The morning was overcast but warm as we pulled away from the dock at Big Lake Guide Service Lodge No. 2. The thin cloud cover shielded the sun giving it the appearance of a big silver beach ball rising above the eastern horizon.
Though it was mid-October, the day still promised to be hot, with temperatures reaching into the mid-80s. But for now the breeze made it chilly enough to merit a windbreaker.
Polly Dean and I were taking to the water with Capt. Jeff Poe. Along with his wife Mary, the Poes are owners of the guide service that features seven boats and a pair of lodges on Lake Calcasieu in southwestern Louisiana.
Though Capt. Jeff also guides anglers using conventional tackle, he would be putting us within fly-casting distance of some redfish this day. The plan was to check out some marsh ponds along the east side of Calcasieu, which many locals simple refer to as Big Lake. We would be fishing about a third of the way down from the north end of Calcasieu and about 25 miles south of Interstate 10 at the town of Lake Charles.
The objective was to sight cast to schools of the reds as they feed in waters that average less than 2 feet deep. Spotting the pods of fish ordinarily is not a problem because of the wake they push in front of them.
With a chop on the surface caused by the breeze and no sunlight to help with visibility, seeing those fish would be a bit more difficult on this trip. In fact, the first 30 minutes revealed no schools, so we first tried some blind casting for single reds along the edge of the oyster grass, but with no success.
Finally a wake appeared off a point of grass, as probably a dozen or more redfish moved toward the boat. Polly was on the front casting deck and got first shot at the fish.
Capt. Jeff had already told us that fly selection is not important when you find a feeding school. Polly dropped her bunny-hair fly into the churning water and immediately the line when taunt. As the rest of the school bolted under the boat, her 8-weight, St. Croix rod bent and the fight was on.
After a short battle the redfish of roughly 24 inches came to the net. Holding it up for photos, even in the muted light, the red’s copper sides glistened with reddish tints. These inshore reds in south Louisiana are some of the most beautiful examples of the species anywhere.
The wind began to pick up, making finding the fish harder and presenting some very difficult casting conditions. After a long dry spell in which we did more peering at the water surface than fishing, we finally decided to move to another location.
As the trolling motor was coming out of the water, a pair of schools began pushing wakes across the surface nearby. That changed the plan immediately.
Tossing a No. 2 black Clouser Minnow, I managed a pair of reds in the next few minutes. The biggest stretched out on the measuring tape to 29 inches.
As we continued to fish, the clouds burned off and more fish became visible. Soon Polly picked up her second red as well.
According to Capt. Jeff, the ideal time for this sight casting is in the dead of summer, from July through September. But, the fishing may start as early as June and can run all the way to December if the weather stays mild.
Anglers not attuned to fly casting can get in on the action as well. Tossing jigs with soft plastic trailers is effective. As with fly selection, color and size are not big concerns. Because of the competition between fish in the school, if they see it, one of them will likely eat any bait presented. And, the captain said that schools of 30 to 50 fish often can be found in these waters.
Big Lake Guide Service’s lodges can accommodate a total of 21 anglers. Lodge No. 1 sleeps nine and is two blocks from Big Lake’s private dock. Lodge No. 2 is on the lake adjacent to the dock and is composed of two duplexes that sleep six in each side.