Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Red Drum - Black Drum.. It's not just about the oysters.

Acme Oyster House - $1.35 local.
New Orleans for fresh oysters is reason enough. But a focus on food must change to an intense eye straining focus on the marsh water as three well dressed Denver Trout Unlimited fly casters take on the Mississippi Delta where the Denver South Platte river water mingles at last with salt water.

Peche and Cochon two more reason for New Orleans.

Acme Oyster House - Grilled Oysters w/Parmesan
The real reason for New Orleans is powering out into the delta to find Redfish preying on mullet.

After a two hour ride in Capt'n Greg's new pickup to the Cypress Cove Marina, Fred gets the first solo shot with Greg while Nick "volunteers" to guide newbie John and experience Redfish hunter Ned out into the West Bay.

 I'm fishing an eight weight Orvis rod and a weight forward saltwater line, although wisdom on the boat thinks my drag is not strong enough.
Capt'n Nick has tied on a bright chartreuse streamer to help counteract the overcast weather and lack of sun.
 We head out into the West Bay looking for birds, chasing bait fish, and surely the Redfish will be nearby.
 Oil and gas deposits lie under the marshes. The delta has been extensively exploited but the pumping and processing activities are largely unheard and invisible except for the occasional christmas tree valve cluster, loading depot, and gas burn off stack.

After a half hour or so we cruise into a marsh and Capt'n Nick kills the outboard, drops in the trolling motor and mounts the lookout/poling pulpit to spot Redfish and complain about the overcast sky.
Fred's as concentrated on the water in Capt'n Greg's boat, miles away, doing the same thing. The two boats are in constant cell phone contact. "I actually don't know where the hell I am."
Fred's ready.
Who can keep tight loops all the time.
Put it there. THERE. DROP IT. DROP IT. aww shit.
From the fresh perspective only available to someone who has never fished in the delta before this is what Redfish fishing seemed to be:

1. A harrowing, bone crushing, fiberglass stressing pounding through light chop at 38 mph in an open boat to a salt marsh cove that looks exactly like the 34 coves we passed on our 40 minute trip.
2. Silent drifting along the marsh reeds while standing on the bow pulpit or sitting down in the cockpit praying not to get hooked during your partner's cast.
3. After 30 minutes of missed opportunities and constructive criticism, powering for another 1/2 hour to another identical spot and doing it all over.
4. Panic on the pulpit as you try to overcome the excitement generated by the Capt'n as he spots a Redfish coming right at you but can't seem to scream the direction, distance or speed in a way you can understand. Finally you just cast and hope for the best which of course turns out to be the worst; in the wrong direction, "NO YOUR OTHER RIGHT",  wrong distance, "10 YARDS, NOT 10 FEET", and stripped with the wrong speed, "AHEAD OF HIM, NOT BEHIND HIM!"
Missed it. Move on past an oil dock.
Move on. 
New fly. This time put it on his nose. 
They're in here somewhere.
Will Fred's immaculate new shoes impact his chances? Only if they're standing on his free loops.
But finally, as they say, even a blind monkey will find the banana.
As I concentrate on keeping tension on the line after the strip strike, I notice that free line is wrapped around the reel seat, so I trap the fly line to the rod with my gloved finger while I feverishly try to unwrap it. 
The Redfish has turned and started his run, just as I've trapped the line. "Well DAMN." After two of these ballets, Capt'n Greg pulls out a leader spool, hold it up for me to see and says, "Can you read this?"
"50 lbs," I ask? 
"Right. Let's see if you can snap this."
 We are into a huge pod of Redfish and mullet. And it is not long before I get all the acts together and 
Fish ON!
20 minutes later.
 After a dozen runs pulling line past my splice of extra backing, I work the Redfish closer to the boat.
Almost in.
When he decides to give up, Capt'n Greg just reaches over the side, loops his finger around his tail, cradles him under the chin with his other hand in lifts him into the boat. Miraculously, he stops moving and just freezes. What could be going through that Red Fish mind? These fish could be 15 or 20 years old. They are in healthy condition and spectacularly colorful.
Hello Redfish. Nice to have you aboard.
Small forward teeth but massive grinder teeth down his throat for crushing mollusks.
John's Red.
Fred's Red.
Ned's Red.
John's Black Drum.
When the skies clear and the sun comes out, it's obvious why these marshes have such allure. There seem to be possibilities everywhere.
Miles and miles of marsh.