Welcome to Salt Water Fly Fishing

Welcome to Fly Fishing The Salt! If you are just discovering the joys of fly fishing the salt (or salt chuck as some call it) here you will find information to steer you in the right direction. Tips on what equipment to use, why, where and how to fish. And we will try to include a little inspiration to get you going. For the experienced salt water angler, there will be personal stories about real fishermen and their experiences, tips on what flies for which fish and techniques that work. Your stories and articles are also most welcome. Share the knowledge and adventure. Pass it on! This is for you.

Chaos On the Water

By Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Fly-fishing has some different faces to it, from the pristine stream in the California mountains sneaking up on eight inch golden trout, to bowing to the 150 pound tarpon making your heart stop by jumping twenty feet in front of the boat. Offshore in 600 feet of water offers yet another venue. Out there with the right mix of boat, sun and crazy fishermen provided pure chaos for us last week. We were fishing out of the mouth of the great Mississippi.

Chaos, when things are out of control without a pattern, is not all that hard to get into when the sea is the medium and we are but mortals cast upon it. Part was caused by trying to get four fishermen ready for a type of fishing that only a couple had seen before. The rest was due to the personalities of the fisherman and guides involved. Add to this a stay at a new lodge (to us) south of New Orleans with an eclectic staff, some crazy weather and we had enough to achieve chaos.

We managed to get everybody to the lodge and put in a day of fishing on the flats before the deep-sea adventure. We do this often and the one new thing that happened on the flats was a big alligator gar actually jumped into the boat with one pair of fisherman. The story goes that somehow the gar got surprised while napping and when he jumped, like they will when scared, the boat was in the way. A gar like this is one long muscle of a fish covered with slime and quite smelly. This one just missed Unk's knee while he was standing on the platform in front of the boat and landed face first in David's lap. The front end of this five-foot long, fifty-pound fish looks just like the namesake, an alligator's, teeth and all. I heard all three sides to this story and they were all different, depending on where you were in the boat when this preview of real chaos took place. Unk did not come off the platform and Brian stayed on the back tower. David and the fish were doing a combination of an Irish Jig and break dancing around the center of the boat. David got clear without getting hurt, but half his head went bald on the spot. The fish beat the devil out of everything it could reach but broke nothing. Brian came down and subdued the monster by working a towel over the fish and hoisting it out of the boat. It was a pure form of "catch and release" but who was practicing it was not clear. Unk held his position throughout the episode. His story was probably the most accurate, but through three tellings I noted the fish keeps getting bigger.

The first and second nights in the lodge proved quite an improvement over our normal digs in the area since Katrina messed up the place. I have slept in trucks, on floors and in several trailers. Finding first class housing was really nice. The Woodland Plantation, a "southern plantation," is 40 miles south of New Orleans. It was built in the 1840s and restored in the 20th century by an interesting family from the city. Look up the place, www.woodlandplantation.com. You step back in history and enjoy some southern comfort style hospitality.

A man named Foster owns and runs the place and has a staff of a dozen or so. There is a big house (original mansion), a small house we stayed in and a church, plus some other older buildings. The church was moved from somewhere south of where it is now and converted into a bar and restaurant with Foster living over the kitchen. It is called the "Spirit House" and is just that. Foster lives over the kitchen so that must make him the master spirit. He and his staff have all the spirit you would ever need to get you laughing and having fun. A lighted Southern Comfort sign is right in the middle of the bar. When you look at a bottle of that gooey liquor you see a painting of the "big house" from 1934 before the river levies were added.

We had accepted the little house (sleeps six) for the four of us and ended up deciding to take the meal package that went with it for $30 more. We slid into the bar and the food just started coming. Hors d'oeuvres of many types come out while you socialize and consume adult beverages before dinner. Some of the food you might recognize if you have eaten in Louisiana much, but some was new to me like crawfish pie, local sausages and shrimp fixed in toxic hot sauces. If some fishermen bring in a fish to be prepared, the crowd enjoys that too.

The bar had most every drink known to mankind and they made some special Woodland drinks that I avoided after hearing the amount of stuff in them. They took your dinner order during this playtime and told you when to take a seat at a table and to begin the "real" feasting. The salads, entrees and desserts were excellent; much more than usual on a fishing trip. Add to this a hot breakfast if you are going out late enough for the staff to get going in the morning, or continental fare placed in the room if leaving very early. They also pack a simple lunch for you and your guides to carry.

We survived the first and second nights with a day on the flats before the day of chaos on the big boat. "Survived" I say, as the drinks were mighty good and day two of fishing started with a 0415 get up call. There was an hour drive to meet the boat in Venice, the last town on the road down the Delta.

The boat was a 36-foot catamaran with twin 250-horsepower four-stroke engines. There is only a center consul and mass of space for four fly-casters to work, one at each corner. Sonny was the captain with Brian acting as deck hand. These two youngsters went to college to train for the clergy and must have failed out to become fishing guides. Brian usually runs his own flats boat. We fish with him often. Sonny did start with a little prayer; that made me worry about the ride ahead a bit.

Getting started, an undertaking of some magnitude in the dark, was not an easy act with four guys rigging up at least three rods apiece to put in holders under the rails. Several of the team took enough stuff along to have diverted to Cuba and stayed months without washing clothes. Underway the boat ran silently out one of the many passes at the end of the mighty Mississippi and into the gulf. A big cat like this never pounds through the seas but rocks fore and aft a bit. It is a comfortable ride. Nice it was as we ran for about 90 minutes before the quest for fish started.

Our first spot to try was at the "dome" some 40 miles out. This mound of bottom is a ten-acre patch 180 foot down with 600-foot water surrounding it. Every fish in the gulf seems to pile up there to do fish-like things from breeding to eating. To get the fish to the top, you add some fish pieces to the water and the boat gets surrounded. I asked what was first to be caught and the boys yelled, "big bonito." Most of the rods selected where the 11 and 12 weights as a 10-15 pound tuna fish can do some mighty pulling. Unk was the first to hook up, followed by Bill, and then the rest of us. The water was thrashing with fish of all sorts eating the meal offered, and each other. I had several of them to the boat, as did David and Unk, while Bill was still fighting his first. When Bill got his big fish in and then his second (another long fight) he commented he was going to put away his nine-weight and get a bigger rod. He didn't and soon had a big bull dolphin fish take his fly and run off four fine jumps before just leaving the scene with Bill unable to stop it with the small rod. Bill started commenting that he was going to be "spooled" if the boat did not follow the fish, and soon. Sonny thought it might be a state record so all of us pulled lines out of the water and we "followed" Bill's fish. It took him a long time to get it in but finally he had a very nice bull dolphin in the boat after an expert gaff job by Sonny. Pictures were taken and the fish was invited either to a scale, for the record books, or dinner at the spirit house.

Big dolphin fish

Bill got a bigger rod then we all tried for some more of the bulls. I had so many big bonitos on that I pulled it out of their jaws if I saw them coming. Twice big dusky sharks took the fish I was fighting making me work pretty hard to break them off without breaking the rod. Meanwhile, David got the rock music piped up on the radio and was singing along to sixties and seventies rock music at the top of his lungs. He was also trying to catch one of the many sharks now cruising around the boat. Sonny would put a bonito on a rope and bring the beasts up to the rail while David tried to drop the fly in a mouth. He accomplished the task twice that I saw, but the wire got cut each time. These were 300-400 pound fish so there was little faith in any of us that even a 15-weight rod would bring one to the boat. With the rope tied on a cleat with a fish tied on one end, without a hook, the sharks would almost pull the side of the boat apart. That would have made for a nice meal if we all had to abandon ship as it sunk.

With David trying for the sharks, the rest of us were still hauling in the bonito and hardtails. In the middle of the singing, splashing, blood/gore on the deck and plain mayhem we heard a resounding "crack" and looked around to see Unk holding a three-piece rod, that was supposed to be a two-piece. He was not able to hold the rod off the boat when a shark took his bonito or, perhaps, the rod had a nick in it and gave up the ghost. We could never really get the full story. When we tired of this game I thought it had been a good day. We were at this only an hour and it just before nine in the morning.


Having had enough of that fish infested area, we headed out looking for other kinds of fish. All the time we were running out from the shore, we were going by and through big oil platforms, and I mean BIG. The deeper the water, the bigger the legs and the platforms on them got. There were hundreds of them within sight and we could only see a few miles. It was reported over 90 of these were damaged by Katrina and we saw some being rebuilt. Ninety would only be a dent in the population. Someone asked if these were the biggest and the answer was there were some, way out, that had legs as big as these whole platforms.

On one big rig we got some nice snapper feeding and Bill got a seven pound mangrove snapper, followed by a small black tip shark, followed by a hook-up to a giant jack cravelle. The last one broke itself off on a long run around the tower. The shark landing was the highlight of this stop. It was pulled into the boat to unhook and then "got away." David treed himself on the bench having had some experience with fish in a boat recently. Sonny and Brian tossed bean-bag pillows on top of the fish and subdued it. It was another "catch and release" were the catcher and releaser positions were not fully assigned at the parting. Unk did a fine job of staying out of the way once again. I was just to far away to help up front.

Offshore oil rig

We got several other types of fish this way and then went looking for seaweed and more dolphin fish. Not finding much, we ran back inshore to smaller wellheads and tied off so we could chum up big fish from the structure below. Many more snappers showed but nothing else. It seemed like we had been fishing a month by 4 PM, and we headed in. The return route took us about 15 miles up the big river from the southern most pass. The day was pretty and water calm except when passing outgoing tankers and freighters.

Dinner was late but the Spirit leader, Foster, did us fine. He was the cook and bottle washer this evening and started with shucking all the oysters we could handle before cooking up two kinds of our fish for us. Some other fishermen, who did not catch a thing, also got dinners off the big ones we gave to the lodge.

In all, we had a grand time. I go "outside" to fish once a year, probably because I forget I don't like that kind of fishing very much. It is usually too rough and you cannot see the fish you are after. This was different. I saw way too many fish, had my line pulled on plenty, almost too much. I will be a little less reticent to do this again...on this kind of boat, and with this kind of crew. ~ Capt Scud Yates/July 2006/ scudyates@cox.net

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