presented ahead of a bow wave which Doug had quickly spotted and put me on to. Twenty minutes later we had around 20lbs of Jack in the boat and I had been given a severe talking to about bending the rod. Needless to say that I didn’t need asking twice and from that moment forward the bright Red Sage Method 1090-4 got an absolute pasting. I won’t go into it now, but wow what a twig, perhaps I will get it reviewed sometime. And as for days 4 & 5 well that will be my next post as two such incredible days are worthy of their own blog and anyway I can feel a little jet lag coming on …!