Unicoi Outfitters is north Georgia's premier guide service and fly fishing outfitter, located on the Chattahoochee River near alpine Helen. Look for fishing reports, gear and book reviews, and general musings here from our staff and guides.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Curse of The Red and The Cajun Cure

Some of you may have heard of the anguish I've gone through over the past three years regarding redfish. I've fished Steinhatchee, Destin, and Pensacola in Florida for them, Mobile Bay in Alabama for them and four different days along the Georgia coast for them... and still have never caught one! In fact, I've never even had a bite! I went to Belize last year and landed well into the double-digits of bonefish my first day there, but still couldn't catch a redfish in any of these places to save my life.

It got to the point where I started having a string of nightmares about reds. One involved me spotting a tailing fish in a drainage ditch alongside I-285 in Atlanta, pulling over grab the fly rod out of the back of my truck so that I could cast to it and finding nothing but the butt sections of fly rods in my rod bag.

The next nightmare had my brother-in-law and I driving around the Florida pan-handle in a white work van. He was driving and I was, where else, on top of the van like Teen Wolf ready to cast as there were tailing reds everywhere! In golf course ponds, canals that ran under the streets and even those pink stucco fountains in the middle of shopping outlet centers... all of them held reds. But, each time I would get ready to shoot my line, my brother-in-law would peel out like B.A. Barracus from the A-Team, laughing as we sped away.

The last nightmare was the most disturbing. I was fishing with Scott Owens - a very good guide on the Georgia coast - and he put me on this HUGE red. It must've been 40 inches. I somehow made the perfect cast, it's tail turned on it and tipped up and I felt a tug. I tugged back and the fight was on! After several minutes of the most real dream I've ever had - complete with screaming drag sounds of fly line cutting through the water - the fish was landed. At this point, I realized that I was dreaming. But, it didn't even matter to me. If I couldn't land a fish in real life - or in any of my dreams up to that point - then this one would do just fine. In a show of victory, I hoisted the giant red over my held and let out a big "WHHAAA-WHOOOOO!" But, as I brought the fish back down to eye-level, I realized that something wasn't right. A small zipper handle dangled just behind the fish's gill plate and curiousity got the best of me. I should've just woken up right then - heck, I knew I was dreaming, so I could've stopped all this madness - but I had to see what was going on. I set the fish down on the deck of the boat and started pulling the zipper back towards the tail. To my horror, this was no redfish. It was a striped bass wearing a redfish costume!

Do I need psychological help? Probably.

But instead, I decided to capitalize on a planned trip to New Orleans over the 4th of July this year with my wife and a few friends. As anyone who fishes salt knows, the Louisiana coastal area is the best in the world for redfishing. So I called up the best guide in the area, Gary Taylor (GoForItCharters.com), and booked a half-day with him. To draw a parallel, booking a trip with Gary Taylor for redfishing is like calling on Chef Paul Prudhomme to help you cook a redfish or artist Mark Susinno to help you draw a redfish. It simply doesn't get any better.

He told me it was going to be really hot and that we may not land anything. I told him that I expected nothing less as I was cursed, but that I had to keep trying. I told him about my nightmares and, as he laughed, said, "Alright, we've got to get you on a redfish!"

So on the morning of Saturday, July 4th, I met Gary at his boat with heavy clouds overhead and a stiff wind blowing - not exactly prime conditions for redfishing. "That's about right," I thought.

I strung up my rod, hopped in the boat and we were off. Now let me tell you, if we didn't catch a fish all day, I still would've had a great time. Gary is about 60 years old now, but was formerly a professional dirt-bike racer. This comes through as he hastily navigates his 17-foot Hell's Bay through the marshes he's been fishing for decades. The boat ride itself was just as fun as the fishing!

Gary almost immediately got me on fish and on one of my first casts - a ROLL CAST TO A RED ABOUT 20 FEET FROM THE BOAT - a fish ate and the fight was on. A few minutes later and the red was landed and the curse was dead!

Over the course of the next couple of hours, I landed several more reds up to 7.5 pounds, a black drum and a gar.

What a fun trip - and all of this during a time of year that is far from prime for this area. Gary said that the winter was the best time to be there and that you could catch about as many reds as you could ever want to catch on a day that time of year. Funny - the day seemed prime to me. And so far, no more red nightmares.

David Cannon

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