Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Top 5 Louisiana fly fishing stories of 2019

For Louisiana fly fishing interests, 2019 was another notable year.  Some good, some bad.  Here's our picks for the top stories, in ascending order.

5. New Orleans, Alexandria clubs have exceptional year

It was another successful year for all of Louisiana's fly fishing clubs.  Moreso for the New Orleans Fly Fishers and the Kisatchie Fly Fishers (Alexandria).  Both received club awards from the Fly Fishers International Gulf Coast Council for their contributions in 2018 and the early part of 2019.   

In April, the NOFF club held their first-ever New Orleans Fly Fishing Expo at Deutsches Haus on Bayou St. John in New Orleans. With Jon Cave as headliner, and a few special activities such as kayak demos, "Iron Fly Competition" and "Outdoors Writers Roundtable", this was a fun and memorable event.  It also raised funds for Casting For Recovery.  NOFF later went on to have several club outings and another successful "Rio Grande Fly Fishing Rodeo" in October.

The KFF club once again held their "Fly Fishing 101" clinic, their Summer Workshop, and their "Mixed Bag Contest" CPR tournament.  As well as participated in local events such as Cenla National Hunting and Fishing Day.  But it was the "Casting Skills Challenge" - a Fly Fishers International program initiated on the club level by Roger Breedlove and Chris Perkins that led to a significant number of their members greatly improving their casting through the program. 

4. Newbie wins Fly Fishin For The Mission

At any fishing tournament, it's difficult for novice anglers to beat out experienced ones.  Even moreso with fly tournaments, where proficient casting - often acquired with time and practice - is the key to success. But at this past year's "Fly Fishin For the Mission" saltwater fly fishing tournament, it was a rank newbie who outshined a bevy of veteran fly anglers.

Jessie Hamilton was one of several veterans who showed up a day early to take free fly fishing lessons from Donald Dehm of Floating Feathers Fly Fishing School. By the end of the day, Dehm had Hamilton – a first-time flycaster - not only casting effectively but prepped for fighting his first red.

On tournament day, Hamilton teamed with Capt. Ty Hibbs and caught his first redfish ever on fly rod. Then he preceeded to catch four more!  Hamilton and Hibbs won the Overall Division in the tournament, finishing ahead of 23 other teams.

Hamilton thanked Dehm for the lessons, and Hibbs for spending the extra day to scout and guide him. He called the experience a "lasting memory". Part of his prize package was a fly fishing outfit, so expect Hamilton to hone his new addiction and be back in 2020 to defend his title!

3. Another bad weather year

Living in Louisiana, we could probably claim inclement weather as the norm not the exception. But this year we had a few very notable negatives.

In the first half of the year, the southeast area of the state had to deal with record river flooding. The Bonnet Carre Spillway had to be opened twice and for record duration. Nutrients in the river were responsible for detrimental algae blooms across Lake Pontchartrain and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Fishing in the lake remained subpar the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, western parishes had 140% of normal precipitation. This resulted in poor freshwater fishing and a very late trout run on Calcasieu and Sabine.  It was hoped cooler weather would bring in the trout to Calcasieu.  But "global warming" raised it's ugly head... our first cool front didn't arrive until October, giving us the warmest September on record.

While we avoided a major hurricane this year, storm season started very early and ended very late. Hurricane Barry in July brought over 8 feet of flood tide across southeast coastal parishes. It forced cancellation of the annual "Leeville Fly Fishing Weekend" as well as the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club's annual "LA1 Slamboree". It also wiped out PAC Kayak Rentals in Pointe-aux-Chenes, a very popular launch spot for fly anglers and kayak anglers.  Eddie and Lisa Mullen's business has since been rebuilt thanks to donations from kayak and fly anglers.  In October, tropical storm Olga brought 3 to 4 feet of flood tide across southeast marshes - on the same weekend as the Kisatchie Fly Fishers and Red Stick Fly Fishers annual fall marsh trips.

2. Kirk Dietrich publishes his first book - and nails it!

A native of Chalmette and lifelong resident of southeast Louisiana, Kirk is a is a nationally-renown fly tier recognized for his many innovative warmwater and saltwater patterns. His Kirks Spoon and Kirks Rattle Rouser have been perenial favorites for Orvis customers for two decades. He's also written numerous articles for magazines and websites, and has been awarded the Fly Fishers International Gulf Coast Council Fly Tier Distinction Award.

Kirks is also considered one of the best anywhere when it comes to balsa and other hard-body flies. For this reason, there was epic excitement when his first book came out this summer. "Tying Bugs: The Complete Book of Poppers, Sliders, and Divers For Fresh and Salt Water" has 224 pages with 917 photos and over 400 detailed step-by-step instructions, along with numerous historical anecdotes. The book sells for $31.95 and has received rave reviews. One of the reviewers on Amazon - some dude named Pat Cohen - states, "This book is a wealth of knowledge for anyone looking to get into topwater flies...if you thought crafting flies from balsa or cork was out of your reach, this is the book for you". We concur!

1. Speckled trout in trouble, and "changes must be made"

LDWF marine biologists dropped a bombshell at the September meeting of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. While there had been plenty of anecdotal evidence from anglers that speckled trout fishing was well below normal, the presentation revealed that the problem is real, has been for some time, and is getting worse.

According to biologists, our seatrout spawning potential recruitment (SPR) is the lowest of any Gulf state, having fallen below the target of 14% since 2012, and currently at 8 percent. The problem is happening across all estuaries. In addition to overfishing, there's been a steady increase in winter kills of trout. The latter is most likely due to coastal erosion and loss of deepwater havens during hard freezes.

Early in 2020, LDWF will advance several management options to the Commission. They include any combination of creel limit reductions, increase in minimum size limits, slot limits, closed areas, and possibly even closed seasons. It should be pointed out that other Gulf states have much more restrictive seatrout regulations - including new ones implemented this past year in Florida, Alabama, and Texas.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Film festivals coming to Louisiana in 2020

The 14th annual Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) features short films from across the nation and globe, fresh and salt, with anglers young and old, experiencing the passion of our favorite sport.

The 10th annual International Fly Fishing Film Festival (IF4) consists of short films produced by professional filmmakers from across the globe, showcasing the passion, lifestyle and culture of fly fishing.

The F3T and IF4 film tours will make three (3) stops in Louisiana this Spring.
- Pack & Paddle in Lafayette will host the F3T on Saturday, February 1st. 
- Orvis in Baton Rouge will host the IF4 on Friday evening, March 6th.  
- Orvis will also host the F3T on Saturday, May 16th. 
Tickets for all these events are limited, and in recent years, have sold out in advance.

Pack and Paddle will hold the F3T in conjunction with one of their "Fly Fishing Hangouts".  Starting at 3:00pm, there will be fly tying, casting games and an "Iron Fly Competition" for ticket holders. Also, snacks, beer and soft drinks are complimentary. Film starts between 5:00pm and 5:30pm. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at their store on 601 East Pinhook, or online through their website.  For complete details, go to www.packpaddle.com.

Orvis will host the IF4 at their store on 7501 Bluebonnet Blvd in Baton Rouge at 6:00pm. Prior to the film, there will be complimentary snacks, beer  and soft drinks. Exhibitors and demonstration fly tying as well. Drawings for prizes during the film as well. Tickets are $15. Proceeds will go to benefit the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. For more details, or tickets, call the store at 225-757-7286.

More details on the Orvis hosting of the F3T in May will be made available at a later date.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Merry Christmas!

This marks the last of activities until 2020. So starting now, we'll be on break. If something important does comes up, it'll be posted on our Facebook page.

So here's wishing a most blessed Christmas for all our friends! Hope everyone finds something under the Christmas tree they can use for their piscatorial pursuits in the coming year.  And let's not forget the reason for the season: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.".

Monday, December 16, 2019

Bring on the rainbeaux trout!

Sydney Dobson took this trout in one of the BREC ponds
Sometime this week, the first stockings of rainbow trout will be made in several small lakes and ponds across Louisiana, either by parish agencies or as part of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries "Get Out and Fish" community fishing program.

The trout are stocked as put-and-take, with a daily limit of four (4).  In conjunction with the stockings, LDWF holds fishing tournaments at each of their community lakes. A list of GOAF lakes can be found on this webpage: click here.

Louisiana joins over 30 other states that have wintertime stockings of the popular coldwater species in small lakes and ponds where bank anglers have easy access. It provides a very active fishery at a time when warmwater species are fairly dormant. Whatever trout survive harvesting will likely die sometime in late March or early April when the water temperatures get too warm.

Fly anglers across the state, regardless of skill level, can be found at these ponds once the rainbeaux trout arrive. While corn, marshmallows, powerbait and other "commie tackle" might work for the first week, once the trout become acclimated to the food life of the pond, they quickly revert to those bugs. Advantage fly fishers!

Our neighbors over in Texas also have a community fishing program, with trout stockings from early December through February.  This winter, Texas Parks and Wildlife plans to stock 343,000 trout in 158 lakes and ponds. For anyone traveling to the Lone Star state over the holidays, check out this list to see if a local water has rainbows: click here

Sunday, December 15, 2019

What's happening this week - 12/15

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.  This is the club's annual Christmas Party as well.  For more info, go to www.lafayettekayakfishing.com.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

What's happening this week - 12/8

On Monday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers will be holding their annual Christmas banquet. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org.

Also on Monday, the Red Stick Fly Fishers will hold their annual Christmas party. 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 in Bossier City. Gathering starts at 6:00pm, meeting at 6:45pm, program at 7:00pm. Guest speaker will be Larry Offner. For more info, go to www.northlaflyfishers.org.

On Wednesday, Pack & Paddle in Lafayette will hold a seminar "Secrets of Using Marine Electronics Effectively" with emphasis on kayak fishfinders. Time is 6:00pm. It's free and open to the public. Professional guide Shane Johnson will present. For more info, go to www.packpaddle.com.

On Saturday, it's the 13th annual Inshore Fly & Light Tackle Expo at Fishing Tackle Unlimited in Houston. Location is at their store on 10303 Katy Freeway. Time is 10:00am to 4:00pm. It's free and open to the public. Special guest is world champion flycaster and Loomis Rods engineering director Steve Rajeff. The format includes seminars by regional saltwater guides, casting demonstration by Rajeff, and fly tying by regional tiers. Plus factory and boat representatives including TFO, Rio, Sage, Nautilus, Scott, Umpqua, Simms, Ross Reels, Costa Del Mar, and many more. For details, go to www.fishingtackleunlimited.com.

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

Monday, December 02, 2019

2020 Calendar reminder

It's that time of year again. Christmas, yeah. Hannukah, yeah. But I'm really talking about our Spring Calendar deadlines.

We post any fly fishing events in Louisiana, and any full-day events outside the state within 7 hours of a population center (eg, Slidell, Lake Charles, Shreveport).  Kayak fishing events in Louisiana only.  If you know of a qualifying event, please check our Calendar page to see if it's listed.  If not, or if the date and location are incorrect, please email me at catch(at)laflyfish(dot)com.

Here are the announced events we're looking most forward to January thru March:

Jan. 18 - Cenla Fly Fishing & Light Tackle Festival, Kees Park, Pineville, LA, www.kisatchiefly.org
Jan. 31-Feb. 1 - Atlanta Fly Fishing Show, Infinite Energy Center, Duluth, GA
Feb. 8 - Dr. Ed Rizzolo Fly Tying Festival, Bethany Church Hall, Houston, TX, www.texasflyfishers.org
Feb. 14-16 - Little Mo Fly Fishing Fest, Murfreesboro, AR, www.littlemissouriflyfishing.com
Feb. 21-23 - Guadalupe River Trout Fest, New Braunfels, TX, www.grtu.org
Mar. 6 - IF4 Film Festival, Orvis Baton Rouge, LA
Mar. 7 - Red Stick Day, Waddill Outdoor Refuge, Baton Rouge, LA, www.rsff.org
Mar. 13-14 - FFI GCC Sweetwater Classic, Percy Quin State Park, McComb, MS, www.gulfcoastcouncilffi.org
Mar. 28 - New Orleans City Park Big Bass Rodeo, New Orleans, LA

There are several other events we expect to be announced late December or early January, mostly kayak fishing tournaments, kayak demo days, and CCA seminars.

We accept event submissions at any time for our calendar. However, event managers know that early announcement leads to better attendance. For this reason, please submit as early as possible.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

What's happening this week - 12/1

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, the Orvis store in Baton Rouge will host a VIP event at their store on 7601 Bluebonnet in Perkins-Rowe in Baton Rouge. Time is . Special guest will be nationally-renown fly angler and photographer Brian O'Keefe who will give a presentation on trout fishing. Special in-store discounts, food and refreshents for attendees. RSVP is requested. For more info, call 225-757-7286.