It was still dark when the 5:00AM wake up call blasted me out of bed. Man
who gets up in the dark? I dressed in my new spf50 fishing togs, brushed my
teeth and was out the door looking for some hot caffeine. Chris (Tater) Bolm
and I had come to South Louisiana to hunt for Bull
Redfish in the Biloxi Marsh: a thousand square miles of Redfish habitat.
Our guide Capt. Greg (MOON DOG) Moon was
picking us up at 6:00.
We were in it now.
Greg drove up in a new black Ram truck pulling
a beautiful East Cape skiff, he did not look happy.
Conditions in the marsh had deteriorated in the last 24 hours; wind was 20
knots, bad tide, etc. I wondered what a knot was, how many knots to the mile. I
kept silent as not to reveal my lack of maritime lore.
fishermen now in an unfamiliar universe careening to the famous redfish guide
hangout Penny’s Café for breakfast. Parked in front of Penny’s were four more
truck and skiff combinations, it was still dark. When we walked in the door
someone hollered “Fresh meat”, meaning Chris and I, maybe it was my snazzy
spf50 fishing togs.
Penny also makes our delicious boat lunches,
pretty handy. My only small criticism of Penny’s is they had no Green Tabasco,
the life blood of a redneck breakfast.
Back on the road to the boat launch, I was
trying to get a focused picture of our guide. At the same time Capt Moon was
attempting to do the same: Were we members of Greenpeace? Climate Change
deniers? Or just Yankee lunatics? I kept thinking, there is something very
familiar about the good Capt.…..but what?
After launching the
boat we motored down the bayou toward the open marsh passing a few boats still
stuck in the trees from Katrina. It was a beautiful morning. The marsh is a
product of a million years of Mississippi River mud
deposits forming a tangle of saw grass covered islands, open water and smaller ponds. The
richness of these waters borders on the incomprehensible: shrimp, oyster beds, baitfish,
dolphins cruising past, you name it it’s boiling up in the marsh.
So let me give you the short version of how
fishing for trophy Redfish is done with a fly rod. After the Capt. stops the
boat he climbs up on the poling tower over the motor about six feet above the
water. The angler stands on a casting platform about the size of an apple box,
15 inches above the front deck, I found this to be a bit dicey.
As the Capt. poles
you silently into the kill zone, your job is to visually pan the water from
nine to three o” clock looking INTO the water for targets. When you find a moving
redfish you cast a heavy fly about six inches in front of its head and
immediately begin stripping the line back in long smooth strips. When the
thirty pound beast takes the fly you stay calm and continue to strip until it
turns and hooks itself, all the while standing on an apple box in a 20 knot
breeze. Really could it get any simpler?
Now let me explain
as a trout fisherman of forty years how conceptually opposite this to trout
First of all is the bait : Trout fishing is
about the right fly at the right time, in the marsh there is so much bait your bait
would get lost.
Next is the casting, trout need a subtle
delicate approach; in the marsh you may get three splashy shots at bonking the
And finally the hook setting, when a huge
trout puts his snout on your size 10 grasshopper, you hammer it. I hammered the
Redfish too; it’s just part of my fishing DNA. The Capt. was not amused, even
though we landed most of those fish.
Chris and I stood on
that deck for four days listening to the Capt. behind us call out targets and
talking us into the job at hand. As I stood on the casting platform listening to
his voice on the last day; What was so familiar finally came to me, his was the
voice from the movie Rainman, “Ray were not going to K-Mart”. The Capt. was the
vocal doppelganger of Tom Cruise, the movie star. Are you kidding me? I mean a dead ringer. I turned and asked him
to yell at me,” I want the truth”. I believe he thought I had crossed over to
the lunatic category.
Just like Tom, no Mission
is Impossible: Difficult, heartbreaking, frustrating, gut checking, but we
achieved our objective and the free world survives.
If you ever feel the pull of a thirty pound
Redfish on your soul book a few days with Capt. Greg (The Cruise) Moon in the Biloxi
marsh. Just leave my name out of it.