The East Cape Chapter - A new ride

Earlier this month I picked up a new poling skiff for the fall redfish season. At a little over 19’ feet long, and powered by a Mercury 115 pro xs four stroke. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase of my new East Cape Vantage. It was really hard to trade out of a boat that served me so well the past 5 seasons. Anyone who fished the in the Ranger will attest to the sea keeping ability and overall fishiness of the skiff. From South Texas to the Florida Panhandle there were thousands of fish landed and some incredible memories made with great friends. Opportunity is where you find it. A wayward post on microskiff.com led me to a buyer in Louisiana who would be able to make good use of the skiff. An offer was made, a deal was struck, and a delivery was made.

Just a few names in the skiff game made the short list and I knew pretty much what I was looking for in a boat right off the bat. For the areas I fish a small boat just won’t cut it. I need a hull that is fast and dry in a chop. During the fall/winter bull redfish season around New Orleans long runs are the rule not the exception. An average day will be from 50 to 80 miles roundtrip and hundred mile days are not unheard of. During a trip I’m not afraid to move if the conditions or fish necessitate. Open water crossings are a daily occurrence so a hull with size and freeboard is a necessity. The East Cape Vantage is a skiff I had the occasion to fish on several years ago. The design worked well then and has stood the test of time. Being agile on the pole and having a shallow draft are qualities unheard of in a skiff this size, but the Vantage has both. Accent pieces like polished V Marine pushpole holders, a poling platform holder, and steering wheel insert really set this boat apart from the rest. Check them out at www.vmarineproducts.com.

As a loyal Navico electronics user for the past 12 years, it’s been a bit of an adjustment learning the Garmin OS. However, I am fast becoming a convert. It’s easy to see why this is the brand of choice for serious offshore anglers. The sonar function on the 840 is unmatched in its class and the speed of the processor makes switching between pages seamless. If you’ve spent any time fishing the marsh you’ll know a jackplate is essential for running the skinny water. The speed of the Atlas jackplate gives me the confidence that I can get the prop up out of the mud in a hurry when needed. I spend 99% of the time poling shallow flats sight fishing for redfish. There are times though, when Jacks and Reds are found in open water to deep to pole effectively. For this situation, the Vantage is rigged with a 24v Minn Kota Ipilot with dual Odyssey PC1200 batteries mounted in the console. It’s hard to believe these little batteries have so much power for so long. Last week I tried to kill them during the course of a day’s fishing and couldn’t do it. Amazing! The pro xs makes a ton of torque and is turning a Powertech 3 blade 19P prop. The holeshot is awesome, and top speed is in the mid 40’s with a fishing load. Full fuel, two people, and fly fishing gear. The Mercury’s fuel consumption is running between 4.5 – 6.5 miles per gallon. The Vantage has a faster cruise and better economy than my old skiff, that’s awesome.

As for poling ability this is a big boat, and will give you a workout during the course of a full day on the water. The hull tracks exceptionally straight, and spins nicely. Amazingly agile for its size was my thought the first time on the platform, it holds true today. East Cape does a great job on the build quality of these boats. Fit and finish is above bar, and the hull is laid out with ample storage to accommodate a guides equipment and the necessities of two sports. Deep gutters on the deck hatches facilitate dry storage that is unequaled. And, the front deck is easily large enough to accommodate two anglers at the same time without feeling crowded. There won’t be much live bait fishing in this boat, but the livewell is huge and works equally well for dry storage.

 

Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with the hull. This boat has exceeded my expectations in every way, and does more than you could ask for a boat this size. For more information check them out at www.eastcapeskiffs.com.  I hope you’ll come spend some time flyfishing the marsh with me this fall and see why everyone is talking about East Cape Skiffs and Louisiana Redfish.– John West

Expand Your Horizons

The books are open for fall redfish season and I’m excited to announce that starting in October of 2017 I’ll be expanding the area I cover with my charter business. For the past five years I’ve focused primarily on the east side of the Mississippi river in the Biloxi marsh area. Launching out of Hopedale I’ve fished hundreds of customers in what has and continues to be some of the most productive redfish grounds in the country. As with anything change is inevitable, and I strive to give customers new areas to fish and new water to look at. So this past year I went about exploring new areas and developing a game plan for some different fishing opportunities. Without giving away too much information on the interwebs, if you want to fish something new but still within 2 hours of New Orleans, I’ve got the fishing adventure for you. I will still guide out of Breton Sound Marina in Hopedale which gives you the ability to stay in New Orleans like always, but if you want to try something new let me know and we can work out the details. There is some really good fishing in terms of size and numbers to be had just a little bit further from town.

I just returned from a great trip to Belize where I had the opportunity to chase some silver fish in gin clear waters. One of my favorite things about this vacation is the opportunity to spend some time on the pointy end of the skiff, with a fly rod in hand instead of a push pole. I always learn something from the Belizeans. This year I learned a bit of humility. Conditions for our trip were challenging. Heavy clouds and a steady 15kt east wind made for tough sight fishing. I take a lot of pride in my ability to spot fish, so I was amazed how well bones can camouflage themselves in less than two feet of gin clear water. Luckily I had a great guide and take direction pretty well. This allowed me to land a bunch of fish during my time on the water. So if we’re on the boat this fall and I get anxious when the fish are tough to see, just ask how the fishing was in San Pedro this summer. I’ll do my best to temper my enthusiasm. This of course is an inside joke that past customers that have fished with me in less than ideal conditions will get a good chuckle out of.

As of late I have been fishing Sabine Lake in western Louisiana. I closed out New Orleans fishing in February and have been fishing the Sabine since early March. The redfish have been amazing, in spite of weather that has been challenging at times. We have a lot of grass in the estuary this spring which has made some excellent water clarity if you know where to look. The ponds are holding a lot of redfish and many days we’re able to get multiple hookups at the same time. I have a vintage Mitchell 300 and an old Fenwick glass rod that is just a blast to fight redfish on.

Looking at the weather forecast this afternoon, it appears there will be a short window later this week to run offshore and look for some Cobia, and Tripletail. Yes I know in the Western GOM they’re called Ling but I’m a Florida Native and was raised to call them Cobia. Call them what you want but everybody calls them fun, especially when you’ve hooked one on a 9wt. Keeping a forty of fifty pounder out of the oil rig, is technical even for the most experienced angler. I guarantee it’s an adventure you won’t soon forget.

If you find yourself in Houston or the Golden Triangle on business and want to go sight fishing, give me a call. You can be on the water in just over an hour from downtown Houston. I have top quality equipment from Orvis and Sage rods, with Tibor reels. A good Yeti cooler stocked with your beer of choice, and more marsh than you can see in a week. All you need is a good pair of sunglasses, a fishing license, and few minutes of downtime. I can promise you a fishing trip in an area unlike you’ve experienced anywhere on the Texas or Louisiana coast.

An Opportunity Missed

Speaking of good fishing, I was fortunate enough to have some customers from Wyoming that managed to catch a huge sheephead the last week in October. The Cajun permit truly is the fish of a thousand casts. Normally very skittish and hard to approach, this fish charged the fly from about six feet away in absolutely gin clear water. Making one of the most epic saltwater eats, ever! I have to give some credit to Umpqua Feather Merchants, this monster ate a tan redfish kwan. The kwan has been a staple in the box for a while now and is a go to in clear shallow water.  Not realizing we had a potential state record fish, I snapped a few pictures and released her to fight another day. Little did I realize what a great opportunity that slipped away. Hopefully these guys come back next fall and give me a shot at redemption.

It’s really hard to describe the weather this fall. Very warm dry conditions have the redfish acting like it is still late summer instead of fall. I can’t recall a November where the bull redfish and jack crevalle are still schooled up chasing pogy most days. These activities are typically over by mid-October, but the absence of any significant cool weather has the fishery really turned upside down. The good news is the fishing is really consistent; it’s just a little different pattern. There is just a ton of fish in the 10-15 pound range, and they have been hungry. I can’t wait to see what late fall and early winter have in store. There is still a ton of baitfish, shrimp, and crabs in the area, which is great for the overall health of the redfish. I am convinced that it’s a result of the large freshwater inflows we had to endure last January from flooding on the Mississippi River. Freshwater is what made this fishery great and is the lifeblood of the marsh in the Mississippi delta.

Great equipment is super important when you travel halfway across the country to do battle with these giant redfish. I purchased a new set of Orvis Recon 9wt fly rods a few months ago. The Recon has proven itself day in and day out over the last 90 days. The slightly more moderate action really lends itself to a good short game. Quick short shots are rewarded with lots of hard runs and singing drags in the marsh. You can be confident that I have the best equipment on the boat for you to use or as a backup for what you bring.

 I also repowered with a new Yamaha 70 four stroke a few months back. This has to be one of the best investments I’ve made. Tons of power and amazing fuel economy combine to make this motor a pleasure on the long runs to and from the grounds. The fuel economy is really good and has cut my fuel consumption by about 20%. Compared to the old 2 stroke technology the F70 is amazingly quiet, barely audible at idle. I've also picked up about 2 knots at cruise speed which is awesome. This motor should be on the short list for power on a new skiff and for repowering older hulls.

 Booking for November and December are mostly done with just a few select dates available. Let me tell you that January and February can be absolutely incredible fishing and it’s almost exclusively big bull redfish and cajun permit. There aren’t many slot redfish around that time of year and you can bet your shots will be at “Big’s”! Sure the weather could be a factor, but I guarantee the fishing will be great as long as we can get on the water. Give me a call, let’s talk fishing and figure out some dates when you can get down here and chase the redfish of a lifetime. - JLW

Summer Time Blues

Spring has sprung, the fishing is hot, and the weather is even hotter. I recently returned from Belize where I was able to spend some quality time on the pointy end of the boat with a little shorter pole in my hands. It was worth every dollar spent. The entire trip exceeded my expectations, and taught me a few valuable fishing lessons to take home. Water clarity was amazing and you could easily spot fish at great distances. In that part of the world casting accuracy is an invaluable asset. I primarily fished a 6wt for bones with a 12’ leader and 8lb tippet. With a setup like this any mistake in your cast becomes immediately apparent, but a solid casting stroke is rewarded with amazing eats and blistering runs on gin clear flats. This has become my go to practice setup because it forces you to place an emphasis on proper casting fundamentals. We don’t fish anything like this for bulls. However, if you can run a setup like that 7’ leaders and heavy flies on a 9wt will be easy even if the wind is howling. I also learned that a soft sided yeti cooler makes for an excellent piece of luggage with a great added bonus. Once you get to your destination and procure a little ice you’ll never be far from a cold bottle of water or Belekin Beer. On the way home I was forced to check the cooler because security wouldn’t let me carry on my Van Staal pliers. TSA let me carry them on the flight down but the Belizeans wouldn’t have it on the return trip. I was a little concerned about the cooler but it performed flawlessly and I wouldn’t go on another trip like this without it. I would highly recommend the Victoria House for lodging and the Bradley Bros. for guides.

Last month I opened the books for what promises to be an exciting fall and winter season for Louisiana bull redfish. For 2016 I have some new options for accommodations if you prefer not to stay in New Orleans. The last time I saw these el nino weather patterns like we’ve had so far this year the fall fishing was incredible. If you’ve never experienced fall and winter fly fishing in Louisiana make this year one to remember and book a trip. I usually start the day with a meeting for Breakfast at Penny’s before we head out for the fishing. It’s about a 45 minute run to the fishing grounds and being this far from the marina means that you’ll probably not see another boat that day and neither will the fish. You’ll spend all day being poled across the flats in search of giant redfish, black drum, and the elusive Cajun permit. It is a day that you will never forget. There is a maximum of two persons per skiff but I can easily accommodate larger groups. There is still some excellent dates available, but make your reservations early as the calendar is filling up fast. I look forward to seeing you in a few months, until then I’ll be fly fishing Sabine Lake on the western edge of Louisiana. For more information about that fishery look me up at www.sabinelakeflyfishing.com

Winters Winding Down

Finishing up the winter season, as I sit here listening to Flip Pallot extol the virtues of glades Tarpon on the Walkers Cay Chronicles. I’m drawn back to the winter redfish season. This year wound down a little earlier than usual. Warm temperatures and unprecedented water levels in the Mississippi river conspired to work against a long season this year. In spite of these conditions and a few other unforeseen challenges we managed a ton of incredible days fly fishing. Almost every trip a new personal best redfish was fought. Some days the redfish were more numerous than others. But, big fish were fought and landed every day. I’ve come to appreciate the days when conditions are not as favorable and the fly fishing is more technical. It just makes it that much sweeter when you find success. From redfish to waterfowl the entire food chain will benefit from the hardship of this winter, and should produce what promises to be an epic season this coming fall.

Looking forward, fishing opportunities abound. I intend to spend the summer working the far western edge of Louisiana. Fly fishing for redfish in and around the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. This 500,000 acre inland waterway, much of it as or more remote than Eastern Louisiana plays host to endless fly fishing opportunities. Besides the tremendous redfishing, speckled trout, and flounder are numerous as well. And of course, on those calm days when the winds are light. We will work the beaches and near shore waters out front in search of Tripletail, Kings, Snapper, and the elusive Tarpon. If you are interested in exploring this incredible and mostly untouched fishery give me a call.

This year I’ve used Instagram exclusively as my photo blog. At the bottom of each page on this site you can click on camera icon. The link will take you directly to my IG account where you can view all of the action from recent trips. I’m also in the process of upgrading to a new skiff in the coming months. I am excited at the prospect of working with a new skiff to get us to and from the fishing grounds a little faster and drier on those days the weather is less than hospitable.

If you are planning on making a trip this fall there is no time like now to get on the books. Airfare has been very inexpensive over the last few weeks. I’ve been checking regularly in anticipation of an upcoming Tarpon trip. Booking early will ensure you get your preference of dates. Check back regularly for updates on the upcoming season or feel free to call me anytime. Fishing reports are free and I’ll be happy to give you some pointers for your next trip. I hope to see you in Cajun Country for the fly fishing adventure of a lifetime. - JLW

New Year - Big Fish!

Ringing in the New Year here in New Orleans, I’ve taken some time over the past few days to reflect back on the challenges and opportunities of the previous year. The fly fishing in 2015 was really rewarding at times with a few challenges thrown in to test your resolve. The larger than normal El Nino factor has thrown a curveball in our fall fly fishing this year. There has been a significant amount of high water and a steady east wind for most of the last 3 months. But, we are still finding good numbers of really big bull redfish to cast at on a daily basis.

One of the most memorable trips of the fall was in early November with the arrival of the remnants from hurricane Patricia. My guest for the day was from North Carolina where they had endured torrential flooding just a few weeks before. We made the trip out to the marina covering about five miles with water up to a foot deep over the road and wind forecasted to decrease to around 15kts in the afternoon.  My confidence was not that high leaving the dock that morning, but someone was looking out for us that day. We ended up catching a first and personal best redfish that day in some really adverse conditions.  It was a trip that won’t soon be forgotten.  In South Louisiana the weather always factors in the fishing but it’s rarely prohibitive. Don’t sweat the conditions and trust your guide. We’ll put you on the fish.

Looking forward to the upcoming year I have a fairly busy January on the books.  If the good lords willing and the creek don’t rise I’ll get a few days in this month.  Some of the best sight fishing is yet to come in the next 90 days. When the cold fronts blow through the sun will shine.  A day or two of sunshine and warming temperatures really put the redfish on the move. My absolute favorite days are when the bull reds float. As the upper column of the water warms from bright sunshine the redfish will rise up within inches of the surface. When the conditions are right, the flats come alive with giant floating orange pumpkins. And the sight fishing is well, nothing short of epic.

One more thing, I’ve had some reports of incredibly cheap airfare into New Orleans. Fares have running under $200 at times from cities like Atlanta and Dallas. There’s still time to get in a little fly fishing for some giant bull redfish before winter is over. Give me a call and I’ll be happy to help you out with the logistics of your trip. Happy New Year - JLW

Take Your Dad Fishing

This month I want to talk about taking your dad flyfishing. I don’t get to see my dad as much as I would like to these days. He lives about 500 miles from me and with hectic schedules it makes getting together a challenge. So when he called in June and asked if he could bring my cousin and go fishing in July I jumped at the opportunity. The plan was to chase Tarpon and Redfish down in Venice on conventional gear. Normally this time of year the fishing is as hot as the weather down the river, this year was a different story however. High river levels have plagued the area for a lot of the summer making for challenging fishing at times. That being said, in this part of the country even when it’s bad it is still pretty darn good.

Over the course of 3 days we had a ton of action on giant bull redfish, trout, jacks, and red snapper. The tarpon I’m sure were there but due to the conditions we just never did nail them down. I’ve fished a lot of days this summer but fishing south Louisiana with my dad was by far the most memorable. I’ll be focused on a theme for the fall and that is going to be; take your dad fishing. I guarantee that a Louisiana fly fishing trip this fall will be one of the most memorable things you’ll ever have the chance to do with your dad.

Speaking of the fall redfish season so far I am mostly booked in November with just a few days around Thanksgiving left open. Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to be in New Orleans fly fishing. The weather makes for ideal fishing conditions and the redfish typically eat all day. I still have some open dates in December so if you are thinking of making a fishing trip give me a call. Flyfishing is stellar right now and will continue to get better as the weather cools. I’m really excited about the prospects for the fall season as a result of the freshwater influx from a high river this summer.

Lately I’ve building a new set of one piece fly rods for you to fish with this fall. After quite a bit of testing I’ve come up with a fly rod blank that is just perfect for chasing redfish in the marsh. These rods have a fast action that is really quick to load. The action makes them ideal for short shots at cruising fish, and fighting the wind when it’s blowing. If you like these rods on your trip, I’ll be happy to discuss building a custom fly rod for you. 

Call your dad and schedule some time to come down and go flyfishing in Louisiana this fall with me, you won’t regret it. The tug is the drug, and I look forward to seeing you on the water. – John West

Offshore Opportunities

Louisiana fly fishing has been pretty stellar this month. June 1st marked the opening of the 10 day federal red snapper season. I was able to hook up early in the month with some good friends who are committed to catching a Texas state record Snapper and Cobia on the fly. We had a really nice run of calm weather days early in the month which made for some outstanding sight fishing and fly fishing opportunities from Redfish to Tripletail. While we haven’t been able to catch the state record Cobia, you can bet I will be chasing him every opportunity I get. High river levels and a touch of wind has made sight fishing with a fly rod somewhat of a challenge the last few days but when the conditions for sight fishing aren’t favorable I’ve been able to get the redfish to crush topwater plugs & Buggs Lures Hydrabugs on spinning gear over shallow oyster reefs and shorelines in the marsh. Overall I would have to give June fly fishing about a 9 out of 10 for the month. I expect July will have continued excellent fly fishing as well. A falling river and calm conditions will set up excellent fly fishing conditions and almost all species are on the table this month. Redfish, Drum, Cajun Permit, Tripletail and Cobia are all possible and you can bet I’ll be out there chasing them. If you can’t get a hold of me it’s probably because I’m on the water fly rod in hand, hooked up. Mid October will kick off the start of the fall redfish run. If you have never experienced the thrill of catching monster bull redfish on a fly this is the year to treat yourself to one of the finest fly fishing trips available. And, the nightlife and atmosphere of “The Big Easy” (New Orleans) really is the icing on the cake for these trips. Open dates are booking up fast, so don’t miss your chance to come fly fishing with me. The tug is the drug and I hope to see you on the water. - JLW

Teal Next Time

I am winding down teal season and making preparations for fall redfish.  The hunting over the past two weeks has been fair to good. The best has been some great weather and the opportunity to take some cool pictures.  Swing over to the gallery and check out some recent uploads. 

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It's almost time

With the onset of September things are really starting to get good.  I'll be hunting some dove and a lot of teal the next few weeks. Preparations for the upcoming redfish season in Louisiana have begun in earnest and we still have a few dates in October open. If you're looking for the trip of a lifetime give me a call. - JLW

 

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