Sunday, April 22, 2018

What's happening this week - 4/22

On Monday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers hold their monthly general meeting at the Rapides Westside Library on 5416 Provine in Alexandria. Time is 6:30pm. Guest speaker will be Tom Bullock, who will speak on "Fishing the White & Norfork Rivers Below the Dams". Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org.

Also on Monday, the Red Stick Fly Fishers hold their monthly fly tying session at Cabelas in Gonzales. Time is 7:00pm. Bring your tying 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.rsff.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.  Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

Saturday and Sunday is the 2nd annual "Fly Fishin For The Mission" fly fishing tournament out of Pointe-aux-Chenes. More on that later.

Also this Saturday, Backpacker of Lafayette will hold a "Kayak Demo Day" at Sugar Mill Pond in Youngsville. Time is 10:00am to 12 noon. Weather permitting. Check their Facebook page for updates and more details.

Fly Fishin For the Mission this weekend

This weekend, the state's newest and most popular saltwater fly fishing tournament takes place out of Pointe-aux-Chenes southeast of Houma. The 2nd annual "Fly Fishin For The Mission" has expanded this year to include a "fishtival" on Saturday, with the actual tournament on Sunday.

The event will once again be held out of PAC Kayak Rentals in Pointe-aux-Chenes. Saturday is "Vets Fishing Day" along with fly tying, casting clinics, kayak demos, and food and music. Sunday is tournament day with Captains meeting at 5:30am, followed by shotgun launch. Weigh-in is 2:00pm to 3:00pm.

Format is two (2) heaviest redfish per team. Divisions include Boat, Kayak and Overall. Team format, entry fee is $80 per team with all donations going to the Mission Six charity, which aids veterans and other uniformed heros.

The boat folks will be anxious to atone for last year's showing, where they were clocked by the kayakers. All three places in the Overall Division went to kayak teams.

For complete details, and to learn more about Mission Six, go to www.mission6.org.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The demise of the FFI council conclave

Earlier this week, the Gulf Coast Council (GCC) of Fly Fishers International (FFI) announced that their 2018 Fly Fishing Fair has been cancelled. The event was scheduled for September 14 and 15, once again at the Ocean Springs Civic Center. It would've been the GCC's 10th "conclave" since formation. Whether you call them "fair", "festival", "expo" or "conclave",  these events feature seminars, casting clinics, fly tying demonstrations, workshops, exhibitors, and other activities. Most important, they are fundraisers for the council's conservation and educational projects.

FFI members in the geographic region of the GCC - Louisiana, Mississippi, south Alabama and extreme northwest Florida - received an email citing reasons. "Support for putting on the show has waned in the last several years. The same small group of people tasking themselves with all of the show responsibilities. Therefore the GCC Executive Board decided to not have a show this year.".  The email went on to say that the facility has been booked for September 13-14, 2019 in hopes that there will be an "increased level of volunteerism".

Just twenty years ago, the Federation of Fly Fishers (now FFI) council conclaves were the biggest fly fishing events each year across the country, with attendance at each in the hundreds. Vendors, exhibitors and fly tiers would flood the floor space. Fast forward to present and only four councils have held, or will hold, a conclave this year. One of those is the Southern (Council) Fly Fishing Fair set once again for the first weekend of October in Mountain Home, Arkansas.

So what has led to the demise of the council conclave? Armchair analysts cite the decline of fly fishing and the "graying" of it's participants. FAKE NEWS! According to AFFTA surveys, our sport has been GROWING at a clip of nearly five percent the last six years. Furthermore, much of that growth has been in ages under 35, among both men and women.

In our observations, there are many reasons for demise of the conclave. However, we'll list our Top Six.

1) The internet. Back 20 years ago, conclaves were the ultimate learning experience. The internet was in it's infancy. Getting started or advancing one's knowledge in our sport could be done via books and VHS/DVD, but nothing came close to human interaction.  The internet and Youtube has changed much of that, especially with the large number of young flyfishers.

2) Lack of volunteers. Simply put, "time conflicts". There's just a lot more things going on these days that occupy the time of folks. Especially young people with kids.

3) Growth of kayak fishing. In the late 90s, kayak fishing began it's rise in popularity.  Most of the pioneers of the sport were flycasters.  Today a large number of flyfishers also kayak fish. The rise in kayak clubs and tournaments has given rise to yet more "time conflicts".  Many young flycasters who might otherwise be involved in an FFI council are occupied with kayak fishing activities.

4) Growth of other events. Twenty years ago, there was one commercial event and only a trio of club conclaves across the South. Now there are a couple dozen club events and four commercial shows. If learning is your main consideration in attending a fly fishing event, why travel several hours and spend a couple hundred dollars (or more) when there's a similiar event an hour or two away?

5) Lack of exhibitors. The ICAST and IFTD trade shows are not open to the public, but if they were, the attendance might approach a million! People want to see and buy products, and at one time, conclaves offered that opportunity. While retailers have hit hard times due to competition from big box retailers and internet stores, product companies are at an all time high. Yet most do not exhibit at council conclaves. I've been told a myriad of reasons, but none make sense but one - that getting pro-staffers and reps to do these shows is like getting a bear into a box!

6) Fewer superstars. The 1960s was the Golden Age of American Fly Fishing thanks to numerous books, magazines and the American Sportsman TV show. Folks like Lee Wulff, Joan Wulff, George Harvey, Joe Brooks, Stu Apte, Lefty Kreh, Flip Pallot, Dave Whitlock, Mel Kreiger, Gary Borger and many others became icons. There were not only great writers and pioneers, but they all had personality. A conclave with any one of them drew attendees like gnats in Delacroix! Today many of those icons have passed or have greatly limited their event schedule. And while there are many young experts, only a handful have their charisma.

As mentioned, there are other reasons. But these six are enough to make any conclave organizer pull their hair!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A sad day for Louisiana coastal anglers

Yesterday afternoon the Louisiana House of Representatives debated and voted on House Bill 391 by Kevin Pearson of Slidell.  HB391 would have allowed public access to tidal waters. It was expected to be a close vote, with some momentum after having passed 5-3 in committee. And with a large number of supporters in attendance for the vote, there was glimmer of hope the bill might actually pass.

But after  much debate - and a couple amendments - the bill was voted down 59 to 37.  With many of the "no" votes coming from north and central Louisiana, whose representatives were heavily lobbied over the weekend by large out-of-state land companies and oil companies.  In fact, according to some accounts, as many as 50 lobbyists were brought in to work against HB391.

Many of the hundreds of anglers on Facebooks who supported the bill quickly posted their disgust with the politicians who clearly were trying to derail the bill, speaking the talking points given them by the lobbyists. Anglers were also quick to point out that this was just one battle - the war will go on!

As with every issue of this magnitude, there were winners and losers. The big oil companies won the vote, but anglers won their dignity. They will be more determined than ever to organize and fight on. The losers were CCA, who went back on their stance. Based on dozens of comments, I doubt there will be enough kayakers participating to hold this summer's Ride The Bull. Another big loser were the representatives who voted against HB391 in areas where anglers make up a significant portion of the electorate.  As the support for public access continues to mount, this will become a campaign issue in next year's state elections.

For more complete details of the House vote on HB391, and a list of legislators who voted FOR and AGAINST the bill, go to this article by Louisiana Sportsman magazine.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What's happening this week - 4/15

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 and public are welcome. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org.

Also 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.  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. Special guest speaker will be Heath Hippel, owner of Buggs Fishing Lures. Also on the agenda: Marsh Madness results and overview, upcoming Oak Point Classic, CPR Update, 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. 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 Friday and continuing thru Sunday, it's the Red Stick Fly Fishers annual Spring outing to Lake Concordia. For more info, go to www.rsff.org.

On Saturday, Pack and Paddle will host the 2018 Fly Fishing Film Tour - along with a "Fly Fishing Hangout" at their store on 601 East Pinhook in Lafayette. The hangout begins at 3:30pm with fly tying, rod demos, beer and snacks. At 5:30pm the show starts. Tickets are $15 in advance and at the door, but seats are limited so pre-purchase is advised. For more info, or to purchase tickets, go to www.packpaddle.com.

Also on Saturday, the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club will hold their annual Redfish Rumble tournament out of St. Bernard Parish. Format is 3 redfish + 3 combination of trout or bass. For more info, go to www.bckfc.org.

HB391 set for House vote Tuesday

This past week, the Louisiana House Civil Law and Procedures Committee approved House Bill 391 by Rep. Kevin Pearson of Slidell by a 5-3 vote. Setting the stage for a big vote by the full House this Tuesday. The bill would provide public access to running waters, with certain exemptions.

In the committee hearing, the bill was amended to exempt water bottoms where navigation has been prevented or impeded by an obstacle permitted by the Corps of Engineers, and to running waters during migratory waterfowl season when such waters have been posted.  A third provision bans watercraft with combustible engines that may cause damage to bottoms or banks or submerged vegetation.  The bill also limits liability of the owner of waterbottoms open to public access.

Despite these several compromises, the bill still faces very strong opposition from large landowners and oil and gas companies. Their lobby group has been contacting legislators and organizations. Late in the week, three organizations expressed opposition to HB391: the Louisiana Forestry Association, the Louisiana Farm Bureau, and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI).

Meanwhile, on yesterday's More Outdoors with Don Dubuc and Martha Spencer, guests Rep. Kevin Pearson and Capt. Daryl Carpenter (board member of Louisiana Sportsman Coalition) spoke about the merits of the bill and dismissed some of the false claims made by the opposition. There was a feeling by the opposition that the bill would never make it out of committee. According to Pearson, it was a demonstration that people do have a voice and can make a difference.

Pearson and Carpenter encouraged listeners to continue to call their legislators and make their support for HB391 known. And if possible, to attend the House vote on Tuesday at the state capitol. To find out who your legislators are, and how to get in touch with them, go to www.joinlasc.com/speak-up.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

What's happening this week - 4/8

On Monday, the Cane Country Fly Casters hold their monthly meeting at the Westside Baptist Community Center off Old Highway 1 in Natchitoches. Time is 6:30pm. Guest speaker will be Tom Bullock, who will give a presentation on "A different way to fish the White River". Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.canecountry.blogspot.com.

Also on Monday, the Red Stick Fly Fishers will hold their monthly meeting at the Wildlife and Fisheries building on Quail Drive in Baton Rouge. Casting at 6:30pm, meeting at 7:00pm. On the agenda: discussion of their upcoming trips to Lake Concordia (April) and Spring Catch-n-Eat marsh trip (May). Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.rsff.org.

On Tuesday, it's a big day in the state legislature for anglers concerned about coastal waters access. More on that later.

Also on Tuesday, the North Louisiana Fly Fishers hold their monthly meeting at the Red River National Wildlife Refuge in Bossier City. Gathering starts at 6:30pm, meeting at 6:45pm. A ranger with the Red River NWR will be giving a presentation to the club on the refuge's fish and wildlife.  Also on the agenda: the club's upcoming out to Purvis Creek State Park. Guests are welcome.  For more info, go to www.northlaflyfishers.org.

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

On Saturday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers will hold their annual "Fly Fishing 101" workshop at Booker-Fowler Hatchery in Forest Hill. Time is 8:30am to 12 noon. There is no cost.  Pre-registration is required, and can be done online.  Sessions will include tackle and casting basics, hands-on casting, knots, leaders, flies, and area places to fish. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org and click on "Fly Fishing 101".

Also on Saturday, Masseys Outfitters in New Orleans will hold another "Kayak Demo Day" near the Cabrini Bridge on Bayou St. John. Time is 10:00am to 3:00pm. Weather permitting, check their Facebook page for updates. Boats from Hobie, Jackson, Native, Bonafide and others will be available. 

House Committee to hear HB391 Tuesday

This Tuesday, the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedures will hear House Bill 391 by Rep. Kevin Pearson.  This bill prohibits anyone from restricting or prohibiting public navigation of running waters which are navigable by a motorboat.  The bill is strongly supported by Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition, and the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS). 

BASS is the world’s largest fishing organization, and frequently held their Classic in southeast Louisiana until several competitors were warned or cited for trespassing during the last event.  In recent years, the number of trespassing warnings and citations has skyrocketed as landowners - in many cases, "water owners" because most of the land is gone -  have seen value in leasing their water bottoms.

There is some common belief that the bill may be amended to make accomodations for duck hunters during season.  Based on Facebook responses, the vast majority of those who support HB391 would support such amendments.

There is one sportfishing group that opposes HB391. That's the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Louisiana, the state's largest sportfishing group.  Or was.  CCA-L at first expressed neutrality.  But this last week, they came out in opposition citing that they preferred that a "study group" be formed to come up with workable solution to this complex issue. 

The response to CCA-L announcement has risen the ire of anglers statewide.  All over Facebook, members are stating they will not renew or participate in this summer's CCA STAR and Ride The Bull tournaments.  Many are outraged that CCA changed their position and look at their proposal as "obstructive" and "stall tactics".  

What many are unaware of is that two of the biggest landowners in opposition to HB391 sit on the CCA-L state board.  It also should be noted that this is CCA-L, not CCA (national organization) which has a history of supporting tidal access.

For those who support HB391, there's still time to contact committee members and let them know your support.  These are committee chairman Raymond Garofalo, vice chairman Randal Gaines, Robby Carter, Raymond Crews, Gregory Cromer, Julie Emerson, Sam Jenkins, Taner Magee and Gregory Miller. For contact numbers, go to www.joinlasc.com/speak-up.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Happy Easter!

What a wonderful Easter day!  After all the unsettled weather we've had this past week - especially the deluge here in central Louisiana - the ground has dried enough that the kids can enjoy an Easter egg hunt without hip boots.  Looking at their Easter baskets, it's safe to say there's going to be LOTS of chocolate consumed the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the adults in our extended family are celebrating the true reason for this day - the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was sent to redeem the world. No better way to celebrate that than with a cold beer! (now you know what I gave up for Lent, ha!).  

We wish everyone a great day.  And a reminder that, with many schools having Spring break this week, to take a young person fishing.

What's happening this week 4/1

On Monday, the Acadiana Fly Rodders hold their monthly meeting at Grace Presbyterian Church Hall on 415 Roselawn Blvd in Lafayette. Time is 6:30pm. Guests are welcome.

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.

Starting Friday, and continuing Saturday, it's the 4th annual Lake Athens Fly Fishing Festival & Big Bass Contest at Lake Athens Marina in Athens, Texas. The festival is free, entry to the Big Bass Contest is $40. Pre-registration is required. Hosted by our friend Johnny Martinez, a fly fishing guide on the lake, the event features various vendors, casting and fly tying demonstrations, great food and more. The bass contest is CPR format, both biggest bass and longest stringer. Fly rod only, approved fish ruler, and smartphone with camera are some of the rules. All net proceeds will benefit Project Healing Waters. For more info, go to www.johnnyonthefly.com.

On Saturday, Masseys Outfitters in Baton Rouge will hold a free Kayak Demo Day at BREC Wampold Park on University Lake in Baton Rouge. Boats will include models from Jackson, Native Watercraft, Bonafide and others. No Hobie products at this demo (available only at the New Orleans demos). For more info, www.masseysoutfitters.com.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What's happening this week 3/26

With it being the week before Easter, a light schedule.

On Monday, the Red Stick Fly Fishers hold their monthly fly tying session at the Goodwood branch of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, Conference Room B on the 2nd floor. Time is 7:00pm. This month the group will honor the late Lefty Kreh by tying his famous fly, the Deceiver. 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 annual "On The Water" meeting and picnic at the Recreation Area on Cotile Lake. 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 Saturday, the Lake Charles Kayak Fishing Club will host "Marsh Bass Madness" kayak fishing tournament out of Lacassine Refuge. This CPR tournament is longest "stringer" of 5 bass (total inches). It's open to the public. Entry fee is $30. Sign up is on TourneyX at www.tourneyx.com.  Captains meeting is at 5:30am at Cajun Grocery in Hayes. Blast off start TBD at the meeting. Photos must be submitted by 2:30pm to TourneyX. Weigh-in (results) at Cajun Grocery at 3:00pm. For more info, go to www.tourneyx.com and click on Lake Charles Kayak Fishing Club.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Latest Mags

The April issue of Louisiana Sportsman is now available at sporting goods and convenience stores. In his Fly Lines column, Catch Cormier gives a brief overview of "Trout Fishing 101" including necessary tackle, accessories, tactics, and where to go. There's also the calendar of upcoming events, and the April Fishing Forecast (Tippets). In his expanded Paddles and Puddles section, kayak fishing guru Chris Holmes tells where and how to target canal bass. He also gives new gear reviews for the  PowerPole Micro, NRS Boundary Shoe, and the Bioenno 12-volt Lithium battery for powering a variety of kayak electronics. Also, the April "best bet" locations for freshwater and saltwater kayak fishing. Other columns/articles of interest include: Jerald Horst tells us about Gaspergou in his Creature Feature column; Jerald also writes about targeting bass from a kayak featuring Butch Ridgedell of the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club; Phase 3 of the Toledo Bend bass spawn by David A. Brown, and top April trout hotspots by Andy Crawford.

The April-May issue of Fly Fisherman magazine is out. Although the issue went to publication prior to the passing of Lefty Kreh, there's a couple of features dedicated to the legend of our sport. Editor Ross Purnell tells the  story of the Lefty's Deceiver and his recollection of the man behind the fly. Flip Pallot pays "A Tribute To Lefty" in an article detailing his memories of his mentor, giving us a glimpse into Lefty's life. Other articles include: Ed Jaworoski on why when it comes to fly lines, anglers should throw out the old AFTMA weight standards and why they don't mean much anymore. Ross Purnell tells of a South American fish that was caught on flies long at least 300 years before Isaak Walton wrote his famous book on fly fishing. Landon Mayer writes about high-altitude cutthroat trout fishing. Also: fly fishing news, new gear, tying the Senyo Predator Scandi and more.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tuesday Tidbits - 3/20

The 2nd annual Fly Fishing' For the Mission tournament webpage and registration is up. The state's premier saltwater fly fishing event will take place the weekend of Saturday-Sunday, April 28-29 at PAC Kayak Rentals in Pointe-aux-Chenes. Saturday is the "fishtival" featuring casting instruction, fly tying, kids casting instruction, kayak and skiff demos, and kids art activities. Sunday is tournament day, with 2-person teams competing for heaviest 2-fish stringer. Divisions include Kayak, Boat, and Overall, assuring at least 9 teams receiving prizes. Also there's a Sheepie Side Pot. Raffles, food and more. With nearly two dozen sponsors, the event is getting interest across the northern Gulf Coast. Proceeds go to benefit the Mission Six non-profit. For more info, go to www.mission6.org.

The Fly Fishing Show ® has announced their 2019 dates and venues. Ben Furimsky, president and CEO of the largest commercial fly fishing expos in the country, is hoping the early announcement will help exhibitors, presenters and attendees set aside those dates. The only venue within 8 hours of Louisiana is the Atlanta Show, held at Infinity Energy Center in Duluth. Dates for that venue are Friday-Saturday, February 1-2, 2019.

Fly Fishers International has officially announced that their 2018 FFI Fair & Fishfest will be held at The Boise Center in Boise, Idaho on August 7-11.  The consumer trade show (expo) will be held August 9-11 featuring manufacturers such as Orvis, Rio, Patagonia, Sage, Scientific Anglers, Simms, and others. The event will also feature 100-plus workshops covering all aspects of fly fishing. Demonstrations, seminars, and hands-on sessions are scheduled by Gary Borger, Dave and Emily Whitlock, Molly Semenik, Heather Hodson, Craig Mathews, and Brian O'Keefe. For more Fishfest info, go to the FFI website at www.flyfishersinternational.org.

Little Missouri River update. In a previous update, we stated that the Little Mo tailwater below Greeson Lake - a popular year-round trout fishery with Louisiana fly anglers - has been releasing water through the dam's bunger valves due to very high lake levels. The large volume of water released makes fishing all but impossible. But it does help lower the lake at a fairly fast pace. Yesterday, Jeff Guerin posted on his forum that the lake is currently at 553 feet and falling about 2 feet every 3 days. While this would put the lake back at pool by next week, Jeff cautions that the Corps may lower it even more in anticipation of April and May rains. Regardless, once things are back to normal there should be great dry fly fishing with hatches of March Brown mayflies and early caddis hatches. To keep up with the latest on the Little Mo, go to www.littlemissouriflyfishing.com.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

What's happening this week 3/18

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 and public are welcome. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org.

Also 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.  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 are the upcoming Marsh Madness tournament, Tackle Tips, Location of the Month and the CPR tournament. For more info, go to www.lafayettekayakfishing.com.

Also on Tuesday, the CCA Northshore Chapter will hold a Spring Fishing Seminar at Madisonville Town Hall and Community Center. Time is 6:00pm. Admission is $5 for CCA members, $10 for non-members, Ladies and kids are free. Guest speakers include Capt. Kris Robert, Capt. Josh Howard, Capt. Mike Gallo and Randy Pausina. For more info, go to www.ccalouisiana.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. 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.

Also starting on Thursday, and continuing thru Saturday, it's the 21st annual Sowbug Roundup at Baxter County Fairgrounds in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Hours are 9:00am to 4:00pm each day. Admission is $5 and covers all 3 days, under 12 free. Sponsored by the North Arkansas Fly Fishers, Sowbug is the foremost gathering of fly tyers from across the country. There's also seminars, vendors, casting instruction, vendors, and more. For more info, go to www.northarkansasflyfisher.org.

On Saturday, it's the 71st annual New Orleans City Park Big Bass Rodeo & Fishtival. The nation's oldest freshwater tournament includes divisions for conventional bass, fly rod bass, team rio, kayak (Boats on the Bayou) and more. Exhibitors and tying demonstrations by the New Orleans Fly Fishers. Fishing begins at 6:30am with weigh-in at 11:00am. Entry fee is $10 adults, $5 ages 12 and under. Online registration available, on-site registration at the Casino (Coffee Call) from 6:00am to 8:30am. For more info, go to www.neworleanscitypark.com.

Also on Saturday, following the NOCP Rodeo & Fishtival, Masseys Outfitters will hold a free Kayak Demo Day on Bayou St. John near Cabrini Bridge. Models will include Hobie, Jackson, Native, Bonafide, and more. For more info, go to www.masseysoutfitters.com.

Also on Saturday, Orvis of Baton Rouge will hold another "Fly Fishing 101" at their store on 7601 Bluebonnet in Baton Rouge. Orvis FF101 is a one-day, 2-hour clinic introducing the basics of fly fishing and fly casting. There is no cost, but pre-registration is required as spots are limited. For more info, contact 225-757-7286.

Also on Saturday, the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club holds it's annual Marsh Madness Top Bag out of Coco Marina in Cocodrie. This tackle bag exchange tournament is for top 2 redfish. Entry fee is $25, with an optional speckled trout calcutta of $5. For more info, go to www.lafayettekayakfishing.com.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Five fishing legislative bills to follow

Years ago, during a heated battle for a state representative post, one candidate aired a commercial that was the talk of the town. A woman awakes from her sleep, startled, grabs a flashlight and stealthly approaches a closed door. The narrator said something to the effect, "They're back. The scariest thing imaginable.". The woman opens the door and screams. On the other side of the door is a group of well-dressed people moving from desk to desk inside the state capital rotunda. The narrator concludes, "The Louisiana Legislature!".

The announcer had it somewhat right. Anytime the Louisiana legislature is in session, anything can happen and sometimes really bad things can happen. Thanks to groups like CCA and others, we anglers at least have some sense of security, knowing these groups are watching out for us. But it doesn't mean we shouldn't get involved. Just the opposite - we need to know what bills are being filed, how they will impact us, and contact our legislators and let them know we support or oppose certain bills.

With the 2018 session kicking off on Monday, most of the bills have been pre-filed. While there are nearly two dozen pieces of legislation involving fish and fishing - House bills (HB), Senate bills (SB), House resolutions (HCR), and Senate resolutions (SCR) - we've picked the five worth watching, and give our opinion on each. Sponsor names are in parenthesis.

SB176 (Gerald Long). Reduces crappie daily limit on Sibley Lake from 50 to 25. We SUPPORT this bill, but would ask that the geographical area be extended to all waters west of Highway 167 and north of I-10. The vast majority of these waters are in the so-called Piney Hills of Louisiana where low alkalinity makes them rather infertile. Further, Louisiana is the only state with a crappie limit greater than 25.  Other states have shown that the severe spikes in juvenile crappie recruitment have been moderated with lower limits. Since Toledo Bend is already 25 amending this bill would not affect the bi-state agreement.

SB453 (Dan Morrish). This bill provides an exemption to the recent state law that permits only tonging of oysters in Calcasieu Lake. We OPPOSE this bill. When Calcasieu had millions of oysters, they filtered out water, keeping the lake clear and clean and a perfect habitat for the world's best speckled trout fishery. The demise of trout fishing in the lake has been proven linked to the mechanical harvesting that has resulted in over 90 percent reduction in the oyster population. Which is why the bill allowing only tonging (the historical method) was passed. As the lake's oyster population rebuilds, now is not the time for any exemptions.

HB688 (Rodney Lyons). This bill moves litter education and enforcement from shared DEQ and LDWF entirely to LDWF. We SUPPORT this bill. I can tell you our readers, from personal experience, that the current system doesn't work. Way too much confusion and bureaucracy! Putting it in the hands of LDWF gives us anglers a more powerful voice in keeping our waterways clean.

I saved the biggest two for last...

HB391 (Kevin Pearson). This bill provides public access to the running waters of the state. We STRONGLY SUPPORT this bill... with provision!  The bill would provide for public navigation of running waters - over both public and privately owned water bottoms connected to a state-owned water bottom that is subject to the ebb and flow of the tide. The situation in our coastal marshes gets worse by the month. Many areas that we used to fish are now posted, even though they're mostly open marsh. In addition, the recent announcement that Bob's Bayou Black Marina near Houma will have to close because the canal leading from it will be gated and blocked has angered and rallied the fishing community behind HB391. Louisiana is the only state with such restrictive tidal access laws. On the other hand... I do see the concern of many duck hunters. I think there is room for an amendment to this bill that would satisfy both anglers and hunters.

HB687 (Jerome Zeringue).  Restructures hunting and fishing licenses. We SUPPORT this bill. Three reasons we support it. First, LDWF funding from oil and gas on their properties has taken a plunge. The Department has been running in the red. It needs a more stable funding. Second, most of our license fees have not been increased in over a decade. LDWF receives NO general revenue funding, so it needs to keep up with costing through fees. And third, matching funds. As one retired LDWF employee told me, it's not the fees themselves that generate much money, it's the matching federal dollars. Louisiana is losing out on a mountain of federal dollars from excise taxes because of our current license structure.  Apparently the cane pole licenses and the senior hunting and fishing licenses don't meet a matching threshold. Under HB687, those two licenses would be modified. Hook and Line (cane pole type) from $2.50 to $5.00. The Senior license for 60 and older which is now $5.00 for both fishing and hunting would be changed to 50% reduction from standard licenses. The basic fishing license would be increased from $9.50 to $13.50. It's our hope that most of this increased revenue from basic fees will go to helping address the many issues with our freshwater fisheries.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Friday? No it's Flyday!

World Fishing Network (WFN) is turning Friday evenings into "Flyday" evenings with a block programming of fly fishing shows.  All times are Central Time.
Sport Fishing On The Fly (6:30 pm)
The New Fly Fisher (7 pm)
Westcoast Sporting Journal (7:30 pm)
The Legacy Experience (8 pm)
Fly Fusion (8:30 pm)
Fly Rod Chronicles (9 pm)
American Fly Guide (9:30 pm)

Click on each show link above to see the episode details for the week.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A legend passes away

Lefty at the 2000 Shallow Water Expo
Received an email today with the following forwarded from the family of Lefty Kreh.

Dear friends,

I am sorry to relay sad information to all of you.

Bernard Victor Kreh “Lefty” passed away today in the presence of his family. He passed without pain. He told us multiple times during the worsening of his illness how lucky he was to have so many friends. During these last few weeks he was so sick and without energy that he was unable to respond to any emails and the many phone messages left for him. I can say this was a-great comfort to him.

There will be a celebration of his life in the upcoming weeks. We will update you when plans are made.

Lefty would want us to celebrate life and not mourn him.

Tight Lines, best wishes,

The Kreh Family

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to: Greater Baltimore Medical Center / Gilchrist hospice in honor of Lefty Kreh to Mail to: GBMC Philanthropy, 6701 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21204; or online at https://www.gbmc.org/donate (Under “Designation” choose “Other.” Then in the next field, type: “Lefty Kreh Memorial”); or call: 443-849-3303. 


Expected news, but still a very sad day indeed.  We were extremely fortunate to have had Lefty for this many years.  Obviously, there is much more to be shared about the man who contributed more to our sport than any individual in modern times.   Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What's happening this week 3/11

Please note that with Daylight Savings Time in effect, most clubs will now hold casting practice / instruction prior to the start of their meetings. At least until it gets too hot.

On Monday, the Red Stick Fly Fishers hold their monthly meeting at the Wildlife and Fisheries building on Quail Drive in Baton Rouge. Casting at 6:30pm, meeting at 7:00pm. For more info, go to www.rsff.org.

Also on Monday, the Cane Country Fly Casters hold their monthly meeting at the Westside Baptist Family Life Center off Old Highway 1 in Natchitoches. Casting at 6:00pm, meeting at 6:30pm. Guest speaker will be warmwater expert Larry Offner. The public is welcome!  For more info, go to www.canecountry.blogspot.com/

On Tuesday, the North Louisiana Fly Fishers hold their monthly meeting at the Red River National Wildlife Refuge in Bossier City. Social gathering starts at 6:00pm, with meeting at 6:45pm. This month Steve Oliver will be giving a presentation on his trip to Alaska (mostly sightseeing with some fly fishing).  Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.northlaflyfishers.org.

On Thursday, the New Orleans Fly Fishers hold the 1st of their twice-monthly fly tying sessions at St. Francis Xavier Church Hall on 444 Metairie Road. 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.

Starting on Thursday and continuing thru Sunday, it's the 39th annual Louisiana Sportsmans Show at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales. The state's largest outdoors show runs 2pm to 9pm on Thursday and Friday, 9am to 9pm on Saturday, and 10am to 6pm on Sunday. For a complete list of exhibitors, activities and seminars, go to www.louisianasportsmanshow.com.

Implications of opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway

Last Monday, the rapid rise of the Mississippi River forced the Corps of Engineers to open 8 bays on the Bonnet Carre Spillway northwest of New Orleans. On Friday, the Corps of Engineers opened up 13 additional bays bringing the total number to 21. With the river expected to hit flood stage (17 feet) on Tuesday, there's some anxiety among lower river residents. The good news is that the river is expected to crest at 17 and begin dropping by next week.

Anytime the spillway is opened, concern arises about impacts on the lake's speckled trout fishery. Yesterday morning on Outdoors With Don Dubuc radio show, Slidell-based guide Mike Gallo pointed out that the plume of freshwater will ride the lake's steering currents along the south end of the lake eastward. This traps the saltier, clearer water on the northeast side of the lake. Eventually the entire lake will become fresh.

Until then, that northeast quadrant will offer some very good trout fishing. Redfish are not impacted as much by freshwater as trout. And the influx of grass shrimp, shad and skipjack could benefit the lake's reds. The influx of nutrients could also benefit the lake's growning striper population. Of course, there's always the danger of massive algae blooms that result in low dissolved oxygen as they die off. But after numerous openings and numerous studies, LDWF has concluded that years after an opening prove to be very beneficial for the lake's fisheries.

More Kayak Demo Days coming!

A few folks who missed all the free kayak demo days held around the state the first weekend of this month have expressed concern. "Will there be more?". The answer is... YES!  In fact, the season was just getting started!

I don't see any listed for the remainder of this month, but a bunch lined up for April and May.  Jot these days and locations down for the one most convenient to you. On April 7, Masseys Outfitters of Baton Rouge will hold one at BREC Wampold Park. Time is 11:00am to 3:00pm. On April 14, Masseys of New Orleans will hold a KDD on Bayou St John near Cabrini Bridge from 10:00am to 2:00pm. On April 21, Ship and Shore will hold one at Prien Lake Park in Lake Charles. Time is 10:00am to 2:00pm. The Backpacker in Baton Rouge and in Lafayette will have demo days during April as well, dates haven't been confirmed yet. But check their Facebook page or call 800-414-4685.

CCA Updates

A few tidbits concerning our friends at the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Louisiana

Gulf Council

This past week CCA sent out an alert to members regarding nominations by Governor John Bel Edwards to NOAA for representation on the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council.  The governor's nominations are expected to be made this coming week. CCA sent a list of recommended persons to the governor for consideration.

At the top of the list was Camp Matens. Camp is currently seated on the Council and has done an outstanding job. If appointed, this would be his third and final term. Incidently, Camp is a longtime avid flyfisher and member of the Red Stick Fly Fishers.

Another longtime fly angler is on the CCA list. Jerome Zeringue of Houma, who is also currently a state representative. Other names include George Huye of Baton Rouge, Patrick Fitzmorris of Madisonville, Robert Allain of Jeanerette, Ed Landgraf of Hammond, John Dugas of Lafayette, Charles Caplinger of Slidell, Marc Mouton of Lafayette, and Billy Broussard of Pecan Island.

Banquets

CCA Louisiana has 29 chapters across the state. Each one has a banquet during the year to raise money for the state and local chapters, as well as conservation projects. The banquets usually kick off this month and continue through June, sometimes later.

In the past, we listed each of the banquets on our Calendar page. But with the number of fly fishing and kayak fishing activities across the state and region growing each year, it is getting tougher to maintain our Calendar. And besides, a congested calendar is counter productive to each activity.

Realizing that CCA Louisiana has a calendar similiar to ours, with all the banquet dates and details listed, we just decided to defer to their calendar at www.ccalouisiana.com.

CCA STAR

We're also no longer having a STAR forum on our community board. We used that forum to show weekly standings in the Fly and Kayak Divisions. The problem here is a little different. Since we now use a free hosted forum, we need to keep to the limits of "free".  Besides, we'll have a direct link to the STAR standings page.

Pre-registration for STAR has begun. On Friday, CCA gave out the first of 12 weekly prizes for early registered participants. So it can pay to register now. There's much concern about what happened to the speckled trout during this unusually cold winter. Only a few fish kills were reported, so that means the fish went somewhere. The results of the STAR tournament may provide answers at a time when specks are at the peak of spawning.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Echo introduces Bad Ass Glass Quickshot

When it comes to affordable innovation, Echo has been an industry leader. The Vancouver, Washington based company was founded and is co-owned by casting guru Tim Rajeff, who personally runs every aspect of the business including new product design. The result has been outstanding products that are often rated highly in various "shootouts". In our own hands-on testing, the Echo Ion XL, Echo Base, and other models have been rated a "best buy".

When Echo came out with their Bad Ass Glass fiberglass saltwater rods last year, it put an exclamation point on the fiberglass revival. A 12-weight glass rod? Sure, many of the pioneers of saltwater fly fishing used fiberglass rods to tackle tarpon. But only because graphite wasn't available (or proven). Graphite has been superior, but no longer. The new S-glass (and beyond) rival the power of graphite but with greater "fun factor". The BAG rods have been a huge success for Echo.

With that success, Echo has added a new series of 8-foot models called "Bad Ass Glass Quickshot". Frequent Louisiana Fly Fishing readers know I'm a strong advocate for 8-foot rods, especially for making accurate casts in tight cover to bass. But the Quickshot rods are more than just a shorter rod. They're faster, lighter and more powerful than previous glass offerings. Models range from 6-weight to 10-weight, and are fast action. Price is $279 which is very good for new glass! 

Contraband Fly Casters have a new website

The Lake Charles-based club has a long and storied history, especially when it comes to fly tying. In fact, it's full name is "Contraband Fly Casters, Tom Nixon Chapter" in honor of one of it's most beloved members and a legend in warmwater fly tying. Other renown tiers past and present include realistic tyer Fred Hannie and the late Mark Delaney. The club also has several tiers who are regularly featured at conclaves (fly fishing festivals).

Speaking of conclaves, Contraband has hosted some of the best ever held in Louisiana, featuring legends such as Lefty Kreh, Dave Whitlock and Stu Apte. This July, the club continues that legacy with tier extraordinaire Pat Cohen as headliner for their annual Contraband Fly Fishing Expo. The 2-day event will also feature testing for the FFI Casting Certification program. With the Expo getting loads of attention on Facebook, it's only appropriate that CFC upgrade their website to better market the club and the Expo.  The new URL is www.contrabandflycastersinc.net. Go to their site and bookmark it. And bookmark your calendar for the Contraband Expo on Friday-Saturday, July 13-14. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Mid-week tidbits 3/7

Later this month is the 71st annual New Orleans City Park Fishtival and Big Bass Rodeo, the oldest freshwater tournament in the country.  Divisions include Conventional, Fly, Rio and more.  There's even a kayak tournament on adjacent Bayou St. John (Boats On The Bayou) for both salt and fresh species. It may be a diversified contest, but there's no question that Ol' Bucketmouth is what draws a huge crowd.  And why Monday's catch by Broc Corcoran is all over social media. The 29 year old New Orleans angler caught a 9.3 pound bass in one of the NOCP lagoons using a soft plastic minnow (casting gear).  After he got it weighed and witnessed, he then released it back safely.  Not only is the fish a new NOCP record, but Fishtival participants have a chance to recatch the monster bass.  And to recatch the 8.3 pounder that Broc caught three weeks earlier!  Note to fly anglers: it's not uncommon for the park's big bass to hit flies.  Check out the complete story by Pat Bonin on www.louisianasportsman.com.

This Saturday is the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club's annual Paddlepalooza, but it's also the first day of their members-only CPR contest sponsored by Masseys Outfitters. The "Masseys Fish Pics" tournament runs through next February, a departure from years past when the event ran from January thru November. Masseys really puts up some great prizes for this event. For example, Tyler Drude won this past year's Fly Division (highest total points for longest red, speck and bass) and received a Jackson Mayfly kayak. I finished 3rd and got a Wilderness Systems waterproof crate. It's so nice I'm worried about getting it wet, LOL. Seriously, this tournament is FREE to all BCKFC members. Check out the tournament details at www.bckfc.org and if you own a kayak, consider joining this great club.

Here's yet another tournament some readers might be interested in - if you love crappie fishing. The 5th annual Crappiefest takes place on March 31st out of Lake Fork. Hosted by the Crappie Anglers of Texas, it's become the largest "Big Crappie" tournament in the country with over 325 participants last year. Why so popular? For starters, it's an individual tournament. Second, there's no restrictions on watercraft. While the vast majority of crappie tournaments forbid the use of paddlecraft, Crappiefest allows you to use kayak, canoe, rubber raft, float tube, whatever! You can even wade or bank fish. Most crappie tournaments also forbid the use of fly tackle. Again, Crappiefest allows any "rod and reel combo". And don't count on veteran anglers to take home most of the winnings. With this event, all you need to win or place is just one (1) big fish.  For more info, go to www.crappiefest.com.

On April 7th, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will celebrate the newest addition to their "Get Out and Fish!" community fishing program with a fishing competition. The pond at Southside Regional Park in Youngsville (also known as Fabacher Field) will allow residents of the Lafayette metro area a chance at quality bank fishing. And this winter, a chance for rainbow trout fishing!  Prior to the contest, the pond will be stocked with adult-sized channel catfish. The contest will begin with registration at 6:30am and end at 10:00am. The first 100 kids to register will receive a free goodie bag. There will be fishing activities, demonstrations, and raffles. Also the Kiwanis Club will offer lunch.  For more info, go to www.wlf.louisiana.gov.

Fishing remains a bit sluggish in north and central Louisiana despite a few nice catches last weekend of big bass and crappie. We're still recovering from 5 to 9 inches of rain a couple weeks back with waters either muddy or a bit milky.  Just yesterday, Cane River opened back up and that will get my attention soon enough. These cool fronts and high pressure have put the fish down a bit, and we still haven't seen the redears bedding up (they usually do this month).  I'm confident if we can avoid the heavy rain the action on bass, crappie and redears will be back to normal within a week or two.
 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

What's happening this week 3/4

On Monday, the Acadiana Fly Rodders hold their monthly meeting at Grace Presbyterian Church Hall on 415 Roselawn Blvd in Lafayette. Time is 6:30pm. Guests are welcome.

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 Thursday, Olde Towne Fly Shop in Slidell will hold their monthly fly tying session at their store on 3675 Pontchartrain Drive in Slidell. Time is 6:30pm. Bring your tools, if none, there are sets for use during the session. Materials are provided. Beginners are welcome. For more info, go to www.oldtownflyshop.com.

This weekend offers two big fly fishing events in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. And the biggest kayak fishing event of Spring at Grand Isle.

Friday evening and Saturday it's the 15th annual Paddlepalooza, the longest-running kayak fishing tournament in the country. It'll be held out of Bridgeside Marina on Grand Isle. Hosted by the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club, it kicks off with the Captains Dinner on Friday evening. Saturday is tournament fishing day. After the weigh-in, there's fish fry, awards, and a huge raffle. Entry fee is $60. Onsite registration is available. For entry forms, rules and details, go to www.bckfc.org.

Starting Friday, and continuing Saturday, it's the TRWD Fly Fest near Acme Brick Headquarters in Fort Worth. Time is 10:00am to 5:00pm both days. Admission is free. The event is cohosted by the Tarrant Regional Water District and Texas Council of Fly Fishers International (FFI). Seminars, fly tying, casting lessons, cooking demonstrations, live music, kids activities and more. For more info, go to www.trwdflyfest.com.

Starting Saturday and continuing Sunday, it's the 2nd annual Texas Fly Fishing and Brew Festival at the Plano Center in Plano, TX. Activities include seminars, casting clinics, fly tying, and more. Unique to this event is the series of local microbrewery tasting tickets for each paid admission ages 21 and older. There are also classes and seminars on brewing. Headliners include Jason Randall, Ed Jaworoski, Wanda Taylor, Dave Whitlock, Pat Dorsey, and more. For more info, go to www.txflyfishingfestival.org.

On Saturday, Orvis of Baton Rouge will hold another "Fly Fishing 101" at their store on 7601 Bluebonnet in Baton Rouge. Orvis FF101 is a one-day, 2-hour clinic introducing the basics of fly fishing and fly casting. There is no cost, but pre-registration is required as spots are limited. For more info, contact 225-757-7286.

Sunday is the start of Daylight Savings Time. Remember to "spring forward" your clock one hour. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Season of fly fishing contests

Today is the first day for the New Orleans Fly Fishers "Big Year" contest, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers "Mixed Bag" contest, and the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club's CPR Challenge.  All three are months-long, members-only, CPRE (catch-photo-release encouraged). 

The NOFF and KFF events are different in that, unlike most tournaments, size doesn't matter.  It's about catching the most different species.  Modeled after the birding community's "Big Year" contests, the NOFF Big Year and KFF Mixed Bag have no entry fee.  There's also a prize for one lucky member drawn from all participants who didn't win.  To submit an entry, the photo should be taken "on site" (no driveway pics) and include the fish, the event token, and the fly in the photo.     

The LKFC CPR Challenge has a $10 entry fee for the first time. However, the prizes have been seriously upgraded for 2018.  There are divisions for Conventional and Fly.  Fly entries need to have the kayak, the fish on a measuring board, fly and fly tackle, and token in the photo.  Submissions are made online using the Kayak Fishing Series portal.

Over the next 8 weeks, the following events will have fly fishing contests:  New Orleans City Park Big Bass Rodeo and Fishtival (kayak and fly), Lake Athens Fly Fishing Festival and Big Bass Contest,  Fly Fishin For the Mission tournament (Pointe-aux-Chenes), and Bass On The Fly (Lake Fork).  If you love a little friendly competition, the season is here!   

Little Mo Blues

The monsoonal rains that have inundated north and central Louisiana recently have hit Arkansas even harder.  Little Rock finished February with it's highest monthly total precipitation ever.  That same amount of rain fell within the drainage of the upper Little Missouri River.  As a result, Lake Greeson has gone from 10 feet below normal pool to 13 feet above pool in a couple of weeks.

Not unexpected - comes news that the Corps of Engineers has opened both of the bunger valves on Greeson Dam.  For Louisiana trout anglers who frequent the Little Mo, this is bad news.  The big valves dump a LOT of water into the Little Missouri tailwater, making it unfishable.  While this will help lower the lake, it's a slow process because it's a big lake.  We're looking at maybe 6-8 weeks before the tailwater is fishable again.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

What's happening this week 2/25

On Monday, the Red Stick Fly Fishers hold their monthly fly tying session at Bass Pro Shops in Denham Springs. Time is 7:00pm. Bring your tying 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.rsff.org.

Also on Monday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers hold their monthly general meeting at the Rapides Westside Library on 5214 Provine in Alexandria. Time is 6:30pm. Guest speaker will be Ricky Yeldell, retired LDWF Inland Fisheries Biologist for Toledo Bend who will give an update on the lake. Also on the agenda: the club's Mixed Bag Contest and upcoming "March Brown" trip. Guests are welcome. 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 Wednesday, the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club holds their quarterly meeting at The Backpacker on 6162 Jefferson Highway in Baton Rouge. Time is 6:00pm. On the agenda: the upcoming Paddlepalooza tournament, upcoming BCKFC series tournaments, Tackle Tips, and more. Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.bckfc.org.

On Friday evening, Pack and Paddle will hold their annual "Beer and Gear Social Night" at their store on 601 East Pinhook in Lafayette. Time is 5:00pm. Manufacturer reps, door prizes, and more. For more info, go to www.packpaddle.com.

On Saturday, it's the Red Stick Fly Fishers annual "Red Stick Day". More on that later.

Also on Saturday, Pack and Paddle will hold their annual Spring Demo Day at Vermillionville Pond in Lafayette. Time is 9:00am to 2:00pm. There is no cost. Try kayaks and stand-up paddleboards from Jackson, Hobie, Native, Bonafide and several others. For details, go to www.packpaddle.com.

Also on Saturday, Masseys Outfitters of New Orleans will hold the first of their Spring Kayak Demo Days at Cabrini Bridge on Bayou St. John. Time is 10:00am to 3:00pm. Boats include models from Hobie, Jackson, Native, Bonafide and others. For more info, go to www.masseysoutfitters.com.

Also on Saturday, Orvis of Baton Rouge will hold another of their "Fly Tying 101" sessions at their store on 7601 Bluebonnet. Time is 1:00pm. Orvis FT101 is a free, one-day, 2-hour hands-on clinic covering the basics of tying flies. Tools and materials are provided. Pre-registration is required as seats are limited. For more info, call 225-757-7286.

On Sunday, Masseys of Baton Rouge will hold their first "Kayak Demo Day" at BREC Wampold Park on Stanford Avenue (University Lake). Time is 11:00am to 3:00pm. Boats include models from Jackson, Native, Bonafide and others (but not Hobie). For more info, go to www.masseysoutfitters.com.

Red Stick Day this Saturday

The largest annual fly fishing festival (conclave) in Louisiana takes place this Saturday, March 3rd.  Hosted by Red Stick Fly Fishers, "Red Stick Day" activities include seminars, fly tying demos, casting clinics, vendors, raffles, food and more. Time is 8:30am to 3:30pm. Location is BREC Perkins Community Park in Baton Rouge.

Typically the event is held at the LDWF Waddill Outdoor Education Center, but that facility was damaged by the flood of August, 2016, and repairs remain unfinished. However, like Waddill, Perkins Park has a stocked pond with good fishing. So attendees are encouraged to bring their tackle.

RSD has a history of bringing in some great speakers, and this year is no different.  Bill Laminack is quickly becoming one of the most respected fly tiers and warmwater anglers in the country.  The Panama City resident will be a featured tier and also give a program on bass fishing. Other speakers  include Eddie Mullen of Eddies Kayak Rentals in Pointe-aux-Chenes, Capt. Tristian Daire, saltwater fly fishing guide and owner of Olde Towne Fly Shop in Slidell, and Ben Roussel, Jackson Kayak pro-staffer and "Mountains to Marsh" blogger. RSFF member Roger del Rio, a longtime Fly Fishers International (FFI) Certified Casting Instructor (CCI) will conduct morning and afternoon casting clinics.

Once again, the event will feature top tiers from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Proceeds from the raffle will go towards the club's conservation and education initiatives. For more info, go to www.rsff.org and click on "Red Stick Day".

Fishing improving daily

A much colder-than-normal winter has been offset by an unusual warm spell the last two weeks. The result? Plants are blossoming, green is returning to the landscape, and fish are biting! Surface water temperatures in the central parishes has gone from upper 40s to low 60s in just that short time. And while deeper water remains very cold, fish are venturing into shoreline areas where food organisms are active.

The biggest obstacle has been strong winds, and in central and northeast Louisiana over 6 inches of rain the last two weeks. So finding clear water has been key. When clear water is found, crappie are bunching along shoreline structure or grass preparing to spawn. Fluff Butts, Silli Butts, Squirmy Butts, Crappie Candies, Death To Crappie, Coyotes and even weighted Seaducers are the ticket.

On the coast, limits of redfish are the rule rather than exception - when wind allows. But just this last week there were good catches of hefty speckled trout in interior lakes. One area that has been red hot - for reds and bass - has been Delacroix. Puddlers are reporting best results in pockets of cleaner water.    

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Little Missouri River update

This past Saturday was the 16th-ever Little Mo Fly Fishing Festival in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Organized by Shreveport resident and Little Missouri River fly fishing guide, Jeff Guerin, it's a celebration of fly fishing with emphasis on the year-round tailwater trout fishery below nearby Greeson Lake.  The event was well attended with many of the "usual suspects" - as Jeff calls them - present. In fact, it seemed the rough weather played less a role in limiting attendance than did the current epidemic of cold and flu.

For Louisiana trout enthusiasts in northern and western parishes, the Little Missouri River is our closest year-round trout water, only 2.5 hours north of Shreveport in the Ouachita Mountains.  For that reason, the highlight of this event for us - and for all who fish the Little Mo - is the annual "State of the River" presentation.  Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologist Kris Nault shared statistics and catch reports, and pointed out that, because of the flooding of the Spring River hatchery, stocking numbers would be down 25 percent this year. But to compensate, the average size would be slightly up. 

Since last October, the generators on the dam have been under renovation. During this time, there has been no generation. Normally when there is no generation, there is a very small release of water, referred to as leakage amount. However, the Corps has been releasing much more than the leakage amount. This "minimum flow" is about 6-8 inches higher than normal. It has had a profound effect upon the river. Nearly all the shallow rocks are covered, there's flow across the river, the trout are spread out all over, and there's more bugs for this time of year than many of us have ever seen. The trout are strong, and rich in colors.

Work on the turbines will continue until April or May, during which time minimum flow will continue. It has revived the conversation of minimum flow on the tailwater. Even half of what is now being released would be a great improvement over the trickle and would result in an additional mile of trout water during late summer - in addition to the benefits already witnessed in this "trial run". It may take an act of Congress (literally) for it to happen, but given what has happened on the White and Lower Mountain Fork rivers, there is hope.

Timau Claverie remembered

I received some sad news while on my fishing excursion to Arkansas the past week. Last Wednesday, Maumus Claverie Jr, a.k.a, "Timau" Claverie - a giant in marine conservation - passed away at the age of 82. Timau had a distinguished career as an attorney, and equally important, as a tireless conservationist.  For decades he served with the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), Billfish Foundation, IGFA Board of Directors, New Orleans Big Game Fishing Club, and FFI Gulf Coast Council, to name just a few. He also served on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the National Marine Fisheries Service's Advisory Committee for Highly Migratory Species, and on the U.S. Advisory Committee for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. Recently, Timau was honored with the Billfish Foundation's Rybovich Lifetime Conservation Award.

Timau was also an avid fly fisherman and an active member of the New Orleans Fly Fishers. An excellent fly tier, his obituary stated that he was tying flies the day before his passing.

Timau and I served for many years on the CCA-Louisiana Science Committee, of which he was chairman. I recall the early days of those meetings. Perhaps it was his experience as a lawyer, or his quick wit and sharp mind, but we were all glad he was on our side in the preservation of coastal resources. Whatever argument was thrown our direction, in terms of allowing antiquated fishing practices to continue, he would crush them in a few sentences.

Our prayers and wishes are for him and his family.  He will be sorely missed.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What's happening this week 2/18

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

Also 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.  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 are the upcoming Marsh Madness tournament, Tackle Tips, Location of the Month and the CPR tournament. For more info, go to www.lafayettekayakfishing.com.

On Thursday, the New Orleans Fly Fishers hold their monthly meeting at Lakeshore Marina and Fuel on 7640 Lakeshore Drive. Time is 7:00pm.  Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

Also on Thursday, Pack and Paddle will host a seminar "Secrets of Successful Kayak Anglers" featuring two-time world champion Steve Lessard and Hobie Angler of the Year Brendan Bayard.  Time is 6:00pm. There is no cost.  For more info, go to www.packpaddle.com.

On Friday, Orvis of Baton Rouge will host the 2018 Fly Fishing Film Tour at their store on 7610 Bluebonnet in Perkins-Rowe. Time is 7:00pm. Tickets are limited, so check with the store prior to the film showing to find out if tickets are still available. Call 225-7286.  For a list of films to be shown, go to www.flyfishingfilmtour.com.

On Saturday, Orvis BR will hold another of their "Fly Tying 101" classes at their store in Perkins-Rowe. Time is 1:00pm.  FT101 is a free, one-day, 2-hour hands-on clinic covering the basics of fly tying. Materials and tools are provided. Class size limited, so pre-registration is required. Call 225-757-7286 for more info.

Also on Saturday, it's the annual Fly Fish Texas at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, Texas. Time is 8:30am to 4:00pm.  All Fly Fish Texas activities are free with regular paid admission to the center. For a complete list of activities, go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us and click on the "Fly Fish Texas" link.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ready for the spawn? Curb your enthusiasm.

Well another blast of cold air has moved across our state. Haven't we had enough of winter already?

On Friday, I got a taste of warmer things to come while fishing a pond in southwest Louisiana. The sacalait were in the shallows setting up for their annual spawning ritual. And taking a black and chartruese Fluff Butt almost every other cast. Later that evening, I saw a post on Facebook - same area, but different pond - where the poster landed a five fish stringer of bass between 2 and 4 pounds.

Some folks got excited reading these reports, thinking "it's time". I hate to be Debbie Downer, but with the exception of small waters in the lower parishes, the answer is "not yet". The water temperature needs to be about 56 degrees to trigger activity and spawning behavior of crappie, and about 60 degrees for bass. Right now, most lakes in the central and northern parishes are well below that. For example, Cotile Lake is 47 degrees. That's 12 degrees colder than last year at this time.  The pond near Jennings from which I made my nice catch of crappie last Friday had a temperature of 56 degrees.

Last year spoiled us. By the first week of February 2017, crappie in  most impoundments had moved into spawning areas. Bass in ponds around Baton Rouge were staging for the spawn. Consider that last January was the warmest on record. Baton Rouge had a mean temperature that month of 59.3 degrees, compared to the normal mean of 51.6 degrees. This January, exactly the opposite. The BR had a mean of 46.3 degrees. That's 13 degrees lower than last year! Again, that's the average for the month, where even a couple degrees is significant.

While bass may be as anxious to spawn as we are for them to spawn, they have more sense than we do. They will wait and for good reason. At 65 degrees, the eggs may take as long as 12 days to hatch. At 70 degrees, that hatching period is only 2-3 days. The longer the hatching period, the more vulnerable the eggs are to predators like bluegill. Bottom line: a successful spawn requires the optimal water temperature.

For fly anglers with a serious case of cabin fever, there is hope. Days are getting longer and nights are getting shorter. Several mild days are in the forecast for this weekend and into next week. Until then, there's always a few more flies that need tying.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What's happening this week 2/11

This week is Mardi Gras (Tuesday), and Valentines Day (Wednesday), so it's going to be a busy one!

On Monday, the Cane Country Fly Casters hold their monthly meeting at the Westside Baptist Community Center off old Highway 1 in Natchitoches. Casting at 6:00pm, meeting at 6:30pm.  Special guest speaker this month is Capt. Steve Stubbe of Mudfish Adventures fly fishing guide service.  Steve will do a presentation on fly fishing the Toledo Bend backwaters. The public is welcome!  For more info, go to www.canecountry.blogspot.com

Also on Monday, the Red Stick Fly Fishers will hold their monthly meeting at the Wildlife and Fisheries building on Quail Drive in Baton Rouge. Time is 7:00pm. Mike LaFleur will be bringing the 2018 BTNEP Tidal Calendars. Also, discussion on the upcoming Red Stick Day on March 3rd. For more info, go to www.rsff.org.

On Tuesday, the North Louisiana Fly Fishers hold their monthly meeting at the Red River National Wildlife Refuge on Sunflower Road in Bossier City. This month is their annual "Chili and Flies" meeting. There's a (slightly) competitive chili cooking contest and a (slightly) competitive Iron Fly Tying contest. Members are welcome to bring guests.  For more info, go to www.northlaflyfishers.org.

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. 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.

Starting Friday evening, and Saturday, it's the 13th ever Little Mo Fly Fishing Festival at the Community Center in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. The event celebrates fly fishing with emphasis on the local Little Missouri River and it's famed trout fishery. Friday offers gumbo and tying, while Saturday offers programs, fly tying, exhibitors, casting, and the wildly popular "State of the River" address by AFGC trout biologists.  There's also the "Fly Draft" that evening.  On Sunday, there's the "Can You Take It' casting clinic with emphasis on fishing moving waters.  For details, go to www.littlemissouriflyfishing.com.

On Saturday, Orvis of Baton Rouge will hold another of their "Fly Tying 101" sessions at their store on Bluebonnet in Perkins-Rowe. Time is 8:00am. FT101 is a free one-day, 2-hour hands-on clinic covering the basics of tying. Pre-registration is required as class size is limited. For more info, call 225-757-7286.

Also on Saturday, Masseys Outfitters of Baton Rouge will hold a free Kayak Demo Day at Wampold Park on University Lake. Time is 11:00am to 3:00pm. Boats include models from Jackson, Native, Bonafide and others. Check their Facebook page for possible changes due to weather.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Book review - Designing Poppers, Sliders & Divers

Last week, "Designing Poppers" made it's way into a number of bookstores and online retailers such as Amazon. In fact, at the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show I picked up one of the first copies. The folks at Angling Bookstore had just received a shipment before the show, and within the first hour of the first day had sold most of their copies. By 10 o'clock that morning they had none left!

It's seldom that a fly tying book gets so much pre-publication hype, much less become an instant classic once it hits the shelves. But after spending a week going over this new book by Steven Schweitzer, my conclusion is... it lives up to the hype!

The publisher of Designing Poppers says this: (it's) the most comprehensive book ever written for the topwater lure maker. Three-hundred pages are full of methods, procedures, and examples richly illustrated with 800 detailed full color photographs. Over 50 tips & how-tos  and DIY projects are included. Also included are common design elements and step-by-step instructions for 17 of the most effective patterns.

Everything the publisher states is accurate. There are also over a dozen charts comparing different material aspects, including hooks, pen marker types and colors, coating types, Copic color patterns and much more. To my surprise the book also included, at the end of each chapter, a gallery of flies by featured artisans. Two of the featured tiers are Louisiana's own Kirk Dietrich and Ron Braud. Congratulations to both!

Several times I tried testing the book to see if there was some topic or item it could've missed, and so far, it's covered them all. Granted, a few could've had a bit more information or detail. But given the scope of this book, and the enormous amount of subject matter, Schweitzer did an amazing job of gathering information, collecting detailed photographs, and covering so many topics.

The book comes in binder form for easier access to pages at the tying desk. It sells for $44.95. Designing Poppers is worth every penny!   Rating 4.9 out of 5.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Who's up for some friendly competition?

In last May's Louisiana Sportsman, the Fly Lines column discussed the growing number of competitive fly fishing events. As our sport continues to grow, especially among young anglers, there's been a shift in attitudes about tournaments. The vast majority of these young anglers - like in kayak fishing - readily embrace a contest.

There's several regional tournaments scheduled again this year including the Lower Mountain Fork River Foundations' "Mystery Fly" in February, Lake Athens Festival and Big Bass contest in April, "Fly Fishin For The Mission" saltwater event in April, "Bass On The Fly" at Lake Fork in May, and Rio Rodeo in October.  Also, the CCA summer-long STAR tournament with speckled trout as the target species.

Members of the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club and Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club will again look forward to the clubs' CPR tournaments, which run from March through November.  Both BCKFC and LKFC events have a fly division.  Eligible species are redfish, speckled trout, and bass. The LKFC club will also have a bonus award to one non-winning angler who registers an entry in the Fly Division. Only club members can participate. Entry to the BCKFC CPR is free, while it's $5 for the LKFC CPR.

Now two fly fishing clubs - New Orleans Fly Fishers Club and Kisatchie Fly Fishers - have each introduced a fly fishing contest with emphasis on variety rather than size.  Basically, how many different species can a member catch on fly during the course of a year.  Both are modeled after the popular "Big Year" birdwatching contest.

The New Orleans club "Big Year" contest will run from March 1st and December 1st, with the most number of different species getting top prize. All fish must be caught within the boundaries of the FFI Gulf Coast Council. Members must submit a photo of the fish by email, along with angler name, location, species, and fly name. Each photo must include the fish, the fly, and the contest token. Contest details can be found at www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

The Kisatchie Fly Fishers "Mixed Bag" tournament is also free and open to members only.  KFF members will compete to see how many different species they can catch within the boundaries of the FFI Gulf Coast, Texas and Southern Councils. Unlike the NOFFC contest, members can submit their entries via an online portal.  While prizes will be given to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishers, the biggest prize will be drawn from all members who submitted at least one entry. Contest details will soon be up on their website at www.kisatchiefly.org.

According to KFF Mixed Bag organizers Bill Morrison and Gene Taylor, the purpose of the contest is not just to have fun, but to give members who rarely can attend meetings a chance to be active in the club. Also, to give the club a database by which to show the variety of fish that can be caught on fly, and what flies work for each species.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The FFI Gulf Coast Council has a new website

The Gulf Coast Council of Fly Fishers International (formerly Federation of Fly Fishers) has a new website. In keeping with the name change from FFF to FFI, the GCC has changed their web address from www.gulfcoastfff.org to www.gulfcoastcouncilffi.org. 

The site also has a new look. According to GCC Communications VP, Steve Oliver, the site was changed from a blog-type site to a more information-oriented site. While some tweaking is still going on, it's hoped the new site will be easier to navigate, with more timely information.

Also comes a new email system thru the webhost allowing submissions to the site as well as to GCC board members. This should be implemented in the next 60 days. According to Oliver, the GCC welcomes any suggestions or ideas about the new site.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

What's happening this week - 2/4

On Tuesday, the Acadiana Fly Rodders hold their monthly meeting at Grace Presbyterian Hall on 415 Roselawn in Lafayette. Time is 6:30pm. Guests are welcome.

On Wednesday, the Pontchartrain Basin Fly Fishers hold their monthly meeting at Abita Brew Pub on 72011 Holly Street in Abita Springs. Gathering at 6:00pm, meeting at 6:30pm. Guests are welcome.

On Thursday, the New Orleans Fly Fishers holds the first 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 a few sets for use during this session. Bring $1 to cover cost of materials. For more info, go to www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

Also on Thursday, Olde Towne Fly Shop will hold their monthly tying session at their location on 3675 Pontchartrain Drive. Time is 6:30pm. Bring your tools if you have some, otherwise a few sets for use during the session. Materials are provided. For more info, go to www.oldetowneflyshop.com.

This Saturday is the 26th annual Dr. Ed Rizzolo Fly Tying Festival in Houston. More on that later.

Also on Saturday, Orvis of Baton Rouge will hold another of their "Fly Fishing 101" sessions at their store on 7601 Bluebonnet in Perkins-Rowe. Time is 8:00am. FF101 is a free one day, 2.5 hour clinic designed to introduce the basics of fly fishing and fly casting.  No cost, but pre-registration is required as class size is limited. For details, call 225-757-7286.

Orvis BR will also have on Saturday another "Fly Tying 101". Time is 1:00pm to 3:00pm. FT101 is a free one-day, 2-hour hands-on clinic on the basics of fly tying. Materials and tools are provided, but bring your own tools if you have them. No cost, but pre-registration is required as class size is limited. For details, call 225-757-7286.

Dr. Ed Rizzolo Fly Tying Festival this Saturday

Hosted by the Texas Fly Fishers of Houston, this annual event features the largest group of fly tiers of any event on the Gulf Coast, with anywhere from 70 to 100 tiers. Once again, it'll be held at Bethany Christian Church Community Center on 3223 Westheimer. Admission is $10 adults, family $15, students & seniors $8, and children under 12 free. In addition to the tying demos, there are also several seminars during the day, there are also exhibitors, including rod companies and demo casting. A barbecue lunch is available.

Each year, TFF brings in a prominent name in fly tying as their headliner. This year's special guest is Rich Strolis, former Connecticut guide and signature fly designer for Montana Fly Company. Rich is a member of several pro staffs, including Regal, Partridge, Solarez, Puglisi, Hatch, T&T Rods, and Flycraft. His patterns have appeared in numerous magazines and books, including his own publication "Catching Shadows".

Sunday, January 28, 2018

What's happening this week - 1/28

Not much happening. Perhaps it's the "Super Blue Moon" the week before the Super Bowl. Regardless, there are no club meetings this week.

Friday and Saturday it's the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Georgia. This is the largest fly fishing show in the South, and will feature over 200 presentations by some of the biggest names in the sport and regional experts. Along with numerous vendors and fly tiers. For more info, go to www.flyfishingshow.com.

On Saturday, the Orvis store in Baton Rouge will hold another "Fly Tying 101". Time is 1:00pm to 3:00pm. FT101 is a one-day, 2-hour free hands-on clinic on the basics of fly tying. Materials and tools are provided, but bring your own tools if you have them. No cost, but pre-registration is required as class size is limited. For details, call 225-757-7286.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Magnificient Seven for 2018

We're just a few weeks away from the start of "kayak demo days", those free events hosted by dealers where folks can test paddle various boats, including popular fishing models. Each Spring, we see a lot of new boats that were revealed at ICAST or Outdoor Retailer and just making it off the production line. For 2018, it seems that manufacturers have recognized the need for lighter boats that offer more a bit more speed.  And we're also thrilled that nearly all these new boats have more open cockpit area. It this the demise of those damn "rod pods" and long center hatches?  We can only hope!

Among the 2018 crop, we picked 7 kayaks that we think will be winners.  All offer a good combination of light weight, speed, tracking, stability and at a price point that's easy on the pocket.

Bonafide SS127. Length 12'7", width 33.5", weight 75 lbs, MSRP $1599. It's been many years since one kayak got so much publicity prior to it's release. But Bonafide is a new company started by YakAngler founder Luther Cifers, and like everything Mr. Kayak does, it went through extensive design and testing. The SS127 has great stability without much of a sacrifice to speed or tracking. The HiRise seat system adjusts to high or low. It also has a great layout that allows for easy access to storage while leaving an open standing area.


Hobie Compass. Length 12'0", width 34", weight 68 lbs, MSRP $1949. The Compass is the new entry-level yak to their Mirage Series. It's lighter than most pedal boats and a lot more affordable. It's both fast and manuverable. To cut costs, it comes with the older Mirage drive (no reverse), and there's limited fittings. But it does have a flat deck for standing. This yak has been out since November and it's already selling great.

Jackson Cruise FD. Length 12'3", width 31.5", weight 68 lbs, MSRP $2399.  Jackson's new Flex Drive pedal power has been added to the popular Cruise series. The Cruise FD shares the open cockpit and slightly narrower profile of it's sibling. For anglers whose priority is speed and open water tracking, but with just enough stability to occasionally stand and cast (in calm water), then this boat fills the niche at a good price point for a pedal drive.

Jackson Liska. Length 12'1", width 34", weight 84 lbs, MSRP $1349. The  Liska is an updated version of Jackson's Cuda series. It's a bit wider and more stable, with more angler features. But most noticeable is the replacement of the long center tray with a shorter center hatch that allows a more spacious and open "standing area".  More evidence that those once-popular "rod pods" were the nuisance many of us said they were.

NuCanoe Flint. Length 11'3", width 33", weight 67 lbs, MSRP $999. The Flint got lots of attention at ICAST last July and for good reason. It shares the clean deck and stability of the larger Frontier and Pursuit, but in a lightweight, more nimble package. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly it accelerated, even if top-end speed was only the same as the Pursuit. It's being marketed as a boat for small lakes, backwaters and rivers, but it'll do just great in the marsh.

Kaku Wahoo 105. Length 10'5", width 33", weight 66 lbs, MSRP $899. Another short, lightweight boat with standup stability. Kaku owner and founder Kevin Hawkins has had great success with his Wahoo 125, especially among fly anglers. The clean deck and tri-hull design are copied in the 105, giving it good tracking, speed and stability for a short boat. As we say, there's always a trade-off (laws of physics) and in this case, it's that the tri-hull can create hull slap. Whether it spooks redfish has been debated a thousand times. But there's no debating that multitudes of reds have been caught from tri-hull yaks.

Native Manta Ray XT. Length 12'7", width 33", weight 67 lbs, MSRP $899. This yak has flown completely under the radar since ICAST, but watch out  - it's not only a great beginners yak (check the price point), but also one that experienced freshwater yakkers will appreciate. For it's length, the acceleration, cruising speed and tracking are impressive thanks to it's sharp bow. It also features Native's high/low seating. While it might not be marketed as a standup yak, the MRXT's 33-inch beam and flat standing area mean fly rodders can rise up on calm waters.