Saturday, August 20, 2011

Eye Contact

Capt. Blaine Townsend motors across the south Louisiana marsh near
Cocodrie, La., in search of redfish. 

A famous line in the Neil Simon play "Biloxi Blues" seemed appropriate as I stood in the bow of Capt. Blaine Townend's flats boat as he poled the craft across the marsh and in search of south Louisiana's fabled redfish. I may mess it up (with apologies to Mr. Simon), but it goes something like this:

"It's hot. Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot."

Just standing in the boat and making sporadic casts to the occasional cruising redfish had me covered in a film of sweat that had managed to push its way through the coating of sunscreen I'd slathered all over my face, arms and legs earlier that morning. I could feel drops of perspiration forming and then sliding down my body beneath my clothes.

"Jesus, it's hot," I said to Blaine, as I lifted my hat from my head and wiped my brow with it. The sun was beating down through the Gulf Coast haze and doing its best to beat me down. The humid heat, coupled with missing the first really good shot at a redfish I'd had all morning, had me a little frustrated.

Eye contact.
"Fish," Blaine said, ignoring my complaint. "Two o'clock. Comin' atcha."

Two o'clock. I looked intently at the marsh, crudely estimating two digits to the right of the bow of the little craft. Nothing.

"Further out. See that wake. See that water he's pushing?"

I looked again, this time further out, and then I saw the fish. The subtle 'V' the fish made as it glided through foot-deep water was impressive ... and intimidating. Heading our way, this was what the guides down here call a legitimate "shot." The heat faded and I focused intently on the unpredictable wake the fish was creating as it prowled the marsh for its next meal. With any luck at all, I thought, the next meal would be a pressed mylar spoon fly tied by the guy at the back of the boat.

"Let him come," Blaine said calmly from his perch on the poling platform. "Wait until you can put it right on him." And, as a subtle afterthought, he said, "And you have to put it right on him."

The fish kept coming, and I loaded the bulky eight-weight the best I could and made one false cast. I laid out a solid delivery about 40 feet from the boat and put the fly on the nose of the waking fish.

The marsh exploded.

"You got him," Blaine said. "Keep it tight."

Back to the marsh.
I did my best strip-strike, but this time I let the fish have a bit of line, and it took it without much effort. The red realized it was hooked and zipped out over the marsh, peeling line from my blurry reel and putting a deep, satisfying bend in my stout fly rod. I tightened the drag a bit and watched as the fish, hopelessly snagged in the corner of its mouth, continued its blitz into the murky water of the swamp. The rod pumped down with every stroke of the creature's wide tail, and the reel began to groan in protest as I put the hammer down another notch or two.

It was then, with my first redfish of the trip firmly attached to the fly a good hundred feet from where I stood, that I realized I was smiling. Not just any grin, but that goofy, I'm-going-to-Disneyland grin a kid gets when something really cool is about to happen.

Minutes later as Blaine gripped the spent redfish by the mouth and brought it aboard, something very cool did happen. Eight pounds of marsh fury rested in my hands, and minutes later, as I turned the creature back to the wild I made sure to make eye contact. I bested that fish on this day, and I beamed with pride.

But the day wasn't over. Not even close.

Stay tuned for more from Sportsman's Paradise in Cocodrie, La. 


  1. Wow Chris...great story. You actually had me sitting on the edge of my seat and leaning into the screen. Can't wait to hear more.

  2. Oh man, that's awesome. I remember my first redfish: reel screaming, line burning my fingers, rod bent, and not knowing whether to s**t or go blind due to giggling & smile so much!

    As much as I love trout on a 3wt, that redfish gave me the biggest shove down the slippery slope of a full-out fishing addict.

    After reading this, I have to fight the urge to book a flight to go again. Well done!

  3. Cool! someday I'll try my hand at Red Fish.

  4. That is amazing...don't think I will ever see one of those.

  5. It's not as tough as you might think... find a good guide (like Blaine) and let him take you to the marsh... it's magical. Loved every minute of it.

  6. Redfish and their cousins (croaker) are really hard to beat, pound for pound. Makes me miss my old trips to SC and GA :( Muddy, shallow water, and tanker truck fish. Good stuff!

  7. Sounds like an unbelievable experience. I've never fished the salt, but this makes me want to head down and give it a go...well done sir.