Lowcountry Meets The Louisiana Marsh  

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Photo by Capt. Allen Cain

By Owen Plair

I could see this monster redfish laid up, just waiting for a fly.

As a full-time redfish guide in South Carolina, over the years it has been kind of hard for me to justify spending money to travel and fish the Louisiana marsh for a species I spend over 180 days year targeting. The two things that have always intrigued me about Louisiana are how big the redfish are in these shallow waters, and how insanely aggressive these big fish are. Not to mention the overall numbers of fish and amount of water in this world class fishery. Over the years I have heard countless stories from clients and friends and watched tons of videos about the Louisiana marsh, which have me very eager to experience this big fish destination first hand.

Back in December, I finally made the trip to the bayou in search of a monster redfish on fly. Most of the fly fishing guides in Louisiana are seasonal guides from other states including Florida, Texas, and in my guide’s case, North Carolina. These guides travel to Louisiana every year for the prime fall months when the big bull redfish swim and feed inshore on the cooler shallow water flats. My good friend Capt. Allen Cain is based out of Hopedale, Louisiana. Allen spends 3 to 4 months a year in Louisiana targeting these big fish with anglers from all over the U.S. After several seasons of sending me pictures of 20- and 30-pound redfish on fly, he finally talked me into making the trip.

DSCF1484New Orleans is one of my favorite places to visit and I had spent time there a few years ago for Mardi Gras. Yes, I do remember being in New Orleans in spite of a few fuzzy nights. Nola is an awesome city with tons of great restaurants, bars, history, and culture surrounding the city. The great thing about New Orleans is that it’s just a short drive to Venice and Hopedale, one of the largest redfish estuaries in the entire world. Whether you’re inshore for giant redfish or offshore for tuna, Louisiana hosts some of the best saltwater fishing around. If you like to eat, drink, and fish, this place is a must.

The town of Hopedale is built around commercial fishing with tons of shrimp boats and oyster boats at the docks thriving off this rich and unique environment. A few mobile homes and campers balance on stilts, scattered around for the few people who actually live in Hopedale. Many of the houses or campers are rentals for fishermen and guides who travel to Hopedale just for the fishing. There is only one place to get fuel, a few spots to grab ice or snacks, and one small restaurant that was only open a few hours a day. Hopedale is my kind of town, a place that’s as fishy as it gets.

With my luck the 2 days I had booked with Allen were blown out with 25 mph winds and heavy rain, clouds, and muddy water.

You always run that risk when traveling to fish; weather can put quite a damper on your expectations. With the bad weather, I bit the bullet, rebooked flights, and stayed one extra day, which happened to be my birthday. The extra day I stayed was my window to catch one of these monster bull redfish on fly, so the pressure was on.

DSCF1375We got to the ramp the next morning and everything seemed to be cleared up. Damn, it felt good to see some sunlight. As we weaved through the vast marsh, I started to get the feeling that we might just get that special big fish. One of my favorite parts about fishing Louisiana was looking for the big floating fish. It reminded me of laid up tarpon in the backcountry of Chokoloskee, except these Louisiana redfish had a beautiful red glow to them. Often you could see these fish from 150 ft with good light and clear water. Other times you didn’t see them until they were under the nose of the boat. The name of the game in Louisiana is, keep your eyes open and be ready for just about any kind of color close to the waters surface.

My original thought about Louisiana redfish was that these fish would be cruising shallow water like my fish in South Carolina. And of course there were a few cruising fish or tailing fish on the edges but the big floating fish blew my mind. During that third miracle day we still had pretty tough conditions with scattered clouds and muddy water, but Allen worked his magic.

“Owen! 10 o’clock 40 ft, you see him!?” Allen called out.

As I scanned the area I could see this monster redfish laid up, just waiting for a fly. I made a short cast and let the big redfish fly float down a bit. Tick, tick, tick. The tail of the fish started to move, the fly went under its mouth, and then all of sudden the fish did a 180-degree turn, opened her big ole mouth, and ate the fly so fast. I came tight with my first Louisiana redfish! My mind was blown by how fast and aggressive this big redfish was when she saw my fly.

The feeling was incredible. Feeding this giant fish in just a few feet of water, and the power of this fish was something I hadn’t experienced with a redfish before. As the fish came closer and surfaced for the first time I could tell by Allen’s voice it was a big fish. We landed the fish and yelled out a good holler celebrating my biggest redfish ever on the fly. She weighed in right at 24 pounds and that one fish made me smile like a kid on Christmas morning, one hell of a birthday present. We released the fish and I knew first hand why Louisiana is such a special place. That day I landed a 24-, 23-, and 17-pound fish. Sixty-four pounds of straight Louisiana gold in just a few hours of fishing.

I realized after just that small taste, why Louisiana is known as a world-class fishery. The Louisiana marsh is an incredible place and a fishery I will go back to every year for a very long time to come. That first big fish of the trip made sitting out the weather and changing my flight worth it. It opened my eyes to something I had yet to experience in my angling career. Though I didn’t catch tons of fish because of conditions, those three big fish made all my dreams of Louisiana come true. I’m already looking forward to next year and can’t say enough how amazing this place is.

Owen Plair
Gink & Gasoline
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