coastal louisiana dock
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

Vanishing Paradise I: Pure life

Coastal Louisiana is disappearing right before our eyes

“Pura vida,” said Erin Brown as the boat hummed across brackish waters. Erin is the sportsmen outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation’s Vanishing Paradise program. More importantly, Erin is a coastal Louisiana native in love with her home. “Pura vida means pure life,” she said. “They say it everywhere in Costa Rica.

Pick between two styles: Scaly Redfish (yellow/red) and Striper (charcoal/light blue).

Get some Hatch Magazine gear

Featuring two different pieces of Paul Puckett artwork

We've had a bunch of folks writing via email and social media lately asking where to get Hatch Magazine gear — shirts, hats, stickers and so on. So we decided to stop dragging our feet and get to work on it.

We teamed up with the prolific and stupidly talented Paul Puckett from Flood Tide Co. and have put two shirts together. Each features one of Paul's sketches. You pick: Scaly Redfish or Striper.

Everglades Black Drum
The prom queen (photo: Dan Decibel).

An awakening in The Glades

I’m not a morning person. A 7 a.m. trico hatch? No way. Give me an evening Drake hatch any day. Tailing reds at sunrise? Not a chance. I’ll be there at sunset.

But my perspective on early-morning fishing all changed one Sunday when I met Dan Decibel for a late December trip to Flamingo.

Everglades Black Drum
The prom queen (photo: Dan Decibel).

I called him the night before from my hotel in Homestead. It was late. I asked what time we should meet. Thinking we’d meet at 7 or 8 AM, Dan suggested 5. I set the alarm for 4:15 and made sure the coffee pot worked. Four hours later, Dan’s silver truck pulled into the hotel parking lot, a Gheenoe Low Tide in tow.

Sustained by Red Bull and breakfast bars, we drove toward Florida City. About an hour later, we arrived in Flamingo, the southernmost point of Everglades National Park, greeted by hordes of blood-sucking mosquitoes.

South Carolina Redfish Eating Shrimp
Redfish gorge on shrimp in muddy shallows outside Charleston, South Carolina (photo: Doug Roland).

The Wine Cork

In my limited experience, the easiest way to catch a redfish is at low tide, casting to pods of cruising fish in relatively shallow, but too deep to stand in, water. It's still not easy, but if you get your fly in front of the cruising pod, strip it properly and the fish are in the mood to eat, you stand a decent chance at a hookup. The most exciting way to catch a redfish, however, is casting to single, sighted fish in the shallows on a flood tide. If you've ever stalked redfish this way, scouting for tails, doing your best to determine where the plucky red you're targeting will be looking when you hurriedly toss your best cast in its direction, you know that eats don't come easily. Redfish can be choosy eaters, and the conditions can be difficult.

South Carolina Redfish Eating Shrimp
Redfish gorge on shrimp in muddy shallows outside Charleston, South Carolina (photo: Doug Roland).

Given such, the idea of catching redfish on a popper seems wholly unlikely, if not ridiculous. As it turns out, it's not, as guides and South Carolina redfish junkies Owen Plair and Harry Tomlinson recently showed. Word is, when redfish are gorging on shrimp in the autumn shallows, choosiness goes right out the window and they'll eat just about anything. And, not only will they take a popper, they'll take one fashioned out of a wine cork.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise. Not long ago I learned that, despite a typical of salmon fishing featuring countless casts and swings only to turn up nothing more than a few tugs, even salmon can be caught on poppers when the conditions are right. So why not redfish?

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