Saturday, June 30, 2018

Alaska Lakers

 For several years my good friend, Mike Scott, has been flying into a lake, in central
Alaska, to fish for big lake trout.

Due to my work schedule I just couldn't get away in June.....until this year!  After retiring in
2017, my schedule suddenly opened up (Grin!) and I was ready to join Mike on his annual trip for lakers.


It is pictures like this that have danced in my brain, 
EVERY June, 
and I was finally headed north to sample the fishing for myself.  Mike is holding a typical lake trout.  This one blasted a big gray & white gurgler!

I was asked not to mention the name of the lake, since the fishery is so sensitive.  The outfitter we fished with is now retired, and only invites a few people to join him, in June, and Mike is one of the lucky ones.  Now, I am a lucky one too!  There are no other operations on the lake, so we were totally alone!

The view from the lodge!

Timing a trip here is very critical.  Sockeye smolt leave the lake, around the first or second week in June, when the lake temperature reaches 50 degrees.  The lake trout are very aware of this collection of smolt, at the end of the lake, and congregate there to intercept them, on their way down river!

Since we were there a bit early, we fished from a boat, fishing sink tip lines around shallow "humps" that tend to hold lakers.  We caught fish the first 2 days, and all were 6 to 10 lbs.  


***


However, the best was yet to come!

Once the sockeye smolt started to collect near the river, the lakers really turned up the action.  Pods of lake trout could be seen blasting the smolt on top, and explosions could be heard all over the lake.

The outfitter mentioned that the lakers could be caught from shore, and since I had my waders with me, I decided to give it a try.  I started right in front of the lodge, and within a few minutes, casting a big top water fly, to the drop off, I was greeted with a violent explosion.  After a powerful fight, the 8 lb. lake trout was in my hand!  For the next 2 hours I caught 8 lake trout, casting from the shore.  Two of these fish were guests for dinner the following night!







Slideball Slider




***

When calm conditions prevailed, I used a 3-4", gray & white Floating Minnow.....the same fly I use in the Yucatan for tarpon!  This was my primary fly for most of my fishing.  Top water flies were the only flies I used while wading.  Incredible! 

 Floating Minnow
***
The highlight of the trip took place on the last night.  The smolt migration was in full tilt, and the huge, shallow, sandy flat, at the end of the lake, was alive with smolt trying to escape the vicious lake trout.  Terns, eagles, loons, and seagulls were all in on the feast!
During this melee, I waded the huge, sandy flat, and cast to cruising lakers, eager to eat my top water offering!

All of these fish were in the 7 to 10 lb. range!  I was alone on the flat, and it was phenomenal!  

As I worked my way out on the flat, casting to busting bait, I saw a huge wake pushing toward my fly, at least 20 ft. away!  As it closed on my fly, the massive laker leaped from the water, like a porpoise, diving onto my fly.  I was solid to the biggest fish of the week.  
As the laker headed for deep water, the backing on my reel melted away!  
After loosing about 100 yards of backing, I started to turn the fish and gain line.  It took quite some time to finally get a look at my laker!

I guided the big fish to the shore, and snapped a quick picture, before releasing the laker.      The trout measured 32 inches, and the outfitter estimated the weight at 17 lbs.!  



 17 lbs. of Lake Trout!

Finally, around 11:00 pm, I had caught my fill of beautiful lake trout, and headed back to the lodge thankful for my health and the amazing creation all around me!


Hopefully, I will return next year to tangle with big Alaska lake trout, once again!

Many thanks to Mike Scott for inviting along on this trip of a lifetime!

***

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Biloxi Marsh, NOLA, 2018

Winter fishing, for redfish, can be hit or miss, depending on the weather, and there is really no way to predict the conditions.  
However, this year, warm weather and  the bright skies welcomed our group of 8 to Delacroix, LA. 


My partner for the week was an old friend, Jim Christianson.  
Jim has fished many saltwater venues, but this would be his first opportunity to catch redfish.  
 ***

It didn't take long for our guide, Paul Lappin, to find a big tailing red, and when Jim dropped the fly near the red, the fight was on!  This 25 lb. red was the perfect way for Jim to start his redfish experience!



Although we didn't find the huge bull reds, famous in the Biloxi Marsh, we caught good numbers of redfish 8 to 15 lbs.

***

One morning, Paul eased the skiff into a shallow, weedy bay, and we could see redfish feeding all over the flat.  With so many weeds, and the reds "floating" near the surface, I was sure my Redmeat Neutralizer would be the answer....and it was!

The reds didn't hesitate to inhale a well placed fly!


***

When fishing the deeper flats, a fly that sinks fast is critical, to intercept the reds, and once again, the Bull-et Fly was perfect.

mottle brown Bull-et Fly





The Bull-et Fly provides a strong profile, adds movement, and pushes water....  
....and when we encountered somewhat clear water, the mottled brown version worked great!  


When the water was stained, we switched to the black & purple version.  
The 3/0 jig hook was great for the reds, with only one fish dropped, for the week!



***

This was my 3rd trip to the Biloxi Marsh, and on my bucket list was a big black drum.  I am told that many times these fish are difficult to "feed" with an artificial fly, but my first encounter proved otherwise.
Dropping my mottled brown Bull-et Fly just ahead of the black, started the dance.  A few short strips.... 
(and a pause...thanks to the quick advice from Paul!)....
...resulted in a solid hookup!


After a short fight the big 35 lb. black drum was at the boat, and crossed off my bucket list. 
Paul was reluctant to bring the drum on board, and once I cradled the black in my lap, I understood why they are called
"Big Nasty"!
The slime and smell is something else, and I had to wash my clothes after the encounter!  Grin!
[Yes, that will be the last time I hold a black drum!]

Our group did catch some reds over 20 lbs., and saw many considerably larger!

I want to thank Doug, David, Jimmy, Danny, Julian, Dana, and Jim, for a great week in "the marsh", and to our head guide, Gregg Arnold, and his wife Nancy, for providing everything needed for a perfect trip!




 We are already planning our 2019 trip to the Biloxi Marsh!





Friday, September 15, 2017

Espiritu Santu Bay...Epic!

My trip to Espiritu Santu Bay, at the bottom of the Yucatan, began with a 2 day "tune up" at Isla Blanca, north of Cancun.  I was fishing with my buddy, Mike Scott, and we decided to add a couple of days to our ESB trip, and fish with my old guide, Enrique Trinidad, and his son Bernardo.

Although the weather was overcast, making sight fishing tough, we were able to find some permit and tarpon, and have a great time!

                                      

Enrique Trinidad


Weaving our way through the mangroves, hunting tarpon....

 ....and as usual, Enrique found us some nice tarpon!


The Floating Minnow, once again, was a great fly for the mangroves.  It sinks slowly, but rising when it is stripped, and is weedless, so you can fish it aggressively in the mangroves!

**********

With bad weather in Cancun, and heavy rain the day of our transfer  to Espiritu Santu Bay
we were hopeful that the jump 200 miles south, would make a difference in the weather.....and it did!

 
Espiritu Santu Bay Lodge...
...newly opened and awesome!


With perfect weather, it didn't take our great guides long to find all 5 of our group multiple shots at permit!  This 17 lb. permit was a great way to start my trip!
We enjoyed relaxing on the deck, for happy hour, and telling stories of the "fish of the day"!

***
After fishing ESB, at Paradise Lodge, 2 years ago, I was aware that there might be an opportunity to catch big migratory tarpon, and this year Mike and I wanted to be sure to investigate the channel, if the weather permitted.

We weren't disappointed!

With glassy conditions we were able to locate a small pod of tarpon, and it didn't take long for this 70 lb. tarpon to find my fly!

***


Although most bonefish in Mexico and Belize are typically small, we found the bonefish in Espiritu Santu Bay, averaged much larger.  In fact, we had shots at big bonefish that would have pushed 8 lbs.!

Similar to Ascension Bay, to the north, Espiritu Santu Bay is ALL about the permit!


 This trip was without a doubt my best week of flats fishing, ever, and I ended the week with 7 permit...a personal best!   

All of my permit were caught with my new Spawning Shrimp.  I used a white, and also a beige color, and the permit loved this new fly.  With various clients using this fly in Ascension Bay, and Cuba, the Spawning Shrimp has accounted for over 50 permit, in one year!
If that wasn't enough, one day brought 4 permit to hand, including 2 bonefish and a tarpon...
A Grand Slam!  
With a second tarpon lost at the boat, I was inches from 2 Grand Slams in one day! 
 Incredible!





 With winds shifting to the south, our guide, Luis, headed south to fish snook and tarpon on a wide, 2' deep, sugar-white flat, and it didn't take long to spot a small pod of 20 - 40 lb. tarpon cruising our way!  Check out this video of Mike an a beautiful 35 lb. tarpon that really put on a show, in the shallow water!



I was even able to wade this flat and catch a tarpon, on my own...a first for me!




We fished for snook along a tree lined shoreline, and many shots at snook to 20 lbs.


Snook Country!
This small 8 lb. snook was a nice addition to our week.
The Floating Minnow (weedless), in chartreuse, was great for these snook! 

***
There was even good beach fishing in front of the lodge....
Triggerfish everywhere!

...and the food was incredible at ESB Lodge!



Many thanks to the fantastic guides at Espiritu Santu Bay Lodge!
Luis, Fernando, Alex & and Jorge
The flats skiffs made our fishing even more enjoyable!


Blessed with one of six perfect weather days!

I want to especially thank my partner, Mike Scott, and anglers Daniel, Sebastian, and Edgar, for a great week at ESB!

Adios!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

NOLA Redfish 2017



The Biloxi Marsh is well known for huge red drum or redfish, and this trip was no exception! 


However, fishing during the winter, and really anytime, weather is quite a gamble, in the Louisiana Marsh.  
You hope for 3 good days, in a one-week trip!



Well....we ended up with 1 and 1/2 days of low winds and clear skies, which are required for sight fishing the big bull reds in shallow water.  However, wind can stir the mud and reduce water clarity to a few inches, which is exactly what happened to our group of 6 guys fishing out of Hopedale and Delacroix.
Fortunately, we were in the hands of long time NOLA guide, 
Gregg Arnold, so we were still hopeful we would find fish.

With poor visibility we were forced to "blind cast" to likely areas, or where we could see clouds of mud from fleeing reds; and although this type of fishing is not the sight fishing we hoped for, it was what the weather dictated, and I felt very fortunate to catch this nice 24 lb. redfish....the first fish in 4 days, and the only fish we hooked, this day.  



Finally, after three cold, windy, cloudy days, the weather opened up and we were blessed with clear skies and calm conditions.  Unfortunately, the water was still muddy, so we resorted to blind casting, again. 
Our guide, Preston Harden (www.bucktailguideservice.com), 
worked hard, and was able to find an area that had fish and my partner and I were soon tight to big redfish!

This 25 lb. bronze back was our first visitor...




...and then another beautiful redfish-25 lbs.





 32 lb. Redfish...
The largest red caught by our group!






Bull-et Fly

This trip was the second trip to NOLA, fishing the Bull-et Fly.       (I wanted to confirm my previous success before making this fly a standard offering on my website www.gurglersonline.com.)  
Two of my fishing partners fished this fly exclusively, as well, and both reported several big fish, as well as a number of smaller reds.  

The Bull-et fly provides a fat head, that pushes water, heavy eyes to get down fast, and creates a very strong profile-important features when fishing dirty water. 

The 60 deg. jig hook proved, once again, its significance on these redfish!


My partner, Danny, and I scored a double which turned out to be about the only fish we were able to actually see, before casting.

I should also mention the 3rd guide, for our group.  Jeff Arnold proved very effective for our group, also finding fish in tough conditions.
www.arnoldsguideservice.com

One highlight to the trip was finding a pod of 20-25 gar that were cruising in a small cove.  We had several good shots at these curious fish, some over 5ft. long, but could not interest them in our offerings. 

I want to thank our host and hostess, Gregg Arnold, and his wife Nancy, for the great hospitality and food.

I also want to thank Doug, Dana, Dave, Jim, Rick, and Danny, for making this tough trip a great time.
I hope we can do it again, soon!
***