Tag Archives: Maui Jim Sunglasses

Let’s Make Some Noise!

Lets make some noise 1Angler: Aaron Rubel with a 23″ redfish caught in a seam of water flowing off a peninsula.
Photographer: Jameson Redding

The past couple of weeks along the north central Gulf Coast has been, like much of the country, blustery weather.  Temperatures have dipped as low as 15F accompanied with stiff north winds.  As fronts pass, wind direction changes, and as a result water clarity vanishes.  During the past few seasons of fishing the Mobile Bay and Pensacola area, I have found that January is the time to put the fly rod in reserve, and instead experiment with spinning and baitcasting techniques.

Another thing I have learned is during periods of dark water, the angler needs to be a little more strategic about where to spend effort seeking fish.  Look for water that is still moving, yet out of the main current such as a seam flowing off a peninsula from a tidal river.  A seam is anywhere you see faster water flowing along slower or slack water.  The friction between the two different speeds of water creates a visible “seam” on the surface.  The fish will often reside on the side of the softer, slower water.  Holding in this position decreases the effort they exert as the fish wait to ambush food drifting by in the faster water.  I always position myself on the side with quicker water and cast to the seam.  This way, there is less of a chance to line the fish you’re casting to.

Find a choke point that maintains a current and yet has structure protecting it.  The protection combined with the pinch point will assist in optimizing clarity through increased speed of water and obstructing or absorbing matter.  Subtle differences are what you are looking for as fish are seeking even a small advantage to the food source and reduced turbidity.

Fish can taste, smell, feel, touch, and see.  When using artificial flies or lures during tough winter conditions, sight is limited.  I typically use techniques that don’t trigger the sense of smell and this presents an even greater challenge to catching fish in these tough conditions.

Lets make some noise 2

In this case, triggering the sense of feel is important.  A lure or fly that emits vibration is key.  Fish feel vibrations through the lower part of the inner ear combined with a lateral line running the better part of the length of their body.  On January days when winds have blown water turbid, I tend to go to a lure like the Badonk-A-Donk SS.  This will swim subsurface, and the two balls rattling inside the head create vibration in addition to the lure movement in water.  Force it to swim erratically to create maximum vibration and evoke nervousness of a baitfish.


Once the fish has engaged on the sense of vibration and flight of lure, sight must close the deal.  Color choice is important in darker water.  My go to preference for color in saltwater or an estuary that is stained during daytime is blue.  The color blue has a short wavelength of light which means it is not absorbed as fast as other colors with longer wavelengths of light.  Selecting a color like blue or purple seeks to gain every advantage to lengthen the distance the fish can initially focus in on your lure or fly in cloudy water.

Don’t hesitate to venture out on the water during the height of winter.  There will be fewer anglers to compete with.  Avoid cotton clothing and opt for wearing synthetics.  Select good neoprene foot protection with wool socks inside to keep dry and warm.  Make sure to have a high quality pair of polarized eyewear like Maui Jim Sunglasses to cut glare, protect your eyes, and help prevent headaches.  Finally, find a choice lure that creates vibration and utilizes colors of short wavelength of light such as blues and purples to bring out the predatory instincts of your target fish.

Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Fall Tournaments On the Fly

Fall Tournaments on Fly 1Photograph by: Marty Smith
Angler: Aaron Rubel

An unusual award for an unlikely species.  Recently, I participated in a couple tournaments that benefited great causes.  In early November, the Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association held its’ annual fall tournament to raise funds and awareness for Heroes on the Water.  Following that up, I fished in the inaugural Kingfisher Classic.  The tournament’s goal was to raise awareness for the great work the Weeks Bay Foundation is doing to preserve and expand natural habitat as well as contribute toward educational and volunteer opportunities along the bay coastline.

Fall Tournaments on Fly 270 competitors signed up to compete for a $500 first place prize in five categories which included redfish, speckled trout, flounder, bass, and bream.  When I heard about the tournament, I was shocked and excited that $500 would be offered to the winner of a bream category.  There was only one problem.  The engine block in my kayak car had cracked days before and was in the shop being replaced.  That meant, I had no plan to transport my Hobie Pro Angler 12 to the water.  That is, until my wife generously volunteered her mini-van.  So, out came the seats and in went the kayak!


The rules stated that waters were limited to tributaries of Mobile Bay, which heightened the competitiveness of the bass and bream categories.  The salinity of Mobile Bay tends to challenge growth rates of area bass and bream.  However, I had been catching some relatively nice bream in previous weeks on the fly.

Fall Tournaments on Fly 3Low tide and peak feeding window that morning surprised me.  The fish fed better at low tide than when current was moving, and their location were predictably centered in river.

Fall Tournaments on Fly 4Fortunately, the cloudy day made for some great bream fishing and I was fortunate to place second in the category.  I was the only kayaker and fly angler among the 70 anglers in the tournament.  That was probably the most rewarding feeling of placing high in standings.

Fall Tournaments on Fly 5All fifteen bream caught during the tournament were on a black, chartreuse, and red top water fly.  I had tried various other color combinations of different fly patterns, but on this day they were turned on to the darker colors.

Fall Tournaments on Fly 6Pictured from left to right: Aaron Rubel receiving 2nd place award, Jeff Dute (Mobile Bay Press Register Outdoor Writer), and Ben Raines (Executive Director of Weeks Bay Foundation)

Thank you to the Weeks Bay Foundation for running this story in the Winter 2013 edition of the Pelican Post: http://www.weeksbay.org/pelican_post/pp-winter-low-res.pdf

Official results of all categories in the Kingfisher Classic as reported by the Weeks Bay Foundation:
Speckled trout:
1st place:  M. Wilson, 6.16 lbs
2nd place:  O. Harrison, 5.23 lbs

1st place:  J. Mann, 6.99 lbs
2nd place:  K. Olmstead, 5.95 lbs

1st place:  O. Harrison, 2.68 lbs
2nd place:  M. Foster, 2.02 lbs

Largemouth bass:
1st place:  W. Miller, 1.17 lbs
2nd place:  A. Dobson, 1.12 lbs

1st place:  T. Nelson, .39 lbs
2nd place:  A. Rubel, .32 lbs

Copyright 2013 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Red October

Angler: Landon Rubel, with Chuck Fisk
Photographer: Aaron Rubel

Fall colors peak along the Gulf Coast in October.  The color red, that is.  After enduring a long and muggy summer, the angler is rewarded with great opportunities to find redfish as fall sets in.

An effective way for the adult fly angler and child to enjoy a day on the water together was introduced to me by good friend, Chuck Fisk.  We brought both fly rods and conventional fishing gear to the beach.  Chuck and I started the day by wading in the shallows and catching ladyfish on clouser minnow flies.  The ladyfish went into the cooler.  Later, they were transformed into cut bait and drifted just beyond the surf on conventional rods to entice bull redfish.  Bull redfish are adults of the species that have grown on average above 26 inches and made their way out of the marshes, into the larger bays and open waters of the Gulf.

Red October 2Ladyfish on the fly

The technique of combining fly fishing and conventional tackle proved successful as Landon caught a tremendous redfish on the coast of Mobile Bay.  We also had the opportunity to teach him that although we sacrificed one species of fish, releasing another is important to the preservation of future generations of game fish.

Chuck Fisk, Gulf Coast Council Conservation Director of the International Fly Fishing Federation,
demonstrates proper release of a redfish.
Photographer: Aaron Rubel

Do you want to seek more secluded water in search of Redfish?  Close encounters with big reds are possible in backwaters by use of kayaks specifically designed for fishing.  The low profile construction enables opportunities for sight fishing and short casts.  The kayak also serves as cushion to the tension of line between angler and the strength of Redfish.

Angler: IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Champion, Benton Parrott, with a nice Mobile Bay area redfish
Photographer: Aaron Rubel

Whether you enjoy the breezy beach or tranquil marsh, Red October is the time to reach the water for one of the Gulf Coast’s favorite species.

A Mobile Bay area marsh redfish on the fly
Angler and Photographer: Aaron Rubel

Thank you to YakAngler.com for running this story:  http://www.yakangler.com/kayak-fishing-techniques/item/2631-red-october

Copyright 2013 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Seeds That Sprout

Seeds that Sprout 1

Our pursuits of catching that trophy fish are focused out on the water.  Yet, those dreams would not be possible without healthy habitat within and surrounding the fishery.


This weekend began with an evening of fly fishing in the yak along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.  Then, thoughts turned inland to participate with my family and Cub Scout pack in the 26th annual Alabama Coastal Cleanup.


Spending a few hours removing debris from the marsh not only benefits the watershed, but also plants seed in young lives that sprouts excitement to care for the environment God blessed us with.

Copyright 2013 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Organizing Fishing Gear Part 2 – Clothing

Organizing Fishing Gear ClothingIt’s 12:00AM and just three hours before crawling out of bed to beat the sunrise to the water’s edge.  Frustrated and tired, the one piece of clothing needed is no where to be found.

Sound familiar?  The challenge to maximize available space and utilize it for saving time pays dividends.  A good night’s rest and low stress is important for enjoying the most out of a fishing trip.

I’m always looking for something that can’t be found just before going fishing.  I’ll admit it.  So, I decided to find one space that could store all my fishing clothes.  I also needed a way to quickly access small and large pieces in less than a minute, literally.

A company named Canopy manufactures a very useful hanging closet organizer that has a hook and loop attachment that wraps around a clothing bar.  Three large shelves within the organizer allow for both warm and cold weather under and outer wear.  Below are eight smaller boxes that store a surprising number of items to be at the ready when needed.

Those items I wear most and some that are hard to find will go into the organizer in the middle of the closet.  Hanging to the right and left are jackets, long pants, or heavier shirts that I sometimes select based on weather or fishing conditions.  This simple solution for organizing my clothes will go a long way toward a relaxed preparation for a great day of fishing.

Copyright 2013 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

A Poor Man’s Tarpon Is My Treasure…A World Record?

Saturday began as a special morning as I had the opportunity to take five of my friends out fishing, of which four had not done so from a kayak yet. The weather was sketchy at best as severe thunderstorms had been rolling through our Gulf Coast communities all week at various times of the day. Strategically, we decided to launch our kayaks at dawn within some waters protected from the west winds with access to a small bay. I was excited to share my sport with some good friends, but also it was the first fishing outing in my new kayak, the Hobie Pro Angler 12 recently released.

The fishing picked up around 7:00AM and by end of the morning between the six of us, we had caught seven species of fish, including flounder and speckled trout. The weather remained cloudy and although there was wind, it was manageable.

I was fly fishing, as I nearly always do. Reading the maps prior to the outing I noticed a drop off just beyond the piers that lined the shore, and made a mental note that I would fish this transition during the tide movement that morning near an inlet. I normally carry three fly rods on my kayak, so to be rigged with different fly patterns tied to a 6wt, 8wt, and 10wt rod. Between the three different options, I am ready for wind or finesse, whatever may be required for the situation.

At 7:30AM, I missed a good fish that only remained on for a second. Picking the floating line off the water, I made one false cast and delivered the olive and white clouser minnow fly right back where I had the first bite. As soon as I started the retrieval, a large fish crashed my fly just beneath the surface and made a strong run. I keep my drag relatively light after losing a fish last year when it was too tight. This time it was too loose and the force of the first run spun the reel faster than the line was running out and tangled my line inside the reel. While stripping to clear the tangle, I had to maintain focus on keeping leverage on the fish as it was now swimming back toward my kayak. During the next couple of runs, the fish ended up stripping all 105 feet of fly line off my reel to the backing. As I gained ground on the nice ladyfish, I remembered something told to my friends as we launched. I had misplaced my net that morning in the garage and with tongue in cheek I told them that I hoped I didn’t catch a large fish for fear of losing it in attempting to land it by hand. The fight came to a close after ten or so leaps into the air, a few strong runs, and a ten minute battle. The ladyfish was ready for landing once brought to the side of my new PA12.

Angler: Aaron Rubel Photo by Matt Jones

Angler: Aaron Rubel
Photo by Matt Jones

Ladyfish are not a prime target species in the region of the Gulf Coast. They are known as poor man’s tarpon around these parts, but I really enjoy the sport of catching a ladyfish on a fly rod. Never before had I caught a 24.25 inch ladyfish, and so my friend Matt Jones was gracious enough to take time out of his fishing to snap a photo of the nice catch, and the first fish brought to hand in my new kayak! I measured it and took a photo to capture my personal best of this particular species caught on a fly.

Poor Mans Tarpon 3What I didn’t realize was this turned out to be not just my personal best ladyfish on a fly, but it measures longer than the IGFA All Tackle World Record Length category for a ladyfish! I learned this upon doing some research once home after a friend asked what the Alabama state record was. Most records are measured in pounds, but this particular world record category for catch and release angling is measured in length.
Today, after some correspondence with the nice folks at the IGFA, I was informed that indeed the ladyfish I caught was longer than the current world record by 1.42 inches! My nearly uncontainable excitement tempered a bit when the gentleman followed that up by saying they were very sorry to have to inform me that the world record class fish of its’ species would not in the end qualify due to a technicality. I have not really ever thought through the remote possibility of catching a world record fish. Therefore, my measuring device, although a certified scale for tournaments I compete in, is not the official IGFA measuring device required for documenting a world record catch. Ugh.
Yes, I am extremely disappointed to not officially be able to claim an all tackle world record of catching this ladyfish by method of a fly, but as a friend told me today, “That’s fishing!” And so, a poor man’s tarpon will forever be a treasured memory for me, and a story that I will surely share into the future with family, friends, and fishing buddies.

Note: Thank you to Kayak Angler Magazine for interest in publishing the story on their website on July 31, 2012.

Copyright 2012 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved