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.