Well, it’s been a while since I’ve thrown a post up and it’s for somewhat of a good reason. Back in October I had serious damage to my skiff as the result of a collision with a phantom underwater object. That’s what insurance is for though… No worries right? Wrong. After submitting my claim to Progressive I was informed that they had dropped my collision and comprehensive coverage. What??? I ended up taking my skiff back to East Cape in Orlando and they hooked me up big time, doing everything from remounting the motor with jackplate to totally rebuilding and reinforcing the transom for only $300 (I had quotes around $3k in Texas). All I can say is that you can’t ask for much more from a boat builder in terms of customer service. TH Marine hooked me up with a new jackplate as well after I had snapped mine in half and I can’t say enough good things about their customer service. Unfortunately, my Suzuki motor still needed new motor mounts which were on back order and I was not able to get those until the beginning of February. All I can say is that it was a dark, dark period of my life where I did a lot of introspective thinking – who am I, what am I doing with my life, where am I going…? Now, after having been through that and emerging on the other side, I understand fully the answer to those questions and the direction is clear. I must fish.
Part One: Back in the Saddle
Z had been itching to fish since we had been out of commission and she had had it even worse since I was still able to fish somewhat regularly without her on friends’ boats. She was definitely feeling due when we got the skiff back to operational and I needed to get back on the water behind the helm. So, we headed out to Louisiana together to fish and of course, get some good eats. Apparently, oysters are a fantastic source of iron that babies need for development (that or Z came up with an awesome excuse) so we stopped at Dupuy’s Oyster House for some retardedly good oysters and crabcakes on the way. If you have never been, you need to stop by Abbeville to get yourself some and trust me, you will not regret it. It’s no accident that they’ve been doing this for 150 years or so.
With only Sunday to fish (Saturday dedicated to delectable “baby healthy” Cajun treats), we set out to get Z some long overdue fish and score baby Svintos’ first fish at -5 months old. Here was the moment I had been waiting for. Finally I was back in the game with my skiff ready to go and then while getting the skiff ready and I noticed the trim tabs and GPS didn’t work. It’s always something that needs to be fixed I guess. I finally gave up and decided I didn’t need either for a one day trip and we got out on the water. It turned into a great day in the marsh with Z and baby landing their first redfish and drum together as a mother-baby combo.
Part Deaux: Riding Again at Full Gallup
Two weeks later Boutros and I returned to Louisiana to fish with my dad, brother, brother-in-law, and friend of the family Dave. My brother Jer had fished with me before in Louisiana, but it was the first trip over for the rest of the crew. I had been telling them epic tales of the best inshore fishery that I’ve ever experienced since I first moved to Louisiana over 5 years ago. We rented an awesome house in the marsh and stocked up with food, beer, and alcohol to bring with us. I had been anticipating this trip for a long time and I knew that at least dad (AKA Steiner) and Bill (bro in law) had no idea what they were getting into or what this sight fishing game was all about and I was so stoked to open up this huge part of my world to them, which they had no clue existed.
My brother Jer flew into Houston to meet up and make the haul across I-10 and the world’s crappiest road, US90, with me. We met up with Boutros to convoy across, him pulling his skiff and me pulling mine. We left Houston at about 8:30pm after work on a Thursday. The plan was to get in and the three of us fish Friday before the rest of the crew got in on Friday evening. We started making the trip and before we made it out of Houston Boutros called me up and was having issues with his 4Runner. We were troubleshooting for a while and finally threw in the towel. He would have to turn back and head to Houston to get his truck issues sorted out and Jer and I continued on alone. We ended up getting in after 4am, totally fried, and crashed out till nearly noon the next day. So much for a full day of scouting before the rest of the crew showed up. We got out on the water and it was cold and blowing a steady 15-20mph and it had been colder than hell the whole week as we were just catching the tail end of a front. Not a good start to the trip. We got out on the water and explored some new areas, poling what seemed to be some sexy water but didn’t come across a single fish. Just an anomaly I was sure. This is Louisiana, this never happens. The good news was that Boutros had is 4Runner fixed and was headed over to meet us in the evening around the same time as the rest of the crew. My dad, Bill, and Dave showed up and we immediately began indulging in some good eats from Don’s specialty meats and Hebert’s that we had brought over with us. Tomorrow would be a different day. With bellies full of boudin, chicken diablos, and cracklins amongst other things we crashed for the night.
We got up and got out on the water and decided to explore a new part of the bay. I was fishing my dad and Dave and Boutros was fishing Jer and Bill. It was cold and windy again and we got out and fished spot after spot, on the inside of the marsh, outside of the marsh, in the dead-end creeks that usually stay warmer, the outside creeks with deep water access and every variant between and the result was the same – almost no fish. I didn’t even think this was possible. Suddenly, I got nervous. It was an unparalleled shit day on the water, a day that very rarely ever occurs in Louisiana. I would never live this down with my old man. He would heckle me until the end of time about our fishing trip where we didn’t see squat. I could imagine it so clearly because it had been a reality in the past. Noooooo!!!! My dad, Steiner (don’t ask where that nickname came from or why it makes any sense), is probably the greatest hater of all time, especially when it comes to fishing. This was potentially the worst thing that could ever happen for his outlook on future fishing trips. We had to get on fish. We got back to the house and cooked up the last of our Cajun meats from Don’s and Hebert’s, the only thing we could do to lift morale, and Boutros and I began scheming to formulate a new game plan for the following day. We decided to fish more familiar waters closer to the parts of the bay we usually fished the next day.
We got up and trailered the skiffs to launch out of our usual spot and began running the marsh. The weather had improved in terms of temperature although there was still a stiff wind present, but this day we actually had light. We decided to switch it up and I was fishing Jer and Bill and Boutros was fishing my dad and Dave. We got to the first spot and started poling and it wasn’t long before Jer had a 25lb slob on the line. I texted Baron and my dad and Dave were doubled up with big drum. Yes!! At that point I knew it would be a good day. A while later Boutros was texting me that Dave had just landed a red over 30lbs.
Bill and Jer were getting shot after shot and I was so happy to know that I was able to share the Louisiana I came to know and love with my family. I don’t know what the final tally was in terms of fish caught, but I do know that it was a great day. We even kept a few slot reds and a sheepshead to throw on the grill that night. That plus 30lbs of crawfish made for the perfect post-fish smashing meal to cap off the day.
We got up for day 3 to Bill cooking up some awesome eats to start the day again. Biscuits, gravy and eggs. Definitely much more satisfying than my usual cup of coffee. We trailered the skiffs down to the spot and launched again. We switched again and I was fishing my dad and Dave. The fog was so thick that I could barely see 20-30ft in front of the skiff. I was so happy I had taken the time to sort out my electrical issues and get the GPS working (not all of them, because now my jackplate was messed up… always something, right?). It’s kind of a crazy run through the marsh when you can’t see anything ahead of you. There are countless pieces of oilfield trash, old pylons, wellheads, production platforms, etc scattered throughout the marsh. We made it out without encountering any of those hazards and quickly got to work. The fog began burning off and we were slaying fish again. Dave had an early flight out so we had to get off the water early for Steiner to run him up to the airport. We caught some good fish early on with Dave landing a good, 24lb redfish right off the bat. We got a few smaller fish and my old man was putting a hurting on the drum again. It was about time we needed to call it a day and Dave took a cast at one final fish, a big black drum. He hooked up and was fighting that fish and I spotted another nice redfish at 5 o’clock behind the skiff. I called out for Steiner to make the shot but he didn’t see the fish and the cast was off the mark. The fish slipped away and then barely came into view. I grabbed the spinning rod from Steiner and fired a shot out at the fish. It began attacking the DOA shrimp and charging towards the skiff. I teased the DOA shrimp away from the fish and then made another cast at the fish, with it now closer at maybe 20ft from the boat and it came almost all the way out of the water to gulp this shrimp and I handed the rod off to Steiner. Game on! We finished with a solid double header for the day.
At this point morale had changed 180 degrees since the first day. I think I heard the words “best fishing trip ever” floating around amidst the margaritas, beer, and crawfish and we were all feeling great, but there was one last task to accomplish. We had a half day to fish and Steiner wanted to put a fish on the fly rod. We got out on the water with Jer and Steiner fishing off of my skiff and Bill with Boutros. We ran the boat up to the marsh and gave Stein a quick crash course in fly casting. Let’s just say if we had a longer rod, we’d have had a longer cast to work with. However, seeing that we had a 9ft rod it was apparent we’d have about a 9ft cast to work with, but in Louisiana sometimes that can be about 5ft too much, so we were still in the game. We got started and poled around an area with a little bit of a deeper edge that I had been wanting to work and immediately started seeing very large fish. Unfortunately, the 9ft cast wasn’t doing the trick as we were seeing fish 20-30ft away. We tried for a while but the floating fish were tough for a first time fly caster. With the tide now up we could get into the skinny ponds where fish would be sitting still and we could sneak up close, so we picked up and made a move. We found fish, which all seemingly were about 10ft away. Damn this 9ft rod! Haha. I think at this point Jer was hiding his face where he couldn’t watch anymore. Then a tailing sheepshead appeared 9ft off of the bow. Ok, Steiner 11 o’clock! Steiner made a long, 9ft cast and the fish came with its mouth wide open, but oh no! Steiner! No, not the trout set! Let him eat! Gone. Damn. I remember when I was a kid Steiner got me this little fish game with a magnet for bait on a line, which you had to drop into the mouths of fish (also magnetized) that were opening and closing their mouths in order to catch them. Twenty five years later, this was exactly the game we were playing. Ok, Steiner next time rod tip down and you can get 1 to 2 ticks/strips before you run out of line to work with. A few minutes later along came another redfish. Ok Steiner, fish at 10 o’clock. Rod tip down! No! That damn fish game had left a lasting impression on him again. Rod tip up, trout set, and right out of the mouth came the fly. So close. We were out of time but oh well. Steiner had come so close that it was hurting him, which in itself is a huge testament to how absorbed he had gotten into the game and what a success the trip was. He may have not caught his fish on the fly, but to me the objective had been fully accomplished. I had brought Steiner and Bill into the Louisiana marsh and they had melted into their surroundings, totally immersed in the hunt and the wildlife around them. Steiner now understood, he told me, that I had been doing something much more than sitting somewhere on my skiff with a beer in hand and line in the water. At that point I knew he finally understood what this game really means to me and the fact that we now shared it and enjoyed it together gave it that much more depth.