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".