The future of fly fishing

  Southern Louisiana is arguably the best fishery in the country. If not in the world. Its vast marshes and bayou's are home to trophy bass and red fish fishing that attracts millions of anglers every year. It is also home to the growing sport of kayak fishing. And as no surprise, people come from all over the world to to fly fish in the "Sportsman's Paradise". With this huge attraction comes with a demand.

  Luckily for us kayakers, there is a surplus of great outfitters in Louisiana and Mississippi. I can honestly say that in my 3 short years of this incredible sport, I have met and worked with all of these outfitters in one way or another. Each and everyone of them are all willing to go above and beyond what they need to just to make sure that their customers are well taken cared of and happy. This also goes for John Williams and the Pack & Paddle crew in  Lafayette, La.

  Pack & Paddle is a wonderful outfitter in Lafayette, La. that literally has everything you could ever need for hiking, camping, and you guessed it....KAYAKING!! But did you know that they recently added a fly fishing section as well? John and the rest of the crew over there are actually avid fly fishermen and ambassador's of fly fishing as a hole. 

 

  A few months back we were hosting a fly fishing tournament and John on side of Eddie and Lisa Mullen of PAC Kayak Rentals donated a Jackson Mayfly to our organization for us to raffle off. The tournament was considered a huge success by many with nearly 50 anglers competing. There was also no shortage of Pack & Paddle team members. John then asked me to help him with an event being held at his shop labeled "Fly Fishing Hangout". I excitedly agreed!

  On July 15th, hundreds of interested guests merged on to the Pack & Paddle shop in hopes to learn what ever they possibly could about fly fishing and its amazing benefits. This hangout was definitely a family event with many of people bringing their kids to see all the really cool stuff they had to offer. Sabine Skiffs (A Louisiana  made boat) was there to show off their boats. John and his team were all their to share their knowledge with anyone wanting to learn. Their was a few gentlemen there with more than 30 years of experience for each of them. I was maybe a little star struck by a few the guests.

  I was asked to be a demonstrator in show my abilities (or lack thereof) of tying flies. There were a number of incredible tiers already at the table. To be honest, I purposely did not bring my vise out because I felt I didn't belong next to them. I could not be any further from the truth. After the event was done, I hesitantly broke out my fly box to show my progression in my flies. The guys were not giving me praise just to make me feel better. They were genuinely impressed with my flies and gave me an added fuel to my fire for this amazing sport we love so much!

 

  At the end of the day, John called everyone outside for a little friendly competition that provided tons of laughs and cheers! This is when I got to see a different side of John in which did not surprise me one bit. I had my 2 youngest kids there who were wanting to learn how to cast a fly rod. John was excited to be able to show them some basics to get them started. When he was working with Jax (my 6 year old son), you could tell he was doing something that he genuinely loved to do in helping teach our sports future anglers. Im not sure what made Jax more excited, the fact he actually hit his mark or the cheers from the crowd for his success.

 

  When it was all said and done, I left there wanting to hurry home and tie as many flies as I could. It got me even more excited to grab all my gear and hit the water in hopes of landing another one of those copper top beauties I love so much. But most importantly, it made me proud to be apart of this community that much more. There is definitely something special about the men and women that make up the kayak and fly fishing community here in beautiful Louisiana. If you have a minute, head over to www.packpaddle.com and see more of the amazing gear they have to offer.

Family Ties

 It is easy to get tied up in our day to day hustle. Our grind, our 9 - 5 if you will, can at times, take over our lives. Make us forget what really is important. At times it almost seems that we can miss the opportunities that is right in front of our faces. 

 I want to ask all of you reading this to do one thing. What is the best time you've had on the water? The most memorable moment, the biggest catch, or the moment that brings joy to your life while you think about it. I have quite a few. And they all involve the young man standing to my left.

 This past weekend, February 11th and 12th, I had the daunting task of having 6 teenage boys on the house boat at Pointe Aux Chenes Kayak Rentals. Once again, Eddie and Lisa Mullens has gone so far above and beyond anything I could ever ask for! They always take care of us! This weekend was slightly stressful for me I must say. I was honestly worried about making sure my Son, Lukas, A.K.A. Dragon punch O.G. triple triple rockhands was going to have the best birthday weekend to date. Yes you heard me correct, his birthday. His 17th birthday at that. Pray for me now!

 I will say this, it started out pretty freaking awesome. our good friend Burley McCarter met up with us at Waffle house and we all got our fat boy grub on! Man its crazy how much food a small sized teenager can eat. I seriously think at one point I had to stop Lukas from eating the steering wheel. We met up with ur good fries Noel Blanton and his son Zach. And as true Eddie Mullen fashion, I was met with the usual jabs and jokes (the reason why I know they are family!). 

We got out on the water later than our normal time of day break. The water was slightly low but that is to be expected for the frigid Louisiana winter. See the sarcasm I put there? Well, It was a crazy day. The reds were there in abundance as they always are. But they were scared of thrown shadow. No matter what we did, THEY SPOOKED!!!! However, we all laughed, and picked, and we most importantly had fun!

 This is where it got amusing. I literally had 4 teenage boys loaded up and hungry in a 4-runner. About 7 pounds of fish fillets, hush puppies, and fries, a case of beer (no kids drank beer although Im pretty sure Zach may have snuck a few), and live bait! The boys literally got out of the truck and started fishing. Im almost positive they didn't stop till we left to go home on Sunday.

 Sunday was pretty cool. I cooked some breakfast for everyone on the boat and we got on the water. it started pretty slow but we quickly got into a slamming trout bite. The specks were throwing my Overcast Lure top water out of the water and devouring it! Everyone was hooking up and having a FREAKING BLAST!!!!! This all followed up to ole dragon punch hooking up on a good sized red but it jumping off at the boat. Burley caught his first fish on top water and we probably spooked 18 trillion other reds. 

 But the most important thing about this weekend is watching my amazing son. Admiring the young man he has become. His selflessness and care for others. He definitely has ability I think the rest of the world could learn from. He truly enjoyed himself. It was evident in his smile and his laughter. As I am sitting in my chair tonight and sharing this story, I reflect on so many memories we have shared together. The smiles and laughs on the water as we have celebrated his achievements. those achievements are the most memorable for me. the most amazing!!!!

SEPTEMBER 24TH TROLL SQUAD / HEROES ON THE WATER EVENT

Well, let me first start off by saying this event started off awesome and then quickly started to get scary as it may have not happened. It almost appeared as if we were not going to be able to pull this off with its short notice and having to get everything planned so fast. But as the true ninjas we are, we still managed to put on probably the most fun and best event to date! 

 Next I have to give a HUGE shout out to Eddie and Lisa Mullen of Pointe Aux Chene Kayak Rentals. That place freaking ROCKS!!!!!  If you have not made the drive to check them out yet, YOU ARE MISSING OUT!!!!!!!! Their launches are so easy to load and unload with a ton of space for getting your gear ready and parking. You can always count on as soon as you pull up seeing Eddie and Lisa smiling and offering to help you get your stuff in the water. Not only that but they also have everything you possibly need from Live bait, ice, and any other tackle you need for a successful day on the water. OH!!!! And the fishing there! ITS FREAKING AMAZING!!!!!

 Now Shawn Babin and myself had the opportunity take out 5 guys this weekend with 2 of them being amputees and 1 Vietnam veteran as well. Also in keeping with our dedication to not only our veterans but also to our emergency response personnel, one of our vets was also an East Baton Rouge Sheriff Deputy as well. Our goal of getting these warriors on the water and providing them with a great, fun, relaxing experience was achieved and then some!

 We got on the water around 0700 and headed into the marsh north of the launch (I was hunting for miss Lisa's secret spot which I couldn't find!) and had lines in the water immediately. It didn't take us long to get fish in the yak's with everyone catching some small speckled trout and a few ret reds. Then we here those famed words "FISH ONE! AND ITS A BIG ONE!" We'll just call him the old man. As he was one of the vets step father and he is a vet himself, hooked up on a nice slot red. This is immediately followed by the normal congratulatory remarks and of course the common trash talk found on south Louisiana waters! Not very long after this we here another fish on with another perfect slot red pulling the vets on a small cajun sleigh ride.

 After a few more red reds and small trout were caught, we decided to head back to the launch and stretch out our legs and grab a little chow. Paul Tullier met us at the launch with a pot of some jam up jambalaya and drinks and gave the guys some HOW shirts, hats, and neck buffs. After everyone was done and let their food settle, those guys were already grabbing the yak's and heading out before I could even suggest making another trip out! With somewhat of a nonproductive afternoon, we all decided to call it an evening, head in and load up. After all, it was Saturday afternoon, in southern Louisiana, during football season, which meant 1 thing. LSU FOOTBALL BABY!!!! We loaded up and headed home.

 If you sit back and look at it as a fishing trip to get guys out on the water then yeah, we accomplished that this day. But it was so much more than that! To be able to see the smiles and the laughs and the bonds created and strengthened bonds first hand is amazing. Having these heroes that sacrifice so much for us and our freedoms thank us and tell us how much fun they had is such a blessing. For a man that volunteered to march into combat, in the face of evil and death, that has suffered unimaginable pain both physical and emotional tell me that he has found a new passion in kayak fishing, reassures me that this quest we are on for service to them, is the correct path in my life I am choosing!

 

To contact Eddie and Lisa to check availability of their House boat for a get away or for any other questions, call

Eddie: (225)573-4085

Lisa: (225)244-1547

Why we do what we do

 You know, I sit here looking at all that is going on around us and think about what beauty can be found in it. All this devastation, tragedy, and lives destroyed. How can there be beauty in it? I mean the amount of people that have had their entire lives washed away by an unimaginable force of nature. How can any beauty be found in that? Simple answer...

 My wife and I decided we had to attempt to make a store run today and the only choice was to stand in line and wait in the rain. There were probably close to 100 people all waiting patiently in line while most were unprepared for the continuous rain we have been plagued with recently. The few that were, shared their umbrellas welcoming complete strangers to get close to their personal  space to stay dry. But thats not the thing that stood out the most.

 Rewind the clock a few weeks and you see more pain and suffering within our communities from rioting, violence and shooting of our law enforcement. A divide has been set by those that want destruction. They want us to hate each other. But they can not and WILL NOT divide us. 

 As my wife and I were in the store, a large black man, clearly in his late 40's was shopping and seemed to be distraught. His buggy was slightly in the path of where I needed to walk. I asked politely, "excuse me brother". He was adamant that I just push his buggy out of the way and was clear to apologize. We exchanged a brief exchange of "I hope everything is ok for you" and "If there is anything I can do, please let me help you.". Now neither one of us was offering empty gestures and meant every word we said. But he said something that really stood out to me and will make me remember his face for the rest of my life. He was so upset with himself for being so selfish. I told him no, he isn't selfish at all but he stopped me. He told me he felt so horrible because he has lived in his neighborhood for 5 years and has only been introduced to his neighbors as he was saving them from flooding waters.

 Now, what does this have to do with kayak fishing? Well Ill explain. Yesterday morning, my son and I loaded up to go help as many people as we could. We had already had a mission set in front of us to help a friend reach her grandmothers house house to make sure her home was safe. On the way we passed our good friends Jared and Kalley Leroy in their "Paddle Wagon" bus evacuating hundreds of people. We passed more kayakers rushing towards the danger to risk their lives to help people they have never met. Law enforcement and fire personnel alike expressed their appreciation of us getting to where they could not. Every Kayak angler I know in this general area has been going non stop to help people they have never met.

 I guess ultimately as I am getting older I am finding more in more beauty in the darkest of places. Seeing the way we, as a people, who are born to love one another, are uniting to reach out our hands in compassion and in faith. That no matter how bad the situation can get, the human nature is still to protect those around us. To help out when the only resource available is that of the heart.

July 22nd Heroes On the Water

  For many of you that know any of the Squad know that the majority of us are either veterans, reservists, or still active duty. For those that aren't, they are HUGE supporters of our veterans. I had the privilege of last year getting affiliated with the Southeast chapter of Heroes on the water. In what started with just something to volunteer my time to help a few guys get out on the water turned into a passion for me and my family.

 This year has been no different. My son, Lukas, has been with me to most of the events since late last year. This months event I had the chance to take out my wife to share this experience with. WE HAD A BLAST! When we got int he truck to go home, she turned to me and said "WOW! That was amazing I was able to be apart of that!"

  This months event took place in Chef Menteurs pass which is an incredible fishery year around. Its a spot I thoroughly enjoy hitting because it so close and all the species available. My wife and I were running a few minutes behind but were able to make it in time for the safety brief, help get everyone launched and get our group of 3 vets which turned out to add another 4 vets and my good friend Mike Gamble. After we got everyone situated and comfortable in their kayaks, off we went. With a few guys having never fished much and most have never really fished salt water much, it was a very successful trip! The day started out in our group with me catching a pretty small large mouth that was followed with one of our vets hooking up to a really nice 19.25" redfish! It took a little while longer before another hook up. One thing that is awesome about Chef Pass is the variety of species! Another largemouth is on.

 At around 1115, it was about time to get everyone rounded up and headed over to the launch. A quick paddle across the pass we meet up with Paul Tullier and the group he has in his boat (I know, Kayak fishing only right?) and they let us know that one of our frequent vets, Jason Kahl, absolutely killed it! Jason hauled in 3 flounder and another really nice slot red! Man were they excited! As soon as we got back to the launch we could smell the amazing BBQ they had almost ready, heard all the laughs from everyone involved, and all the animated stories from everyone that made it out on the water!

  All in all these events aren't about fishing. They are not about kayaking. They are about giving back. Giving these guys an escape. Helping them ease their minds from the hazards of combat. Not every vet has visible wounds. So many men and woman come back injured but most people would never even know. The invisible wounds are the ones that torment them the most. Our nations military are warriors. That alone gives them a strength most would never understand or be able to comprehend. But its those invisible wounds that hurt the most. These events we are lucky enough to be apart of does so much for them. I am just thankful they allow me to be apart of it and share their time on the water doing what I love the most!

 

Mangrove Madness 2016 Pine Island Florida

Mangrove Madness turned out to be an amazing 8 days of intense fishing, fun, and of course SHENANIGANS! 10 guys from different walks of life from all over the country came together to do their best in what would be the trip of a lifetime! All outfitted in Hobie kayaks, we did our best every day to learn what would land us the biggest and most catch of the day competing to not win the dreaded Carlos award!

 Day 1 started out slow but we learned the water was not in our favor and we needed to find clearer water. Although a few landed some amazing speckled trout on an intense top water bite, the day turned out to be slow. Ivy Hooked on to something massive and angry. We didn't get to see what it was, but we did get to see it almost decapitate Danny as he didn't have time to move.

Day 2 we once again tried our luck inshore with much of luck being the same as day 1. although we split into 2 groups, only a few decent fish were caught. The north group did end up getting into the shark daycare and caught enough for anyone's liking. Our group did net a few nice trout and a snapper or 2.

Day's 3 and 4 we fished from the surf and it was BANANA'S!!!!! As soon as the bite turned on, it was a drag screaming, hook bending, bait destroying awesome time!

Day 5 we went back inland to Ding Darling. While it wasn't what we were looking for, it turned out to be promising. A few really nice specks and a really nice snook were definitely the highlights of the day. Although I will say, catching 2 more bucket list species was pretty amazing even though the were small. I started the day off with back to back Jack and Mangrove Snapper.

Day 6 and 7 was, well, what can I say, what I was looking for! Started day 6 off with finding the trout bite. while I did lose possibly the biggest trout Ill ever see, I did catch a good bit more throughout the remainder of the day. Pat caught a really nice red and a few snapper to round out day 6. Day 7 was the same but a LOT more snook! I will say both days were good days!

Day 8 was our last day as we left early in the morning. Sad to see it come to an end, all of us were ready to be back home to our families and our own beds. A big thank you to Erin Lambert, our realtor that helped make this trip possible. Also to Heath Panganiban with Yak Tribe and all his support. Also to Monster 3 x, Carrot stix, Fins Braid, Lazyman Hooks, and last but not least, everyone that was able to make this trip!