If you’re one of the 467 people that follow me on Twitter, then you will know that last week I was in beautiful LA, that’s Lower Alabama for all us yankees. Most people in my neck of the woods don’t even know there is a beautiful stretch of beach along the barrier islands at the mouth of Mobile Bay near Fort Morgan Alabama. More specifically than that we stayed in a spacious and beautifully appointed house right smack on the beach at Kiva Dunes, a quiet and well cared for property with great facilities and a well manicured, albeit a bit tight, golf course.
It really doesn’t get much better than a week, with nothing to do but go to the beach and recharge the batteries.
Of course for me recharging the batteries, means fishing.
While I did get in a few fairly decent rounds of golf, one an honest mid-eighties round which for me is as good as I get, I did manage to FINALLY get the skunk off of the 8WT Ross that’s been sleeping in my closet.
I bought that outfit for a steelheading trip that never materialized. The run happened too early that year and we switched fisheries and tactics at the last minute. That trip has since morphed into a more riverine trout trip on the Au Sable and as such the 8WT has been slumbering and has sadly only appeared in the sunlight for some lawn casting since I’ve owned it.
So it traveled down to the beach with high hopes of kayaking the intercoastal and back bays behind the island for red fish and sea trout. But this year we didn’t rent the kayaks that we have in the past and I found the fishing on the beach good enough that I didn’t really need to go rent a boat.
As soon as you set foot near the beach you can see the ladies in the surf, if they are there. They seem to arrive late in the afternoon, although their movement is probably tied more to the tides than it is the sun, but while we were there, it was afternoon when the wind and the waves kicked up. I think it might have to do with how they hunt and eat and how their prey behaves in the surf. Unlike the Mullett and Jack’s, which I also caught on the fly, the ladyfish seemed to ride the waves and use the wave’s energy to their advantage, All the lady fish takes I had were in the middle of a wave, plain as day.
This is sight fishing of the highest order, which is what I love. Not a lot unlike what the guys in Baja do for rooster fish, except everything is on a slightly smaller scale, fish, waves, tackle etc.
When a breaker would build up the fish seemed to ride the wave up and angle their bodies about 45 degrees to the beach and pitch nose down. If you could land a fly even within a few feet of a pod of fish riding the wave, one would break out of the pod and hammer the fly. Like baby Tarpon, they are actually in the same family as tarpon, their mouths have a bunch of bony plates in them, so hooking up is a difficult. I lost a lot more fish than I landed, but the ones that I did hook up with put up a nice fight, jumped and ran like you expect from a predatory salt water game fish. Ladyfish grow up to 36″ long though the biggest I landed was in the 24″category. I’ve driven farther for smaller fish that’s for sure.
The most exciting moment for me came when a lady turned on my tripple ought Clouser minnow and broke me off. She opened up with a mouth as big as a tennis ball facing right at me staring down her throat, and she swallowed the fly head first in the crystal clear breaking wave. After a split second I did the old scissor strip strike to set the hook. She pointed her her tail right at me, made like a freight train for the horizon and snapped me off. That was a ten pounder, and she is now swimming around in the crystal celar water with a triple ought chartruse and white lip ring.
The Gulf Shores area and Mobile Bay were hit hard by last year’s oil spill, but I think it is on a road to recovery. There were crews on the beach picking up tar balls, which sounds really bad if you haven’t ever seen a tar ball in the flesh. But honestly tar balls look a lot like black sea shells and will probably for the most part be absorbed back into the eco system. The water was as clear as I’ve ever seen it, and the life in the water was as abundant as I’ve ever seen as it there as well. Our kids played on the beach, my brother and I snorkeled a lot, and generally you couldn’t tell anything tragic happened if nobody told you.
There were plenty of businesses and families that suffered and are still suffering greatly and I can’t even begin to imagine the damage that was done, some of it irreparable, but by and large the ladies are still there in full force.
So next time you’re in the area, take your 8WT and bang some ladies, because they will eagerly gulp a fly and put up an honerable fight for you, and that’s something, right?