Saturday, September 19, 2015

Where have all the big reds gone?

(Dictation software often leaves strange artifacts--there may be some left, so please forgive me, if so.)

The title of this blog is the same title as an article that I've recently written for Tide magazine. In it, I present the thesis that I've been developing for two years now--that the big reds are shifting toward nighttime feeding, and into the shallowest sanctuaries on the LLM.

I know that It's hard for people to believe, but the finest fishing is often to be found after 5:00 PM. It's then when all the other boats have gone that the fish often move into some of the areas where we often fish but often do not find them when we think we should. To illustrate the truth of this, I took my dog Rosie with me on an afternoon trip upon arriving at the Arroyo about 5:30. We didn't get on the water till about six and we were fishing at a time when the sun was low to the horizon. I got to the spot where I thought they be feeding, as they often have in the last two years when I've been visiting this place in the late evening. They didn't seem to be there yet, at least, so I got out with Rosie and we waded into the area, a very shallow expense of  5 to 6 inch water. There were a lot of mullet so it was hard to perceive the subtle signs of game fish feeding. But after a while, I can see that there were some redfish starting to come into the area, probably intending to feed during the night. My first cast was a top water to a very large fish that promptly jumped on the fly, and broke off in the heavy grass. I had to three more misplaced shots in the area before I thought it was probably all over, so I moved into even shallower water to get away from the grass so I could walk back to the boat without great effort. Then it happened. I looked out into the glare 200 yards to the north and an equal amount of yards to the west and saw several redfish with the backs of the water that were clearly oversized, meaning over 28 inches in length.  It was so shallow that I thought their eyes would probably be in and out of the water, making it very difficult to approach them. I still had not caught the first redfish, but I realize that even one of these fish would make the day. Rosie is a very good companion, and does not make much noise, but as we walked into the shallow area, I was concerned that the combination of the two of us would alert the big fish and fish them away. We had at least four oversize reds within 100 yards of us, clearly feeding. Every once in a while one could blow up, probably on a crab, and then proceed to saunter along clearly visible at a great distance. Finally, I saw two redfish, one significantly larger than the second. The smaller one was swimming toward me, and almost within casting range when I dropped to my knees and decided to wait for the larger fish. The smaller fish, probably a 27 inch redfish, came up to me, turned sideways and swam by me within 40 feet. The second fish turn directly toward me and I can see its back out of the water, with a head several inches wide approaching me. I stayed on my knees, and urged Rosie to be quiet and be still as I began to false cast. Finally, I dropped the fly just beyond his head, and cringed realizing that I had to strip the fly past him in order to cast again. I stripped slowly so as not to alert him, and the fly came up to within 6 inches of his head. Knowing that it was the moment of truth, I let the fly slow down and drop to the bottom even though I knew it would immediately foul on the grass and algae that covered the bottom. Nonetheless, the big red perceived it and turned sideways, and with its head down its back suddenly coming all away out of the water. He was on, and wow what a fight. I spent the next 20 minutes trying to

coax them in within range of grabbing the line, but he would have nothing of it. If he'd not been in such shallow water, he would've swam much further, but he had such a difficult time negotiating the 5-inch water that ultimately I was able to retrieve him without him becoming too tired.  I pulled him up to us, and I took some photos as best I could before I released him, a 30-inch or better redfish, weighing approximately 11 pounds by my estimation. It was one of the best catches I've had in several years, and it was one of the most exciting angling encounters I've had in my entire life. This kind of evening fishing is so phenomenal, and it's very hard to convince people of just how good it is. But if you want to get out there, and show up just before sundown, you may discover the most remarkable flyfishing you ever had in your entire life.

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