6/25/01 A friend of mine was once asked if he'd every read A Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck. He said, "No, I've been too busy walking a road less traveled." Simlarly, I've been too busy fishing to give you a fishing report, but good news! I'm off a few days, and I have time to reflect on an incredible month of fishing.
May was not that good. Usually, we expect May to give rise to calm early morning conditions, and tailing reds and trout. But the conditions were difficult, to say the least -- it was often cloudy and always windy. But toward the end of the month, the winds died, and the fishing soared.
A few recollections: Redfish began to tail almost every morning until the wind rose above 10 miles per hour. Morning after morning, there were tails as far as you could see in dead calm water -- the best and worst of conditions. And these conditions continue at th epresent time, even though early morning low tides have suppressed some of the vigorour tailing that we've seen.
If you can cast 75 feet, no problem, but most novice to intermediate casters can't throw a line that far. So, getting close enough to cast has been the main problem. And the redfish have not been pushovers. They typically stop tailing when you get within 70-80 feet of them, but you can spend hours stalking and casting to visible fish without catching one.
with a little coaching, many of my clients have hooked up under such conditions.
You have to get down low, hold off on your cast until you're sure you can
reach the tailing red, and then cast with a minimum of false casting. No
After the tailing action subsides, we've been fishing way out east for cruising redfish and big trout. We have many days when we've had 10 or more shots at trout over 24 inches. Normally, we catch one or two in this range, but we've seen much bigger ones that have thus far eluded us.
The east flats have been a great fly fishing venue. Fred Arbona, Larry Haines (owner of The Fly Shop in Port Isabel) went out and caught 29 fish one Friday in early June. And we didn't even consider it a great day!
Our first instructional weekend in early June went off beautifully. Fred helped Kathy and I take out four guys from central and north Texas. Like I've said, we went out early for tailing redfish and were into tails for a good two hours. Rick Messina from Houston did real well under these difficult conditions, and set a standard that the other guys approached but did not exceed over the next two days. However, everyone got tons of shots to tailing reds and later, to cruising reds, trout and ladyfish on the east flats. I think everyone was pleased at the level of instruction, comraderie and fishing that we were able to orchestrate (with ample help from Mother Nature).
We're set up to do another weekend in July, August and September. Check our packages page for more info.
So much more to tell. My good friends Andy and Nell Evans from Virginia Beach came down to fish with us for a week. It was Andy's first experience fly fishing in salt water, and he learned that "Tis many a slip twixt the cup and the lip" when it comes to catching redfish on a fly. Nonetheless, he saw some of the finest weather we've had, and stalked dozens of tailing and cruising redfish. We had a great visit with our old friends, and we look forward to their return to Kingfisher.
J.D. and Elaine Johnson, from south Georgia, fished with us last week, and enjoyed one of the most beautiful early mornings that I've seen on the Bay. It was dead calm, and there were as many as 50 single redfish tailing at the same time. We sometimes see this many redfish tailing at the same time, but only when they are in a tightly packed school. In contrast, these fish were spread out over a couple acres of glassy, foot-deep water. Needless to say, J.D. and Elaine were impressed. Later, we went to the "white sand" and stalked redfish and trout for several hours. Here's J.D. with one of the redfish he landed there.
Roy and Garrett Smith from Georgetown returned (see Garrett's photo and letter on our Guide service info page), and brought Roy's brother John. We fished this past weekend, and had tailing and cruising reds in virtually windless conditions on both mornings. Indeed, we got into a herd of redfish on Sunday in 10 inches of water. There weren't many fish landed, but everyone had multiple shots at groups of 10-20 reds bearing down on them. Garrett caught his first ladyfish on Saturday wading on the sand out east -- a big 23" fish that just about spooled him.
The fishing has been superb for the last several weeks, and even though the tides have fallen -- making boating in some areas impossible -- the tailing action has been fairly consistent, and will probably continue through the summer on reasonably calm mornings, and during strong tidal flow later in the day, too.
We are in the prime time for big trout action, and for tailing redfish. Big trout have been seen tailing along the Intercoastal in places that local fly fishermen would not tell you under the threat of torture, but which are reasonably easy to find on your own once you understand the patterns.
should continue to tail in the early morning and during strong tidal movement
throughout the summer, and into the fall.
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Both reds and trout have been following sting rays with amazing regularity. Since rays are easy to spot from far out, we have more time to prepare for our presentations. We expect this action to continue through the summer.
As for flies, we've been using tiny topwaters for the tailing redfish action.Tailing redfish often spook when presented with a subsurface fly, because if it's close enough for them to see it, it startles the, too. So, a tiny topwater that lands quietly, but speaks loudly, can drawa them fron 3 or 4 feet away.
Later in the day, we've been using lightweight shrimp and glass minnow-type patterns out on the east flats to catch trout and reds, and an occasional ladyfish.
5/3/01 Richard Bader from Fort Collins fished with us from May 3rd through May 7th. Richard was a joy to fish with. He appreciated the Bay wildlife, enjoyed every venue that we explored, and said repeatedly, "It doesn't matter if I catch fish." Such an attitude is usually rewarded. Indeed, the first day out, we had overcast and windy conditions -- not the most desirable conditions -- so we blind casted in the Rattlenake Bay area. I'd been there the day before with two fly fishing clients who had caught five reds, so I knew the reds were in the area. But Nature rarely repeats herself, and the fish were nowhere to be found. We did manage to catch a couple of nice trout before we went hither and yon looking for better action. Then, in the afternoon, we returned to Rattlesnake and spotted through the binoculars a laughing gull working over what appeared to be a tailing pod of reds. So I moved the boat into position upwind, and we both got out and moved toward the scene. I could see the redfish tails poking above the surface, so I urged Richard to wade quickly into range. Finally he casted a bit short, and hooked up on a 22" trout. "Go ahead, cast!" he yelled. So I put my fly near the tails, and pow! I hooked up, too -- on an identical 22" trout! We landed the fish, and then saw that the reds were still tailing. So Richard waded into range again, this time casting his fly into the midst of the tails. Instantly, he hooked up on a 23-24" redfish. Again he yelled for me to cast, too, before the fish went down. So I did, and we had another double hook-up in the works -- this time with matching redfish. I took a picture of Richard holding both of our rods skyward, which will be viewable here in a few days. Meanwhile, here's Richard with a 24" trout that we caught on our first wade.
4/30/01 I've fished the last two days -- with fly fishing legend Fred Arbona on Saturday, and with Kathy yesterday. I'm gearing up for six straight days of guided fishing, and I want to be sure I'm on top of the action.
Fred and I decided to explore some new areas way down south. First we got stuck on a shallow flat. We were planing across it, and I asked him if he thought we had enough water. I heard him say, "I know these waters," so I kept right on going -- until I set the boat down in barely enough water to float. Fred insisted that he'd said, "I don't know these waters," so we just laughed and pushed. Later, I got out to stalk a redfish in an area that was as boggy as any place I've ever fished. Indeed, I just about disappeared without a trace in a boggy area along the spoil bank. Later, as I dragged myself aboard the boat, Fred voiced my thoughts, by asking, "Do you think people would willingly pay you good money for this?"
We landed only one fish after having several good strikes -- mainly due to small hooks and poor timing. I finally landed the fattest 26" red that I've every seen. We estimated him to weigh 8 pounds! He was up in a muddy lagoon gorging himself on finger mullet. I took 45 minutes to land him, since I knew I had a wind knot that could have broken if I'd horsed him in. Fred chided me constantly: "Are you still at it?! You're putting 10 ounces of pressure on him! What is this? Do you plan to mount him or something?" On and on, blah, blah. Hey, at least I landed the fish!
The next day, Kathy and I did our usual Sunday late morning fishing trip. After meditating, eating breakfast and putting the bird seed out, we moseyed down to the boat and headed out to the Laguna. We went out east, and had almost full sun for several hours. The action was awesome, but our performance was disappointing. I won't speak for Kathy, but after leaving the boat without my fly box, I broke off on my first red. "Kathy, dear, can I borrow one of those flies that I tied for you?" After tying on another red Mother's Day fly, I landed two reds that cruised into sightcasting range, and then broke off on a skipjack. "Kathy, dear..."
Her selection of flies is always a bit more limited, so I had to turn to a fly that didn't resemble the ones I'd lost. I then proceeded to cast to 12-15 more cruisers, only to have them nip at the fly or turn around in disgust. Have I said that reds aren't selective? Please strike that from the record.
Kathy hooked her first skipjack on her fly rod -- but only briefly. I had warned her to yield to the fish, but did I? Of course not. And neither did she. Two skipjack strikes, and two breakoffs.
We came in after three hours of pretty fast action. Between the skipjacks, redfish and sheepshead, we had constant targets. I wish we'd caught more, but that's what makes fishing the flats so addictive. You always think you should have done better, and you're always ready to go back and prove it.
4/30/01 Arroyocity.com report
After some late cold fronts, the fishing is finally settling into the normal spring patterns, with some exceptions. Everything is a bit retarded due to the cold winter -- the grass growth, and the movement of fish into the West side of the Laguna Madre. Indeed, we have been fishing on the east side since last fall, except for some forays into the northwest bay for rare and unpredictable podding redfish.
Fishing has actually been pretty tough since April 1st, with a combination of strong southeast winds and persistent cold fronts keeping the Bay from settling down.
Rattlesnake Bay continues to be very disappointing, with off-colored water, few fish and thick algae growth. We’ll have to wait a couple of weeks before the algae growth disappears. What a contrast with two years ago, when we fished Rattlesnake successfully from early spring until winter. It just goes to show us how the patterns change. You can’t rely on last year's experiences, or yesterday's successes.
Overall, we have found very few fish in the West Bay south of the mouth of the Arroyo, all the way down the Cullens and beyond. Look for it to heat up, though, as the May full moon approaches. The super high tides should make some of the skinny water in the West Bay turn into tailing flats.
For your best chances, focus eastward, Fishing has been good in the middle part of the day along the transition water east of the Saucer -- and on that level, south and north from the Saucer. Don’t run around thinking you’ll find a herd -- you may, but that’s not what has been working. After you find a couple of reds, stop and drift. If the sun’s out, you’ll be able to spot single and double cruising reds 100 yards out. You don’t need many of these classic opportunities to make your day. If you get into enough fish, get out and wade very slowly downwind. You may be surprised by how many fish come into you.
onto the light-colored flats are pretty hard to figure out. So you may
find nothing unless you study the patterns long enough to figure what makes
them leave the deeper water and feed in the shallower water to the east.
It’s possible to make sense of all this, but it takes a while.
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4/22/01 A friend recently accused me of always saying the fishing was good. When you fish three or four times a week like Kathy and I do, it is easier to stay on top of what's happening, and so I usually have some good things to say. But let me say for the benefit of those who might think I'm just trying to get you to come down here and hire me to take you fishing that the wind has been a bear, of late. Right now, the wind is blowing up to 40 mph outside.
Still, I'm a cheery guy when it comes to fly fishing the lower Laguna Madre, so let me tell you some good news.
Jeff Pill returned last week along with an entourage of fly fishers and film crew members, to film the last half of the Laguna Madre segment for a major video scheduled for release in the late summer or early fall. We were worried about the wind before they arrived, but somehow the weather shifted, and we had winds under 20 mph for most of five days, a minor miracle in March and April.
Lani Waller, who is well known for his steelhead fishing videos and and his prodigious skill in coldwater fisheries, arrived with Jeff before the actual shoot. He and Jeff and Richard Moore -- our local NBC outdoors reporter -- joined me on my boat for some warm-up fly fishing. Lani wanted to be sure that he was ready for the shoot, and Jeff also hoped Richard could get some footage that could be used in the actual video. Well, we had a great first day! We fished the "white sand" just along the edge of Padre Island. The water was barely deep enough for us to float my Pathfinder 1700-T, but somehow we kept scraping along. As the sun broke through the early morming clouds, we began to see what I'd hoped to find. Redfish were heading right for us, cruising against the wind and facing the sun, thus giving us near-perfect conditions for sight casting.
Jeff asked Lani to use a topwater fly, so Richard could film the whole sequence of the cast, the strip and the strike, so I gave Lani one of my foam-head VIP flies to use. In the next hour or so, Lani had several shots at incoming reds. Of course, it takes a while to learn to see the fish, and another bit of time to get your fly close enough for the fish to see it, and then a few near-misses before you usually hook your first redfish. Well, Lani finally hooked up! And Richard got the whole sequence on film, too.
It would take too long to tell the whole story of five days on the water, but suffice to say that Jeff called me this morning and said that he's still "high" from the shoot. To give you some idea of the quality of the footage, consider how hard it is to catch a big trout on a fly when you want to. And then multiply that by 100 to estimate the odds of orchestrating that event for a video crew. Well, Wanda Taylor caught a hefty trout on the last morning -- again on my foam-head VIP popper -- and the film crew was 20 feet behind her when she hooked up. It was a great sequence, and there were more than a few pairs of eyes turned heavenward as she landed that fish.
The video will be released sometime on late summer or early fall, and we will carry it at Kingfisher, needless to say.
On the second day of fishing with Lani and Jeff, we fished the west side of the Bay, and located tailing pods of redfish working under birds. It was easy fishing. Assistant producer Bill Gordean caught his first red on a fly after chasing a pod about a mile downwind. This action should continue into the spring, and we'll be looking for pods early and late in the day until June, at least. In between, I'll be out on the sand sight casting to reds and trout.
3/27/01 It's been quite a while since I reported on fishing. We've been really busy with clients -- both fishing and lodging clients -- since the mid-February. But the fishing has been great, even though the cold fronts continue to blow things out every few days. Pretty soon, they won't make it this far south, and then we'll just have southeast winds to contend with. Here's a shot with Kathy and Jaime on the casting platform. Jaime is a great friend of ours, a fellow guide, and works with us when we have larger groups.
The low tides persist, which makes fishing the west side -- both Rattlesnake and Peyton's Bay -- pretty fruitless, and awful trecherous. I got stuck out there a few days ago, and had to push my boat 300 yards before I could get up on plane again. Those places will have to wait for more water. Even so, the east side has been full of reds and big trout. Kathy and I went out with our friend Fred Arbona and his wife Cindy a few days ago, and we caught nine fish -- five trout over 20 inches and four reds. Kathy pulled the fly out of the mouth of a 30" red, and had her first shot at a 28"+ trout. Being great sport, she celebrated the opportunities. I got some good photos of a nice 24" trout that I caught and released -- for an article that I'm working on for Fish and Fly Magazine.
Fred and some of his buddies from Prescott, Arizona, will be here off and on for four months, and we will be fishing together every chance we get. Since one of us is on the water virtually every day, we really stay on top of the action.
Fred has missed or lost several huge trout in the last week, the last one being around nine pounds that dogged his fly for 50 feet without ever taking it. He asked, "What am I doing wrong -- stripping too fast, or two slow, hitting them too early, or what?" I said, "There's no way to figure it out Fred. Big trout are just erratic." For every big trout you catch, you miss or lose 10.
I took Bobby Cook out from Mississippi two days ago, and we got into the tailing redfish big time. From daybreak until about 10, there were tails as far as we could see on the east flats. Bobby hadn't fished for reds with a fly rod, so it was tough fishing. But he finally landed a 25" red, and was quite happy about that.
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Our friend and client Wade Heyden from San Antonio came down with his nine-year-old daughter Meredith a few days before, and Kathy and I "team guided" them out on the east flats. It was dead calm -- the best and worst of conditions. Even though you can see every fish within a quarter mile, it's hard to get within casting distance before you spook them. I finaly left Wade alone to face the challenge of one tailing red after another approaching him in glassy conditions. He just about scored, but the conditions defeated him. Meredith, meanwhile, was spin fishing with Kathy, and they had a couple of follow-ins on gold spoons. It was one of those days when you couldn't have asked for more -- except for maybe a fish or two.
We have located big trout in some of the familiar places. I was poling a client a couple of days ago, and we saw at least 20 trout from five to nine pounds. They were all in "pot holes" doing their prespawning dance, no doubt. My client had two good shots, but his cast was short of perfect, and they fled. I went back by myself at daybreak in a brisk north wind, hoping to catch that new state record, but the tide was too low for the big ones to be up against the spoil banks where we'd found them. Nonetheless, I was rewarded by a smaller 21" trout that I released before the sun rose.
Fred Arbona and I are focusing on catching huge trout in the transition water on the east side. That's the water in between the grassy-bottom area and the "white sand" near Padre Island. Sometimes you have to wade for a long time to get a shot -- and sometimes you see nothing -- but when you do, it's a classic sight-casting opportunity. It's heart-stopping, and usually fruitless. Last fall, we were doing the "big trout walk" near the saucer, and I caught a 27" trout after the fish had briefly taken Fred's fly and moved on. I'm sure he's been plotting revenge for that one -- and knowing his skill with a fly rod, he'll get it.
Casting is so important down here. I regularly fish with fly fishers who have fished cold water fisheries all their lives, and now want to try fishing for reds and trout. They are almost always sobered by the difficulty of reaching the fish before the fish sense them. If I have a chance, I advise a client ahead of time to work on longer casting, double hauling and short prayers. It is not easy down here. And while many people go away empty-handed, most of them are "hooked" before they leave -- by the challenge that saltwater fly fishing offers.
Here's a shot of Dick Skeers, from the Seattle area, who caught his first redfish -- a nice 25" fish -- a few weeks ago in late February. Winter looks pretty good down here, doesn't it?