Wednesday, September 19, 2018

SweatFest 2018... the sweat just keeps on coming!

Readers may be questioning my wisdom. It wouldn't be the first time anybody has done that. But in this case, it's in reference to the weather.

A month ago, I stated that August was the last full month of SweatFest. And that September would bring us our first taste of cooler weather. Well, we're into the second half of the month and we haven't seen a hint of a cool front.

Let me define what I consider a "cool front" in Louisiana. It's based on temperatures in Alexandria (state center). When either (a)  nighttime temps dip to 60 degrees or lower, or (b) when daytime temps dip below 85 degrees AND nighttime dips below 65 degrees.

Looking at the 15-day forecast, we're not due for a cool front until September 30th. In the last decade, the first cool fronts have come on Sept 16 (2008), Sept. 3 (2009), Sept. 27 (2010), Sept. 6 (2011), Sept. 10 (2012), Sept. 22 (2013), Sept. 15 (2014), Sept. 13 (2015), Sept. 27 (2016) and Sept. 7 (2017). So this would be the latest cool front to invade our state in ten years.

Why is a cool front so important to us anglers? Fish activity is triggered by water temperature. Hot water holds less dissolved oxygen (DO). After a long, hot summer, The DO in most water bodies is very low.  Low DO means sluggish fish. Just as important, the stress placed on fish during long periods of low DO results in weight loss.  That's why Spring fish are usually bigger and healthier than late Summer fish.

As we approach the Fall equinox, a phenomenon known as radiative cooling begins. So even on these hot days, lakes are cooling down... but it's very minimal. In fact, the current water temperature here on Cotile Lake is 84 degrees - only 4 degrees less than the last day of August. The combination of hot days and high humidity are insulating the heat escape.

But a "cool front" as I described accelerates the radiative process, driving surface water temperatures into the 70s. Strong north winds associated with these fronts in combination with cool nights bring oxygen levels up. The result is "Fall Vigor". Both fresh and salt species get very active - and remain so usually until late December.

As pointed out, we've had late cool fronts before (September 27).  But we're also having record hot temperatures for the second half of September.  Today's high in Alexandria will be 97 degrees with a heat index of 104.

Before anyone screams out "global warming!", a word of caution. One indication of global warming is the extent of seasonal melt of the Arctic ice cap. The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that this year's extent was in the "top ten" of meltoff.  But not nearly as bad as 2008, 2012, 2015, and 2016. Four of those years we had cool fronts in the first half of September. So the problem isn't as much global warming as it is a deflection in the jet stream.

There is some good news. The "love bugs" have shown up. The old timers used to tell us that when the bugs show up this time of year, it's two weeks to Fall. Over a lifetime, I've found their prophecy to be mostly correct. Let's hope it is again - people (and fish) are waiting!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

What's happening this week - 9/16

On Monday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers hold their monthly fly tying session at the Rapides Westside Library in Alexandria. Time is 6:30pm.  Bring your tools, if none, the club has a few sets for use during the session. Materials are provided. Beginners are welcome. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org.

On Tuesday, the Contraband Fly Casters hold their monthly meeting at St. Paul Lutheran Church on 1620 East Prien Lake Road in Lake Charles. Fly tying and discussion at 6:00pm, meeting at 7:00pm.  On the agenda: the club's upcoming fly fishing expo in July. Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.contrabandflycasters.net.

Also on Tuesday, the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club holds their monthly meeting at Pack and Paddle on 601 East Pinhook in Lafayette. Time is 6:00pm. On the agenda: recap of the Speck and Red Cup, CPR Update, tackle tips, and fishing reports. For more info, go to www.lafayettekayakfishing.com.

On Thursday, the New Orleans Fly Fishers hold the 2nd of their twice-monthly fly tying sessions at St. Francis Xavier Church Hall on 444 Metairie Road. Time is 7:00pm. Bring your tools, if none, the club has sets for use during the session. Bring $1 for materials. For more info, go to www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

On Saturday, it's the 9th annual Rio Grande Rodeo. More on that later.

Also on Saturday, it's National Hunting and Fishing Day. More on that later.

Saturday is also the first day of Fall. We've not had any cool fronts so far. We're past due, hopefully one soon.

This Saturday is the annual Rio Rodeo

The Rio Grande Rodeo is Louisiana's premier fly fishing tournament. Hosted by the New Orleans Fly Fishers, the target species is the Rio Grande Cichlid. Considered an invasive species by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, it's actually native to south Texas - the only American cichlid. However it wasn't found in Louisiana waters until pet store (and aquarium) owners began dumping the species into the maze of waterways in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. After the massive flooding of Hurricane Katrina, rios expanded their presence in the two parishes.

Despite concerns by LDWF, rios have not displaced sunfish species as once feared. Over many decades, they've not exhibited displacement in Texas waters, so why here? In fact, their numbers have been kept in check by cold winters. And the fact that largemouth bass find them to be easy, delicious meals. 

Fly anglers have fallen in love with rios! They love to eat flies, especially wets and popping bugs. And once hooked, it's like fighting a wet cat! On light tackle - 2 thru 4 weight rods - rios can be as much fun as the law allows.

Nine years ago the New Orleans Fly Fishers organized a tournament for this species. It's been a hit ever since averaging between 30 and 50 participants. This Saturday that tradition continues. The event is open to the public. Onsite registration begins at 7:00am Saturday. All entry fish must be caught on fly tackle using artificial flies. This year, fishing is expanded to all public waters in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Lunch and refreshments will be available for participants at the weigh-in. The registration and weigh-in will be at the intersection of Henry Thomas Drive and Palm Drive.

For complete rules and maps of legal fishing areas, go to www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

This Saturday is National Hunting and Fishing Day

Established by Congress in 1972, National Hunting and Fishing Day is celebrated the 4th Saturday of September. The day recognizes the contributions of America's hunters, anglers, and other outdoors enthusiasts, with events in 37 states.

Here in Louisiana, NHF Day is celebrated annually at four venues - Bodcau, Monroe, Baton Rouge, and Woodworth - with attendance at each in the thousands. Activities including archery, canoeing, fishery, target shooting, outdoor games, live animal exhibits, educational displays, and more. Many of the activities are geared towards youth and family, and there's even food and soft drinks provided at no cost.

The Waddill, Bodcau and Woodworth venues will feature fly fishing, casting and tying thanks to the Red Stick Fly Fishers, North Louisiana Fly Fishers and Kistachie Fly Fishers. Admission to each venue is free for all ages. Time is 9:00am to 2:00pm. For more details, check out the post in our Events Forum or go to www.wlf.louisiana.gov.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

What's happening this week - 9/2

On Wednesday, the Pontchartrain Basin Fly Fishers hold their monthly meeting at Abita Brew Pub on 72011 Holly Street in Abita Springs. Gathering starts at 6:00pm, meeting at 6:30pm.  Guests are welcome. For more info, go to  www.pbasinflyfishers.blogspot.com.

On Saturday, Pack and Paddle in Lafayette will host a "Fly Tying Level 1" at their store on 601 East Pinhook. Time is 9:00am.  Cost is $20 and seats are limited, so pre-registration is required.  The class will cover the basics of fly tying, with hands-on instruction in tying two flies effective for fishing here in Louisiana. All tools and materials are provided.  To register online, go to www.packpaddle.com and click on "Store Events".

Also on Saturday, it's the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club's annual Speck-n-Redfish Cup. Open to the public, entry fee is $25. The format is as follows: you can fish anywhere in Louisiana public waters. Bring your fish to Pack and Paddle in Lafayette before 5:00pm Saturday. Food will be served. Heaviest stringer of 4 fish (max 2 slot reds, max 2 specks) wins. Entry fee includes 1 raffle ticket for a new Solo Skiff (more raffle tickets can be purchased at the weigh-in). For more info, go to www.lafayettekayakfishing.com

Keeping an eye on the Gulf

This weekend's low pressure system over the northern Gulf has given us our only taste of hurricane season so far. But the majority of storms that hit the northern Gulf Coast take place in September, so no sigh of relief yet. And now we may have our first storm.

A tropical wave in the Bahamas is slowing moving northwest. The National Hurricane Center has given it an 81 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression or storm. If it's a storm, the name will be Gordon.

Like most low-pressure systems in the Atlantic and Caribbean this year, development has been slow due to wind-shear, and milder water temperatures. But once it moves into the Gulf, this system will find more ideal conditions. In fact, it's forward speed may be the only thing preventing it from reaching hurricane strength.

Starting Monday, we'll be posting all updates on this storm on our Facebook page.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

September is here, let the transition begin

While SweatFest 2018 isn't over, it soon will be. For example, the averages for today in Alexandria are 92 high, 72 low. By the last day of this month the averages are 84 high, 62 low. But that's half the story, because average humidity in September is lower as well. The combination of lower air temps and lower humidity and shorter days/longer nights means greater radiative cooling of waters.

Consider that the amount of daylight and angle of the sun today is equivalent to that of April 9th. As for radiative cooling... last year on this day the water temp here on Cotile Lake  was 90 degrees. A week later - with no cool front - it was 86 degrees. By the end of the month it was 78 degrees.

Why is this important? When water temps get below 80 degrees, fish go into their fall feeding frenzy. Bass school, redears congregate, spotted bass turn on, speckled trout move inside, crappie move to the shallows. So make plans now, tie those flies, get your casting tuned-up. It's about to happen!

Activities wise, there are a couple of major events taking place this month.

The 10th annual Rio Grande Fly Fishing Rodeo - hosted by the New Orleans Fly Fishers - is the largest and oldest freshwater fly fishing tournament on the Gulf Coast. It takes place Saturday, September 22nd. The target species is the rio grande perch, the only cichlid native to the United States, but which was non-native to Louisiana. Pre-registration ends soon, but onsite registration will be available. More details can be found on www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

September 22nd is also National Hunting and Fishing Day. NHF Day celebrations are hosted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at four venues, and average over 8,000 attendees. Admission is free. There are hands-on activities for all ages, plus exhibits, food, and more. The Minden, Woodworth, and Baton Rouge venues will have fly fishing and fly tying supported by local clubs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Rajeff, McCormick shine at ACA Casting Nationals

Maxine McCormick. Photo courtesy of ACA.
The American Casting Association held its 110th National Championships the week of July 25-28 in Valpariso, Indiana. Participants from across the country came to compete in casting competitions involving both conventional and fly tackle.

In the last few years, the ACA Nationals have been of high interest to flycasters everywhere. First, because of renewed interest among fly clubs in casting games.  Second, because of the numerous records set by Steve Rajeff, one of the greatest fly - and conventional - casters of all time. Rajeff's record 243-foot single-handed distance cast is jaw-dropping!  Finally, there's the extraordinary accomplishments of 14-year old Maxine McCormick, who has been the subject of countless national news stories.  And who many think will be the greatest female fly caster since the legendary Joan Wulff.

Yesterday, the ACA posted the official results of the competition.

In the men's fly competition, it was once again a battle royale between Rajeff and Henry Mittel.  Rajeff came 1st in the 2-handed Distance with 240 feet, followed by Pat McFadden at 236 and Mittel at 235.  In the 1-handed Distance, Rajeff was first with 208, followed by Mittel with 204, and Keith Pryor 156. 

In 2-handed Distance, Keith Sharp won Senior men with 204 feet.  Pam Peters won Womens with 147, and Maxine McCormick won Intermediates with 146.  In 1-handed Distance, Keith Sharp won Mens with 170 feet, Peters won Womens with 119 feet, and McCormick won Intermediates with 130 feet.

The Accuracy Division of the ACA Nationals focuses on hitting five targets of varying distance in sequence.  A perfect score is 100 points.

In Dry Fly Accuracy, Chris Korich won Mens with 99, Larry Moffett won Senior Men with 95, Pam Peters won Women with 97, Alice Gillibert won Senior Women with 89, Maxine McCormick won Intermediates with 96.

In Trout Fly Accuracy, Steve Rajeff won Men with a perfect 100, Charles Phillips won Senior Men with 95, Pam Peters won Women with 89, Elaine Gong won Senior Women with 93.  Maxine McCormick broke another record in the Intermediates with a near-perfect score of 99.  Had she competed in the Mens Division, she would've finished 2nd.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

What's happening this week - 8/27

A light week with the Labor Day weekend ahead.

On Monday, the Red Stick Fly Fishers hold their monthly fly tying session at the Bass Pro Shops in Denham Springs. Time is 7:00pm. Bring your tools, if none, the club has a few sets for use during the session. Materials are provided. For more info, go to www.rsff.org.

Also on Monday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers hold their monthly general meeting at the Rapides Westside Library in Alexandria. Time is 6:30pm.  The meeting is open to the public. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org.

On Tuesday, the Bass Pro Shops in Denham Springs will hold their monthly fly tying clinic. Time is 6:00pm. Bring your tools, if none there are sets for use during the session. Materials are provided.

On Thursday, the New Orleans Fly Fishers hold their monthly meeting at Lakeshore Marina and Fuel on 7640 Lakeshore Drive. Time is 7:00pm. A.J. Rosenbohm will have fly tying materials from Olde Town Fly Shop (now closed) for club members to purchase at 50 percent off. Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

What's happening this week - 8/19

On Monday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers hold their monthly fly tying session at the Rapides Westside Library in Alexandria. Time is 6:30pm.  This month, the group will tie the Meat Whistle. Bring your tools, if none, the club has a few sets for use during the session. Materials are provided. Beginners are welcome. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org.

On Tuesday, the Contraband Fly Casters hold their monthly meeting at St. Paul Lutheran Church on 1620 East Prien Lake Road in Lake Charles. Fly tying and discussion at 6:00pm, meeting at 7:00pm.  On the agenda: the club's upcoming fly fishing expo in July. Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.contrabandflycasters.net.

Also on Tuesday, the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club holds their monthly meeting at Pack and Paddle on 601 East Pinhook in Lafayette. Time is 6:00pm. On the agenda: upcoming LA1 Slamboree tournament, CPR Update, tackle tips, and fishing reports. For more info, go to www.lafayettekayakfishing.com.

Also on Tuesday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers will be exhibiting at the Alexandria Farmers Market as part of their "Outdoors Recreation Day". Location is 2727 Jackson in Alexandria. Time is 3:00pm to 6:00pm. The club will be tying flies and giving fly casting instruction.

On Thursday, the New Orleans Fly Fishers hold the 2nd of their twice-monthly fly tying sessions at St. Francis Xavier Church Hall on 444 Metairie Road. Time is 7:00pm. Bring your tools, if none, the club has sets for use during the session. Bring $1 for materials. For more info, go to www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

Friday and Saturday, it's the Ride The Bull. More on that following.

Ride The Bull this weekend

This Friday and Saturday is the 9th annual "Ride The Bull" kayak fishing rodeo out of Bridgeside Marina on Grand Isle. The world's largest kayak fishing tournament, RTB was the brainchild of Danny and Kristen Wray. After Kristen's untimely passing, CCA Louisiana agreed to take the reigns. The event is one of the most celebrated fishing events of the year, with between 500 and 760 participants from across the country and globe, and thousands in prizes.

The tournament remains the same, with the goal being to catch the heaviest bull red.  There is some basic skill and proper tackle involved in catching and landing a bull red, but beyond that, this is a tournament of chance. And that's what makes it so attractive - that anyone can win! When a red is caught, one of several CCA scout boats is flagged down. The boat takes the red back to the marina to be weighed, tagged and released.

Every imaginable watercraft can be seen at this event, from kayaks to pirogues to canoes to standup paddleboards to roundabouts. With so many participants, it's a great opportunity to see just about every type of kayak, every type of rigging and every type of transport.

Friday evening is the Captain's meeting and dinner, with Saturday the tournament and awards. It's a shotgun start, weather permitting. The early regisration period is over, however onsite registration begins Friday evening and up to tournament time on Saturday. Entry fee is $85 and includes entry, dinner, t-shirt and CCA membership for 1 year (or extended). For more info, go to www.ccalouisiana.com.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saturday Snippets - 8/18

Sheep herders can't wait for the PAC Fall Fly
BHA member survey results.  This week, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers - one of the fastest growing organizations in the country with over 24,000 members - released results of a demographic survey.  It found that  nearly 70 percent of its members are under 45 years old, and that political affiliation ranges the gamut - 33% independent, 23% Republican, 20% Democrat.  The significance of this cannot be overstated:  this shows that young outdoors men and women of ALL viewpoints support the protection of public lands and waters.  BHA has been very active here in Louisiana, and supports public access to open tidal waters.  For more on this survey, click here.

PAC Kayak Fall Fly tournament.  With the success of the two "Fly Fishin For the Mission" tournaments benefitting the Mission Six non-profit,  Eddie Mullen of PAC Kayak Rentals and Matthew Roberts of Troll Squad / Mission Six have organized a fall event.  Date is Saturday, October 13.  This one is a bit different in that it'll be a CPR (catch-photo-release) using the Tourney X app to "weigh-in" catches.  Most total inches instead of weight.  As with FFFTM, there's separate Kayak and Boat divisions.  But two categories - Redfish (2 longest slot reds) and Mixed Bag (longest 1 each red, speck, drum, sheepshead).  The Mixed Bag addition is drawing lots of interest especially among speckled trout and "goat" enthusiasts.  For more info, go to www.packayakrentals.com.

Friday Fly Tying.  Allen Fly Fishing started as a small scale manufacturer of fly reels with direct sales online.  They've grown in size and expanded their product line to include rods, apparel, hooks, beads, and more.  They're also working to promote fly tying with a series of videos they call "Friday Fly Tying".  Each Friday, Allen subscribers on Instagram and Facebook get notification of a new pattern.  The first dozen and more are simple but effective patterns.  The list will continue to grow.  Beginner tiers can check out the video archive by clicking here.

Counting down to cooler water.  Fall officially begins a month from now. Some will say it really doesn't begin in Louisiana until the first week of October.  But if you own a swimming pool, you know all about radiative cooling - and that it begins the first full week of September. Water temperature is what it's all about.  First time it dips below 80 degrees is when freshwater fishing in north and central Louisiana turns back on. Especially for bass, crappie and redear.  Next week's cool front won't do much - highs will still be near 90 and lows in the upper 60s.  But let's see how water temps respond.  As of today, the temperature here on Cotile Lake was a tepid 86.5 degrees.