We went in looking for leaders and tippet. We came out with a new push pole. Now typically when you think of a point-of-sale purchase, you might think of gum, a tabloid magazine, nailclippers, or maybe those little air fresheners that hang from the rearview mirror. Not a push pole priced to sell. But hey, sometimes you come across a great deal that’s hard to pass up.
So the Professor and I drove off the lot with a push pole lodged on the dashboard and extending out the back tailgate with orange fabric wrapped around the Y-grip of the pole. Officially this was a safety precaution of course. But truthfully it was flaunting to everyone that we were headed over to the Pascagoula Marsh in Mississippi, searching for redfish.
We reached the launch and loaded our gear into the souped-up, tricked-out ready-to-ride skiff.
We played chicken with a 50% chance of thunderstorms — and won. We chased these clouds away early and had nothing but sun the rest of the day.
The water was pretty stained so we couldn’t really identify what we were seeing, but we found fish pushing around the marshy edges right out of the gate. There was a little cut between two grassy areas with some feeding action, so I tossed in a short cast from here to there as the spoon fly flies.
Boom! Tension. Fish. What was it? A flounder! A flounder? Oh, I was really excited. A new species for me on the flyrod.
After catching the flounder I proceeded to flounder, casting poorly in the wind. I was totally off kilter. We were seeing fish pushing around constantly but nothing would eat my fly. Lots of mullet were taunting me. Despite the fishing lull, the weather was sublime, the temperature temperate, and the scenery gorgeous.
I decided to take the push pole out for a spin. I felt like I did in the 6th grade when my dad let me drive the orange family station wagon up and down our dead-end street. Right out of the gate the fancy new push pole was much easier to hold than those heavy slabs of wood. It was so light – hey, this baby turns like it’s on rails! Woops, except it’s turning the wrong way.
It took me a few seconds to figure out how to get the bow pointed where I wanted it to go. But I’d say I got the feel of it, if only a test drive. I poled us along the edges and managed to keep us out of the grass, which was a coup.
The wind came along and that was a new challenge. After some experimentation I figured out to keep the pole downwind against the side of the boat to keep us from blowing into the marsh. Just as I read in Capt. Tony Patrella’s article on poling a flats skiff, “Don’t let stubbornness overwhelm common sense. Remember: the wind always wins.”
Unfortunately no fish were caught when I was behind the wheel of the push pole. But there was a natural intoxication to the beauty of the day so we decided to switch gears and dive into our picnic. Luckily there’s no law against push poling under the influence.
After lunch my cast came back to me. We found some super fishy looking oyster bars and worked them over pretty good, not once but twice. Alas, no redfish. No trout. Just those pesky mullet. I may have seen a very small redfish spook from under the boat, but I’m not even sure about that.
Full and content with our day on the water, we decided to wrap up the poling and the fishing and cruise up river for fun. We were heading back to the launch when we spotted some bait busting on top of the water. Quick! Cut the motor, grab the pole, grab the rod!
We worked several patches of nervous water, trying to chase whatever was chasing these bait fish. Slowly pushing and gliding from one nervous patch to the next. I was about to make a cast when something crashed just to my left. I re-directed in midair and placed a sloppy, but efficient cast right into the action.
BAM! What the hell is it? Trout? No…a Spanish Mackerel!!! Another new species for me on the flyrod. And one with teeth!
What a trip. We went to the shop looking for leaders and came out with a push pole. We went to the water looking for redfish and came out with Flounder and Spanish Mackerel. Somewhat like a used car lot, I suppose you just never know what gems you’re going to uncover in a Mississippi marsh.