Fly Fishing for Big Redfish on the Bayou
Once again, it was that time of year for the crew of Defective Gene Club members to descend upon the marsh to go after redfish. The weather forecast didn't look great for the middle of November in Hopedale, Louisiana, but nothing was going to stop us from going back down to the bayou for the 3rd annual Fall Redfish Trip hosted by MRFC and Trout Stalkers.
For the last three years we have flown into NOLA with a crew of anglers, several returning for their second and third trips, with high hopes of catching bull reds. With everyone showing up on-time, our fly rods and bags of gear in tow, we made our way to the passenger van and headed south through the French Quarter and onto the fishing town of Hopedale, LA to get settled in at the Dogwood Lodge.
The first evening at the Dogwood consists of a quick meet & greet of all the anglers up in the main hangout, the passenger lounge, followed by a few beers to wet the whistle and sooth any travel woes along with appetizers provided by the boat chef, Tracy. Soon after Tracy has put together one of our many delicious cajun meals prepared on the boat ranging anywhere from chowders, gumbos, crawfish etoufee to salads with fresh blackened fish and desserts such as local key lime pie and traditional southern pecan pie. Tracy runs a good ship, covering all meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After dinner we group back up in the lounge, setting up rods, reels, lines, tying on flies, and prepping all of our gear for the first day of fishing. As mentioned previously, the weather doesn't always cooperate in the Gulf of Mexico and it looked like we were going to have a few cooler days with temps in the mid 40s to mid 50s with the possibility of rain. In these conditions you need to make sure to dress in layers and have waterproof, preferable gortex outerwear. Many of us were ready to gear up the next day in Simms Pro Dry Bibs & Pro Dry Jacket, keeping you dry and warm for the morning boat run out to the marsh.
Up early on the first day, we start off with a plentiful amount of coffee, eggs, bacon, sausage and biscuits via Chef Tracy. Geared up in layers looking like we're about to go ski a day at Big Sky, we all still have high hopes that the bad weather will bring in the big bulls. The water visibility is low with overcast cloud cover, but the 6 guide boats head out, each guide with their own game plan for where the fish might be. It's a chilly boat ride out to the marsh and you are relieved when your guide slows the boat, finding his first spot to hunt for big reds. The first angler jumps up on the platform and begins surveying the water, looking for a glow of red.
We'll find out later that for each boat the fishing is different on a daily basis. Some have good luck finding fish in the morning, some have better luck finding fish in the afternoon. Depending on where you are located on the marsh, some anglers got several minutes of sunlight to help site fish, others had gray sky all day. Anything can happen on the marsh and you just have to be ready to adapt to those conditions.
As a guide on the marsh, you're not only battling the weather conditions, but you need to find the clear water which is regulated by the tides and manipulated by the winds. Our guides use their knowledge of the marsh to determine where those locations might be, with all variables accounted for, to hopefully find some cruising fish looking for a quick meal, eating shrimp and crabs. We start the morning off slow, busting fish off the bow in the mud, before we can get our eyes on them. With water temps in the 50s and air temps just about matching, we wait hoping the water will warm a few degrees and the fish will become active.
We find clearer water in the afternoon and begin to see and throw to a few slot reds. Using a couple different redfish fly patterns, we send short casts, teasing redfish into taking flies. Several fish deny us, not ready to eat, but we finally get a couple to entertain us and taking our fly and line out of the reel and rekindling the feeling that the "tug is the drug". The good thing about these fish, is once you find them, they don't spook easily as long as you see them first. You can get multiple short 15' casts, forehand and backhand, at them before they will take the fly. Sometimes they've spooked and you can still throw a shot at them with a fly and you never know, they must might eat. A tip from our head guide Parker was to keep tossing that fly until that fish is long gone, even as they are crusing away from the boat, what do you have to lose? Day 1 a success, we all reconvened back at the Dogwood to chat about our day of fish stories over a few beers and a good meal.
The next two days were similar but different, with a cold front arriving over night, Day 2 consisted of clear blue skies, but cold dry air and wind. The opportunity was there for our leader, Joe Dilschneider to take a drive over to Venice, LA to see what the hype was all about. So off he went in the passenger van with Joey Irons to meet up with local guide Jesse to fish the marshes of Venice while the rest of us geared up after breakfast to head out with hopes of seeing more fish with better light. The Joey's caught some big fish in Venice and had one hell of an adventure making their way back, jumping trains, planes and automobiles to make it back to the Dogwood in time for dinner.
For the rest of us in Hopedale, the visibility on day 2 was a lot better, but the fish were harder to find. You really had to search for the fish cruising the shallow ponds where the water had warmed up a few degrees from the sun. They were not sitting out in the deep water as they had been the day before under the cloud cover. Again the boat I was on did a lot better in the afternoon after a slow, cold start in the morning, but other boats saw the opposite, just depending on where you were. Day 2 in the books, again we found ourselves in the passenger lounge, trading fish stories from the day.
Day 3 ended up being the toughest in the way of weather conditions. The forecast called for wind and rain, but the temperature had at least come up into the mid 50s from the day before due to the low pressure system that had moved in. Some guides and anglers chose to sit this one out, but a select few of us with the defective gene decided to power through it, even if we only fished a half day, to see if the bad weather would bring in the big reds. And it did!
Head guide Parker got us off the dock early and we were able to get out in front of the rain, staying mostly dry on the run out to the marsh. After a slow start searching in tough visibility, we found actively feeding fish on the southern edge of the marsh in the tide channels. Besides finding our main target, bull reds, we also found several sheephead (Cajun Permit) and even a few black drum. We polled along the edges of the marsh grass, throwing flies into deep channels, and shallow banks. Sometimes even blind casting to fishy areas proved to be successful with a random redfish or sheephead putting some tension on the fly line.
The fishing started to slow down as the rain started to pick up and we decided we had our fill of casting to the fish of the marsh and headed back to the Dogwood to pack up and make our way back to New Orleans.
An hour drive back to the French Quarter, we got settled in at the hotel, and treated ourselves to a night on the town including the annual first stop at Erin Rose for frozen Irish coffees, followed by oysters and beers at Felix's Oyster bar, dueling pianos at Pat O'Briens, a quick drink at the Carousel Bar & Lounge (the bar spins and really messes with you the first time you go here), an unreal dinner thanks to Pat at Gautreau's Restaurant and then back to the French Quarter for a night cap. Some of us were slower to rise than normal the next day, but we all were able to grab some local coffee and beignets and make it back to the airport on time to fly back home.
There's plenty of people to thank from this trip. A huge thank you to Joe Dilschneider for putting the trip together. Many thanks to Tracy at the Dogwood for taking such good care of us. Another huge thank you to Capt. Parker O'Bannon and all the guides (links below) for battling the weather with us and putting us on some really nice fish.
You can't go wrong fly fishing for big redfish on the bayou. It's great fishing with good food, good drinks and good laughs with good people. We're already booking for next year so make sure you jump on this one and take a look at the gear you'll need below. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have.
Guides: Capt. Parker O'Bannon, Jessie Register, Adam DeBruin, Max McKinley, John, Tom Cambell, Preston, and Michael.
Gear: For a full selection of gear, check out our Redfish collection!
Rods - 8, 9, and 10 weight rods were needed for this trip. If I only had to bring two, I would bring an 8wt and 10wt. We were rotating rods, using the Winston Salt Air, Hardy Zane Pro, Sage Igniter, Scott Sector, G. Loomis NRX+, Thomas & Thomas Sextant, and Sage HD Salt were the highlighted rods for this trip.
Reels - Evolution R Salt, Shilton Reels, Nautilus CCF X2, Galvin Grip, Hatch Iconic 7+ were some of the favorites for this trip.
Lines - The main thing here is to have a short and powerful head. Anything with a longer head makes those short and accurate casts tough to execute. Only floating lines were needed for this trip. Rio Premier XP Redfish, Scientific Anglers Redfish Cold and Rio Premier Redfish were our line choices for the trip.
Flies - Tan/Brown was the top color. Black/purple was next up followed by Chartreuse/black. The main thing is to have a few different weighted flies depending on the scenario, and flies with olive/brown, black/purple, and some with chartreuse mixed in. The Gulfcoast Corona Toad and the Gerbec's Poboy Brown/Tan were the right set up for the bigger bull reds and worked great. For another option you should try the RIO Hopedale Crab, it has a big hook with heavy lead eyes to chase those big ones. RIO’s Shrimp Tease in black/purple, olive/ brown, and rust all caught plenty of fish. The black/purple combo caught a couple of Sheepshead too. This was a great opportunity to catch some fish on flies you tied up yourself!
Leader & Tippet - Short 5-6’ leaders were key in making those short casts. With the smaller fish 16-20lb tippet is fine, but the guides want 20-30lb for those bull reds. The Umpqua Deceiver HD Tippet and the Scientific Angler Absolute Saltwater Fluorocarbon tippet and their monofilament leaders were the go to for this trip.
Other notable gear needed for this trip is a full rain suit! Many of us wore our ski bibs, some kind of nano puff, a warm jacket underneath, and a Gore-Tex rain jacket. Gloves, beanies, long underwear, and of course some polarized sunglasses are also necessities.
Written by Ryan Suplee
More photos from the trip below.
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