Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Sound of One Hand Casting

Having recently purchased a small trailer and put it on the Arroyo at the Arroyo City RV Park, I was eager to spend a night or two, and do some early fly fishing. Julie and I towed the Casita camper trailer to the Arroyo the previous weekend, but it was time to go through the launch routine and to do some fishing on my own. I went down on Saturday with Rosie and put the Stilt in the water before dark, so everything would be ready. It was great having a private launch, so I didn't have to hassle with the Park traffic. I set the alarm for 5:45, as I wanted to go out before daybreak and get some photos of the sunrise.

Rosie was eager to go. It had been a while since I'd taken her with me, even though I got into taking her out with some of my clients last year. Having her along seemed to boost everyone's morale, and result in better results to boot. Even if that was a fantasy, she did seem to become a mascot of sorts, whose bouyant spirit kept the rest of us afloat when the fishing was tough.

I had enough light to navigate into a back lagoon, where I could barely see reds blowing up and moving away as I approached the shallowest areas. On the way to my destination, I looked to my right and saw what appeared to be a school pushing water away from the boat's intrusion. While I could have stopped there, I made a mental note to check out the area later once the sun rose. I wanted to explore an even shallower area in the low light, where I would be able to see single cruising fish in the low light.

They were definitely where I hoped they'd be. Shutting down in about 7-8 inches of water, I could see wakes pushing away in all directions. I spent some time letting them settle down, and started to hear blowups here and there. I knew the reds were feeding, so I opted for a Mother's Day fly and slipped overboard. It wasn't long, however, before I changed to a VIP popper, because the water was so shallow that as soon as the fly would hit the water, it would pick up grass or algae.

The reds were showing themselves intermittently, but were still hard to track. The wind was getting up, so the redfish movements blended with the waves and mullet action. Still, I was able to track a few of them in the shallowest areas, and cast the black VIP ahead of them. Wow, they were tough. I blew up one after another, sending small pods packing, and I wasn't sure if it was my presentation, or their mood. I tend to blame myself, but sometimes what is usually a virtue (taking responsibility) can obscure the truth of the matter. So, eventually, I opted to change my fly rather than to persist in the belief that my presentation was at fault. I shifted to a Kingfisher Spoon.

I caught one 23-inch red, but after landing the red, the feeding action slowly diminished. I knew from hundreds of visits to this particular venue that the reds tend to migrate after the sun rises, and that the lack of action in one area may imply that they are gathering elsewhere. Sure enough, as the day brightened, I spotted reddish egrets, great egrets and a passel of Caspian terns working together near the area where I'd spotted that school earlier. Instead of making a quick run aboard the stilt, I opted for a more stealthy and time consuming approach. I told Rosie to get aboard the Stilt, and I pushed the skiff slowly in the direction of the melee. As I got closer, I could see reds coming out of the water, and pushing waves ahead of obvious feeding action. The birds were crazy with excitement. The egrets were running around behind the reds, and the terns were diving into the middle of the feeding fish. The reds were so intent on feeding that the birds didn't seem to bother them at all, even though the water was so shallow that the backs and tails broke the surface as they swept around side by side driving shrimp and finger mullet ahead of them.

I wanted to video my catch, but I was alone. Having practiced one armed casting previously, in which I could shoot line and cast with one hand, I decided to take my new Sony and see what I could do juggling the two instruments. Since the reds were moving a lot, I figured I might be able to strip line into the water, and stay fairly stationery as they approached. As it turned out, I had no problem getting one shot after another. The first redfish surprised me by swimming by on my left. It was alone, and as it turned out it was near 30 inches long. I cast the spoon ahead of him a couple of times before he saw it, and then wham! He took it and ran. Holding the rod with one hand, I videoed his powerful run, in which he almost spooled me. It took a while to turn him and get him in, but the spoon fly rarely comes out once its found a purchase. I landed him, got a closeup of his massive body, and let him go.

The best way to tell this story is through the video, which I have almost finished editing. Once I do I will post it on YouTube and add the link here. So watch for it. I showed my son Ryan the rough edit last night, and he got really excited. He's not easy to please, so I was particularly gratified with his response.

How many reds did I land? Five more, from 26-30 inches. My arm was sore afterward, having supported the rod without any help. But I had fun getting some great video of big reds exploding on my fly. I think you will enjoy the result, even though it was hard to hold the camera steady. Next time, I will be better prepared, because I'm getting another video camera that I will mount to my cap--a "GoPro" camera. If you haven't seen the display for this camera in Best Buy, drop by and take a look. The promotional video is breathtaking.

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