Saturday, September 21, 2013

This past week I took some vacation time & went down to Wachapreague, VA to visit a friend, Peter Jacobson & fish with him. Left Sunday morning for the 3 hour drive. I had never caught a Redfish on a fly, so had that goal in mind. Peter said they were there! I've caught them on bait & on jigs but never on flies. I've fished for them a few times, not really knowing what I was doing, and with very limited opportunities. So, my quest to add to the list of fish I had caught with a fly began.

I arrived a little after noon, and before the day ended, I had completed my quest & had landed a fine Redfish of about 17-18". Peter had been doing some scouting around, and had found them on a grass flat nearby. There were about a half dozen fish tailing in the shallow water when we arrived, and I got a chance to cast to one that moved within casting distance. My first opportunity ended with a fish that spit the fly. I guess I didn't get a good hook set. My second fish, the one I landed was hooked solid & took an unweighted Bendback I had tied for the trip. Not the biggest fish as far as Redfish go, but being the first I ever got on a fly it didn't matter! Amazingly, that first fish was taken just off the edge of the roadway that passes by the marsh!

We fished & explored that grass flat the rest of the week, watching the tide tables & getting there before the high tide. On Thursday there was a full moon, meaning the tide would be higher than it had been earlier in the week. We moved further into the flat, and waited for the tide. There was a ditch that crossed a section of the marsh, and we walked around the end of it & positioned ourselves to wait on the rising water. We had determined that the Reds were approaching that flat via the deeper water in the ditch, and once the surrounding area had flooded would work their way onto the flat to feed.

Where I was waiting, I saw about 6 fish. Got the chance to cast at 4 of them, and spooked 3 of the 4. The fourth fish simply faded into the grass. With the full moon the tide was up about 14", where earlier in the week it had been about 8 to 10" on most of the flat. A lesson was learned here! More water is not always a good thing! We ended the day with no fish hooked for me & one for Peter. The 4 fish I cast to were all within 35ft of my position, and at least 2 got within 20 ft of me. What a rush!

The last fish I cast to was about 40 ft away when I spotted it tailing behind me. I made several casts, but it was moving & I either could not get the fly in front of the fish, or it would hang on the tops of the grass & wouldn't get down to the level that the Red could spot it. Another lesson learned here! Even in shallow water, some weight may be needed! The entire week was beautiful weather with high sky & sunshine. This worked against us some I think as that last fish spooked, I believe from a reflection off my rod. Not sure, but that seemed the most likely reason!

On Friday morning, my last day, we both saw many fish & I finally got my second Red & a much bigger fish. I was standing again in the same general area I had fished on the previous day, and spotted a fish tailing back on the opposite side of the ditch. I knew I couldn't wade across that ditch & it would probably take too long to try & wade around the end of the ditch, so I moved closer to it's edge & waited to see if that fish would move close enough for a cast. It never did, although it moved around quite a bit, and finally faded away into the grass well beyond my sight. I was feeling like I was running out of time to hook up with at least one more fish.

But, sometimes we just get lucky! As I watched for signs of another fish, I glanced down at the far edge of the ditch. There was baitfish everywhere on this flat, and the wind was dead calm, so seeing movement & swirls was not unusual. But this time the swirl was larger, although very slight. The grass on the far side was also moving as the Red brushed against it with it's body. The far edge of the ditch was only about 15 ft from my position. I had about 3 ft of line out the end of the rod tip, and a leader & tippet that was about 9 1/2 ft long, so I simply swung the fly towards the far side as a bass angler might when flipping a jig. Nothing happened for several seconds, so I started to lift the fly for another try. The leader moved sideways & I set the hook! The ditch exploded & after a short battle I landed a beauty of about 24". The Reds we had seen this week were all not typical red copper colored I had seen in pictures, but were bright silver with white bellies & very prominent black spots on their tails.

Since Peter was quite a ways away from me & I didn't have a camera, I decided to carry that fish over to get him to take a picture. But, about halfway between us I spotted another Red tailing & had to make a decision between a picture or a chance at a third fish! I opted for the chance & released the Red. I stalked that third fish like a hunter stalking a deer, even crouching very low & approaching behind some taller grass. The tide had started to move again & was going out. The water had already receded about 2 inches. That last fish was moving towards my left & deeper water. I made several long casts, about 75 to 80 ft, and the fly landed behind the fish, but I couldn't seem to get any accuracy & never did get the fly in front of it. It also faded into the deeper water & was gone.

But, there must have been a higher power watching over me! As I moved towards Peter's position, I again spotted the flicker of a tail near the edge of some deeper water. That fish disappeared into the deeper water, but I saw some movement & made a cast and as the fly landed a quick strip! The line shot sideways again, but this time as the Red went into the higher grass the tippet popped & was gone! Another blown opportunity!

I simply smiled. I was using 15 lb test tippet, but had not checked it after landing that other Red. Might have been nicked, so my fault I'm positive. Fishing for bass & Stripers, I knew better but in the excitement of the moment I forgot a basic lesson I had learned many years prior. Always check your tippet & leader for possible damage after landing a fish!

Here's the flies I tied for the trip. These are some Bendbacks with brass barbell eyes & some with no weight. The first fish I caught took one of the chartreuse with pink body, un-weighted flies. The second fish landed took a different fly, one with a red Estaz body & tan rabbit strip tail. I took a lot of flies, not knowing what to expect, but only ended up using 4 the entire week. I was as prepared as I could have been, over prepared actually, but that's better than running out of flies if the fishing gets hot & heavy!