by Mark Littleton
Le bon temp roller! That’s the unofficial motto of Louisiana
(translation -let the good times roll). I had never been to Louisiana
before but I heard that it was an exotic place, the closest thing
to going to a foreign country without leaving the U.S.A., so this
year my wife Katie and I flew to New Orleans for our vacation. After
a tour of the Bourbon Street nightlife and some great blues, a tour
of the French Quarter, dining at some of the finest restaurants
I’ve ever eaten in, and a swamp tour (a don’t miss part
of any trip to Louisiana) I took a day to go flyfishing for redfish
and drum with Captain Dan Ayo while Katie shopped.
Captain Dan is a genuine Cajun and something of a self taught renaissance
man. He told me that he never went to college but reads a lot. He
built his own house, built his own boat – a welded aluminum
flats boat with many custom features, developed his own web site
and ties all of his own flies.
When I called Captain Dan a couple of months ago to talk about
the fishing there, he said “we won’t be fishin for em
Mark, we’ll be huntin em”. That sounded pretty good
to me so we set a date to go. Dan is the only flyfishing guide working
out of Houma (pronounced Home-a ), a little town about 60 miles
southwest of New Orleans. I met Dan at the Big Wheel Truck stop
and Casino at 7:00 am and headed for the dock. We went fishing in
the bayou’s south of Louisiana leading out to the Gulf of
Mexico. This is an amazing place, miles and miles of grassy wetlands
with a maze of channels running through the grassy areas. I was
told that Louisiana has more wetlands than all the rest of the States
combined, I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure looked
like it to me. These wetlands are rich with wildlife with all kinds
of birds, fish and reptiles (alligators). The highlight for me was
seeing a couple of huge porpoises swimming in the gulf.
This is how this kind of fishing is done: You motor out to a likely
looking spot, shut down the engine and Dan climbs up to the platform
and starts poling and looking for fish. All of the water we fished
was less than 3 feet deep. The Drum are easy to spot, their tails
are sticking out of the water. The redfish were much more difficult
to see, you look for a ghostly outline under the water.
We motored out for quite a few miles before we started fishing.
Dan handed me a 9 weight rod with a fly that looked suspiciously
like a spoon. In the first 5 minutes of fishing we spotted a pair
of Redfish feeding and I hooked a heavy redfish on the first cast.
Unfortunately he threw the hook and I lost him. At this point I
was thinking that this was going to be easy. Find em and catch em
- one after another, easy huntin.
I found that it isn’t all that easy. For one thing, I am
pretty good at spotting rising fish, but I was pretty much worthless
as a submerged redfish spotter. Even when Dan was pointing out the
fish and screaming “can you see him, he’s right there
can you see him?”, most of the time I couldn’t see anything.
This was a major problem because a redfish will not move very far
for a fly, you have to put it right under his nose. You have to
be able to see the fish well enough to tell which end has the mouth
and which direction the fish is moving, then lead him just right
so the fly is right in the feeding zone at the right time. Despite
my limitations, I had caught a drum and hooked 5 other fish that
I lost by late afternoon. I considered this a pretty successful
day, I still wanted to land a Redfish, but the scenery and wildlife
were so spectacular that I would have been pretty happy even if
I hadn’t caught anything.
Dan knew that I would like to catch a Redfish before I went home,
and I was getting a little better at seeing them by this time, so
we stayed on the water longer than planned and changed to a strange
looking fly that Dan had just invented that had a rubber leg collar.
We saw a large drum feeding and I cast to him, he didn’t take
but the unseen Redfish next to him did. This fish wasn’t as
big as some we had seen that day, but he put up a good fight and
I landed him. As it turned out this little bit of luck came just
in time, a storm came in and we had to race it back to shore. The
fishing trip was over.
Overall, this is one of the best vacations I’ve ever had.
I am something of a fishing fanatic, but even without the fishing,
Louisiana is one great place to visit. The beignets and café
au lait at the Café Du Monde alone were almost worth the
trip. My only regret is that we were unable to find anyplace that
had a zydeco band. I guess we’ll save that for the next trip.