September and the coming on of Fall generally means three things: cooler temperatures, big Louisiana reds on the flats and False Albies off the coast of North Carolina. As the title implies we are heading south to Cajun county, down Louisiana way, to sight cast for rod testing spottail bass, red drum or as we like to say - “reds”. Actually Judy, my wife who loves spin Casting, and I will be driving to and staying near Port Sulfur at the Woodland Plantation. We found this fishing jewel several years ago and look forward to returning to great accommodation, hospitality, Cajun cuisine, making new acquaintance, and last bit, not least “Fishing for Reds”!
You ask what is it like to hook a red on a fly rod? My good friend Capt. Steve Thomas, who guided on the Hobcaw Plantation, SC for a goodly number of years, would tell new comers, mostly trout fishermen, “well - it’s like hooking a bulldog in the *** and holding on”. This I always thought was an factual depiction.
After a hardy breakfast, we meet our guide Johnathan and post a short drive we stepped onto his Hellsbay’s flats boat. With the anticipation of sight fishing, for reds, we travel into an expansive of waters known as the Lafoot area. Weaving our way through the marsh grass we arrived at a very fishing looking bay. Offering up the bow of the boat to Judy, FYI guys this is always a good maneuver, Johnathan see’s a stud red cruising in our direction. Locating the red, Judy cast the Johnson golden spoon, in the strike zone of the red. Reeling in the line and twitching the spoon the red follows the spoon to within a few feet of the boat. Johnathan instructs Judy to drop the spoon back into the water. Dropping the spoon back in the water and popping it the red hammers the spoon and the fight is on - here we go! This style of fishing is repeated several time during the next two days and is referred to as the “Judy Drop & Pop”.
Releasing the red it is now my turn to step up on to the front of the craft. Picking up a ten weight and false casting, readying the line, a red suddenly appears within casting distance. With the fly landing on the water, John tells me to strip, strip, strip, watching the red open it mouth and take the fly I set the hook. Suddenly there is a huge commotion with the fly in the air and the red turning and swimming away. Well I’ll be an egg sucking mule. Knowing the answer to the question, I ask anyway, Johnathan what happened? His response - trout set. Casting the fly back into the water I practice strip setting several times to get my MoJoe back. A short drift into an adjacent bay and a tailing red is seen working the bottom. This is a happy fish and with a well placed fly and a short retrieve the red takes hard and with a quick strip set it rips across the water and after few runs it is brought to hand and released.
For the next two days we find willing fish and have a big time catching and releasing reds. What was really cool was that every fish we caught we saw before casting. As for dinner? Yep - Cajun blackened reds and oysters on the half shell with a few cold ones on the side. Life is good!!!
Judy with the day’s first Red
Joe finding his MoJoe