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Archive for the ‘Saltwater’ Category

Just over a week ago, I had the pleasure of heading down to Port Sulphur, LA to FINALLY complete a Redfish trip that had been planned since January. Then re-booked due to weather. Then again due to weather. Then again due to weather. Then due to oil. My fishing partner Paul Wharton was starting to be convinced that I was in fact cursed when it comes to Saltwater. Well, the curse has been broken! With somewhere between 35-40 reds (and 1 Sheepshead!) in the boat over the course of 3 days, I’d call it a big success. There would be epic video of this trip to share, but someone whose name rhymes with “Cat Phones” left the camera’s power on when checking it for me prior to the trip. So, enjoy the still-photo fish porn below – not sure why WordPress insists on making our photos a bit blurry after they are uploaded, so I’ll apologize for that.

A big purpose for heading down to Louisiana was to gauge the mood and effect of the oil spill on the fishing. Well, after speaking with several guides and Woodland Plantation owner Foster Creppel, it’s confirmed – the worst thing for the area economy is the Media. Yes, the oil spill is certainly the worst ecological disaster we have ever faced as a country, and it will affect the Gulf region for generations, but contrary to what CNN would have you believe, the fish are alive and well, and fishing is great! The both the East and West Banks of the Mississippi are open to fishing,  and these guys (and our guide, Rich Waldner in particular) still know where those sneaky reds are hiding. So it is not all gloom and doom – the fish are there – go get them!

Please join us in supporting all the guides of Plaquemines Parish – book a trip to the Woodland through Tailwaters today!

Solid Gold. Photo by: Paul Wharton

Finally! It may be a little Rat Red, but the CURSE IS BROKEN! Photo by: Paul Wharton

Did I mention we fished 6-weights nearly the whole trip? Photo by: Bart Larmouth

These guys didn't fool around when they took our spoon flies. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

One of Paul's 6-pounders. *Moose knuckle omitted in order to retain our PG rating* Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Playing with the panoramic settings on my camera. Click the image to get a better look. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

More Pano love. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Putting my "carp spotting" skills to good use. I always knew they'd come in handy. Thanks Joel. Photo by: Paul Wharton

Are they related?? That is definitely the same expression. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Ok. Definitely related. Photoshopping by: Bart Larmouth

Trying to pimp Matt's hats. Photo by: Paul Wharton

Have I told you yet how much I LOVE my Winston BIImX 6? Photo by: Paul Wharton

Paul with his big boy from the trip. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

The Sheepshead - a.k.a. Shithead, since we saw so many and only caught this one. Photo by: Paul Wharton

This guy had some of the coolest purple iridescence . Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Can you say "Hillybilly Fish?" Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Nope. Not a hillbilly - he has all his teeth. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Flying the team colors on the last day. Photo by: Paul Wharton

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The whole crew. Some of us (you know who you are!) were unable/unwilling to heed the warning on the sign. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

This past April I had the pleasure of traveling to the Woodland Plantation to celebrate the last days of my buddy Jonathan’s bachelor-dom, and catch some fish while we were at it! This trip brought together his friends and family from down here in the south, and back up in the northeast – with New Jersey represented strongly. We had three nights of great food and revelry, and managed to fit some fishing in on Friday and Sunday. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate on Saturday (thunderstorms and 60-70 MPH gusts), so we had a much-needed respite sitting on the porch of the ‘Big House’ playing cards, dominoes, and taking in the wildlife (read: Gators)…..along with copious amounts of cigarettes (D.F.), SoCo, and Miller Lite. For those who aren’t aware, the big house at the Woodland is the building gracing the cover of the Southern Comfort Bottle, circa 1840s. VERY cool. Instead of writing a memoir about the trip, I thought I would let some of the photos do the talking.

Just before take-off! Photo by: Some guy on the tarmac

In-flight shenanigans. Photo by: Jonathan Price

Let’s just say the van ride to the plantation was….interesting. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

My boy John and I upon arrival. Photo by: Andy Price

The bachelor - Jonny - showing me how it's done. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Final score on Sunday: JP 2, Bart 0. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Nice tail shot of JP's fish. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Product shot to make John Torok at Hatch very happy. Photo by: Jonathan Price

The only thing Tom caught on Friday. I guess I'm just bad luck. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

A little closer look…. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Preston Smith with a monster. Mike Waite (aka Mad Max) observes. Photo by: Preston Smith

Mike Waite got in on the action too. Photo by: Preston Smith

Andy Price with a Speckled Trout. Photo by: Kyle Biery

Stuart with his football-sized red. Photo by: Preston Smith

Preston with another nice red. Photo by: The Stu

Who is that Masked Man? The guy who can't catch a fish in salt to save his life. Photo by: Jonathan Price.

The reason to stay out of the water. Photo by: Jonathan Price

Foster (Woodland's Owner) getting his 'buddy' to come up for a show. Photo by: Jonathan Price.

Foster's "middle child" - only about 10' long. Photo by: Jonathan Price.

Although rain-outs suck, the day CAN be made brighter.....photo by: Jonathan Price

Ready for dinner at Spirits Hall. Photo by: Jonathan Price

Another AWESOME dinner on our last night – a great way to end the trip! Photo by: Jonathan Price

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This past week I was fortunate enough to host a group of 5 to the comfortable Woodland Plantation in southern Louisiana. As an employee of Tailwaters Fly Fishing Co, I assumed the position of a host for the group. I arrived in Louisiana with high expectations. Why the hell shouldn’t I, right? In the past year we have sent over 100 anglers to this destination and we continue to hear nothing but great things about the fishery. Our great friend and loyal customer Dennis Burns, landed a whopping 38# redfish last March, which is one of many bull reds we have heard of being landed.

The Woodland Plantation is a wonderful bed and breakfast situated in the heart of southern Louisiana’s marshland. For me, the food is what makes the Woodland special. Each evening starts with two rounds of incredible appetizers, usually a mixture of fried shrimp, spring rolls, crawfish cakes, and others. Once sat, the server starts you with the soup of the day. For our particular group we had gumbo on Sunday, red beans and rice on Monday, crawfish etouffee on Tuesday, and duck & sausage andouille on Wednesday. Next is a dinner salad upon arrival of the entree. The server reads off different options from which you can choose.  Redfish, quail, and steak are common among these choices.

Refish on halfshell

Redfish on the halfshell. Yuuummmy! :: Photo by Matt Jones

Woodland Plantation

View of the Woodland Plantation at Sunrise :: Photo by Matt Jones

Woodland Plantation

The Bar. Warming the body and the mind. :: Photo by Matt Jones

So, back to my expectations and how they were ultimately met. Going in, we all knew the weather this season had been punishing. Alike the rest of the country, the southern flats of Louisiana have been experienced colder weather than the norm. The key for our success was getting sunlight and finding warm water. Obviously we needed sun to see, but we also needed it to warm the shallow flats. We quickly realized that this may not happen due to the fact we had 20-25 knot winds. A quick breakdown of the weather we experienced — lots of sun + lots of wind = little change in water temperature. Our first three days we did catch fish, but it was tough, real tough. Because of the wind, we had very dirty water which made sight casting to redfish difficult. Eighty five percent of the time, I would look down from the casting platform only to realize we had just spooked another redfish beneath the boat. Every so often though, I would spot a fish with a dark back or one sitting closer to the surface, would make a cast and more often than not would get an eat. By Wednesday we were all frustrated with the wind, and the dirty water but were ready to face our last day on the water.  The forecast called for winds to blow at 5-15 knots and luckily the forecast was wrong. Thursday was our day of redemption, we had calm enough conditions to run the boats far closer to the gulf than we had previously and that was our ticket to success. After making a drift across the first flat, our guide took us to an incredible place. Capt. Bryan Carter made the decision to cross the sand bar and go into the gulf to explore the beaches. The gulf water was far warmer than the water on the flats and we quickly started seeing fish (big fish). Within minutes Bryan spotted a huge redfish tail breaking the surface. At this particular point in time, Jared was on the platform searching for this fish. When we found the fish, Jared placed a perfect cast in front of this fish. He slurped it up, and it was on. We initially thought this fish was short of 20lbs, but were very surprised when Jared reeled this fish closer to the boat. After netting and landing the redfish, it weighed in at 29lbs. Not a bad way to end the trip!

Big Redfish

Jared Louviere with 29lb refish :: Photo by Matt Jones

Redfish

Myself with a nicely spotted redfish :: Photo by Jared Louviere

Despite the harsh weather, we ended up having a very successful trip. There were many fish taken in the 12-16lb range, and on the last day Jared landed his trophy.  Other Tailwaters’ customers Rick Buferd, John Hansen, Joey Pate, and Joe Worsham found large schools of redfish and caught in total of over 75 fish!

double redfish

Rick Buferd and John Hansen with a double

Louisiana Redfish

Jared Louviere with 14lb redfish :: Photo by Matt Jones

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Swine, Scorpions, Margaritas….  and Permit

For nearly a year we have had this trip planned to Playa Blanca Lodge located on the north end of Espiritu Santo Bay on the Yucatan Peninsula.  The bearish economy, Mother Nature, and the World Health Organization did everything they could to keep us from going!  Nevertheless, Swine Flu or no Swine Flu, we were headed to Mexico… 

The Destination...  Lower Yucatan, Mexico:  Photo By:  David Leake

The Destination... Lower Yucatan, Mexico: Photo By: David Leake

Our unique group of gentlemen from all backgrounds actually melded to create one of the most enjoyable hosted trips I have done in a long time.  He was the crew:

David Leake – Dallas, TX

Dennis Hilton – Lantana, TX

Ron Gard – Dallas, TX

Rhodes Hamilton – Dallas, TX

Kent Hamilton – Dallas, TX

Russ Morton – Santa Fe, NM

Henri Wedell – Memphis, TN

Brad Clowe – Ardmore, OK

Scott Rodgers – Dallas, TX

Bill Miller – Dallas, TX

Loading the Caravan for Ascension Bay.  Photo by:  David Leake

Loading the Caravan for Ascension Bay. Photo by: David Leake

Owned and operated by the same outfit,  “Playa” is the sister property to Casa Blanca Lodge, located 15 miles to the north on the southern end of famed Ascension Bay.    Together these two operations represent what has become the branded standard in Caribbean multi-species flats fishing…with a particular emphasis on phenomenal opportunities for permit.   After 20+ years in operation, Casa and Playa have become a fraternal institution.  Hundreds of experienced flats anglers returning every year to enjoy their incredibly solid program. 

One of our oldest and most likeable clients, Scott Rodgers, actually headed down to Playa Blanca 5 days before the rest of the groups’ scheduled arrival.  Scotty is in the commercial real estate business in Dallas, and is very fond of the lower Yucatan (his successful development company is called Ascension Development).   This is Scott’s 7th trip down to Casa / Playa.  In addition to a stagnant real estate market, Scotty is also single with few obligations tying him down…thus the 12 day hiatus.  Needless to say, I love his style!

Scott Rodgers and 20+ pound Perm.  Photo by:  Scott Rodgers

Scott Rodgers and 20+ pound Perm. Photo by: Scott Rodgers

I knew we were in for some good luck when two days before the owner of Casa / Playa Blanca, Bobby Settles, emails me cryptically…  “Scotty says bring $400 and lots more flies.  4 permit and 2 slams today.  The permit are snapping”.  Either Scotty lost a bet or owes his guides a fat gratuity for something special.  Either way, the excitement level was growing.  (Scotty ended up his trip with a grand slam and two gorgeous permit in the bag…including one trophy in the 20lb+ range. )

 

We all arrived Cancun on time and in good spirits and made the easy 45 minute connection on board  the lodge’s Cessna Caravan to the Casa Blanca airstrip.  When on approach, you can look outward and see hundreds of square miles of gorgeous flats, mangroves, and secluded islands.  It is easy to see from the air why Ascension Bay is so special to so many flats anglers.  We are greeted with the traditional Casa Blanca margarita on the pier and load up for the 30 minute truck ride south to Playa Blanca.  Henri Wedell of Memphis shows up a few hours later with his incredible laughter and sense of humor.  His introduction to everyone was walking into the dining room wearing a medical face mask…  poking fun at the mass hysteria surrounding the swine flu “pandemic”. 

Rigging by headlamp.  Photo by:  Scott Rodgers

Rigging by headlamp and Corona. Photo by: Scott Rodgers

 

The Playa Blanca facility sits on a completely remote and tranquil white sandy beach.  Each of their 7 duplex style rooms overlooks the Caribbean Sea and are only a few steps from the sand.  Playa offers up the ideal atmosphere for total relaxation and is comfortable enough for low maintenance ladies.  It also lends itself well to a group of men wanting to get away and have a ton of fun.  No cell phones, no internet access….  Just incredible fishing, fine service and food, and a well stocked bar!    

1/3 of Scotty's Grand Slam.  Photo by:  David Leake

1/3 of Scotty's Grand Slam. Photo by: David Leake

 

Guests are delivered fresh coffee to their rooms around 6:00am, breakfast is served made to order, and everyone loads up for the 10 minute drive to the boat launch.  The guides are awaiting us gringos every morning with the skiffs fueled up and off you head south into Espiritu Santo Bay.  Espiritu Santo is approximately 1/3 the size of Ascension Bay to the north and the boat run to the best permit grounds on the bay is close to an hour on average.  However, the trade off is total seclusion.  Our group of five boats did not encounter another boat from another lodge the entire week!  There are not many fisheries left on earth where anglers are guaranteed such solitude and opportunity for rested fish every day all year long. 

Heading out for day on Espiritu Santo.  Photo by:  David Leake

Heading out for day on Espiritu Santo. Photo by: David Leake

 

The Playa Blanca and Casa Blanca programs are completely dialed in.  Although I make a living representing and marketing fishing lodges, camps, and operations all over the world, and I still find it hard to convey the experience that these two lodges deliver week after week (year after year).  They have an intangible atmosphere and style combined with a huge amount of tradition that simply separates them from the rest…   Never mind the fact the fishery is perhaps the best in the Caribbean, the guides are stellar, the service minded staff works incredibly hard (always with a smile), the food is superb, and the accommodations are plush.    

Get'r Done.  Photo by:  David Leake

Get'r Done. Photo by: David Leake

 

The week was very successful for everyone in the group…  We had a lot of laughs, new friends were made, and the fishing was excellent.  Other than a few blustery days, we were more or less blessed with six days of excellent conditions.  Everyone had daily shots at permit in Espiritu Santo, baby tarpon in the backcountry, zillions of bonefish in Santa Rosa Lagoon, and some interesting encounters with the pet barracuda on the beach in front of the lodge.  We also had 4-5 good shots at migratory big tarpon in the bay as well. 

 

Dennis Hilton, a retired college professor from Lantana, Texas, fished with me on day number one.  As this was Dennis’ first time on the flats, I had been lecturing him for months on the difficulties and low odds associated with permit fishing.  Whatever progress I had made towards managing his expectations was completely thrashed when my first opportunity on the deck I hooked and landed a nice 10 pound permit.  After explaining that it NEVER happens that way, the bar was set high for Dennis.  I could sense he was going to be severely disappointed if he did not get one all week.  Luckily (and skillfully), on day five Dennis landed his first permit on the fly!

Mr. Dennis Hilton with First Permit.  What's the big deal about this Permit thing?  Photo by:  David Leake

Mr. Dennis Hilton with First Permit. What's the big deal about this Permit thing? Photo by: David Leake

 

A mixture of Mayan lore and a creative sense of humor are combined at Casa and Playa Blanca to create one of the greatest traditions at any fishing lodge anywhere…  I won’t ruin the surprise for you other than to say the events surrounding the celebration of a first permit landed at Casa or Playa involves a lot of tequila and a dead scorpion.  Mr. Hilton provided a lot of laughs when he continued the tradition and maintained good graces with the Mayan Gods of permit fishing. 

Traditional Dessert.  Photo by:  David Leake

Traditional Dessert. Photo by: David Leake

 

As the lodge was closing for hurricane season, our last night at Playa Blanca was also the last night for the guide staff.  Scotty and I offered up the bar tab for the evening and supplied plenty of booze for the crew to have some fun.  Somehow the evening’s festivities led to a round robin arm wrestling tournament.  It was quite fun to witness the dutiful and collected professional guide staff find themselves overserved and getting schooled by the soft gringos from Texas! 

Warming up to get taken over the top by the gringo pescadores.  Photo by:  David Leake

Warming up to get taken over the top by the gringo pescadores. Photo by: David Leake

 

Thank you to Mike and the entire staff at Playa Blanca.  Thank you to guides, Tacon, Rene, Carlos, Andres, and Jorge.  You all do excellent work and are fine guides and anglers.  I am looking forward to fishing with you all again soon. 

 Yo los veré el año próximo!

The group on the beach after a day in the sun.  Photo by:  David Leake

The group on the beach after a day in the sun. Photo by: David Leake

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