Inn's Archived Fly Fishing Report #3
9/21/05 I have had boat trouble, so we've had to reschedule or refer some of our trips. Still, my friend Larry Shriver and I went out last Friday in preparation for four presumed days of guiding ahead of us. As it turned out, I took one of those days and he and Rick Hartman divvied up the other three while I tended to my Etec, which turned out to be burned up. That's a long and unpleasant story, but suffice to say that it's being repaired and will be back in action soon.
Larry and I were supposed to be scouting, but the first place we went was full of reds, so we
ended up fishing for a couple of hours, using VIPs in water that was
only bootie deep. The reds were cruising around and feeding explosively
on small mullet. Whenever we'd get the VIP within range of one of the
reds, they would wheel around and chase it. It was great action, and we
landed seven or eight reds. While we were wading the area, my friends
John Kautch and Bob Simpson came into the area and fished nearby. We
left them there and went east to the sand; but Bob emailed me later and
told me that they'd caught several fish up to 27.5 inches long. They
were crashing bait against a shoreline. Larry and I left the cameras
aboard his boat, but Bob emailed me this shot of two nice reds.
and I headed east and north and caught a few more on the sand. Bob and
John fished the sand later, and did well there, too.
Hartman guided two of our guests on Monday and Tuesday, and they found
big reds in the same general area. His two guys had never fished the
Lower Laguna, but they caught seven reds up to 29 inches their first
day -- on VIPs. I saw them that evening and they both were pretty
psyched by the incredible sight casting they'd experienced, but they
were kicking themselves for lifting their rods too quickly on the
strike -- a typical malady suffered by any angler whose heart is still
beating, including guides who don't fish often enough -- like myself.
heading our way, but if we remain on the south side of her, we
shouldn't get much tides. Indeed, the tides should be extremely low if
we stay on the downside of her. When Brett hit only 50 miles north of
us in 1999 (Cat 4), the Arroyo was lower than I've ever seen it. The
counterclockwise spin draws the water out on the south side of the
storm. It's the northern edge that gets the surge.
our bookings have cancelled or rescheduled for the coming weekend, so
Kathy and I are catching up in preparation for a very busy
I have had so little time to spare that the fishing report has
suffered. Kathy and I both began a new semester at UT-Pan American, and
we're gearing up for a trip to the Fly Fishing Retailers Show in Denver
this week. However, in between all of this activity, I've been on the
water quite a bit. I need to keep this short, but I want to give you a
thumbnail of the recent action.
Katrina devastated New Orleans, the summer tides remained low here on
the Lower Laguna. Indeed, the only evidence of the hurricane were the
slight northeast winds that altered the usual later summer pattern.
Knowing that a tidal surge was heading our way, I guided Tom from South
Carolina and his buddy Jay from Ohio. We revisted the podding
action on the west
side briefly on the first day before going in search of the
mythical Redfish Parade. It would have been better, actually, if we'd
found it on the second day -- after guys had acclimated more fully to
the unique requirements of the LLM redfish. But I didn't hear any
complaints when we came off plane smack in the middle of almost three
hours of streaming redfish. Instead of catching them entering the
grassy flats, we caught leaving. Wake after wake, the fish passed Jay
and Tom as they stood in one spot casting endlessly. It was the best of
what we found during their
stay. We went looking the next day, only to find the tides rising
slowly from the tidal surge that was nearing the coastline.
the water levels spiked, Kathy and I -- and our dogs Opal and
Lily -- went out for fun for a few hours one morning about a week ago.
Again, we found the pods on the west side, but didn't fish them long
before they dissipated. After landing five reds, we looped south
looking for the leading edge of the Redfish Parade. As I was thinking
that the late summer phenomenon wasn't "on," we encountered four or
five gamefish wakes and shut down. In moments we knew that we had hit
it just right -- the leading edge
of streaming redfish approaching from the north. We stood in one
spot for over two hours, and had shot after shot -- probably 40 good
shots apiece. Two or three double hookups punctuated an endless stream
of classic sight casting in 12 inches of grassy, calm water.
took the honors with a 29 inch red, and then followed it a few minutes
later with another one almost as large. At one point, I'd had enough catching, and went back to the boat the give the dogs a wet romp.
Kathy enjoying her coffee and resting her casting arm. Later, we
stopped on the east side long enough to catch and release a ladyfish
that was probably barely enough to beat or tie the 16 and 20 lb.
line class IGFA world records -- just over 3 lbs on the certified Boga
grip. But we decided to wait for a larger fish.
ended up three days of guiding three men from Arkansas. Randy Holden --
a regular Kingfisher guest along with his fanaticial buddy Russell
Myers -- came down without Russell for the first time. Accompanied by
Carl and Mark Robertston this time, Randy had to deal with regular
phone calls from Russell who, at the last minute, almost boarded a
plane in time to join his friends. But family obligations kept Russell
in port this time.
We dodged storms for three days, but had some pretty fine fly
fishing interspersed with some pretty difficult conditions. Katrina's
effects had finally arrived as an extra six to 12 inches of water. The
normal jump in water levels in early September makes fly fishing
especially difficult. but Katrina pushed the time frame up a week
first day out was quite disappointing. We dodged storms and used almost
a whole tank of gas trying to find the fish. Still, a couple were
caught including a fine sheepshead that Randy caught by dragging
a VIP behind him. Miracles do happen, and catching a sheepshead in that
manner was truly miraculous.
some truly awesome conditions on the second day out. We found redfish
crashing bait against a remote westside shoreline; and the three
anglers enjoyed casting to dozens of reds that were cruising around with
their backs out of the water. Of course, when we returned the next day,
they weren't there. But that's what makes fly fishing the LLM an
endless challenging endeavor.
that day, we got into some pretty fine action on the white sand, where
we found cruising reds surrounded with sheepshead. Again Randy did his
sheephead magic in addition to landing a couple of reds. Carl stalked
some reds successfully, as well, and Mark finally latched onto a
red before the day was over.
their third day, we prepared to leave the dock only to find my motor's
starter jammed. Desparate, I called a friend -- Larry Shriver -- who
immediately offered to lend me his boat. Within an hour, Larry arrived
from Laguna Vista with his Shallow Sport, and then surprised me further
by offering to accompany us, as well. My worst day of the month turned
into one of my best days -- simply because of a friend's generosity.
Indeed, it was a beautiful day that ended with some intoxicating action
on the white sand where we found reds following sting rays. We had
Larry to thank for all of that. It's a day and a gesture that I'll
Sunday dawned with clear skies and neglible wind -- one of those dream
days of late summer. It was Ryan's last day in Texas, and it was
important for both of us that we spent the last day together on the
bay. For a teenager, it is perhaps unusual that he gets out of bed so
readily at 5:00, and hasn't thought of casting a spin rod for three years. I scratch my head, and then have to conclude that it's a very good sign.
to say, we returned to the same area where we've been finding redfish
podding and big trout cruising the edges of the redfish action. We
arrived before sunrise, and within minutes could make out 50 tailing
reds sweeping slowly toward the boat. Ryan slipped overboard in time to
intercept them with an orange VIP. I intentionally left the pods
for him, but even he had tired a bit of the easy podding action, so
while I headed for a shallow grassy area where the trout have been
prowling, he headed for the shoreline where he and his uncle Chip
had taken turns catching cruising reds just a few days earlier.
Meanwhile, three groups of 20-50 fish tailed happily between us.
son Ryan arrived 10 days ago from Virginia. Usually when he's
here during the summer, I'm busy with clients, so we don't have a lot
of time together. But with Kathy's help in saying "no" to guiding, I've
had a week off to spend with Ryan on the water.
This morning, my brother Chip joined us for one of the most memorable fly fishing trips we've
ever had together. We fished an area where the reds have been
podding off and on for the last two weeks, and the big trout have been
cruising on top at daybreak. As soon as we arrived, and shut down the
motor, several large tailing pods appeared and began heading our way. I
was more interested in taking pictures and helping Ryan get off to a
good start, so I moseyed behind him and Chip as they began casting
their VIPs to the tailing fish. Within a few minutes both anglers were hooked up, and the sun was only barely breaking the horizon.
them to pursue the pods after spotting what I'd come for -- big trout.
An 8-9 pound fish appeared to the north, and stayed within view for
over an hour. Knowing how sensitive they are, I took my time
approaching her. On the way, I caught a couple of reds and then caught
a 26+ inch trout that was cruising on top just like her big
sister. I released the fish, and then got ready for the bigger fish,
which was suddenly heading my way. She came within 40 feet of me, and
began milling around. Trying to stay cool,
I casted my orange Mother's Day Fly to her several times before she
finally saw it and hit it. It was probably a 20-lb. tippet world record
fish, but I missed her. She stayed within sight for the next half hour,
but never came within casting distance again. We're going back
tomorrow morning, needless to say.
Chip and Ryan were yelling at me to come join them. They were casting
to one red after another along a shallow shoreline. Chip landed seven
up to 29 inches, and Ryan -- who is still fairly new to fly fishing --
landed four reds. The fish had stopped podding, but the action
along the shoreline was classic sight casting to big singles with their
backs and tails out of the water.
We all got thirsty about the same time, and began heading back to the boat. The wind started to
come up, and suddenly the reds were podding everywhere again. I landed
three reds walking back to the boat, and as we sat drinking our
Gatorade, two large pods frolicked within 100 feet of the boat.
However, we'd had it so good that we decided to leave them alone and
head back to Kingfisher.
Ryan, "You're on the A team now." He said, "I don't think I'm A team
material, yet." I disagreed, saying that anyone who catches four reds
on poppers is an official member of anyone's A team. Chip agreed. I was
pretty proud, needless to say.
My son Ryan and I went out today. We left the dock a bit later in the
morning than usual and headed to the west side, planning to head north
and east by late morning. We "tested" the Redfish Parade and found it
was not on, but we did locate a few tailing reds in one westside
venue. It was tough picking them out from the mullet, however. So,
after landing only one red,
we headed east. Joe and Debbie MacKay had caught several fish nearby,
and they joined us as we made beeline for a spot that has been
producing well later in the day. Parking within 100 feet of each other,
we waded onto a grassy flat, where the reds have been tailing
vigorously in the wind -- which was fortunate, because the wind was
already above 15 mph when we arrived. Ryan and I separated, and began
seeing scattered reds. Ryan, who has only recently begun fly fishing
exclusively, missed a couple and then landed a nice red, as shown.
days ago, I guided an old client, Gary Maler, and his nephew Ryan
(different Ryan!). Ryan is a fine spin fisher, but has been resistant
to fly fishing exclusively. Gary must have convinced him to leave his
spin rod at home, because they appeared
on the dock with only fly rods in hand. The morning turned out to be an
uncle's answer to prayer, as Ryan proceeded to catch four reds sight
casting in a very difficult venue, characterized by very shallow water
and fairly thick grass. Using an orange Mother's Day Fly, Ryan
exhibited prodgious patience and focus as he casted to the lone reds
that were tailing and cruising upwind. I wouldn't be surprised if Ryan
was the one that "hooked" by the fishing.
Tides are at a critically low point, and the winds have been especially
high for the last three days, making for difficult fishing. Harold
Ochamb and his daughter Andy caught the tail end of the two weeks of
consistently great fly fishing, but then caught the beginning of
the windiest August that we've had in a long time.
of all, let me backcast to last weekend, which was a dream weekend for
John and J.R. Boyd. It was the second year in a row that father and son
had fly fished the first weekend in August. Last year, J.R.
distinguished himself by catching a lot of reds in the Redfish Parade
-- a phenomenon that commonly occurs in July and August. John had a
frustrating trip last year, but last weekend both anglers had a trip
that I'm sure they'll remember the rest of their lives.
We started out by Q-beaming for over 15 miles to a place on the west side where we'd been finding massive pods of redfish feeding on shrimp. We pulled into the area, careful to avoid the main area; but while poling toward the alleged hot spot, we began to see tails pop up all around us. Within minutes, we were out of the boat. Meanwhile, the tails became pods, and the pods became certifiable schools. For several hours, we were surrounded by tailing groups of redfish. Using VIPs for the first two hours, and then switching to Mother's Day flies, John and J.R. each caught several reds. In contrast to last year, John had the "hot rod," a matter of pride to post-50 anglers and guides. Then we went after ladyfish -- J.R.'s favorite target after barely missing a world record last year. We caught some small ones, but the world-class fish eluded us. The morning was so spectacular that John and J.R. opted to go in earlier than we usually do.
next day, we returned to the same spot and were disappointed to see
only a few scattered tails before the wind rose and put them down.
Although I was loathe to leave a place that had produced
so well 24 hours earlier, I decided that the fish had moved to a
different place. Suspecting that the Redfish Parade could be "on," I
made a wide circle to look for the reds, and suddenly we were back into
out of the boat, and began to notice single tailing fish in virtually
every direction. Then, as the water settled down, it became clear that
the Parade was approaching us from the north. For the next two hours or
so, we had shot after shot at singles, double and triples. The reds
were cruising on top, tailing intermittently, and swinging their tails
as they resumed their upwind migration into a shallower area. It was
classic one-on-one sight casting action, and it wasn't easy. The
Mother's Day fly had to be perfectly presented. Otherwise, the fish
wouldn't see it or it would spook. The window of opportunity was defined by sheer inches. Still, J.R. in particular did quite well.
that it couldn't get any better, we headed for the sand around 11:00,
mainly to target big ladyfish. I wanted to show them a place up near
the Mansfield Cut, but as we planed along the edge of the sand, redfish
began to flee ahead of the boat. I stopped the boat, and we got out to
wade. Then, an amazing thing began to happen. School after school of
ladyfish began to approach from the north, mixed with
redfish. Within ten minutes, John caught two ladyfish and a nice red.
And J.R. began catching both species, as well. At one point, J.R.
said something that most experienced Lower Laguna Madre fly fishers
would raise their eyebrows at: He said, "They're a lot easier to catch
out here on the sand." It was true last Saturday, but it's rarely true.
John booked the same weekend for next year. It was a pleasure guiding the Boyds, and I look forward to their return.
the Ochambs. Harold is from North Carolina, and his daughter is from
California. Harold is a seasoned east coast flyfisher, and wanted to
try his hand at sightcasting for reds, trout, and ladyfish on the LLM.
Andy is an experienced diver, but wants to learn fly fishing as an
alternative sport. She had practiced a lot on her own, but hadn't spent
much time on the water.
So it was somewhat surprising that she got off to such a bang on her first morning out. We went
to the same area I'd bee fishing with the Boyds, but did not find much
evidence of the hoards of redfish we'd seen on Friday and Saturday.
Trying to decide what to do next, I noticed a few gulls working about
1/4 mile away in extremely shallow water. Using my bonculars, I spotted
the unambiguous signs of a sweeping group of redfish. So we got up on
plane, and boated to the edge of the area. Then I got out of the boat,
and pushed the Curlew toward the area where I'd seen the fish. Slowly
it dawned on us that there were several large groups of
aggressively feeding redfish
within 200 yards of the boat. I continued to push the Curlew toward the
first group, and as we got closer, we could see that the reds were
porpoising in 10 inches of water. Shrimps were jumping ahead of them,
and regular explosions singified the reds' success. Andy let her dad
cast first. Harold stung two, lost one, and then finally landed a
25-inch red on a Clouser.
took over, and within a few minutes she was casting to a huge pod that
was sweeping toward her. Leaning toward the fish, and her rod low, Andy
stripped until she had a 26 inch red on her line -- her first redfish
on the fly. Needless to say, father and daughter were psyched,
not only by their success, but by the natural drama that we'd witnessed.
I wish I could say that we enjoyed such action for the next three days, but alas the winds were
punishing. We had only modest successes on the west side and on the
sand. One high point on day three was finding a lot of fish near the
area where they'd caught the reds, including some very large trout.
Indeed, Harold presented to a certifiable world record trout in the
9-10 lb. range. If their guide had been on his toes, he would have had
a good chance at hooking the fisth. But I was looking 50 yards from the
boat, and when we saw the big fish, she was only 10 feet from the port
beam and heading upwind. It was a difficult shot because it came so
We sure hope that Harold and Andy will come again at a time when the fishing is a bit easier.
Since I last updated this report, the tides have fallen dramatically --
to the levels that we usually experience this time of year. Last week,
Kathy and I went out for big trout and ladyfish, in hopes that she
might catch a world record trout. The tides were still very high,
however, and we had cloudy conditions as well. It was a very difficult
fishing day, and we returned to the dock without having caught a single
next day, however, I took out Larry Shriver -- who, with his wife
Janet, has just relocated from Colorado to Laguna Vista. We have
become friends, but it was the first time we'd found the time to fish
together. Larry and I found an entirely different bay than the
one Kathy and I fished the day before. The tides had fallen nearly six
inches, and so the levels were perfect for certain westside back
lagoons that had been awash with storm tides for the previous two
weeks, due to the tidal swells from Hurricane Emily and Tropical Storm
and I took the Curlew into a back lagoon before daylight, but we could
seek redfish wakes all over as we planed into the area. Shutting down,
we had only minutes to wait before tails began popping up. Indeed, as
we slipped overboard, we began to see large groups of tailing reds
milling around. Mullet were everywhere, so we had to move slowly into
range so we wouldn't send a committee of frightened mullet into the
happily tailing reds. It took us both a while to adjust to the
sensitive conditions, but before long we were both hooked up on
sizeable reds. I landed on that was around 28 inches on my five-weight.
I left the camera on board, so there aren't any photos of that foray.
Larry that we'd been finding lots of reds on the sand, north of the
Arroyo's mouth, so we headed that way once the wind came up and put the
tailing fish down. Thirty minutes later, we were wading on the white
sand, and casting small Clousers to hoards of sheepshead. The redfish
were scarce at first, but slowly began to materialize. We landed a
couple before I decided to go back and float the boat down closer to
where Larry had waded. It was then that I spotted fish approaching from
the east. Thinking that they were sheepshead school, I was shocked with
a group of 8 reds came into view. I casted to them fought over the fly
before I hooked up. Releasing the red, I turned upwind again and
resumed my march to the boat when, again, another group of reds swept
through. It became clear that the reds were streaming in from the east.
Most of the casts were upwind, and we caught a couple more, but the
angling was very tough in the 15-20 mph conditions.
and I agreed that the day had been as perfect as one could ever hope.
Most importantly, we relished the sights of the water, the birds and
the fish. We were two guys over 50 who have come to enjoy being on the
bay much more than doing anything in particular, including catching
weekend, I had the pleasure of guiding our old client and friend Bruce
Hathaway from Victoria. Bruce has fished with me about five times, and
we've had some glorious days on the water together. This time was
eager to show Bruce the Redfish Parade, a to-die-for phenomenon that
takes place in midsummer to late summer, early in the morning. We left
the dock in the dark, and Q-beamed 15 miles to my favorite Parade area,
and shut down before we could see well enough to tie on a fly. After
a few minutes, however, I spotted a back and tail out of the water only
30 feet from the boat. Bruce slipped overboard and stalked the
fish for a while fruitlessly. It seemed very finicky. Moments later,
another exposed back appeared and Bruce hooked up after putting the
black VIP inches from its nose. Bruce had caught his first red before
the sun had risen!
thought that the Redfish Parade was "on," but it never materialized. In
fact, there were hardly any reds in the area. Instead, Bruce casted to
big trout! Indeed, dozens of trout from 20-28 inches were
sauntering about in the shallow, grassy water. Bruce invited me to fish
with him, so we both stalked one trout after another over the course of
two to three hours. Bruce
caught one that was about 25 inches, and I caught one smaller. That
doesn't sound like much, but when you consider how thick the grass was,
how many strikes we missed, and how many fish we broke off (I broke off
on two myself), then you have some idea of the action that we enjoyed.
for world record ladyfish on the sand later in the day, and had the
most incredible ladyfish action that I've seen in a year. Large schools
of 1-3-pound fish were everywhere. I was trying to break the
four-pound tippet record, and Bruce was trying to beat the 12 lb.
tippet record, which is held jointly by myself and a gentleman from
Florida. It would have made me happy if Bruce would have broken that
record, but alas, he did not. For myself, I landed four nice ladies on
the 4 lb. tippet, one of which came close to the 3+ pounds that I
needed to reclaim my 4-lb. tippet world record that was supplanted a year ago. Maybe next time. It was a blast anyway.
and I returned to the same area at daybreak, hoping again for the
full-blown Redfish Parade, but again the reds were nowhere to be seen.
We contented ourselves with stalking the trout
that were present again. I landed a 23-24 inch trout, and we both
landed a single redfish. But the high point of the early morning was
when Bruce stalked a 27-28 inch trout, and finally hooked her on a
black VIP. For five seconds, he had her on, but she swepth through the
thick grass and dislodged the hook. Bruce did everything right, but the
conditions were nearly impossible for landing such a great fish.
climax of the weekend came when we headed further north, and began to
see reds and trout fleeing before the boat. So I came off plane, and
poled Bruce for about half an hour. He got plenty of shots at spooky
fish, which was fun but frustrating, too. Approaching a west shoreline,
I suggested we check at area that is known to hold reds in the summer,
during the low tides. As we got closer, I was delighted to see a large
pod of tailing reds. Scanning the area more thoroughly, I could see
were at least six groups of 20-50 reds tailing. By the time we'd
slipped overboard and walked 50 yards closer, I was sure that we were
in the presence of 1000 tailing redfish. Frolicking pods were all over
the place! I called my friend Joe MacKay and his wife Debbie on the
cell phone and urged them to come quickly. At one point, Joe hooked a
huge sheepshead that was feeding near the podding reds. It surely a new
state fly rod record, but it came loose at his feet.
It was gift of immense proportions to encounter so many tailing pods in July.
The reason I have time to sit down and reflect on the past two weeks is
because Hurricane Emily has given Kathy and me a few days off, as
clients from South Carolina wisely opted to reschedule their trip to
The fishing has been excellent, but the high tides and thunderstorms
have made it challenging. Two weeks ago, Leo Connoly and his three
buddies from Orange County -- Mel, Howard and Mike -- arrived on a
Thursday and fished with Rick Hartman and myself for the next three
days. It's always fun working alongside Rick, because we share
information that gets our clients into the
most favorable emerging opportunities. The Orange County group arrived
at a time when the fishing was far from easy. Each morning dawned with
a slight breeze that rose steadily through the day. However, by
shifting with the conditions, we were able to find and catch fish on
all three days. There was some good podding action happening, and some
excellent white sand redfish
action, too. We spent some time on the Mansfield Cut, as well, finding
some reds patrolling the edges during the incoming tides. On one
occasion, we had to run from a storm, and spotted this waterspout
snaking toward the flats. By then, we were heading away from it, and
could enjoy the stunning visual spectacle.
after the Connoly group left, I guided our old clients and friends --
also from Orange County -- Peter Koga and Dan Iwata. They came out to
fish, but also to shoot some video for a Kingfisher promotional DVD
that we will show at presentations, and send out to fly shops and
prospective clients. We were blessed with calm mornings and low tides,
so I hoped to find that the Redfish Parade -- a July and August
phenomenon to die for, was "on." Sure enough, when we pulled into the
area where the parade usually begins, the reds put on a show like I've
rarely seen it. Of course, they sent the drum major ahead of the
pack -- an 8 lb trout patrolling the flats alone -- while the reds
assembled only 50 yards away. We spotted the trophy trout snaking
through the grassy water as soon as the motor stopped, and in
minutes Peter was overboard stalking the giant fish while Dan filmed
her back and tail above the glassy water. Usually, these world-class
trout mosey in the
other direction, sensitive as they are to aggressive intrusions. But
Peter took his time, and let the trout circle back to him. The most
dramatic moment I've seen on the bay in some time took place moments
later as Peter -- on his knees in a foot of water -- casted to the
trout that was approaching head on. She struck once, then again, and
finally a third time before the fish and angler were only 10 feet
apart. She missed every time, and then scurried away as she
picked up on Peter's presence. Having a big trout swim right up to you
says that you've done everything right. The highest
compliment with nothing to show for it, except some awesome footage
that I can't wait to see.
turned his attention to the incoming reds, and spent the next two hours
casting to one redfish after another that were cruising on top with
their backs and tails showing. The most difficult thing was presenting
the VIP in a way that did not offend the fish. In the calm, sensitive
conditions, it wasn't easy to do that. But after spooking a few fish,
Peter settled into a groove, and went on to land a bunch of reds. Dan
followed with the camera, while I coached Peter on the approach he
needed to take. Since Peter was using a black VIP, the hookups
were dramatic to say the least.
evening, I took Dan back out for some birding action that was happening
in a west-side lagoon. Dan had enjoyed this action the previous
two trips, so it was like an anniversary event to wade into
tailing reds and squalking laughing gulls. It was windy, the wading was
almost impossible, but the action was fast and furious. I was the
cameraman while Dan waded into the pods, and we got some great footage of him landing a red and a nice trout before we tired of the immense effort.
joined us the next day, and we went after big ladyfish on the sand. We
got some good footage of Kathy spotting and catching trophy ladyfish on
her six-weight. When Dan and Peter left, we all felt that we'd be
blessed with incredible fishing conditions. We will have the DVD by
September, when we go to the Denver Fly Fishing Retailers show.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of guiding Vince Wiseman and his buddy Roland. Vince is a regular Kingfisher guest from Austin, but Roland -- Vince's friend from medical school -- is
from Mississippi. Although the tides were up, and we had to dodge
storms and cloudy skies, we had a great day -- fishing mainly on the
sand. Roland caught this beauiful red at daybreak out along the Padre
Island shoreline, and Vince caught this sheepshead -- one of two that
he caught -- near the East Cut. It was his personal best for
sheepshead. Two in one day is a remarkable feat.
A very brief update. The tides are falling to summer levels. We're
still finding some podding on the west side, but the single tailers are
starting to predominate. Also, it's been hot near the edge of the ICW
for reds and trout. The sand action picked up last weekend while I was
guiding former client Dan Casso and his friend Kelly (and son Jonathan)
from Houston. Dan caught several reds on the sand on Sunday after
scoring a few early hits on the west side. Kelly and Jonathan were new
to the sport, but they were fortunate to be able to stalk some pods of
tailing reds on foot, and cast to tailing trout from the boat.
Jonathan, who is 11, never tired of the action, even though it was
tough for beginners, as always. At one point, I said to his Dad, "I'm
really impressed that he's stuck with it. You can learn just about
everything you need to know about someone just by putting a fly rod in
his hand and watching to see what they do." Jonathan is one of those
kids who has what it takes to meet life's challenges.
6/27/05 I had the pleasure of guiding Bill McBurney and Joe Rossi of "Ambassador Outdoors with Bill and Joe," a new
Sportsman's Channel show that will debue this fall. We fished
Thursday, Friday and Saturday on camera, and then Joe had to return to
Pennsylvania on Sunday morning. So Bill and I went out for a few hours
video shoot went pretty well, with Thursday standing out as the best
day. We fished tailing reds for several hours on the west side, and got
several hook-up-to-release sequences for the
upcoming TV show. Then we went east and looked for reds, but the
numbers that we'd been finding since early May were just not there.
Typically, the midday sand action falls off as the waters warm,
and the best times for finding the fish on the sand once that happens
is early and late.
into some amazing ladyfish action on Friday after exhausting the west
side action. Bill grew up in Florida and was used to catching small
ladies, but he'd never sight casted to 2- to 3-pound specimens. At one
point, he hooked into a certifiable 3+ pound fish, which is a
world-record class ladyfish. It ran way, way into his backing before
pulling the hook. Bill asked me, with some doubt, "Was that a
ladyfish?! That was incredible!" All of us went on to land several fish
in the 2+ pound range, and I don't think Bill and Joe would have ever
left the flat if I hadn't pulled the plug.
most amazing fishing happened, as you would imagine, after the camera
was on its way east. Bill and I went into a lagoon that had been too
shallow to fish for over a month, and we waded into abundant tailng
redfish in the 25-28 inch range. We only landed three apiece, but broke
off or lost several others. Bill was simply awed by the beauty of the
place, and the incredible classic sight casting that we enjoyed for
several hours. A rain shower blew through in the middle of our
enjoyment, leaving us with this rainbow, which captured the sense of
gratitude that we both felt.
The fishing continues to be excellent, with podding action on the west
side early, and reds on the white sand after midmorning. Last Thursday,
I guided Richard Skinner from Houston for the first time. We headed
west and found tailing pods along the west shoreline. Starting off with
a VIP, Richard stepped off the boat, waded a mere ten feet and waited
for the first pair of reds to swim up to him. Missing two strikes, he
turned toward the shoreline and had to make a difficult decision --
which pod to go after. They were spread out as far as we could see up
and down the shoreline, tailing happily. After spooking a few fish in
the dead calm conditions,
Richard hooked up on a red that cruised up to him and took the VIP
explosively. As it turned out, it was the first of about 10 fish (nine
reds and one nice trout) that he landed before we went in at 1:00.
As the wind rose, and the fish stopped tailing at our venue, we headed elsewhere where we found
even more pods of six to 30 fish tailing. Richard caught most of
his fish by getting off the boat and stalking the pods. Here's a shot
of him casting to a pod of about 25 reds.
We headed east by late morning, and fished on the white sand north of the Arroyo's mouth. He
asked me to join him, so I waded with him for about an hour. We didn't
land many more, but we had quite a few opportunities in glassy,
foot-deep water. The reds have been on the sand almost daily since late
April, at least, and it's just been intoxicating to cast to numerous
fish in Bahama-like waters.
guided two former clients from Arizona -- Dario Traivini and Jack
Miller -- for three days following Richard's visit. We fished the
same pattern every day -- west side podding action early, and cruising
fish on the sand for the rest of the day. The two veterans caught a lot
of fish, especially on Saturday when the podding was nonstop for
Sunday, we decided to go after tarpon, so we headed to the East Cut and
out into the inshore waters looking for feeding fish. It didn't take us
long to find 30-50 lb. tarpon feeding on a bait ball about 200 yards
off the beach. Jack had one rise to his fly soon after we arrived, and
several almost jumped in the boat, coming half way out of the water
within feet of the Curlew. But alas, we really weren't set up for
success, and we failed to jump any of the fish before they tired of us
floating through their midst. For Jack, the tarpon were the high
point of his trip. I suspect that he'll come back for those fish, and
that we'll be ready for them next time.
I don't have much time to update you, as I'm teaching summer school in
between guiding (just for June). But I guided for the last three
days, and I'll briefly bring you up to date.
Friday, I guided Jay Forrest and Andy Niland from the Alamo Fly Fishers
in San Antonio. We had a pretty fine day on the water, starting off
with a double hookup before the sun had risen
-- casting to a large pod under birds. It wasn't a high catching day,
but both anglers landed some nice reds, and each of them broke off on a
large red while fishing the white sand. The sand never "turned on"
where we fished, however, so the opportunities were spaced out. Jay
ended up the day catching this beautiful fish during the last five
minutes on the sand.
guided Doug Gauntt and his buddy Dick, both from Dallas. Kathy and I
have hosted Doug and his wife Connie on two occasions already, and Doug
is a Laguna Madre veteran, having fished the bay for several years. So
when they asked me to join them with my fly rod, I gladly consented.
dawned with low winds, and we were rewarded for our early departure
with podding reds on the west side. For about three hours, we casted to
pods and individual fish, and ended up landing about 13 reds before
heading east. We caught a few more fish, but the east side action
wasn't as turned on as much as I'd hoped.
Sunday brought a reversal. It was very windy early, and the pods were
nowhere to be found on the west side. Only one fish was landed before
10:00. But we headed east, and got into a passel of reds near the East
Cut, landing 20 or so before noon. We would have caught more but the
clouds were a problem for half the time. Then we headed south on
the sand, and caught another nine or 10 more before calling it a day.
It was remarkable, classic white sand action. The fish hammered small
Clousers whenever we'd get it within three feet of them.
We all caught about the same number of fish -- 9 to 11 apiece. It was pretty awesome day, needless to say.
I hadn't fished for fun in two weeks, so I was more than ready for it. My brother
Chip and his son Spencer joined me, along with Spencer's buddy from
Colorado, Taylor. We headed to a westside venue early, hoping to find
tailing pods; and sure enough they were there. For about four hours, we
waded into one pod after another. There were single tailing reds, too,
so the action was just about nonstop. By my estimates, we caught 17
reds and three trout on a variety of flies, beginning with VIPs, and
then switching to Mother's Day flies and Clousers by midmorning.
headed east for the white sand (shown), and fished for another two
hours. It was dead calm, and usually it's very hard to get close
enough to the fish to
make a presentation. But for some reason -- probably because they were
feeding head down -- we managed to do remarkably well, landing 12 more
and pricking another dozen fish. It was one of those stunningly
beautiful days on the Lower Laguna -- 29 redfish and three nice trout
landed in six hours of fishing.
had never fly fished in saltwater, but did really well, landing four
reds. He was overwhelmed by the beauty of the white sand, comparing it
to photos he's seen of the Bahamas. As you can see, the water was gin
clear, and dead calm -- an especially challenging scenario for
The fishing has been excellent, characterized by tailing pods on the
west side at daybreak, and fish streaming onto the white sand by late
morning or midday. I had the pleasure of guiding Kent Hamilton and his
son Rhodes yesterday and today. This was Kent's third trip to Kingfisher, and Rhodes' second visit.
targeted tailing pods early and were not disappointed. Arriving in a
west side lagoon before sunrise, we could barely make out gulls working
over redfish. I poled downwind to where we were only 100 feet from 30
reds that were feedging actively on shrimp. I recommended using shrimp
patterns or spoon flies, since it was pretty windy and the noise of a
popper could easily go unnoticed by the head-down feeding fish.
Both anglers approached the pod (shown here), and both had strikes.
Alas Rhodes lost his on a Kingfisher spoon, and Kent landed the first
redfish of the day on a weighted shrimp pattern. It was, however,
difficult wading on the boggy bottom, so we watched more tails than we
the sun rose high enough, we headed east onto the sand. The wind had
died somewhat, creating a slick sheen on the gin-clear water, making it
difficult for the anglers to spot the reds in the midmorning light.
However, the wind rose, and so did the sun, allowing Rhodes and
Kent to witness the white sand "turn on." For a while, the guys enjoyed
one shot after another, and landed several fish before the wind began
to affect the water's clarity. We ran south into clearer water, and got into some ladyfish action before it was time to go in.
Hamiltons had less time to fish on Sunday due to their flight schedule,
but we put in over seven hours, dividing the time between the west side
and the white sand, once again. I'd given three of our BYOB guests led
by Don Jones from Corpus the heads-up on the podding action, so I took
the Hamiltons elsewhere, hoping we'd find fish on a better wading flat.
We had slim pickings early, and then headed for the east side by 9:00,
which is bit early for the sun's angle. Rhodes caught a couple before
the water conditions deteriorated in the high wind, so we headed south
for clearer water. Thinking that we'd only find some ladyfish, I
stopped at one of the most beautiful venues on the white sand, and
urged the guys to wade downwind toward an old channel drilling that was
cut 40 years ago. As they got closer to the channel, Rhodes began
spotting redfish streaming into the area from the west. In only about
45 minutes, he landed four more reds, including this beauty.
wasn't easy fish, by any means. But the Hamiltons showed what can be
done with a little experience and a lot of willingness on the Mother
his buddies from Corpus enjoyed "story book" fly fishing for both days.
They caught numerous reds up to 28 inches, a couple of dozen ladyfish,
and one sheepshead (by Don) that would have been a new state fly rod
record if it had been properly documented -- all on Mother's Day Flies.
Indeed, they almost cleaned us out of our Mother's Day supply (thanks
to the assistance of the ladyfish that broke off many of their
So much to tell, and so little time. Skipper Ray and Rick Hartman
joined me Friday through Sunday as we hosted Aran Dukovna from Sierra
Fly Fishers in LA, along with five of his fly fishing buddies. They
chose the most beautiful three-day period we've had all year -- winds
from 5-10 mph until late afternoon, and cloudless skies. Not only did
we have beautiful conditions, but the fish were very, very cooperative.
returned to the shallow flat I'd visited the day before (see below),
knowing that Rick was planning to fish my other choice. Skipper went
after big trout with his guys. I found the sweeping pods again with my
two guys, Michael and George. Meanwhile, Rick really got into the reds in bootie
deep water with Bob and Aran, while Skipper and his group casted to trophy trout, hooking one but losing it.
VIP proved effective for Aran and Bob, as they caught several
reds early. After my guys pounded the pods for a while -- with Michael
landing his first two reds on the fly -- we headed east where we
found several schools of reds -- one with about 300 fish in it. We
couldn't chase them around very effectively with fly rods, though, so
we headed north where we joined Skipper's group on the white sand. Several fish were caught there before the day was up.
Saturday, Rick and I caravaned into the area where he'd fished the
previous day. We broke up a school on the way in, so we shut down,
and poled downwind toward the area where we'd seen them. It was hard to
believe what we found -- a couple of hundred redfish tailing in small
groups, and sauntering across the shallow flat with their backs
out of the water. Rick and his two guys hammered the reds on VIPs,
while my guys waded parallel and casted to one tailing group after
another. It was story book fishing, but after about two hours, the reds
moved out. I headed back to the sand, where we found a few fish
before the day was over.
proved to be disappointing in the lagoon where Rick and I'd fished the
day before, but we found pods working in another locale. We called
Skipper, who joined us with his group. We poled downwind for two hours,
casting to pods, and catching several reds. Then, I left the area first and
headed east for the white sand. When we planed over the edge of the
sand, redfish scattered in all directions. I got on the phone and
called Skipper, who promptly joined us for the most incredible white
sand action I've seen in a year or more. One of Skipper's guys -- Bob
-- "lost count" of the reds he landed over the next several hours. Both
of my guys -- Aran and Bernie -- had dozens of shots and landed
Monday off, but guided Mark Barnett from Houston, and his uncle Wayne
from Farmington, New Mexico. They had brought their own boat, but after
a fruitless Monday, they asked me to guide them on Tuesday. So we went
out early, and targeted tailing pods on the west side four about three
hours before heading east onto the sand.
found a few pods on the west side, all right, but they were hard to
approach from the boat. In his first three trips to the Texas Coast,
Wayne had never landed a red, so Mark was intent on
Wayne having every opportunity. No pressure, of course, fishing off the
front of a boat with a hand-wringing nephew and an overly attentive
guide. But Wayne managed to hook up, and then lose his first red after
a few shots. Mark had a turn, and landed the first redfish of the day.
headed east, hoping to find the incredible action that we enjoyed on
Sunday -- and we weren't disappointed. Over the course of the next four
hours, Wayne caught his first redfish on a fly, and followed that up
with 11 more! Mark was hooked up almost constantly for the first couple
of hours, having one shot after another. They guys caught all of their
25 or so fish on Clousers -- tan and white, chartreuse and white, and green and white.
fellow LMFFA member and friend Gary Bacon and his buddy Bob from
Ketchum, Idaho, hired me to take them out today. We headed back to the
same westside area where I've been finding tailing pods, and the action
was intense. We would pole downwind, spot a pod, and then stalk the
fish on foot, using red and orange VIP poppers. (By the way, the fly
company that now ties the VIP commercially -- FLY H2O --has sold the
VIP to the two Texas Cabelas stores! Obviously, we're tickled about
almost constant action until 10 am. Both anglers landed a half dozen
reds apiece out of pods ranging in size from 6 to 50 fish. Indeed, one
of the pods looked like a breaking wave as it approached. Here's Bob
hooking up after waiting patiently for the phalanx of redfish to
approach within casting distance.
headed for the sand a while later, where Gary handily landed two more
reds before we called it a day. It was, needless to day, a very fine
day on the water.
5/19/05 I have been out of town for the week, and off the water.
Before that, I was running around getting ready to leave in
between guiding, so it was hard to find time to post an update to
the fishing report. But I hit the ground (water, that is) running today
as I guided my old client and friend Jim Posgate. Our mutual friend and
Arroyo City neighbor John Kautsch joined Jim. We headed to the west
side at daybreak, spending about two hours in one of my favorite
redfish locales. The wind was over 10 mph at dawn, so it was hard to
see the fish in the low light. But John got into a groove, and landed
four reds on an orange VIP popper before we headed elsewhere. Jim, who
usually catches a passel of fish whenever I take him out was a bit
perplexed, but he didn't let it get him down. About an hour later,
after checking a couple of other west side venues, and swinging out
onto the white sand, we ducked into another west side lagoon that was
nearly prohibitively shallow. Indeed, I took a look at my muddy wake
and decided to vacate the premises when we ran upon several pods that
were breaking up from the boat noise. I shut down, knowing that I could
be facing a 300 yard trek to get to water deep enough to "get up" in.
It may be hard to believe that a person living on the water and making
his living as a guide can go four months without a day of personal
fishing. But between teaching, guiding, and writing,
Kathy and I have had little time to fish for fun. But today, after
breakfast and our hour-long meditation, we went with our dogs, Opal and
Lily. My interest was to go after big trout, while Kathy -- who was
recovering from a cold -- only wanted to read and write aboard the
to one of my favorite big trout spots. I rarely take clients there,
only because few of our clients want to target big trout. And anyway,
it's a tough wade. I tied on a weighted Mother's Day fly and started a
wade down one of most famous stretches of trophy trout water on the
Texas coast. I stripped line and casted off to the side as I scanned
the shallow, clear water for the telling dark shadows of monster trout.
I'd only gone fifty feet when I hooked up on a nice 21" trout -- not
a trophy, but a fine catch on a fly rod. I walked back to the
boat so Kathy could take a picture, and then resumed wading. It was the
last trout I saw, but I had some good action on big reds that were
cruising the same area. After landing two, Kathy and I headed east for
the edge of the sand.
never seen the sand "action" better than it was today. As we headed
east, we ran over so many fish that we stopped just short of the sand.
I began wading downwind under a cloudless sky. The water was
beautifiully clear, and
full of life. Ladyfish were darting around, and sting rays where
cruising in every direction. I soon started to see redfish everywhere
-- crabbing head down, or following rays. It's unusual to be brought to
a standstill on the east side, because the fish are usually spread out;
but I had so many opportunities that I almost stopped moving
altogether. Despite the almost constant opportunities, the fish were on
high alert. I'd see a ray and a couple of reds coming from 50 yards
out, and I'd crouch, waiting for them to come within range. As soon as
they were inside of 80 feet, I'd stand up to cast. And almost every
time, the reds would turn away instantly. I landed two in the 24-25
inch range, but had shots at 20 to 30 reds that simply saw me first. I
love that action, because it brings the best out of you.
didn't fish very long, because we had appointments back at the lodge.
And anyway, our friend Jim Posgate needed us to tow him in, because his
outboard wouldn't start up. Except for Jim's misfortune, it was a
wonderful day on the water. The bay is fishing so well -- as good or
better than 2003 and 2004, which were the best years we've seen since
I guided John and Brad Nicholson from California and Seattle this past
weekend. They came in on Wednesday and fished with our associate Capt.
Rick Hartman on Thursday. Following the
podding action, Rick put them on fish for the entire time, and
the guys started off with "at least 15 reds," even though neither man
is inclined to count, as I found out during the next three days. Friday
and Saturday proved to be "an embarassment of riches," as John put it.
Friday dawned almost calm, and when we arrived at our destination at
first light, gulls were already over fish -- the "X" that marked the
spot. Brad waded while his dad remained on the boat, still recovering
from hip surgery. The action was constant for almost six hours. Brad is
a kite boarder, so
the guys went in at lunch time so that Brad could catch the wind down
at Holly Beach. A cold front came in early Saturday morning, so after a
brief foray, we decided to return to Kingfisher, and go back out
in the afternoon. It was a wise choice, as it turned out. The birding
action was stunning. At one point, we were surrounded by pods -- and
other wading anglers who hoped to get in on the action. As it turned
out, there was plenty for everyone. Brad and John caught over 15 for
the third straight day.
On Sunday, Kathy joined us with her two clients from Aspen, and we fully expect to get back
into the podding action. But the birds and the fish weren't working, at
least in the main area where we've concentrated our efforts. Brad
caught one out of a pod that everyone had overlooked before Kathy and I
took our respective clients south to search for individual tailing
redfish. I headed for a remote area that is often good in April and
May, and sure enough there were reds tailing all around us. Brad caught
one on a VIP, and his Dad snagged a nice one from the boat on a
Kingfisher spoon fly. But that was it for us, so we headed in
after five hours, as we'd agreed on. Kathy took her clients to one of
her favorite spots, and they stalked tails over turtle grass for
another couple of hours before heading back to Kingfisher.
water is gradually clearing on the west side, and areas to the south of
the Arroyo are almost completely clear of the brown tide. I really
haven't noticed it.
People have been calling and asking about the brown tide. It's still on
the west side, but it hasn't impacted the fishing very much at all.
We've been casting spoon flies and Clousers to the tailing pods and
having great catching days. (I haven't used poppers much because of the
lack of clarity.) Then, if the podding every subsides, we've been going
east onto the sand, where the water is unaffected, and where there's
has been plenty of fish. So, there's not a problem. I don't have to
guide to survive, so if the brown tide was reason to stay away, I'd
tell you. Actually, it's even clear enough on the west side to be
sight casting when the sun is out. So, while the brown tide creates a
buttery color to the water, and reduces its clarity, you can still see
through it enough to spot fish. And further, the reds can see the fly
just fine, even though they're prone to have tunnel vision when podding.
I guided on Wednesday and Friday (yesterday), and the fishing was very good. On
Wednesday, I guided my old client and good friend Jim Posgate from
Kerrville who has a place near us on the Arroyo. Jim and I went out
just after daybreak, and fished one tailing pod after another until it
was time to go in. Jim hooked about 10 reds, and landed seven. At one
point, he said, "Scott, this is too easy." Of course, it's not always
easy, and rarely is it too easy. But if you pay your dues like Jim
does -- by going out regularly under a variety of conditions -- then
you become adept at exploiting the opportunities that arise.
I guided Hector Guerra from Pharr. Hector has recently taken up
saltwater fly fishing, and was still looking for that first redfish on
a fly. Before the sun had even risen, we were wading down toward
a bunch of gulls working over a sizeable group of reds. As Hector got
close to the tails, the fish turned toward him and came right up to
him. Hector crouched low to the water, and started making 15 foot casts
into the tails. Just before they blew up, he hooked up on what turned
out to be a nice trout.
We moved on and located several pods of tailing reds, in a variety of areas. Hector missed a
strike in the second pod, but finally hooked up and landed a fat
redfish out of our third pod. He went on the land another a while
later, and have several shots are groups of happily tailing reds. It
was, and always it, an inspiring sight to see the tails flickering in
the sunlight, and the gulls fighting over the escaping shrimp. As I
said in an article that I wrote for Tide Magazine recently, "Just being
there is usually enough for me."
As I headed out on Saturday morning with Doug and Connie Gauntt from
Dallas, I had this sinking feeling that the few pods of redfish
that would be working would be closely chaperoned by a few of my
guide friends. Sure enough, as we approached podding mecca, I could see
some of my buddies already poling down to a very few pods. The tides
were so low that I thought the fish couldn't be in the back lagoons,
and I was right. We planed into one to
take a look, and there was nothing working. Heading north with a 20 mph
tailwind, I wasn't sure what to do next. Then, suddenly, a flock of
laughing gulls appeared in an unexpected place. Clearly, they were
working over reds, so I pulled over and staked the boat, so Connie and
Doug could wade into the area. Thirty minutes later, Connie had caught
her first redfish on a fly rod, and Doug had landed four fish on his
own. The day was definitely looking up! Actually, the best was still to
come. I took a deep breath and pointed the Curlew north toward a
distant venue that I'd heard had been producing. A while later, we we
started wading downwind across an extremely shallow flat where the
water was barely deep enough to hold fish. The wind was over 20 mph,
and gusting to above 25. But the redfish didn't seem to mind the wind.
And what's more, they were tailing as they fed upwind, giving us a
chance to get into position. Connie caught three more on spoon flies,
and Doug caught six or seven more reds on a Mother's Day fly. For a
while, the opportunities were almost constant. I thought to myself that
we were in one of the few places on the entire LLM where fish could be
Saturday's conditions were bleak, Sunday's weather was ever worse.
Stronger winds greeted us at daybreak, along with thick low clouds. The
wind actually abated a bit later in the day, and the clouds thinned
out, as well. But it didn't matter, because we fished one pod after
another for the entire day. Doug caught 8 or so reds and at least as
many trout, and Connie caught a nice red out of a tailing pod (she was
pretty happy about Saturday's results, and spent a good bit of time
cheering Doug on). They would have caught more if the fish could have
seen their flies, but the water was so churned up from the wind that
they had to cast up to 20 times before a fish would see the fly.
about an hour and a half pushing the Curlew across a shallow flat. I
made the mistake of poling down to five pods of reds that were on the
edge of a long, shallow flat covered with only 4 inches of water.
Instead of seeing the threat, I kept poling the Curlew toward
near-disaster, and found myself trapped with a 20+ mph wind at my back.
Fortunately, I was able to push the boat over the flat, but only
barely. I felt pretty bad about losing part of our day, but Doug and
Connie still caught so many fish that they probably won't remember our
"little break" around midday. Later, I found that Skipper Ray had
gotten stuck, too. The combination of extremely low tides and the brown
tide made it hard for us to assess the depth of some of our favorite
Doug's email this morning:
was thrilled to catch her first red on a fly and I still can not
believe how many fish we caught under such miserable conditions. Scott,
a special thanks to you for your hard work
I have been gravely remiss in failing to keep you apprised of the
fishing conditions on the LLM. But a greater error is in failing to
report the AWESOME GOOD NEWS pertaining to our guests of last weekend
-- Todd Decker and Christina Spiller from Austin. Todd arranged ahead
of time for us to cooperate with his secret agenda of the weekend,
which was to propose to Tina on
the water at sundown on Saturday. "What if she says 'no'?" I asked
Kathy. "She probably won't," Kathy said, to reassure me. Still, I
was a bit nervous. At an agreed-upon time, I left Tina to fish on her
own, while Todd waded over with the ring in his pocket. Later, Tina
admitted that she was irritated that he was coming over to talk as she
stalked a nearby tailing redfish. But when Todd's intent was made
clear, Tina did not seem to mind. Kathy and I were tickled to have
played a small part in such an important event in their lives. Congratulations to Todd and Tina!
And the fishing was pretty good, too. Although the tides were too low for podding action on the west side, we got into great redfish
action on the east side, along the transition between the grass and the
sand. Reds were cruising singly and in small groups, providing some
I guided Jeff Coombes and his buddy Chris Tipton from Austin. We left
early enough to reach the pods before the crowd, which never
materialized. It was dead calm as we entered one of the westside
lagoons, and we circled upwind of several groups of laughing gulls that
were seated on the water. Our friend Richard Weldon was
fishing a client near a couple of the pods, so my guys waded toward a
couple of other pods. As Jeff approached the seated birds, suddenly
tails erupted. Casting his VIP masterfully into the leading edge of the
sweeping fish, he hooked on a nice red. Chris chased the remnants of
the pod fruitlessly, and the podding action was suddenly over. We
headed north into a westside venue where we waded for two hours in
virtually calm conditions. Tailing redfish were everywhere, but they
were extremely sensitive, and almost impossible to approach. Still, it was a challenge that neither angler complained about.
in the day, we found redfish streaming onto the white sand. The east
side action has been very reliable over the past month. Given the fact
that the brown tide is still prevalent on the west wide, it's a relief
that there have been plenty of fish in the clear, eastside water.
That's all for now. Two more days of guiding, and I'll update you again.
Friday and Saturday proved to be classic spring action on the Lower
Laguna. On Friday, Kathy and I team guided Jeff Pittsbarger and his partner
Stephanie from Houston. Jeff had wanted Stephanie to get a taste of
saltwater fly fishing, and wanted to optimize her chances by having
Kathy work closely with her while I handled the boat and worked with
We left the dock a little later than I'd hoped, and as we planed slowly (with four people aboard) down the Arroyo, three fellow guides passed us, heading I was sure to the same areas where reds had been podding in various locales.
we planed into one area, a fellow fly fishing guide led the way and
shut down, obvious spotting redfish working. We looped upwind of him
and shut down, and began poling downwind. For the next three or four hours,
we went from one tailing pod to another, carefully giving quarter to
two other guides, who were also poling clients toward various tailing
pods. Jeff caught four reds on Kingfisher Spoon flies wading into
the pods, while Stephanie landed her first red on a Kingfisher Spoon by
casting from the front of the Curlew.
With the water rising, several places that have been too shallow to fish have come alive with shrimp and redfish, so we
headed to two other lagoons where we hoped to find pods. We found a few
tailing reds in the first venue, but caught none; so we headed
elsewhere. The reds weren't podding or tailing in the second venue, but
we could see them swimming across a shallow flat upwind, creating a
wake. So we spread out and tried to intercept them. They seemed
psychic, however, and would veer right or left before they reached us.
Jeff and I stood and watched at least 20 reds -- singles and pairs --
pass just out of range of his cast. It was fun to see them so clearly,
however, especially on a cloudy, windy afternoon.
next morning, I guided Jeff and Stehanie alone. Since it was Saturday,
I assumed that everyone and his brother would be working the more
accessible lagoons, so we returned to the place where we'd seen the
waking reds the previous afternoon. This time the reds were clearly
leaving the lagoon. We could see singles and small groups coming from
over 100 yards away. They were big fish driving a visible wake. I've
faced this action many times in this particular place, but it's hard to
They're on their way out, and will eat, but they're going so fast that
it's hard to intercept them. So after casting Kingfisher Spoons fruitlessly to a
couple of dozen passing fish, we headed for the area we'd gone to first
on Friday. Expecting a flotilla of shallow water boats, I was surprised
to see only one boat within sight. We were soon into tailing pods, and
able to see several more within reach. We went from one pod to the next
until almost midday, sharing the area with only three other anglers
over the span of five hours. There were plenty of pods to go
around. Stephanie distinguished herself by catching three reds
and a trout -- all on spoons.
came out as the podding action subsided at midday, so we eagerly headed
east to see if the white sand was clear of brown tide. There was hardly
any sign of it on the sand. The water was sparking clear, and the sky
was cloudless. After we'd run over reds, trout and ladyfish, I shut off
the motor. We began to wade downwind in water that was about 17 inches
deep. Walking beside Stephanie, I soon spotted a string ray with a fish
tailing it. Stephanie was able to get her fly to the fish, which turned
out to be a 22-23 inch trout that followed the Mother's Day Fly before
turning off. It was so close that it had probably seen us.
left Stephanie to fish alone, and went to help Jeff spot the fish.
After a few minutes, we spotted a hoard of ladyfish behind a ray. Jeff
got the fly to them, and hooked up briefly. The fishshot out of the
water, and threw the fly -- the rule rather than the exception for a
ladyfish. Meanwhile, Stephanie casted to another fish behind a ray, and
several ladyfish, as well.
fishing was superb. I've said to many people that late March and the
whole month of April provides some of the least difficult and most
productive fly fishing of the year. Even though they're known as windy
months, it doesn't matter much when you have redfish podding -- often
under birds, and fish on the sand on sunny days. You learn to adjust to
the wind, and then you don't worry about it any more.
When I looked out the window this morning, fog blanketed the Arroyo,
and the wind was neglible. It was one of those magical days in the
making after a week of difficult weather conditions. Guiding Tom and
Debbie Adams from Orange County, California -- and their grandson David
-- I planed slowly down the Arroyo through the thin fog knowing that if
we could make it safely to the bay, the odds were that we'd have it to
ourselves, at least until the sun burned through the fog. I gave the
dredge operation at the mouth of the Arroyo a wide birth, and then
headed north keeping the west shoreline in sight. A while later, I
turned off the ICW and headed into the fog toward an area where the reds often pod up in late March and
April. Making a wide circle so we'd be upwind of the hoped-for
action, I shut down and listened. The competitive cries of laughing
gulls informed us that pods of redfish were feeding in three
directions, so I began poling toward the loudest voices until we saw
the birds seated on the water. The wind was too low to keep the birds
aloft, and to the unitiated it may have looked like just a bunch of
gulls engaged in premating rituals. But as we got closer, we could see
that the gulls were excorting groups of tailing reds that were driving
shrimp to the surface.
brown tide still pervades the west side lagoons (even though it seems
to be dissipating) so catching a red on a fly or a lure requires a
precise presentation, due to the limited visibility. Six inches away
from a tailing red is usually too much, as they have their heads down
the whole time; but in the brown tide, six inches is "a miss that is as
good as a mile." So you need a bit of luck along with a
dead-accurate cast. We approached three pods by boat, hooking two reds
that way. But then, we decided to stalk the largest pod -- a group of
about 30 reds -- on foot. Debbie and Tom were privileged to have the
entire group sweep toward them, leaving the birds hanging back from the
human intruders. I imagined that I could hear Debbie's and Tom's hearts
racing as they desparately tried to get their presentations in front of
the sweeping reds. But as it so often happens, the tails swept by
without a take. We had a couple of more opportunities before the sun
broke through the fog, and the reds dispersed. We were the only
boat in the area for three hours, which is pretty remarkable for a
the pods broke up, we headed east and south into the clear water where
we found pods and schools of reds in clear, glassy water. The northeast
wind was dying and shifting to the east -- and we couldn't get close to
the fish from the boat. So we called it a day and went in,
declaring the day nearly perfect in every way.
guided Harry Wilson from Montana, and his buddy Steve Brown from
Phoenix on Friday through Sunday. It was tough fishing. We
started on Friday, the day after Jim Posgate and I enjoyed a perfect
day on the water. Nature likes to mix it up to keep us from getting
lazy, but I was hoping for a better hand than the one we were dealt on
Friday. We ended up coming in after the wind rose and the clouds
returned. Saturday was a pretty good day, with both anglers landing
reds, and having plentry of shots. We started off thinking we'd hit the
jackpot. We found gulls working over reds, and it looked like we were
going to get shots at one pod after another. But after casting to our
first tailing pod, the birds -- and the fish apparently -- dispersed,
leaving us feeling a bit cheated. We fished the sun near the East Cut
and had a few quality opportunitites. Steve lost a nice fish up that
way. Heading back south, we ran over a passel of reds, so we poled the
edge of the sand and had one shot after another. But the wind came up
pretty strong -- over 20 by the time we went in. So, it was hard to get
the fly on them from the boat. We left that venue, and found some fish
on the white sand, where we waded for a couple of hours in the early
afternoon. Harry hooked two there, and Steve hooked one. Not a high
numbers day, but it was better than a lot of days we've had lately.
Sunday was a bust, with cloudy conditions and a strong southwest wind
at dawn. We were in by 10 a.m.
Yesterday, I guided my old client and friend Jim Posgate from
Kerrville. Jim has a way of catching fish whenever we go out, but
the conditions have been unstable; so I wasn't sure his good fortune
would prevail. The day dawned almost without a breeze, and the sky was
cloudless. Not your usual March morning, when the norm is windy and
cloudy. We went to a westside
lagoon that was largely untouched by the brown tide, and found some
nice reds in about eight inches of water. After spooking several from
the boat, we got out and waded toward a bunch of Forester terns that
were diving on bait. We could see some wakes that indicated that game
fish were sharing the bounty; so Jim carefully waded into the area. A
big wake surged toward him, and he dropped his Kingfisher spoon on the
red's head. True to form, Jim was hooked up before the sun had hardly
risen. It was a nice 26"+ fish, and a great way to start the day. We
found the rest of the west side blanketed with brown tide, and no pods
were evident. So we headed east and north, and spent the rest of the
day poling and wading the white sand between the Mansfield Cut and
Green Island. We had more opportunities than the number of landed fish
would indicate; but the reds were often upwind of us. So it was
challenging. It was a great day, and the conditions could not
have been better.
The bay is recovering! I guided Butch Harper from Ketchum, Montana,
today. We went north and ducked into several venues, looking for
podding redfish under birds. The brown tide was pervasive from the
mouth of the Arroyo north to the end of Payton's Bay. We found
birds working, and a few tails beneath them, but the podding action has
not "turned on," yet. As we approached each pod, the birds quickly
dispersed, and all we'd see was a single tail or so before having to
move on to the next group of birds.
finally gave up on that fickle action, and headed east, hoping to find
clear water. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the east side was
clear at least a mile from the edge of Padre Island. We poled the
Island shelf, and had a few shots at single and double cruisers. The
water was gin clear. We lost the sun, so we headed further south and
found the entire east side as clear as ever, from Dunkin's house the
edge of the Island. Indeed, there wasn't any sign of brown tide on the
east side of Three Islands. What a relief. Still, because the sun
behind the clouds, I headed west again, hoping to find tailing pods
working the brown shrimp. We didn't find that, but we found some pretty
water in Rattlesnake Bay that held a few big reds. We poled over
several, then got out and waded, getting several shots at single reds
cruising visibly up a shallow shoreline.
The action wasn't fast and furious, but it was good enough to celebrate. It feels that the season has begun.
There's good news and bad news. Redfish have already started podding on
the west side, and some birding action has already been observed. It's
early for that to be happening. Also, fish have been found on the
sand, as well. As for the bad news, there has been a brown tide
outbreak since late January. I didn't interpret the off-colored water
as a brown tide when it first
started to appear down here in early February, but biologists have
confirmed the outbreak. A brown tide does not harm the fish, but it
does ruin the water clarity until the tides flush it from the estuary.
(I haven't had to deal with it, since I have been busy finishing up a
book, titled Healing the Fisher King: A Fly Fisher's Quest,
and getting it off the publisher. Hopefully, when I resume guiding this
coming week, we'll have had some reduction in the brown tide.)
It's my understanding that there
are different brown tides, and the biologists haven't yet positively identified
this organism as the same one that affected the bay during the 1990s.
For instance, according to Tony Reisinger (who wrote the report below), the Arroyo has its own brown tide in the early
spring. It didn't happen last year, but it did occur during the
previous several years. It lasts for only two or three weeks, and
affects only the immediate area around the mouth of the Arroyo, like
Rattlesnake Bay and the Green Island basin.
Here is Agricultural Extension agent (and LMFFA Board member) Tony Reisinger's report:
most recent Brown Tide bloom originated in Baffin Bay around the last
week in January '05. The following paragraph is a verbatim report
from Cindy Contreras with TPWD. She sent this to the Hazardous
Algal Bloom Work Group on 2/2/05:
The bay continues to be a harsh mistress. The water is off color, and
very high. I guided our old clients and friends Jim and Kerrie Stephenson
yesterday. The last time they'd been here together was on 9/11. Kathy
met us at the dock on that fateful day, and gave us the unbelievable
news. Jim and Kerrie stayed over an extra night on that occasion, as
their flight was cancelled.
was a much better day globally, but not locally. The day started off
very promising, with not a breath of wind. We poled a remote westside
lagoon that had some redfish in it. But not a single fish poked its
tail above the dead calm surface. We left there as the wind began to
rise, and headed south. We found redfish on the east side, but the
water was just a bit off color, so we'd pole right up to them before
we'd see them. I spoke with Skipper Ray by phone, as we often do when
we're both guiding. He was fishing South Bay and -- like us -- had seen
fish. But the lighting was bad there, as it was in the cental part of
the LLM. So he was fishless, too, at that point.
south and north, finding the clear water of the far east side to be
devoid of fish. And then the wind and the clouds turned the central and
west bay into a muddy inland sea. We headed back to the dock around
high point of the weekend was eating at Pepe's in Harlingen, and having
nightly Scrabble tournaments. We're going to have to wait a couple of
more weeks before the shrimp bring the podding redfish into the
may know, I've written articles in national magazines about how good
the winter fishing can be down here. The telling phrase is "can
be." Actually, last year -- and this year so far -- have been
particularly poor winters for fly fishing. I wish it wasn't so, but
that's Nature for you.
If you're suffering from cabin fever, and yearn to be fly fishing the
flats of the pristine Lower Laguna, this might be the time to take care
of other things, because you haven't been missing much lately.
Typically, from the middle of January until March, the cold fronts
stack up to the point where there's hardly any recovery in between
them. Sure, we have remarkable fishing during that time -- catching
some of our largest reds and trout, historically -- but overall, the
conditions are usually not favorable. For instance, we've had cloudy
weather for about two
weeks, even though some of the days have been in the 80s. To do well in
the winter, you need full sunshine, low tides, and a southeast wind.
We've had no more than one of these positive factors on any given day
over the last ten days. Even the tides, which are usually very low this
time of year, have resembled March tides.
We've been busy off the water for the last couple of weeks, so there
isn't much to report. I guided a couple of days two weekends ago, then
had to cancel four trips in a row during a period of strong south -- and
then north -- winds. Between beginning a new semester, getting our gear
in shape, and fulfilling some speaking engagements, we've had little
time to wet a line.
But today we decided to go after big trout. It was a perfect day for it, and we were pretty sure we
could find them southeast of the mouth of the Arroyo, and then again
back to the north up by Mansfield. We had our dogs with us, and it was
toasty 80 degrees as we headed down the Arroyo. But not every perfect
day ends up a fish catching day. As we planed onto the flats, there was
a "thump" and our prop promptly fell off as the shear pin broke. The
water was too deep and murky to recover the prop, so we sat there
feeling pretty helpless -- that is, until we got in touch with
our neighbor "St." Rex, who came after us with his boat.
didn't catch any big trout today. I thought it would be good for you to
know that we don't always "wup up." Of course, I like to share the good
news as much as anyone, but reporting an occasional botched trip has a
way of making the glowing reports sound a little more believeable,
off the San Antonio on Friday to speak at the Boat Show, and to help
Tim and Leslie Clancey sell their great boats. We hope to see you
there! And then we'll be back to post an updated report next week.
On December 16, I posted what I thought would be my final fishing
report for 2004, and then headed with Kathy for the Northeast, there to
spend Christmas with our kids. Returning near midnight on 12/27, I
immediately packed the Curlew and headed for the Bay. I know it sounds
crazy, but it was the 13th and final full moon sleepover that I'd
promised to do for 2004. I was lucky, because the temperature was in
the upper 50s as I planed down the
Arroyo at 1:00 a.m. Except for the dew, which drenched my
sleeping bag by daybreak, it was pleasant night. I awoke to
warmer temperatures and a light rain, and this stunning sunrise.
Posgate had asked me if I could take him and his son Keith out on
Wednesday, and I thought that the answer was surely "No" after two days
of travel, and a night on the bay. But it was such a beautiful day that
I called Jim from the boat and suggested that we go out around 9:00. He
readily agreed, so I took off for home, and ate a quick breakfast with
Kathy before heading out again with Jim and Keith.
know, we had snow last week, and very cold temperatures; so I was
concerned that the cold water would kill a lot of big trout. There was
a considerable number of dead trout on the bay, but nothing to compare
with the huge fish kills in the early and mid 1980s.
headed south and east toward a place where the reds and trout often
congregate during warming trends through the winter. I would have gone
there anyway, but our buddy Henry Bone from Austin -- who had stayed at
the Lodge while we were away -- had found a motherload of reds in the area the day before. So I was confident that we'd find them again.
enough, we had great sight casting for a couple of hours until the
clouds shrouded the sun. Keith and Jim both had several encounters with
cruising and tailing reds that were easily visible in the crystal clear
water. They were tough to catch, however. A combination of cool water
and a cloudless night during the full moon made the fish a bit finicky
and sluggish. After that, it was tough finding a sight casting venue,
but we gave it our best.
guided again yesterday -- taking out Michael Kisusky and his wife Kathy
and son Tony from Houston. We headed back to the same area, but the
wind and the clouds made it impossible to sight cast the same area. So
we headed back west, and were relieved when the wind began to die off.
Indeed, as the surface became glassy, the reds begain tailing in every
direction. Since the bottom was too soft for wading, I poled the
Kisuskys for the next couple of hours. Kathy and Tony were brand new to
fly fishing, so it was hard for them to score, but they both enjoyed
some dramatic close enounters and near-catches before it was time to
of people believe that redfish stop tailing in the winter time.
If they could see what happens in between the cold fronts, they would
be stunned. As you can see in my report dated 12/16 below, we see some
of the most dramatic tailing action in December and January.
This may be my last report of the year, as we get on a plane tomorrow
morning for Virginia and New York. This morning, I guided our old
client and friend, Jim Posgate from Kerrville. Jim has been recovering
from an Achilles tendon injury, and this is the first time he's fished
in a couple of months. Up until this morning, we were experiencing
fairly strong north winds; but it died last night, and we awakened to
almost calm conditions. Still, it was chilly -- in the upper 50s -- as
we boated down the Arroyo. The tides have been the lowest that we've
had all year. Indeed, we only see tides this low in the winter.
a spot that I fish during the low tides of winter, where the reds often
congregate and tail for most of the day until the wind blows over 10
mph. We cut the motor and drifted downwind into the area, and were
greeted by tailing singles and pods in three directions. For the next
several hours, I sat on the bow beneath Jim, and scooted the boat from
one set of tails to the next. Jim and I have fished many times
together, and he has a way of choosing the right days. But this one was
extra special. I suppose that he casted to 100 fish before a fresh cold
front began to push through around noon. He landed six or seven -- all
24 inches or above, except for one smaller fish he kept. It was
really hard getting them to see the fly! It was very shallow, and the
water was a bit off color; so the "sight window" was defined by
centimeters, not feet. Jim casted up to 20 times to the same fish
before it either disappeared, or saw the fly. And he was using
the most visible fly in our arsenal -- a Kingfisher spoon.
It was a great day. In Jim's words, "We've had great days, but I don't think I've ever seen so many fish before."
I've got photos, but I'll have to post them later. We're packing!
The tides have fallen to their winter levels -- well, almost, that is
-- leaving some of the back lagoons marginal, at best. I went out
scouting today with my next door neighbor Rex White, and we headed
first to a lagoon that was absolutely full of redfish on Sunday, when I
was guiding Mike Weix from New Mexico. Mike and
I got there at daybreak, just in time to see a mass exodus of redfish
leaving with the outgoing tide. Singles, and groups up to 20 fish came
streaming by at high speed, while a completely different set of fish,
it seemed, fed aggressively on shrimp and meandered along the edge of
the fast lane. Mike found the fish difficult, as they were feeding head
down and oblivious to everything except the most surgically presented
fly. We tried poppers, and we tried shrimp patterns, and finally
he scored with a Kingfisher spoon after breaking off once, and missing
two more. It was challenging, as always.
I didn't leave the dock until almost 11 a.m. this morning. It was
sunny, and nearly calm when we entered the lagoon. There were reds and tons
of mullet, but we quickly ascertained that the reds weren't going to
show for us. So we got up and headed elsewhere.
found an expanse of glassy water north of the Arroyo, and shut down to
see if the reds were tailing. The water was about 70 degrees, and the
clarity was a bit off due to the wind reversals we'd been having. But
tails started popping up, so we got out of the boat and wet waded
downwind with the sun to our backs.
I had a
couple look at my orange Mother's Day, and then turn away. I wasn't
sure if they'd seen me, or rejected the fly. Unwilling to risk missing
another shot, I shifted to a black opal Kingfisher Spoon, and promptly
began to catch fish. Indeed, of the six tailing reds that saw the spoon
over the next hour and a half, all of them took it. There weren't any
shrimp skipping ahead of the fish, so I suspect the reds were feeding
on small crabs, as they are prone to do in December, once the white
shrimp migrate to the open Gulf. I landed five up to 27 inches (shown
here in Rex's arms). Rex, meanwhile, casted to cruising reds, and
hooked three on his own spoon fly tie. After fishing for a while, we
went looking for big trout, but didn't see what I'd hoped to see.
Later, they'll be there, when the tides fall even further.
I have been working on a manuscript all week, so I haven't had time to
update the report til now. Last weekend, we had three negative factors
-- clouds, high tides, and high winds. It was a stay-at-home
weekend for those who had a choice, but our guests -- Dan Iwata and
Alan Koga from Orange Co. California -- had scheduled the trip for
months, and it really didn't look that bad until they got here.
been twice before with Alan's brother, Peter, and will be returning
next year to fish again, and to make a promotional video for
Kingfisher. A seasoned fly fisher, who targets steelhead whenever he
can, Dan really appreciates the LLM's sight casting action. But he
hasn't had a very easy time of it during his previous trips down here.
Once again, the conditions looked unfavorable. But fortunately, we got
into podding reds (with trout) under gulls.
and I had enjoyed a great "birding action" day with our neighbor Rex
two days before Dan and Alan arrived (see report below
this one), so we returned to the area early in the morning, hoping for
a repeat. But no, Nature may repeat herself endlessly, but rarely at
the same time and place. So we went to other locales, and had some
pretty good action, before returning to our first stop after midday.
Gulls were seated on the water, so we anchored and took a look. Sure
enough, some gulls soon took up their position over a pod of fish that
were tailing every once in a while; but because the water was so deep
(two feet), the fish weren't as consistently visible as they are in
Kingfisher spoon flies, Dan and Alan waded toward the first pod, and
within minutes Alan had hooked up -- once, twice, three times --
landing two reds and a trout. Dan was befuddled, and started to curse
his luck, but it didn't take long for things to turn around, and he
ended up catching the largest trout and red. Other pods
began to gather, and the guys enjoyed constant action for several hours
before heading in. Here's a montage of a few of the shots I took of
out for a half day on Sunday, and the podding action never
materialized. Alan, who was down here for a few more days, elected to
go back out on Sunday with our associate guide, Richard Weldon (I had a
writing project to tend to). They got back into the pods, and didn't
get in until after dark. The wind was over 20 mph the whole time, but
the birding action "feeds" on the high winds, since it enables the
gulls to remain aloft over the fish with less effort.
night, I spent the night on the bay under the full moon. The tides are
falling dramatically, and will soon be at their winter levels, making
for AWESOME fishing until, as a rule, mid-January, when the cold fronts
start coming in quick succession. Although the water is about 9 inches
lower than last weekend, I decided to spend the night in a lagoon known
for being "off limits" to 95% of the boats during the low tides of
summer and winter. Indeed, I spent the night in there last February,
and woke up to find the Curlew sitting on the bottom. So, it was a bit
of a risk to go there this late in the fall.
to sleep, and was awakened at 3:00 by the quacking and carrying-on of
hundreds of nearby ducks. I was awake for two hours, and if I'd been a
member of Ducks Unlimited, I would have promptly quit and joined Ducks
Limited. They sure had a party!
lagoon has been hosting some big reds in the last few days. Joe and
Debbie MacKay, our most frequent guests and friends (who joined us for
Thanksgiving, along with many of my family members), fished there
yesterday and the day before. Joe caught a 30 inch red on his fly rod
(spoon fly) two days ago, and Debbie landed a 25+. Yesterday, the wind
muddied up the lagoon, but this morning, it was back to prime
conditions, except for the fact that a mild cold front passed through about 4
am. It was hard to get out of my sleeping bag, so I sat sipping coffee
until the sun rose.
first, I didn't see any signs of life. Neither did I hear any fish
feeding under the full moon. I have come to believe that it is a myth
that the fish always feed when the moon is full, because I've seen very
little correlation between the moon and surface sounds/feeding
activity. In May, for instance, the reds fed aggressively before the
moon rose at 11, and then stopped abruptly. And in October, there
weren't any sounds of feeding until the sun rose -- after a cloudless
little while, I began to see reds feeding on shrimp and small mullet.
They weren't tailing, but they would push a wake in 10 inches of water,
then disappear. Still loathe to wade in the chilly conditions, I
started casting from the staked Curlew, and within a few minutes, I
landed a 24 inch red that took a Mother's Day Fly. I used my tripod and
timer to get this shot of him before I let him go. That was enough for
me, so I went stalking a white-phase reddish egret with my camera.
After getting a few shots of him "canopy hunting," I decided to go in.
As I got up, reds were everyhere! I met Joe and Debby entering the
lagoon, so I stopped and told them what I'd seen, and wished them well.
They probably caught a lot of fish, as it's been sunny all day.
The tides have risen dramatically over the last three days, changing
the whole dynamics of fly fishing the bay. Unsure of what we would
find, and interested in scouting in preparation for some charters this
weekend, Kathy and I went out yesterday morning with our neighbor, Rex,
and our two dogs. As we're prone to do, we didn't leave the dock
until after 8:00.
were already moving in from the west as we arrived at a flat where we
have been finding tailing pods and singles over the last two weeks.
However, the water was high and off-color; so we kept going. I had plans to
head for the white sand, unless we found some visible fish on the west
side. I was almost ready to pull the plug on the west side, and
head east when we came upon some gulls sitting on the water. So we
stopped and drifted toward them. Gulls on the water this time of year
either mean that the reds are podding, and driving shrimp to the
surface, or it means that they have been podding recently. Otherwise,
the gulls go inland at daybreak. They don't waste their time
Within a few minutes, we spotted a few tails
beneath a single hovering gull; so I staked the boat and studied the
water more carefully. Then we saw them -- gulls gathering to the west
of us, obviously feeding over redfish. I got up on plane, made a wide
loop upwind, and then drifted down toward the gulls. By the time we
floated into the vicinity, we were spotting other flocks of gulls
nearby. The action was "heating up" by the minute.
hit the water, and headed in different directions. For the next three
hours, we waded or floated from one pod to another, catching nine reds
from 24 to 26 inches apiece. We also landed a couple of nice trout that
were feeding around the edges of the podding reds.
wasn't easy fishing. The pods were moving quickly, and it was difficult
to catch up with them, especially since the water was so deep. But by
using Kingfisher spoon flies (Rex used his own spoon design), and
casting right beneath the gulls, we
drew explosive strikes. The fish were incredibly fat, and they fought
like fish that were twice as large. The cool water, and the
increased availability of oxygen accounted for their almost
Kathy and I were at school Monday and Tuesday, so we weren't out on the
bay. Our friend and one-man fly fishing machine -- Henry Bone from
Austin -- came in Monday night and fished yesterday and today. I joined
him with a client, Clarke Colton from Centennial, Colorado, this
morning. Once we arrived on the flats, neither Henry nor I started our
until we were ready to head back in -- about six hours later. That's
how good it was.
caught 22 reds yesterday, and 24 reds this morning, which is his
personal best. (He caught 33 one weekend last April.) Pods of reds were lined up as far as you could see.
While Henry did his usual thing upwind of Clarke and me, I waded with
Clarke downwind into one pod after another. Some of them were really
small schools of 20-30 fish, but regardless, the action was constant.
Clarke had never fished the LLM, and took a while to get acclimated to
the wind and the behavior of the fish. But he caught on, and
landed four fine reds up to 25 inches. He was pretty happy, as
you might expect.
It was a beautiful sight: Tails glistening in the sun, shrimp jumping
across the surface, and reds blowing up periodically as they pounced on
fish were full of small shrimp -- that's what Henry told me later,
after cleaning a fish he kept. Clarke
used a red and silver Kingfisher spoon -- our new spoon fly that we're
offering for sale now. Henry used VIPs until the fish destroyed
them, then he switched to Mother's Day flies, until they were
gone, too; and he finished up with spoons. He said that he barely had
to twitch the VIPs for the reds to pounce on them.
encouraged Clarke to use a spoon fly over a Mother's
Day (shrimp imitiation) because it was really hard to get their
attention -- their heads
were down in the grass -- and he needed all the help we could get.
Since he hadn't had much experience, I thought the VIP might pose too
much of a casting and hooking challenge.
said before (ad nauseum) that even though reds may be feeding 100% on
shrimp, or crabs, that they will readily take a fly of any reasonable
description. So don't worry about matching the hatch: Focus instead on
factors such as sink rate, visibility, and castability. If you used a
crab fly all the time, you might conclude that reds like crabs best.
But if you used a spoon fly all the time, you might conclude that they
like spoons best! It points out the absurdity of making conclusions
about what redfish are eating based on what they're willing to take.
They're like junk yard dogs, ready to eat whatever moves as long as it
doesn't "attack" them.
a cold front coming in tomorrow, so we've already rescheduled some
regular clients; but early next week and beyond is looking great for
continued "story book" podding action.
Yesterday was one of those perfect fly fishing days. The cold front was
winding down, the winds were neglible and turning to the east. Kathy
and I went out with our dogs at 10:00, which is our customary departure
time in the fall and winter, especially after a cold front passes. The
fish just don't get onto the flats by late morning and afternoon, as a
rule. Anyway, we like our sleep and coffee time!
to the west side first, and were immediately into tails. The wade was
difficult, but we got out and waded for a few minutes, and landed one
red a apiece before we moved further north. We stopped again when we
got into "major wakes," and spent another two hours stalking tails on a
soft bottom. Four more reds later, we decided that we'd had enough
aerobic exercise, and headed east for the sand.
to give the dogs a romp on a spoil island, but on the way there we
passed through the
largest concentration of redfish on the sand that we'd seen in two
Apparently, they were moving onto the sand as the was sun was warming
the east side. We let the dogs have a break, then returned to the
area, and staked the boat. We had about an hour to fish, since we had
plans to go to Mexico with some friends. But in that hour, we landed 10
more reds! It was almost constant action. Some of them were pretty
large, too -- I landed one 27 inch, and casted to one over 30. (We only
took time to photograph this 25" red.)
caught most of the reds -- on both sides of the bay -- on Mother's Day
flies. It was hard to get the tailing reds to see anything, since they
were constantly head down. It was so late in the day that they
would see us when rising to take a VIP, so we gave up on that option
quickly. I casted to some of them 20 times with a MDF before
they finally saw the fly. I switched to a spoon late in the game, and
that seemed to help get their attention. When we went to the sand, we
were both using chartreuse Mother's Day flies, and the fish seemed
spooky toward the flies. I switched to a pink Clouser, which they
loved, but it had a small hook, and I missed too many of them.
Then we both
switched to a white Mother's Day flie (white shrimp imitation), and
they began to hammer the flies. If we could have stayed longer, we
would have caught 10 more...but it was
still a perfect day. (And it was my birthday, imagine that!)
Yesterday morning, a cold front blew through, and we're now enjoying
our first real autumn weather. I'm glad we're off the water for a
few days, because it looks like the north winds will be blowing for a
while. In contrast, throughout late October, the southeast winds were
fiercely March-like, the tides as low as summer, and the daytime
overland temperatures in the 90s.
clients enjoyed some great fly fishing over the weekend -- again
-- regardless of the unseasonably warm and windy conditions.
Jones and his son Darren came down for the San Antonio area, and fished
with me on Saturday. Darren was wearing his Laguna Madre
Fly Fishers cap -- the same one he wore in Iraq during his six-month
stint there with his Marine unit. His friends had urged him to take
civilian clothes, so that during his time off he could recapture that
familiar feeling of being home among his loved ones. So the cap went
with him. Although it was about as worn as any cap I've ever seen, it
seemed to bring him good luck with the reds on Saturday.
winds were already 15 mph at daybreak, but the sky was clear, so I
hoped to get into visible fish -- at least by midmorning when the sun
was high enough to help us see the fish. I went to an area where there's been pods and tailing
reds at daybreak -- a virtual sanctuary from boats. When we arrived at
the area, and shut down, we could see that there were reds everywhere.
Darren elected to wade on the mucky bottom, while Ross remained on the
boat. I poled down wind for a few yards, and immediately got into
tailing pods. Ross had a couple of shots before hooking up on his first
redfish (of his life) on a fly. He was so excited that he said, "This
is the most incredible experience. I'm going to sell
all my non-fly fishing gear when I get home!"
Darren was struggling behind us: the bottom was terrible. So we
waited for him, and got him back on the boat. Within a few
minutes, Darrren had his first of six reds for the day. The details
fail me, but I do recall that we ended up the day casting to pods that
were frolicking in off-colored water. The guys had never seen many
tails fishing the central coast, so they were about as happy as I've
ever seen any fly fishers on the Lower Laguna -- stalking the pods
together, and hooking up, in 25 mph winds.
Sunday, we hosted another recent returnee from Iraq -- Greg Miller from
McAllen, along with his father and mother, Jim and Terri. Greg fished
with his dad last year before leaving for Iraq, to work as a
winds were blowing at daybreak -- just as hard, or harder than the
previous day. Once again, however, it looked like another cloudless day
unfolding, so I wasn't too worried. I took the Millers to the same
place where I'd been the day before with Darren and Ross. Again, as
soon as we stopped, tailing pods began sprouting downwind of us. Jim
opted to get out of the boat, and begin stalking a bouquet of
tails, while Greg stayed aboard and began casting to tailing fish from
the casting platform. Within a few minutes, Jim had his first red on a
Mother's Day fly, and Greg had missed a big one that popped up 20 feet
from the bow. Greg quickly decided to join his dad, so Terri stepped
onto the casting platform. While the guys waded for the next 45
minutes, I poled Terri through the redfish-infested waters. As I've
found in guiding women before, Terry quickly developed the ability to
see the fish in the water, even with the low-angled sunlight. After seeing quite a few, Terry spotted one
without my help that was feeding head down on the dark, grassy bottom,
and casted the Kingfisher spoon to it. Another red, that was with the
first one, rose immediately and took the spoon. Minutes later, Terry
landed her first redfish on a fly!
year, it was Greg's day; but this time, Jim hit his stride and landed
six reds out of the 10 or so that took his fly. It was the windiest day
I've guided in about two weeks, and to the Millers credit they didn't
complain about the wind one time during the whole day! I pointed this
out as we disembarked at the Kingfisher dock, and Jim said, wisely, "It
doesn't help, does it?"
us have to spend a lot of time on the water, as a rule, before we stop
fretting about conditions, and focus instead on what we can do to achieve our goals.
Obviously, it's what works in "real life," too.
Kathy and I did not fish on Monday or Tuesday, but our old friend and
regular guest Lewis Robinson from Rockport stayed at Kingfisher and
fished those two days with his buddy Ed. Lewis and Ed found
incredible redfish action. Anchoring Ed's Pathfinder, Lewis and Ed
waded all Monday afternoon, and landed countless reds, including a 31
1/2 fish that Ed stalked for 20 minutes along a shoreline before
getting the fly to the fish. I wish I had photos of that one! They guys
had to wade about two miles back upwind to get to the boat, and were
dead tired on Monday night. I'm not sure how they did on Tuesday, but
given Lewis's usual good fortune, I would assume that they caught heck
out of the fish again.
and I had a full weekend, beginning last Thursday when I guided
our old friend and Wonderfurl (furled leader)creator Bob Ferguson
from Rockport, and his buddy Chris Bentsen from Seattle. Kathy,
meanwhile, guided Corey Rich and his wife Tyra from Houston. Thursday
and Friday proved to be especially windy days, with winds exceeding 25
mph by afternoon. Kathy and I also discovered that the tides had
fallen so dramatically that we could not get into some of our usual
autumn west-side lagoons, and that the fish weren't even in the larger
lagoons. It was dead everywhere. Kathy ran south all the way to
Stover's Point, and I went north all the way to the East Cut; and the
fish were spotty at best. Finally, I returned to an area in the early
afternoon that I was sure would "heat up" by afternoon, and sure
enough, a few reds were coming onto the flat. I called Kathy, and she
joined us a while later. Our clients waded downwind, and Chris and Tyra
caught small reds. Hoping to do better, I gathered my guys and headed
for the white sand, where I'd found so many reds on the previous
Sunday. It proved to be a mistake. Just as we departed, the flat
"turned on," and Cory and Tyra proceeded to catch a dozen or so reds on
crab flies, several of which were over 26 inches long. Speaking to
Kathy by phone, I learned of my error, and returned to the area, but
alas it was too late for us. Kathy's digital camera battery went dead,
so she was unable to photograph Cory and Tyra's catches.
headed back to the same area on Friday, and managed to find
some fish that were spread out over the flat. Chris caught a red on Mother's Day flies, and I -- joining them with my
five weight -- caught a couple on Mother's Day flies, too, along with a
24-25 inch trout that looked positively black in the afternoon sun. As
the wind rose higher and higher, I put my rod away and waded beside
Chris while Bob waited aboard the Curlew. We had several shots at reds
-- and Chris caught one out of a small pod that we could see 70 yards
out, but the reds never appeared in the numbers that Corey and Tyra
enjoyed the previous day.
Saturday and Sunday were a different story.
Kathy and I guided six guys from Austin and Houston, led by John
Robertson and his two sons Corey and Tyler. Their buddies Aaron,
Robert, and Matthew were all seasoned fly fishers, so we figured we'd
well if only we could put them on fish.
headed north, hoping that the Friday difficulties were only a brief
pause in the return of the reds to one of our favorite areas. By
9:00, we hit paydirt. On a shallow shoreline I began running into
wakes. When we shut down, backs and tails popped up downwind, and
along the shoreline. Robert got out and waded the shoreline with Corey,
while I poled Matthew downwind. We began to see one pod after another
that positively glowed red and golden in the morning sunlight. While
Matthew proceeded to break off, and then to land three in quick
succession, Robert landed six reds (with a red VIP) that were were
subtly tailing upwind on the shallow, boggy flat.
Kathy's guys had come in beside us, but the action was tight to the
shoreline, and it was soon over. Kathy headed west where her guys
scored a couple of reds, while I headed onto the white sand, where we
finished the half day on the water. Corey hooked one red on the sand,
but the guys were transfixed by the Bahama-like beauty of the sand.
proved to be even better. We returned to the shoreline, and discovered
that a whole school of reds were spread out
over a couple of acres, and tailing. My guys deployed, and Kathy's guys
came in below us. Tyler caught a big red on the shoreline (too far away
to photograh, darn!), and his dad casted crosswind to several tails,
and missed one. Kathy's guys waded toward the motherload of reds, but
the wading conditions were so poor that they made too much noise.
Robert lost one and Matthew landed a red before we concluded that the
action was over.
headed a half mile west, and really began to get into the fish!
Kathy went upwind of us with here guys, and before long everyone was
onto tailing or cruising redfish. Robert and Matthew began to catch
reds, some of which were in small pods. Since Kathy seemed to be in the
thick of the fish, I looped up wind and poled into the same area. John
and I landed a few reds, while Tyler headed further west and got into
major podding action. Landing three or four reds -- some of which
were over 24 inches -- he yelled for us to join him to take advantage
of a group of 20-30 reds that were tailing together. Aaron who had lost
a red, and broken off on one, responded to the invitation and covered
the two hundred yards on foot in record time. John and I returned to
the boat, and prepared to wrap it up for the day. Moments
before we had to start the motor and pick up Tyler and Aaron, we saw
Aaron's rod bent! So we ran over the get photos of his first redfish on
a great weekend of fishing with a great group of guys.
the last three days, we have hosted a group of six guys from Dallas,
Charlotte, Chicago, and Detroit, led by Curtis Jaggars from Dallas.
Capts. Skipper Ray and Rick Hartman joined me in guiding the group on
Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The group came in Thursday,
while a cold front was blowing through. We were confident, however,
that the front would be spent by Friday morning, and we weren't
disappointed. While it was chilly, the north wind had all but subsided
a back lagoon that I thought was about to "turn on," while Skipper and
Rick headed north. I planed into the area, and redfish wakes preceded
the Curlew. I shut down in less than a foot of water, and poled
Bernard and Fab downwind toward an area that's famous for hosting a
huge congregation of reds feeding on white shrimp in the fall. Within
minutes, tailing pods were popping up all around us, so I encouraged
the guys to wade. I called Skipper and urged him to join us.
Bernard took off on his own while I helped Fab -- a less experienced
fly fisher -- stalk some pods near the boat. The action couldn't
been better. For the next five hours, the guys stalked reds on foot,
and then casted from the boat once the sun had risen high enough to
give us the lighting we needed to see the fish below the surface.
Bernard landed nine reds -- seven on an orange VIP -- including one
over 28 inches (that I wasn't able to photograph) and
this 27+ inch fish. Fab, meanwhile, caught six before we left the
lagoon. Skipper's guys -- both novices -- spent most of the time
practicing their casts under Skipper's watchful eye, but did manage to
catch a couple of fish before the action subsided.
north to join Rick, who was poling a shoreline with Curtis and John
Pierce. I was feeling pretty sorry for Rick and his guys until later,
when I learned that they caught 19 reds up to 30 inches long, while
casting from Rick's poled scooter!
proved to be the toughest day, as the wind and the clouds came up by
late morning. I guided Fab and John S. (I couldn't pronounce his name,
much less spell it.). We returned to the same inlet with Skipper, and
when we shut down, there were redfish tailing and podding in every
direction. It was almost dead calm for a while, and so we enjoyed a
window of opportunity that lasted until about 10:00. Wading some, and
then fishing from the boat, my two guys had almost constant shots.
John. S. caught his first redfish on a fly, and Fab added to his
impressive Friday numbers. After that, it was "run around and search
for a miracle," as the clouds and winds make sight casting virtually
Sunday, I had the privilege of guiding John Pierce alone, while Rick
and Skipper took two guys on their boats. We all went to the same spot
-- the place were I'd been finding the fish the previous two days --
and it was full of redfish for a third day in a row. They weren't
podding as much, but were spread out and feeding aggressively on the
shrimp. Exploding redfish punctuated the calm morning, as we poled in
three directions, finding fish wherever we went.
had the best "line" for the fish, because they were gathered along a
depth transition that ran for over half a mile. For the next four
hours, John and I were into constant redfish opportunities, but it
wasn't easy fishing. The moss was thick, and the fly would foul in an
instant. He broke off the first two fish, but then landed a 30 inch redfish to
start off an impressive string of reds.
to about 75 reds -- singles and pods -- we lost the sunlight, so we
headed east to get out from under the clouds. I poled John along
edge of the sand where the water was still glassy, even in the wind,
and he hooked two reds there, and landed one. Hoping to find more fish,
I moved the boat further east onto the white sand, and suddenly the
sand "turned on." We were into redfish for the rest of the time
were "crabbing" head down, or following sting rays. It was tough
fishing, as the wind rose to about 20 mph by 1 pm, but it was fun!
I had the privilege of guiding Buzz Black from Houston today. Buzz came
down to join a group of his kayaking buddies, but wanted to fish with
me before fishing from his kayak. The weather report called for widely
scattered showers, and we were half expecting to get chased off the water. Although storms and
showers literally surrounded us all day -- even to the point of trying
to intimidate us with a funnel cloud -- we never got wet. Meanwhile,
the tailing and podding action was about as good as I've ever seen it.
Buzz said at the end of the day, "I've never casted to so many redfish
in all my life," and he's fished the coast for many years.
started north, and poled a shoreline where reds were cruising with
their backs and tails out of the water. While casting to these cruising
singles, we noticed that there were pods tailing nearby. Buzz
elected to get out of the boat, and intercept the pods on foot. Using
VIPs for most of the day, he saw some great topwater action. After he'd
caught a few wading, we went
after them from the boat. The reds stopped tailing about midday,
so we headed south, ending up on a flat that's usually too shallow to
hold fish. There wasn't another boat within sight, but the reds
-- and sting rays -- were all over the place. Since the flat has a firm
bottom, Buzz got off the boat again, and
stalked reds for another couple of hours. I had a hard time not
shouting unsolicited advice, but Buzz said he didn't mind the help, as
long as I didn't hit him. I don't recall doing that, but I did get
pretty excited a few times.
fishing was so incredible that Buzz decided to opt out of the kayaking,
and to go out with me again on Saturday. Of course, I'll let you know
how we do!
10/6/04 The fishing has been superb for the last several days, but I've not been out myself. The winds have been low, and the tides are staying low enough for the single fish to be tailing. (The pods will tail in deeper water, as you may know.) As Kathy and I have discharged our respective university duties, our old friend/client Lewis Robinson from Rockport, and his minister Tom, came down on Sunday and covered the bases for us out on the bay. I suggested they go to the same place we've been doing so well, and they came back that afternoon with stars in their eyes. They reported that tailing pods were everywhere, and it continued for the next two days. Unfortunately, Lewis blew out his water pump on Monday, so they switched horses on Tuesday and took out our new Curlew. Using a black VIP, Tom said he landed seven or eight reds on Tuesday. There were so many fish that they just picked up and went elsewhere, to give themselves a break, I suppose. They also saw a lot of trout on the flats, as well. They went out again on Tuesday, and we left before we got to talk to them.
side benefit, the trout are tearing up the shrimp under the lights. I
don't know if I've ever seen them so thick and aggressive. Tom fished
on Sunday and Tuesday, and had a half dozen strikes each cast. It was
wild! Shrimp were hopping around on the surface, the fish were
guiding tomorrow, so I'll update the report with some photos as soon I
The conditions on the Lower Laguna are currently prime for spectacular
autumn fly fishing. However, for about a week following the entrance of
Hurricane Ivan into the Gulf, the tides were so high that fish were difficult to find. We were
fishing in areas that rarely have any water at all, and the fish were
so spread out that the most we could hope for was a few shots from the
boat. Wading was difficult, as the water was so deep that it
was nearly impossible to see the fish from a wading level. The results
were dismal -- Last weekend, not one redfish was caught during three
separate charters. As I told John Faulkner of Austin, and Jeremy
of San Antnio -- who headed up two parties of anglers -- it was the
most difficult fishing that we'd seen since mid-winter.
the water began to fall dramatically on Monday, and has continued
falling ever since. I guided our regular client and neighbor Jim
Posgate on Wednesday for a half day. (As you may recall, Jim won Grand
Prize in the LMFFA catch and release tournament this past June.) The
wind was still out of the northeast, so even though the winds were low,
the sun was out, it was hard to see the fish downwind. It gets harder
and harder to sight cast downwind with a north wind as the winter
approaches -- for two reasons: The sun falls lower in the
southern sky, effectively blinding you; and the total illumination
hitting the water is
reduced (as the cosine of the sun's angle -- that's
the only trig I recall from high school).
we didn't depend on the sun. Heading for a back lagoon that usually
holds fish in the spring and fall while the tides are seasonally high,
I shut down after moving a few pods away from the boat. Jim waded in
about a foot of water for an hour and a half, and had several shots at
tailing reds. He asked me to join him, so I took my five-weight TICRx
with me as we waded downwind. It was picture-perfect. The winds
gradually subsided, and the sun was direct. The flat is as firm as a
sidewalk, so it was effortless wading; and only one other boat was
landed one small redfish there, even though we both had multiple
opportunities. Then we headed onto the sand, where we found too few
to justify stopping. So we headed north, hoping to find visible fish in
one of our favorite back lagoons. I poled two banks, and Jim had a few
shots before landing a red that was cruising visibly against a flooded
then, something started to happen. The wind began to die, then shift to
the east. We could tell that by evening, the wind would be out of the
southeast for the first time in over a week. Suddenly, wakes began to
appear all over the lagoon, as if the fish were streaming in from
deeper water. We got out of the boat, and stood in one spot for over an
hour and had almost constant opportunities -- and caught...not a single
was really strange. The fish were as difficult as I've ever seen them.
Of course, we had some obstacles to overcome. Floating grass fouled our
flies, and covered our lines as soon as we casted. So the cast had to
be perfect, and grass-free, and there were few presentations of that
description. Jim used a VIP popper, while I shifted to a Mother's Day. It didn't matter,
because the fish were terminally spooky. The full moon is
usually blamed for such behavior, but I think it was more of a weather
and wind change that briefly turned them off, because they were back to
usual selves by the next morning (see below). I did get one strike from
a huge fish that swam right up to me, but that was it. We hadn't
brought any lunch, so we decided to head in. As we planed five miles
down the west shoreline, we saw hundreds of redfish.
back that night for my full moon sleepover. Anchoring in the middle of
the lagoon, I briefly contemplated fishing with a VIP for a while, but
there was no evidence that the fish were feeding. So I opted to go to
sleep, hoping for some early morning action -- but not before taking
this photo for an article that I'm doing on fly fishing under the full
sun began to rise, the wind completely subsided. I decided to plane
around the area in the Curlew and find the concentration of fish. After
heading north for about a mile, I suddenly came upon several pods and
school of about fifty fish. So I stopped and anchored, and began wading
toward the west shoreline, hoping to encounter the retreating fish.
began popping up all around me, and soon I spotted the leading edge of
a school. I crept
closer, and cast my VIP into the edge of some tails, and the whole area
erupted with fish. Several fought over the popper before one finally
fished for only about an hour, and landed two more reds out of small
The fish were still finickly, and quickly rejected poor presentations.
But even after a cloudless night during the full moon, they were more
than willing to take the fly.
they have probably been feeding on small blue crabs, the increase in
podding activity tells me that the white shrimp are beginning to draw
the attention of the reds. Indeed, hundreds of
laughing gulls were sitting on the water and feeding just the south of
me. The wind was too low for them to remain aloft over fish, but they
may have been following pods: I didn't have time to check it out. I
think we'll soon be
seeing "birding action" as the reds begin to target the pre-spawning
white shrimp. It hasn't really begun, but October -- like April -- is
usually a hot podding month, as the white shrimp mature and prepare to
go offshore to spawn in the winter.
I were scheduled to head north to Glady's Hole (at the northernmost end
of the bay) today, and I was looking forward to reporting on our
expoits; but he hurt himself yesterday moving his boat trailer. So that
report will have to wait!
the pleasure of guiding two men from Austin this past weekend. Bryce Miller came down on Thursday to fish
on Friday, and John Nelson arrived on Friday to fish the weekend. Bryce
had planned to come down with two buddies; but when they had to cancel,
Bryce decided to come alone. It was, as it turned out, a fortuitous
the abrupt rise in water levels, we were able to find plenty of redfish
in clear water that was about two feet deep. Indeed, Bryce sight
casted to one redfish after another for several hours -- in an open
flat full of dead shoal grass, and along a flooded shoreline. Bryce
opted to use his five weight, which he wielded masterfully. Using a
lightly weighted Mother's Day Fly, he landed eight reds and snagged --
or nipped -- several others. Since the water was so deep, Bryce fished
exclusively from the poled Curlew. Afterward, I discovered that Bryce's
"default setting" is, like mine, to wade rather than fish from a boat;
but the deep water would have made it impossible to see the fish while
Bryce was an experienced fly fisher, John had only recently taken up
the sport. And his trip to Kingfisher was only his second
saltwater fly fishing trip. I set him up with a Temple Fork TICR seven
weight, and worked with him on the dock the night before. I could tell
that he wanted to learn, and did not have unrealistic expectations. So
often, it seems, this is the attitude that "works" to insure a fabulous
day on the water -- for angler and guide, alike.
water had risen even further, so instead of concentrating on sight
casting on open flats, we focused on flooded shorelines, where the reds
often chase finger mullet into the sprigs of sponge grass. We were
fortunate to find the reds where Bryce and I had found them the day
before. Even though John lacked a lot of practice, he made up for it
with an ability to adapt to the situations we faced. After pulling the
fly out of one red's mouth, and receiving the requisite lecture on
waiting for the fish to ingest the fly, he hooked up on a big red that
ran at least 100 yards out from the boat. After 20 minutes of fighting
the fish, John landed a 29 inch red! He caught a smaller fish a few
minutes later. Needless to say, he and I were pretty stoked. It's not
every day that a fly fisher lands a fish like that!
proved to be tougher -- the water had risen even further. We returned
to the same shoreline, and found a few reds there. But
what was amazing were the flounder that covered the shoreline. They
were blowing up on the finger mullet, and jumping out of the water. It
was quite a circus. As usual, it was hard to spot them until it was too
late; but we had fun witnessing the spectacle.
to find more fish before John's half day charter was over, I ran south
and entered a back lagoon where there are usually a couple of fly
fishing guides poling clients. Not a boat was in sight. Assuming that
the lagoon was devoid of fish, I started poling John, nonetheless,
since we didn't have much time to go exploring elsewhere. I was
surprised when we started seeing redfish -- all over the place! So
plentiful that we decided to get out and wade. Running out of time,
John had a couple of shots at 24+ inch reds. Given the prospects for a
fruitful afternoon, I offered to stay out longer, but John said that if
he didn't head in, he wouldn't be able to see his 11-month-old twins
before they went to sleep.
Speaking of fathers, I took my own fishing the
other day with his buddy Roy Galvan. We all fished from the Curlew --
Dad and Roy casting gold spoons, and I wielding my five weight. I
served as the spotter, and would tell them when reds were in range.
Some of the bigger fish were "waking" in from the north, so I was able
to give Dad and Roy a head's up in time to cast to the incoming fish.
Roy finally got his spoon in front of this 28 inch red. From the poling
platform I could clearly see the fish hit the spoon, but the lure got
caught on an old circle hook that was lodged in the fish's jaw -- a
momento from an earlier battle that's he'd won. Roy's luck in catching
this fish was mind boggling.
A gentle northeast wind greeted my brother and me as we headed up the
Intracoastal from the mouth of the Arroyo. It had been six months since
we'd fished together, and it was the first time we'd been out since
Chip and his son Spencer had begun to fly fish our home waters. We
headed to an area where the redfish have been cruising on top and
tailing at daybreak. Just yesterday (see below), I'd found
tons of redfish in a remote westside venue, and wanted to see if they'd
still be there.
of carefully assessing our chances before committing to a wade -- by
poling the Curlew into the area and taking a careful look -- we donned
our wading boots and set off toward the shoreline. The wakes we'd
seen as we planed into the area had been evidence enough that
we'd found a motherload of redfish once again.
Once the fish settled down from the boat's
intrusion, they joined the mullet stream and headed south with the
incoming tide: It was obvious that a
spectacular phenomenon that I've called the Redfish
Parade was "on." Chip and I spread out and
turned against the northeast wind, waiting for wakes to appear. The
action was almost constant for over four hours. Using VIP poppers
exclusively, we landed around 12 reds up to 28 inches long. Chip got
the big fish honors with this hefty red after grabbing it by the tail
as it swam between his legs (shown), and we had countless opportunities
that we blew for one reason or another. But that's okay: A great
day on the water is graced, as well, with memories of what could
headed in by noon, even though the fish were still there, milling
around in a foot of grassy, clear water.
Today, I had the pleasure of guiding Harlingen dentist and fellow LMFFA
member Jim Burkholder and his two friends, Dave Woolweaver, and Sam
Carter -- for a half day. We left the dock at 6:30, and headed north.
Planing into an area near the west shoreline of the LLM, we saw
countless wakes, and shut down just as the sun
was rising. Jim began to wade, armed with a red VIP that he'd tied the
night before. Meanwhile, I stayed on the boat, and poled Dave and Sam,
who for various reasons could not wade. Jim didn't take long to get
on his second double digit day in a row (he and another friend that I
guided landed 37 reds -- with my help -- a couple of months ago).
Shown here is a 26 inch red that he released. A while later, he landed
one that was about 28 inches, but I wasn't able to get a photo of that
Kathy and I have been off the water for the last two days, but we've
had three guys here from Austin -- Scott Patton, Vince Wiseman and Jeff
Honeck -- for the last two days. I didn't get to talk to them last
as Kathy and I returned the lodge after the guys had gone to bed. But
scratched on a piece of paper, and tucked in the door was a fishing
report in Scott's hand: It said, "Great day on the water. Spent the
morning at...and caught 19, 15, and 4 reds. Picked up a few more
at...late." We were all worried that the cold front would ruin the
fishing. Apparently not!
It's late on Labor Day, but I wanted to update the report in time for
Tuesday morning, when most of you will be back to work and checking
weekend really began with a scouting mission on Wednesday night when I
left the dock at 10 p.m. to spend the night on the bay. My aim was to
do some fishing under the full moon, and then to scout early in the
morning in preparation for some charters that we had scheduled for the
decided to stay at the fifth entrance to Payton's Bay -- the same place
I'd "camped" aboard the Curlew just a month ago. I hoped that the
big trout would be feeding in the area, and might be enticed to take a
popper in the moonlight. But alas, the tide was going out, and the fish
did not seem to be feeding. I casted a white VIP fruitlessly for a
while before dozing off. I awoke again around 3 a.m., and listened for
the sounds of feeding trout, but could only hear the slashing sounds of
ladyfish. Still, hoping for a chance at a trophy trout, I got up and
began casting my VIP again. Two ladyfish later, I crawled back into my
sleeping bag, smelling of ladyfish, and slept fitfully on the hard deck
until just before dawn. The wind was calm, and not a fish could
be seen in the shallow water on the Payton's side of the fifth pass. So
I grabbed my five-weight TFO TICRx and my digital camera, and waded
toward the Intracoastal, hoping to find a school of reds gathering
along the ICW in preparation for the incoming tide. As I approached the
channel, I spotted redfish tailing all up and down the edge. Big tails,
too! I began casting along the edges of the school, and caught -- of
all things -- a small snook! After releasing the snook, I landed two
nice reds in the 25-26 inch range, and then decided to leave them
alone. I headed back to the boat, stopped
by my favorite big trout spot and briefly snagged a five or six-pound
trout that promptly got off, and then headed in to Kingfisher.
Friday through Sunday, I guided former client Russell Myers from Ft.
Smith, and his buddy Randy. Russell had been here three times
previously, and had done pretty well -- but none of us were prepared
for what happened over the weekend. If there was a headline to describe
the three days, it might be "FLY FISHERS CATCH 50 REDS AND ONE BIG
TROUT ON VIPS!"
left the dock in light rain on Friday morning, and saw very few boats
the whole day. Storms had hammered the area the previous day, and most
fishermen were probably hesitant to chance the 50% thunderstorm
prediction. The tides were still quite low, but rising perceptibly in
response to the sun's increasing pull that accounts for the autumn high
wind died completely as we approached the area where my son Ryan and I,
and several clients, had done so well a week before (see the 8/30/04
report below). Russell managed to catch a couple of reds that were tailing among the
mullet, but the action was disappointing. So we headed further south
where we found big reds streaming into a shallow area -- what I call
the "redfish parade," if you've read my previous reports. The big fish
were cruising, and tailing intermittently as they went. Russell urged
me to fish, too, so I got my five-weight and my camera and joined them
on the flat.
caught a couple of big ones, the largest of which slipped out of his
hands as I was heading over the take a photograph. We tried a couple of
other areas before returning to the area in the early afternoon.
This time, we caught the streaming reds heading out of the grassy area
toward their "holding water" -- an area that is only a foot deeper.
Randy finally caught fire and landed couple of big reds before we
called it a day. By my reckoning, we landed 13 reds up to
27 inches long that first day -- all on orange, chartreuse, and black
second day proved to be one of those "story book" days. To put it
simply, we enjoyed almost constant redfish action from daybreak until
4:00. After having a couple of hundred shots at cruising reds -- all in
west-side lagoons, both north and south of the mouth of the Arroyo --
we landed 25 reds before heading in, most of which were over 24 inches
long. Randy distinguished himself by catching 10 reds by himself
-- all on a black VIP.
proved more difficult. Kathy was guiding Jim Carlisle and his son from Oklahoma, while I guided
Russell and Randy again. The early morning redfish action was
short-lived in the area we chose to fish. We found out later than
Kingfisher guest Lawrence Ligon from Austin, who had fished only 200
yards to the east of us, had done much better. (A firm believer in
VIPs, Lawrence managed to catch 7 reds this morning before he and his
buddy Sam headed back to Austin.)
though all of our clients fished to tailing reds for several hours, we
didn't locate the hoped-for motherload of redfish, unfortunately, until
the Carlisles had already headed in. However, Jim's son (Jim, also!)
caught a world-class ladyfish on the white sand under the midday sun.
For his first visit to the LLM, he did quite well, as anyone who has
fished the Texas coast can attest.
headed south again with Russell and Randy, and revisited a lagoon near
Three Islands that had worked so well for us the evening before. Again,
we found streaming redfish leaving the grassy lagoon for deeper water.
After landing a total of 13 reds and one 25 inch trout, thanks to
Randy, the guys started heading back to the boat. What's wrong with them? I thought.
The water is still full of redfish. I couldn't figure it out.
8/30/04 This past weekend proved to be one of the most memorable fly fishing weekends of the year. Kathy and I co-guided a group led by Rod Zielke from Dallas. Rod and his three friends arrived Thursday night for two and a half days of fly fishing. Rod was an experienced saltwater fly fisher, but his three friends were new to the salt. And two of them could not wade, due to medical conditions. So we all faced some challenges, but the successes on the water for Rod and his buddy Phil from Nashville were remarkable!
started at an area to the north where my son and I had been fishing the
previous days. The tides were so low that the reds were outside the
back lagoons, but starting their move onto the flats shortly
daybreak. Knowing this, Kathy and I positioned our guys at the leading
edge of a mullet hoard which contained within its sheer biomass a
considerable number of trout and redfish,
moving slowly southward.
gamefish were not as visible as they often are, but that's typical of
their behavior when they are surrounded by mullet. The reds do not tail
as much, and the trout -- except for the largest ones that cruise
around on top -- are typically invisible. Blindcasting is usually
something we reserve for the last resort, but because the fish were so
plentiful, we suggested that the guys cast topwaters into the edge of
the mullet stream. Rod and Phil began to catch ladyfish, trout and
redfish on VIPs and Dalberg Divers; and the action didn't stop until
they stopped fishing on Sunday morning -- in time to catch their plane
the early morning action played out, we headed to another area where
big reds were spread out in thick grass. Rod and Phil waded, while
their buddies David and Dan fished largely from the boats. Rod
distinguished himself by catching a 29 inch red and several
others, while Phil caught a couple, as well.
the second day, we had honed our approach, and the fly fishers had
adjusted to the fishery. Indeed, Rod and Phil began catching trout,
redfish and ladyfish at first light, and didn't stop until we asked
them to move to another area. By then, Rod had "stopped counting trout
at 20," and was in double digits on redfish, too. Phil, a relative
novice, was not playing the part of a beginner, having already landed six trout and several
reds himself on white Clousers.
moved to the area where we'd found the big reds the day before.
Arriving earlier in anticipation of finding them there again, we were
not disappointed. The fishing was spectacular. Phil landed a 27+ red,
and Rod began landing one redfish or trout after another. After a
couple of hours of constant action, Kathy took in the other guys, and I
stayed behind with Rod and Phil, and joined them on the water with my
5-wt. After catching another 10 fish or so between us, we finally
harvested two small trout for cerviche, and headed in.
next morning, my son Ryan and I accompanied Rod and Phil on the water.
The wind had shifted to the north, and the action had changed as well.
We fished further to the south, where Ryan lead off the day by catching
the first red on a VIP. We all followed in quick succession, but the
fish weren't there in sufficient numbers to satisfy me. So we headed to
the second spot, hoping to get there earlier enough to catch the reds
entering the back lagoon. And did we hit it right. As
I approached the main trough of the back lagoon, I moved a couple of
reds, and immediately shut down, believing that we were on the leading
edge of the incoming hoard of reds. The hunch proved correct. As soon
as we stopped, we spotted redfish cruising into the lagoon on top, with
back and tails wagging in the shallow, grass-filled water. Not another
boat was in sight, even though it was Sunday morning: It was simply too
shallow for "non-Curlews." We stood within 50 yards of the boat, and
casted to one big red after another. Rod landed the largest one -- a
red measuring over 28 inches. Our time ran out, and we had to leave the
reds there, cruising into the lagoon without sights and sounds of eager
fly fishers and their Dalberg Divers, Clousers, and VIPs to harass them.
My son Ryan and I returned to the bay this morning, hoping to find the
reds in the same area as on 8/23. We left the dock at 6:30, and
witnessed your typical mesmerizing August sunrise as we headed north
along the ICW. Then, planing across the shallows, I noticed that the
tide had fallen to its lowest point in about two weeks. Not
surprisingly, we didn't see a sign of life in our favorite back lagoon;
it was simply too shallow. However, reaching an area where the depth
increases to about a foot, we suddenly came upon two schools of
redfish, and a hoard of mullet. We stopped, and were in the water
within five minutes. As it turned out, the ladyfish were so thick that
we had multiple strikes on our VIPs every cast. We landed a couple
apiece, and had to retie our flies, as the ladyfish had frayed our
tippets. It was fun, but frustrating to see how the ladyfish were
monopolizing the scene. "I hate ladyfish," Ryan said with his
characteristic, cut-to-the-chase, 15-year-old categorical assessment.
Normally I love ladyfish, but I had to agree that they were becoming a nuisance. So we
changed our tactics: We stopped setting the hooks on the ladyfish, and
waited for the sucking strikes of redfish and trout before strip
striking with our customary vigor. Of course, it's hard to tell the
difference in an instant, so we kept hooking ladyfish in between
redfish and trout, and missed a lot of game fish. But overall, it
worked! Before leaving the area, we landed 11 reds (mostly small ones),
3 trout up to 19 inches, and countless ladyfish -- all by
blindcasting in the fish-filled water. The action played out
around 9 a.m. as the wind rose to over 15 mph, so we decided to go in.
What a day for a mere two and a half hours of fishing! Are we spoiled?
8/23/04 After enjoying almost a month of dead calm mornings, the winds of south Texas returned last week, resulting in some very challenging days on the water. Yesterday, my Son Ryan and I went out together, hoping to get him that first redfish on a fly. We headed to an area where I've been taking clients, and doing pretty well. Ryan and I waded downwind on either side of a patch of glassy water that was somehow surviving the 15 mph wind. Ryan's cast has been getting longer every day -- and he's been catching trout off the dock each night -- so it wasn't surprising that he was able to cover enough water with his VIP popper to get some attention. Indeed, we found ourselves surrounded by small reds, ladyfish and trout that weren't showing very much at all amid the abundant mullet. Within a few minutes, Ryan had landed his first red -- the first of four fish that he caught while we were there. It wasn't a big fish, but it was his first, and therefore a "big" event in his life. We both missed numerous strikes before the action subsided, and landed five reds, two ladyfish and a trout before we headed in.
hosted Art Prangley and Ron Noble from Orange Co., Calif. on Wednesday,
Thursday and Friday. Ron's son Kevin -- who lives in the Houston area
-- joined them for the three days of fishing. While the men achieved
some memorable successes, I told them afterward that it had been the
three most difficult days of fly fishing that I'd seen since spring
first day proved to be the last of the
calm mornings, and quickly gave way to 20+ mph winds by early
afternoon. Nonetheless, we had some classic sight casting in bootie
deep water to cruising redfish, showing their backs and tails on a
glassy surface. A beautiful setting, and each men caught their first
redfish on a fly rod before late morning. By lunch, storm clouds had
gathered, so we ran around trying to avoid the rain until admitting
defeat and running for cover around 2 p.m.
Thursday, we were greeted by 15 mph winds at daybreak. We headed north
and finally settled down to fish a shallow flat where we could see reds
cruising upwind in about 8-9 inches of water. It was exciting, but challenging action. There is a
catch-22 operating under such conditions: If the fly is close enough for the fish to
see it, then it's often too close for comfort, and they spook.
Even so, Kevin and Art missed strikes from big fish, and Ron finally
got a smaller red on a Mother's Day Fly. The guys all had several
encounters before the action played out. Later Ron landed three
ladyfish in a pushinglagoon
that was full of ladyfish crashing bait. We went
to several places on Thursday, including the white sand, and found a
few fish in every locale; but the fish were few and far between.
Overall, it was tough, with
winds 25 mph by the end of the day.
I guided Steve Marshall and Talbert Bailey from Austin today. Steve
fished here a couple of months ago with fellow Austin CCA member
Pate, and had brought Talbert down for his first fly fishing
experience. Indeed, when I greeted the guys last night around 10:00,
that he'd never casted a fly rod. I fixed him up with
a TFO TICR seven weight, gave him a few tips, and went to bed.
Honestly, I thought that his chances of catching a fish were slim to
none. Was I wrong!
cold front blew through just before we left the dock. I'd hoped for the
calm conditions that we've been enjoying for the last three weeks, but
it had to come to an end sometime. We headed north, hoping to find the
reds where they've been for the last month. The action was steady and
increasing as we approached an area that has been too shallow for the
last six weeks or so. Noticing that the tide was somewhat
higher than it has been, and that it was rising, I decided to move into
shallower water. Two hundred yards later, after spooking several large
reds with the boat, I shut down. It
was about 9:30. For the next six hours, the guys waded downwind onto a flat that is several
miles long, and enjoyed almost constant redfish action without another
boat in sight. I didn't start the motor again until we headed home at
4:30! That's how good it was.
first the fish were just milling around in 8 inches of water. The
shoalgrass was so thick that fly fishing was the only conceivable way
to snag a red. The guys casted Mother's Day flies to the snaking
reds, but had a hard time getting the fish to see the flies in the
shallow, grassy conditions. So I suggested they switch to spoon
reds were beginning to change their pattern -- from milling around, to
streaming upwind -- what I call the Redfish Parade. We had sunshine off
and on; but because it was so shallow, the guys could see the fish
pushing a wake from 75 yards away with or without the sunlight.
Almost immediately after changing flies,
Talbert casted to a big red that swam right up to him, and exploded on
the peach colored Boone Spoone. A few minutes later, he landed this 27
inch redfish -- his first red on a fly! Steve got into the action
shortly afterward, and eventually caught an even larger red (shown).
first day of fly fishing (anywhere), Talbert hooked nine reds, broke
off on one, lost two, and landed six. A remarkable feat considering his
complete lack of prior experience! Steve did almost as well, and this
only was his second fly fishing trip.
later. I have to tie flies for tomorrow!
I don't think we have ever enjoyed such a long period of calm, sunny
weather. Every morning for the last two weeks has been dead calm. Tides
continue to be very low, making many of our favorite flats "off limits"
to most boats, and a sanctuary for feeding reds and trout. We have,
consequently, been able to find tailing and cruising fish by sunrise on
the west side, and enjoy "story book" sight casting until midday
without another boat in sight. Then, shifting to the white sand,
we have been sight casting to ladyfish, and an occasional redfish or
week began last Sunday night when I spent the night on the water. Each
month during the full moon, I go out on the Curlew, and spend the night
in one of my favorite places. As usual when I arrived at 10:00 pm, it
was windy. I anchored, sat up for a while enjoying the early arrivals
of the Perseid meteor shower, and sipping Gatorade. It was so warm
that I couldn't bear the thought of getting inside the sleeping bag, so
I went to sleep on top of the bag in my fly fishing clothes. At 1:00, I
was awakened by the sounds of feeding fish. Ladyfish and trout were
competing for who could make the loudest noise, it seemed. Loud pops
and slashing breaks could be heard at the opening to a pass between the
spoil islands -- just upwind of me, of course The wind had subsided to
about 10 mph, so I decided to fly fish. Tying on a white VIP with the
help of a tiny flashlight, and donning my sting ray resistant Chota
slipped into the water, and headed upwind to the feeding fish. Casting a five weight against the wind
in the dark is a bit hazardous, but I was pleased to find that I could
cast the VIP about 40 to 50 feet against the slight breeze. The
moonlight was so bright that I could follow the white fly as I
stripped it over over the moonlit surface.
fished for about an hour without landing a big trout, even though
I missed a couple that exploded on the popper without
getting hooked. In addition to catching small trout, I
landed five ladyfish. I was getting a little tired, and thinking about
heading back to the boat when suddenly a fish slammed the fly and
headed for deeper water. The fish took me into my backing and beyond
within seconds, and I could tell by the way the fish was shaking its
head, and not jumping, that it wasn't a ladyfish. I thought, for
certain, that I'd hooked an 8-10 pound trout, and began to wonder how
the heck I was going to photograph the fish in the moonlight before
releasing it. Twenty minutes later, I pulled the fish close enough see that it was a 25-26 inch
redfish. A nice catch for 2 a.m., but not the fish I'd hoped for. I
trudged back to the boat, and collapsed on the deck. Here's a shot of
the sunrise from aboard the Curlew.
trout action along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is one of the most
exciting, and overlooked opportunities in the Lower Laguna. The action
is "on" almost every morning from late June through the rising tides of
early September, and offers fly fishers the chance to catch a trophy
trout, along with a couple of dozen smaller ones. On Tuesday, Kathy and
I had the privilege of taking out Danny and Diane Hicks of Dallas.
Danny is writing a book on fly fishing Texas for Amato Publications,
and wanted us to fish so he could get some photos for the book.
Knowing that the trout have been thick along the ICW, we stopped there
first. It wasn't long before we were having double and triple hookups.
Before we moved on, we had landed over 20 trout -- three of which were
three pounds or over -- three reds, and a few ladyfish. Here's two of
the trout we caught and released -- all on VIPs of various colors.
Kathy missed a world record (shown) by a few ounces, and then had her
knot come undone as she prepared to land a truly BIG trout that would
have been a world record on most any tippet.
left and headed for the area where we've been finding the Redfish
Parade (See earlier reports below for an explanation of this term). At
first, we didn't see much happening on the glassy surface -- no tails,
and no cruisers on top. But, similar
to other mornings during the full moon period, the redfish and trout
began to feed by mid-morning after a brief lull at daybreak. Before
long, we were all stalking tails in all directions. Since it was so
shallow and grassy, we stayed with weedless VIPs, and
eventually landed about 12 reds in the 21-25 inch range. While Danny
and I were stalking tails, the women suddenly found themselves in the
middle of the Redfish Parade. Before
long, they were both casting on their knees to one fish after another
as the incoming reds snaked through the thick shoal grass. The
conditions could not have been more challenging!
guided John Boyd from Georgetown, Texas, and his 16-yr-old son, J.R.,
on Friday and Saturday. Returning to the same area where we've been
enjoying spectacular redfish action, we got into some early action that
played out fairly soon. Reds were snaking around on top, giving the
Boyds some excellent opportunties for high-vis topwater action. J.R.
managed to land his first two reds on a fly. As the action subsided, we headed
further north, and found some tailing action near the East Cut, but the
outgoing tide went slack on us, and the tails disappeared only an hour
after our arrival. Now it was late morning, and we still had several
hours of fishing. Frankly, I wasn't sure where we could find some good
redfish action. But John changed that plan, by asking, "Do you think we
could catch a ladyfish?" Needless to say, I was pleased that they were
interested in one of the types of fishing that I find most enjoyable.
And wow...did we find the ladyfish! John asked me to fish with them, so
I grabbed my five weight and joined them. For the next three hours, we
were casting to ladyfish on the white sand. Using mylar flies, we had
shot after shot at cruising singles and packs. I set J.R. and his dad
up for an 8-lb. tippet world record quest, by installing a class tippet
section before we started fishing. On the first day, J.R. caught a fish that we
thought would beat the 8 lb. tippet record, but when we checked that
night, we discovered that the fish had been a bit too small. On the
next day, the early redfish topwater action was phenomenal. The
Boyds asked me to fish with them, and for about three hours we were all
casting to tailing and cruising reds. After J.R. had caught three reds
on his fly rod -- all on VIPs
-- we went
ladyfish again. In the midst of almost constant ladyfish action, he
sight casted to this incoming 24 inch redfish -- his fourth for the
day! We photographed it over a small patch of turtle grass, which grows
on the sand when a boat plows up the surface. Notice how pale the reds
are on the sand. They're hard to see, but this one was pushing a wake
in 12 inches of dead calm water.
It's been almost two weeks since I posted my last report. Kathy and I
have been on the water almost constantly since then, team guiding on
our two Curlews, and the fishing has been good to spectacular. Since it
would take me hours to recount over a dozen fishing trips, let me
summarize a very few of them to give you a sense of what the fishing
has been like on the Lower Laguna.
week, Kathy guided Doug and Connie Gauntt, while I was busy with
another client. She took Doug to the edge of the Intracoastal where we
like to target big trout. Doug spotted two or three trout in the 24+
inch range, and tried to get within range of them, but it's always
difficult to make an adequate presentation to a trophy trout. They roam
the waters along the ICW, and the wading conditions are typically
marginal. I cannot tell you how many dozens of times I've stood
watching a world record trout sauntering through 10 inches of water,
back exposed -- just beyond my casting range. They have been called
"psychic" for good reason, as they always seem to be moving away from
you without showing any signs of alarm.
shifted to the east side, to a place we call Turtle Lake. It's an open
area in the matted shoal grass, with a firm bottom that is covered with
sparse turtle grass. It's hardly accessible in the midsummer, except on
board an extremely shallow boat. She ended up spending five hours in
one spot, as Doug -- an experienced saltwater fly fisher --stalked one
cruising redfish after another, using VIPs with weedguard to entice the
big reds in the shallow, grassy water. Kathy stayed with Connie, who
broke off on two fish. Doug remained just in sight, and returned to the
boat hours later having landed five reds and missed a dozen more.
hard to follow up such action, but it was my turn to guide them the
next day. Hoping to
repeat Kathy's success of the day before, I headed straight for the
same place, only to find that Turtle Lake was devoid of life, so I kept
heading east until we were planing over white sand. Wakes appeared amid
the mullet, so without thinking it through, I shut down...in 6 inches
of water. It was a
near disaster, but fortunately the Curlew floated. Acting as though it
was all part of the plan, I asked them to kindly disembark and begin
fishing, so I could being pushing the boat toward deeper
water. An hour
later, we got up with great difficulty, and headed north. I was a
little shaken by my error, but I intended to make up for the late start.
headed north to a flat that has been producing well day after day. It
was almost dead calm when we arrived. The couple headed toward a mullet
stream, where a few redfish tails were sprouting. Meanwhile, I followed
behind them, noticing that a few large trout were "snaking" around on
top. It was hard to discern the signs of big trout among the
mullet, but occasionally I would see the square black tail of a big
trout swinging back and forth among the mullet. As I recall,
Doug picked up a small trout and a red at this venue before we headed
back east and south where we stalked tailing reds for about two hours.
Doug picked up a nice 24-25 inch red on a VIP before we headed back
onto the sand.
finished the day targeting ladyfish. Connie, who had not landed a fish
yet, managed to hook up on two fine ladyfish toward the end of our day.
She was already pretty happy about that, but I informed her that the
second ladyfish was probably a woman's IGFA tippet class world record.
She thought I was joking, but we documented the catch on my certified
scale just in case, and later found that it was, indeed, a new 20-pound
tippet IGFA world record. Her second fish in saltwater, too!
the tides rose, I suspected that we would soon be seeing a phenomenon
that I call the Redfish Parade. It is hard to believe, but there is a
place where hundreds of redfish can be seen -- usually at daybreak --
cruising upwind onto a shallow flat that has only about 10 inches of
water on it. Sometimes you catch them entering the area, and sometimes, you catch them leaving. But
during the summer, it happens almost every day if the tide is "just
right," which means very low, but not as low as it gets.
took Gerald Beard from Houston, and his son Warren (who teaches
Veterinary medicine at Kansas State) into an adjacent area at dawn. At
first, we saw very little sign of gamefish, so they got out and began
blind casting in water that was about 15 inches deep. Both men caught a
couple of fish on topwater before I noticed that redfish were tailing
in shallower water, so I called them over, and we began stalking tails.
That lasted for a while, before I suggested that we wade and poke into
the area known for the Redfish Parade. As we walked south, the redfish
action began to increase until, suddenly, I looked further south and
could see the inimitable signs of multiple redfish heading toward us.
"This is it!" I exclaimed. We spread out and stood pretty much in the same spot for almost three
hours. Before long, redfish were everywhere, heading slowly north
across the shallow flat. At any time, we could easily see a half dozen
separate reds "snaking" toward us. I think it's safe to say that each
angler had 100 casts at redfish in the 23-28 inch range. Gerald caught
the largest -- a 27+ inch fish -- but Warren caught several sizeable
fish, as well. Both men said that they saw more fish that one day than
they'd ever seen in their lives. And when we left, the redfish were
suprisingly, Kathy and I headed for the same area the next morning,
when we had the pleasure of team guiding Jeff Rotundo, his teenage son
Nick, Nick's classmate Trey Carlock, and Ken Cole -- the boys' fly
fishing teacher who works at Blue Drake Outfitters in Dallas.
wind had turned around, so I wasn't sure we'd find the Redfish Parade
again, but when we came off plane in the area where the Beards had
fished the day before, we quickly encountered a lesser, but nonetheless
impressive version of the Parade. We spread out, and faced
downwind, where reds were streaming upwind toward us over the shallow
flat. Both boys multiple strikes on their VIPs, and
Trey hooked up twice. After losing a sizeable red, he manged to land a
smaller fish -- his first redfish on a fly! He was happy. Meanwhile,
Ken evenually got in the groove and landed three reds before the action
finished up our half days on the white sand, where Trey and Ken had
some pretty impressive ladyfish action. Although Kathy waded with Jeff
and Nick nearby, they encountered very few fish. Fortunately, we had a
second day scheduled with the guys.
Jeff and Nick on the second day, I returned to the same area where we'd
found the redfish the previous two days, hoping that the Redfish Parade
was "on." Meanwhile, Kathy took Ken and Trey to a nearby spoil bank
where we'd been finding tailing pods and big trout for the last three weeks. Ken caught a
small red and a ladyfish before Kathy headed over the join us.
Meanwhile, we were not seeing much. An occasional red would swim by,
and several trout appeared too late to do anything about them. Nick
finally hooked a nice trout that got off before he could land her.
After we all waded the area for awhile, it seemed that everyone wanted
to spend more time on the sand, hoping to give the boys a better chance
split up, and stayed in touch on our VHF radios. Nick and Jeff and I
finally settled into wading near the Saucer, while Kathy and her guys
waded near the Green Island spoils. It wasn't long before Nick hooked
and landed his first ladyfish. It was a proud moment for both
father and son.
was moved by the dedication of that Jeff and Ken showed in assisting
Nick and Trey -- both of whom are clearly exemplary young men. There
are very few fathers who have the patience to introduce fly fishing to
their sons at such an early age. And Ken, who had worked with the boys
on their casting and knots, is one of those rare mentors in today's
world who can ease a young man toward his dreams. What a pleasure and
an honor it was for Kathy and me to guide this group! We hope to see
them back soon.
For the last three days, Kathy and I have
guided Jim Giltner from Denver and his buddy John Strom from Houston.
Both men have fly fished in coldwater extensively, and have begun
shifting to saltwater venues. While John has a place in Galveston,
neither men had fly fished the Lower Laguna.
the first morning, the wind was calm. I headed first for Turtle Lake,
hoping to find that it was full of tailing reds. It was breathtakingly
beautiful to be there at sunrise. Both men stalked a few tailing reds,
and landed a ladyfish or two. But after about half an hour, I pulled
the plug. There weren't many fish in the area, and I was convinced that
we could do better elsewhere.
headed north, hoping to find the Redfish Parade, or at least some
tailing reds. The surface of the water was smooth as glass, but not one
tail marred the surface. I suggested that the guys go ahead and blind
cast VIPs until we started to see some surface action, or until the sun
rose sufficiently to see the fish beneath the surface. John headed
south, toward the area where the Parade has been happening, while Jim
waded north. Before long, both men were into fish. Jim hooked up once,
then twice; so I headed over to investigate and to take pictures. On
the way, I encountered one redfish after another, glowing beneath the
surface in the early morning sunlight. The reds were there, but not
showing on the surface. Jim went on to catch several reds on Mother's
Day flies, and John caught several, too, on a variety of flies. By the
day's end, the guys had landed at least a dozen reds.
The next day, I guided Bill Davenport from
Houston, and his buddy Lance. Kathy took Jim and John on her boat. As I
planed down the ICW, intending to fish the Redish Parade, I noticed the
signs of trout along the ICW. Knowing that Bill had never caught a
saltwater gamefish on his fly rod, I asked him if he minded if we went
after trout first. Not at all, he answered. So I swung onto the
adjacent flat, and anchored. I got the guys out of the boat, and had
them cast topwaters over the edge of the deeper water. I was surprised that Bill
didn't catch a trout immediately, but then I spotted the tail of a
trophy trout only 25 feet away from where Bill was standing. He cast
his VIP, stripped once and pow! A smaller trout took the fly! Bill
wasn't complaining, though. After taking a picture of the fish,
and releasing it, we noticed suddenly that there were several
redfish tailing along the edge of the ICW. Bill stalked several
of the tails, managing to put his fly just out of hearing range of the
visible fish. But then again, pow! -- a small trout took the fly.
I looked west toward the edge of the spoil bank, and spotted a tailing pod of redfish. We began to
wade toward them, and as we got closer we could see that there were
numeous reds tailing and cruising the shoreline with their backs out of
the water. I called Kathy on my VHF, and suggested that she bring Jim
and John over to the ICW. They had caught a couple of reds, but were
eager for some more action; so Kathy took them to a spot on the ICW
just a half mile from us. She called me on the radio to tell me that
there were tailing pods just off the ICW. Minutes later, she called me
again to say that John had landed two reds -- one 27 1/2 inches long --
third day was less eventful. We found big fish in super shallow water,
and they were as tough to catch as they ever are. But Jim and John as
seasoned fly fishers, and appreciated each day as much as the others,
regardless of the catch. It was a pleasure guiding such experienced
anglers for their maiden trip on the Mother Lagoon.
It's Sunday, and the past five days have been a blur. We hosted 11
people at the lodge -- all from Austin or Houston -- starting on
We've had story-book fishing in the bay and outside the jetties, and
remarkable catches of redfish and king mackerel. Overall, we have had
low winds in the morning, full sun, and
extremely low tides -- perfect conditions for sight casting with
a fly rod.
Wednesday the 14th: I started the last
five-day cycle guiding some previous clients from San Antonio -- Bill
Collins and his wife Marian, who accompanied us, but did not fish. Bill
had done real well last fall, but the bay was about a a foot deeper
then: The LLM in the summer is an entirely different fishery.
went east first of all. Crossing the barrier of matted shoal grass that
turns most boats around, we continued until we reached the open areas
that are often full of reds at daybreak. We found a few fish over the
turtle grass in
about a foot of water, but I thought we could do
better than that. So, we boated north along the edge of the sand.
upon some waking reds, we shut down and saw singles and doubles tailing
through the 10 inch, grassy water. Bill stalked a few, and almost
snagged a couple. But the conditions were a "perfect curse" for a fly
fisher -- dead calm wind, and ultra skinny water. As beautiful and as
difficult as it ever gets.
kept heading north and west, and stopped to pole through an
area near the Intracoastal. It soon became evident that trout and reds
were tailing all around us! It was fun casting to
them from the boat, but I eventually concluded that the only way for us
to catch one was to get off the boat. Bill and I waded 25 feet
from the boat before he put his Mother's Day in front of a nice tailing
ate it without hesistation. Then we left, went into a grassy area that
was less than a foot deep, and easier to wade. We shut down, and almost
what I'd hoped to see -- redfish snaking upwind onto a very shallow
flat. This is my favorite early morning "action" from mid- to late
summer. Bill wasted no time in getting off the boat, and stalking the
reds. He landed two more, and missed a couple more -- which is quite
respectable given the sensitive conditions that we faced.
we headed for the sand. Bill had never caught a ladyfish, so I thought
it would be a great way to top off the day. Marian joined us as we
waded downwind on the sand. The wind was neglible, and the water was gin clear. After a few minutes,
we spotted a pack of ladyfish about 50 yards out, and closing fast.
Bill put his mylar fly into the middle of them, and hooked up
immediately. The fish took off on a blistering run that seemed like it
would never end. Bill was incredulous. "What is this!? He asked. "Some well-kept secret?" If
you've seen Kathy's article in the current issue of Saltwater Fly Fishing, titled "The
Lady is a Champ," you'll know that the classic ladyfish action on the
white sand is no longer a secret!
next day, I guided Tom Reid from San Angelo, his buddy Gene, and
Gene's son Matt. Tom and Gene fish a lot out of Port Mansfield aboard
Tom's Curlew, and they were getting together with a larger group at the
end of the day for several more days of fishing up that way. But they
wanted to fish with me one day before joining their friends.
morning looked promising -- again, we had low wind and a clear sky --
but the day proved tougher than we'd expected. We headed north, and
spotted some fish working near the Intracoastal. We stopped, and waited
for a few minutes; and backs and tails began sprouting all around us.
The three men waded toward them armed with VIPs, and had multiple shots
in very shallow, calm water. The situation required a surgical
presentation, so it was a bit surprising that the only non-doctor in
the group snagged the only red. Tom missed a strike, and Matt
one, too, but he finally hooked up on this pretty fish.
fished several venues east and south of the Arroyo, and Matt caught two
more reds -- to the feigned disgruntlement of his elders -- before we
called it a day. When I returned to the lodge, I discovered that some
of our guests had ventured into the surf, and had caught their fill of
king mackerel, bonita and spanish mackerel. Cruz Lamas -- a well-known
local "heavy hitter" and LMFFA member who has recently relocated from
Houston to his home town of Weslaco -- and his buddy Mark Lucas
hammered the kings on heavy sinking lines. Needless to say, a lot of
the guests opted to hit the surf the next morning.
Friday, I guided former clients Jim Burkholder and Steve Shepard from
Harlingen. Jim and Steve are members of the LMFFA, and Steve is a
fellow Board member. Again, we had virtually calm conditions at
daybreak. Knowing that we expected a "magical" daybreak, I asked them
to come earlier than usual -- just so we wouldn't miss any potential
an eventual visit to the surf in mind, we headed north toward the
Mansfield Cut, and found that the tide had fallen even further. The
Trout Bar was dry, and Payton's Bay was a trap for just about any boat
-- but not the Curlew. Even so, I went elsewhere. Arriving on a flat
near Port Mansfield, we shut down along the edges of a mullet stream,
and promptly spotted tailing reds and trout milling around the edges of
the mullet hoard. Steve asked me, "Aren't you going to join us."
I usually don't fish with clients, but I'd fished with them previously,
and I knew that they "knew the program." When that's true, fishing with
clients can make for a better day for everyone; so I grabbed my
5-weight TFO TICRx, and tied on a VIP, too.
waded the area for about three hours, and casted to tailing and waking
fish for the entire time. Although the fish were especially finicky and
quick to reject our presentations, we still managed to land 15 redfish
before moving on.
for the surf, and found a number of boats -- including some of our
lodge guests -- following breaking bonita. We'd heard that the kings
were running deep, and that you had to fish a sinking line as deeply as
possible, but we just couldn't justify doing that over sight casting to
reds. So, after a brief visit to the surf, we headed back into the Bay,
where we opted to wade a flat near the Mansfield Cut. I put my rod
away, because I wanted to help Jim spot the redfish that I hoped were
feeding on the shallow flat. It didn't take Jim long to get into a
groove that lasted for the rest of the day. Indeed, he landed four reds
in quick succession using an orange Mother's Day Fly. Some of the reds
we encountered were singles, and some were in tailing pods. Steve, who
had landed six or seven reds earlier, kept snatching the fly out of the
mouth of the redfish (Steve is an oral surgeon, you see; that might
have something to do with it :-)) , but it was a problem that proved
to be short-lived.
took a break for lunch, and waded a slightly different area. Jim urged
me to take my rod, so I began fishing again. If anything, we
encountered more reds on our second wade. Both Jim and Steve caught
more reds, and I managed to land a nice 20-inch trout.
would have been happy if the action had stopped at that point. But the
third wade was something none of us will forget. At about 3:00, we
started out again, and the tide began to fall even further. Perhaps,
the current was increasing on the flat, but for whatever reason, the
redfish were simply everywhere. By the time we knocked off around 4:30,
we'd landed 37 reds and a trout for the day. Both guys said it was the
best day of fly fishing on the Laguna Madre that they'd ever
experienced. I'm sorry to say that I didn't take many photos, because I
was too busy catching fish!
we returned to lodge that night, we learned that everyone had done
well. Norbert Birch and his partner Joe De Forke from Houston hammered
the reds up north, landing over 20 before the day was over. Vince
Wiseman and his buddy Lawrence Ligon (with son Walker) saw great action
on the sand, in particular. The guys waded for miles, with Walker
casting from the boat, and bringing it along behind them. (What a great
son, huh?). The guys caught reds, but the interesting thing was that
they caught ladyfish -- and loved it! Later, they confessed to Kathy
that they'd read her article about ladyfish and thought, "Right, a
guide trying to make something out of nothing." But they confessed that
they were deeply impressed by the classic sight casting that the
ladyfish offered on the sand. "As good as fishing for bonefish," they
said -- and we've heard countless other fly fishers "in the know" echo
On Saturday, I guided our friend and regular guest Joe MacKay from Austin, and his buddy Tim from Colorado. Meanwhile, Kathy guided Joe's wife Debbie on our second Curlew. Everyone at the lodge agreed that it was a tougher day than the day before. So we had a more difficult time finding and catching fish. Still, Joe landed a couple of reds; and Tim -- who had never casted a fly rod -- almost caught a big trout, and a red. Not to be outdone by her husband, Debbie landed a beautiful trout, and a ladyfish on her fly rod. Both were "firsts" for Debbie, and she was deservedly very happy with her successes.
than evening, we celebrated Joe's birthday with a German chocolate
cake, ice cream, and wonderful fellowship.
we were fishing the Bay on Saturday, Henry Bone and Joe O'Connor -- our
regular guests and friends from Austin -- were angling for king
mackerel outside the Mansfield jetties. Henry called on the way back to
Austin later, and said they'd landed two kings. Earlier in the day, 10
year-old Walker Ligon caught three reds casting his topwater plugs into
tailing reds. I wish we had photos of his success.
it was a wild and crazy -- and amazingly good -- fly fishing
have had some remarkable fishing in the last few days, and I've asked
Kathy to tell you about it. She'll be posting a report today, fingers
crossed. But I will say in my own tired prose that yesterday was a good
example of how good the fly fishing is on the Lower Laguna. Three fly
fishers (Kathy, myself and our neighbor Rex) went to one spot, and
didn't start the motor again for six hours. 23 reds (up to 28 inches),
three trout (up to 23 inches) and a few ladyfish later, we headed in. I
won't say anymore, but look for Kathy's report later today.
(Kathy:) For the first time since we opened Kingfisher, we actually
blocked off several days to relax and enjoy our fishery in the midst of
the "high" season. It's rare that Scott and I can venture out to the
flats wielding our fly rods but we did on Friday and Sunday. On Friday
we rose early and left the dock by 6:30. Our mission was to target
trout. We stopped first along the intracoastal on the west side but
quickly discovered that our efforts were for naught. We continued north
and entered one of the passes into the west side of the LLM, one that
Scott fished several years ago and discovered a bevy of big trout. Lily
was with us and watched patiently as we waded the boggy bottom. Soon we
saw tailing trout moving off the grassy shallows. I targeted one that
was in the 6-8 pound range, following her around for more than an hour.
One time I lined her and in disgust she stopped showing. But then she
rose again, and came right at me. I cast once and she missed, but she
continued her closing in. I knelt down into the water and my cast was
perfect. She nabbed my VIP with such authority. My heart pounded as I
worked to get her tight on my line. She thrashed violently and threw
the fly. I had her on for maybe 30 seconds. It could have been more,
but time was hard to measure. I was completely in the moment, dancing
with her on the end of my line. My heart did not slow down for more
than ten minutes. I was shaking from head to toe. It was the closest I'd ever come to
landing a trophy trout. Scott paused to watch and refrained -- as a
good husband should -- from spouting off all the things I could have
done better or shouldn't have done in order to land her. I knew,
and vowed to do it right the next time. During the time I was in my
pursuit of Grandmother Trout, he caught three trout and one red. I had
a couple of other opportunities but missed them as well. By this time,
Lily was ready for a romp in the water so we decided to switch venues.
continued north until Port Mansfield was clear in our sights, stopping
just off the intracoastal. While I continued to hope that Grandmother
Trout would grace me with her presence, I knew that it would be better
to switch my focus to redfish. I caught one little red, while Scott
went on to catch four more. I hadn't eaten much breakfast so by 10:00 I
was ready for lunch. I hung out with Lily and watched the birds. There
was a spoil bank speckled with nesting skimmers. I hadn't felt so
relaxed in a very long time. We headed back home at around 11:30
and while boating along the arroyo I spotted two immature Tri-colored
Herons near their mom. We were in by noon and spent the remainder
of the afternoon writing -- our other favorite activity.
the big trout wouldn't leave my mind. Now for
those of you who don't know me, Scott doesn't call me the sleep
princess for no reason. I'm not fond of waking in the wee hours of the
morning. But even after only five hours of sleep, I rose before 5:00 on
Sunday morning so that we could depart the dock by 6:00. (The reason
for the bleary eyed look in the photo above.) We
ventured out with just one destination in mind, with our neighbor Rex
and Lily in tow. But as is always the case, Nature never repeats
herself. The conditions were very different. The winds were very calm
and the tide was lower. And I was very eager to score, probably my
biggest downfall. I blew every cast I made to big trout, and none were
as big as the one I almost landed on Friday. I trudged through muck up
to my knees chasing them with vengence. To make matters worse, every
time I looked at Rex he was hooked up. So was Scott. Two hours into my
pitiful fishing, I confessed to Scott that I was a "head case."
Grandmother Trout was out to teach me a big lesson that day. So with a
little attitude adjustment, I "just" fished, releasing any expectation
of my performing and joined Scott on the east side of the spoil bank
near the intracoastal. Podding redfish were working along the
bank and in the middle of the flat. With storm clouds surrounding us,
the smell of ozone was heavy in the air, reminding me of a hot steamy
iron. I occasionally glanced around for evidence of lightning and kept
my ears cocked for the sound of thunder. But to be honest, the pods --
and sometimes small schools of tailing reds -- captivated me more.
Seven reds later my confidence had been restored -- I did know how to
cast my fly rod. One was a big boy measuring 28 inches. We never moved
the boat in the six hours of fishing. Rex caught 11 reds and a
couple of ladyfish. Scott caught 6 reds and three trout, and I landed 7
reds. Now we're back at work and will be out on the water guiding from
Tuesday through Saturday, weather permitting of course.
My latest fishing report is posted below, but I thought some of you
might be interested in the outcome of the Laguna Madre Fly Fishers
Catch-and-Release Tournament, that we held on June 26th. Here's a
summary of the results that I have posted on our web board, and on the
LMFFA site, as well:
LMFFA Tournament went really well
first year. We attracted several out of town entrants, including Joe
Mackay from Austin, Mark Pester and Barry Clark from the Coastal Bend
Fly Fishers in Corpus, Larry Allen from Phoenix, who won third,
and an entrant
from Kerrville -- Jim Posgate -- who took the overall Grand Prize.
the entrants used digital
cameras to record their catches, which allowed us to upload the images
immediately following "weigh in" and determine the winners. A few
others used Polaroid photos, which also allowed for us to quickly
assess the results.
summary, Jim won with a 24.5
ladyfish (largest of the tournament), a 24.5 inch red, and a 21 inch
trout (largest of the
Tournament). His total was 69.5 inches. I came in second with 61.5, and
Larry Allen came in third with 59.5. Fishing with Bud Rowland, Tim
Clancey from San Antonio -- maker of the Curlew -- came in fourth with
55 inches, and Kathy came in fifth with 49.5. Interestingly, Kathy
would have came in second with any trout. She caught the third largest
red (25.5), and the second largest ladyfish (23.5), but just didn't
land a trout, so...next year watch out for Kathy.
caught the largest ladyfish (24.5,
and a tippet class new world record), and Kathy caught the second
largest at 23.5 inches.
said, Jim Posgate caught the
largest trout -- a 21-inch fish on a VIP -- and Bob Simpson caught the
second largest trout, a 20 3/4 inch fish.
Taylor from Weslaco
caught the largest snook, and his partner Brian Robinson from San
Benito caught the second largest.
I had the pleasure of guiding Stewart Pate and his partner Steve from
Austin, on Wednesday and Thursday.
weather conditions were below average for this time of year. Usually,
we expect a couple hours of calm, and then 10-20 mph winds and partly
cloudy conditions for the rest of the day. However, mostly cloudy
conditions greeted us on Wednesday, and the wind was already 15 mph at
dawn. Fortunately, I've been able to find reds coming onto a shallow,
grassy flat, and showing themselves, even in the wind.
the way to the flat, I checked out a westside shoreline, and plowed
through several pods of redfish before I could stop. The guys got out
and waded downwind, casting VIPs blindly, and targeting anything that
moved. The water was alive with mullet, but every once in a while a
redfish would swim up to us and shoot away; so we knew that the reds
were mixed in with the mullet.
missed a couple of strikes, and then Steve hooked up on a small red.
Before we left the area, the guys had landed three reds on VIPs, and
missed several others. When the action subsided, we headed north where
we spent most of the day casting to Mother's Day Flies to single
cruising redfish in about 8 inches of water. The sun peeked out from
time to time, making easier to see the reds against the dark, grassy
bottom. The guys landed six reds, and had abundant opportunities before
we called it a day.
next day, we returned to the same area, where the action was even
better. For a while, the guys casted VIPs blindly in a spot that was
about 15 inches deep. Steve caught two fine trout (I was too far away
to get photos), and Stewart missed a couple of reds that hit his VIP.
Then they spent about four hours in shallower water, casting to redfish
cruising upwind -- snaking through the grass, and tailing as they came.
It was tough fishing, as the water was so shallow and the grass so
thick that they guys had to present their Mother's Day Flies to the
reds again and again before they'd see the fly. Then, the fish would
often spook, seeing the fly at such close quarters. Still, they caught
a couple of reds -- and one 25-inch red hown here in Steve's arms --
before we left the area.
was about 11:00 when we headed out. A storm to the south was blocking
the sunshine, so I decided to head north toward the East Cut. I hadn't
fished up that way in quite a while, since the fishing has been so good
closer to the Arroyo. But that's where the sun was shining, and we
needed the sun to see the fish. Fortunately, we ran into quite a few
sizeable reds in the area. Stewart landed two over 25 inches that were
in bootie deep water. Capt. Bill Davis from Port Mansfield was fishing
near us, and he and his clients caught quite a few reds as we fished
I guided Fred Maxwell and his 15-year-old son Justin from Houston. The
Maxwells arrived around 1:30, so by the time we made it onto the bay,
it was as windy as it usually is in the afternoon -- about 20 mph.
Neither fly fisher had fly fished in saltwater very much, so it was
quite a challenge for them. I took them to the white sand, where we
spent several hours casting to ladyfish and redfish. Both anglers
landed two ladyfish apiece. Justin, in particular, had several shots at
nice reds, but they proved to be a bit tougher than the ladyfish.
pretty pessimistic about finding reds on the west side so late in the
day, but on the chance that there were some pods working under birds, I
decided to "make the rounds" before heading in. After striking out in
two areas, we checked out a third. At first I saw nothing, but we shut
down and surveyed the situation more closely. Then I saw it! A single
gull working in inimitable style near to the water: I knew it was over redfish. So I
got out of the boat and pushed it toward the bird. As we got closer, we
could see red tails breaking the surface. They guys slipped over the
edge of the Curlew and waded the last 100 feet toward the waving tails.
Justin got his fly to the reds first, and hooked up immediately on the
Mother's Day Fly, which resembles the shrimp that the reds
are feeding on. But he broke off!
guys returned to the boat just as I was spotting another pod about 150
yards away. I moved the boat closer, and we could see that this pod was
much larger. Again, the guys waded into them, but failed to hook up
before the pod/school stopped tailing and "blew up." The reds stayed in
the area, but it was hard to target them. Shrimp were hopping around,
trying to evade them; and the guys were casting furiously into mud
boils, but the fish just didn't see the flies. Because when they do,
they take them without hesitation. (By the way, I have just submitted
an article to Tide magazine,
titled "The Dance of the Gulls: Fishing for Podding Redfish." In it, I
describe how to find pods and how to fish them. It should appear in the
Nov-Dec. issue, and I will post it here, too, before long.)
returned to the boat again, and spotted a huge bunch of gulls working
about 300 yards away. Since it was too far to wade, I got the Curlew up
in 8 inches of water, and planed toward the melee. Coming off plane
about 100 yards away from the school, I was pleased to see that the
reds quickly reassembled after breaking up temporarily from the boat
poled toward the school, and the guys deployed again. Again, Justin's
fly found the tails first. This time, he hooked
up and kept the 25-inch red on the line. It was his first redfish on a
fly, but I will wager not his last.
news for the Sparrow family! My brother Chip and his son Spencer, who
have spin fished together for reds and trout since Spencer could walk,
recently purchased their first saltwater fly rods -- seven-weight, TFO
TICRs-- and took to the bay on July 2nd to try out their new gear. I
was able to outfit them with some flies -- VIPs and Mother's Days, of
course. Well, Spencer -- who was a star baseball player at Southwestern
University with a batting average of .443 his senior year -- wielded
his fly rod with customary grace, and landed his first redfish on a fly
before the sun was barely above the horizon. Of course, it was a big
one, too -- 29.5 inches! Meanwhile, Chip hooked up and lost a couple.
The next day, however, Chip got his first red on a fly, too! I
think it's safe to say that Chip and Spencer are "hooked" on saltwater
fly fishing. Chip and I have fished together since our father first
took us fishing on the Arroyo and the Laguna Madre over 45 years ago.
Needless to say, I look forward to fly fishing with him and Spencer for
another 45 years.
storms that we had last night brought an influx of fresh, cool water to
the Bay. This morning, I started my first of three days with two former clients from Phoenix -- Jack
Miller and Dario Travaini. The
weather service called for rainy, breezy conditions. Instead, the winds
were calm, and there wasn't a drop of rain all day, even though the sky
remained overcast throughout. We headed
into an area that's known for tailing pods during the summer when the
tides are high enough, or the water cool enough to support the action.
Pods were everywhere! We spent about three hours at that venue before
heading to another west-side lagoon. I think the guys had caught four
fish before we left -- all from the boat, and all on VIPs. We missed
several others. I thought, "What a start!" We boated into another
back lagoon, and shut down after seeing quite a few wakes. We didn't
see much for a while, so I poled west toward a shoreline, and wow...pod
after pod began to appear. As the hours passed, the pods
turned into tailing schools that were chasing and feeding aggressively
on shrimp, and the schools were simply everywhere! It was a remarkable
sight -- and sound, as the fish constantly exploded on the shrimp. I
stopped poling, and just got out and pushed the Curlew around.
Jack and Dario fished from the boat, and
presented VIPs and Mother's Day Flies to one pod/school after another
more hours. We stopped counting fish at some point. Most of the reds
were around 24 inches, but Jack landed one -- his last for the day --
that was 27
day, 6/24: Today proved to be more challenging. Returning to the same
area, we found the tides had fallen considerably. The reds had broken
up, and were tailing singly, or in small pods. Dario opted to wade, so
we left him standing on a dead calm flat, contemplating the tails
that were springing up all around us. I pushed Jack around for a while,
and he managed to catch a couple of reds on VIPs. Meanwhile, Dario
presented to several reds, and managed to catch one on a popper, too.
The wind came up, but we had some sunshine for a while; so Jack and I
poled downwind using the sunlight to reveal cruising reds, while Dario
stayed behind and stalked on foot. Storms brought a premature end to
the day, but the guys -- who have fly fished extensively in numerous
saltwater settings -- were pleased with the
opportunties, and the results.
Jack and Dario and I were targeting tailing redfish, Kathy was also
guiding nearby out of our second Curlew. Given the dead calm
conditions, Kathy elected to wade her client, believing that
approaching the tailing fish would be more difficult from the boat. Her
client -- Gavin Wong from L.A. -- had never fly fished on the Lower
Laguna, but quickly adapted to the demands of the fishery, and landed
four reds on VIP poppers before the action subsided. Needless to say,
Gavin was very happy with his success, and promised to return soon.
Over the weekend, we hosted Jim and Patty Carlisle from Tulsa. Jim had
never fly fished in saltwater, but was an experienced trout fisherman,
and an excellent caster. So he was well-positioned to do well on the
morning dawned with a slight southwest breeze. We headed onto the east
flats, but saw little signs of
gamefish, so I headed north, hoping to find redfish heading upwind and
tailing on a shallow flat that is
one of our principal summertime
westside venues. After seeing some wakes of retreating gamefish, I shut
down the Curlew and poled downwind, giving the fish time to settle.
Jim, meanwhile, got ready to cast from the casting platform. It wasn't
long before we saw the first redfish snaking through the grass, and
tailing intermittently. Jim got a few shots from the boat -- to singles
and small pods. Patty got into the action, as well, helping us spot
fish that were working upwind toward the boat.
got off the boat, and I worked with Patty while Jim went off on his
own. As it turned out, the fish weren't plentiful as we'd hoped, so we
got back on the Curlew and headed north. By this time, the slight
breeze had subsided, creating the best and worst of conditions. In the
dead calm, the redfish began to tail. And they were as difficult to
approach as I've ever seen them.
spent a couple of hours wading north, stalking tail after tail. Jim
finally got within casting distance of a big red, and presented his
Mother's Day Fly perfectly. The fish went after it, but Jim missed the
strike. For a newcomer, Jim was "right in there," getting closer and
closer to the fish, and beginning to connect. Wading alongside him, I
noticed a couple of tails about 100 yards to the north. Studying them,
I spotted several more sprouting up nearby.
pod!" I announced somewhat speculatively, and we begin hiking toward
the tails. As we got closer, the "pod" turned out to be a small school
of 20-30 fish, I would guess, that were heading for us. Jim got into
position, and finally cast his fly to the edge of the line of tails.
One surged forward and took the fly, but Jim missed him. Casting again to the edge of the school, Jim
immediately hooked up -- on a nice trout. (As you may know, trout often
encircle podding redfish, so if you cast near the edge of a school,
you'll often catch a trout.) The school reacted to the commotion by
blowing up. After releasing the trout, we approached the area where the
school had been tailing, and Jim spotted a couple of reds. Casting to
them, he briefly hooked up again.
Sunday, we went back to the same area, but the fish had not moved onto
the shallowest flat. We headed further north to an area
where huge schools of mullet gather in the early morning. During the
summer, the redfish and trout will be among the mullet, providing a
great blind casting opportunity on windy mornings. And, on calm
mornings, the game fish can often be seen leaving the mullet schools
and cruising on top of the water into the shallowest, grassiest flats
to the south. We hoped to have some of both types of action.
blindcasting a VIP along the edge of the mullet stream. For about two
hours, he enjoyed fairly constant action. I don't how many strikes he
had, but he landed four reds before the action subsided.
we headed to the south, and visited a couple of places before finding
numerous reds cruising over turtle grass. It is one of the most
beautiful places on the LLM, as you can see. Jim stalked several fish
before hooking into a
nice 25-inch red that was traveling with four or five others.
was a magical day, and the LLM was intoxicatingly beautiful. Jim and
Patty opted to go in after lunchtime, simply because the day had
already given them so much. It was a pleasure guiding a couple who were
so visibly moved by the beauty of the LLM, and I wasn't surprised to
hear that they plan to return.
On Monday, I guided Mike Milam, his grandson Chuck, and his buddy Dave
from central Texas. None of the guys had ever fly fished, and so it was
quite challenge for them to take on the Lower Laguna Madre -- a fishery
that has been called "the
Superbowl" and "Pebble Beach" by anglers who have been humbled by the
Mother Lagoon. I wasn't sure if the guys would last the morning with
their fly rods, and so -- upon request -- I stored some spin gear below
the deck, must as I hate to have "hardware" aboard the Curlew. But the
guys were all bowhunters, and so they weren't inclined to take the easy
path. Indeed, they stuck with it, and all said that they wanted to do
midmorning, we'd stumbled upon small tailing pods of reds in one of my
favorite west-side venues. After practicing their casting on the dock
the night before, they guys were almost ready for the challenge.
Each of them stalked tailing fish, and had the flies within reach of
the fish, but redfish in less than a foot of water have a way of not
seeing a fly, even if it's reasonably close. So the encounters were
enticing, but not gratifying.
is coming back next week with another group. I suspect that he might
get his first red on a fly at that
had the pleasure of guiding our old client and neighbor Jim Posgate
yesterday. If anything, Jim must be a bit spoiled by now, given
penchant for having "story book" days when we go out; so yesterday was a
balancing act, of sorts, because we just had an "ordinary" great day on
the water. We didn't really find the fish until midmorning when
we stumbled upon them on the east side, coming off the sand into deeper
water. We got into this action last year, and I expect we'll be fishing
east at daybreak for the next couple of weeks, at least.
one of his first casts off the boat, Jim put his VIP in front of a "V"
coming out of the sunrise, and a nice
trout lunged out of the water to take it. I went over to get a photo,
but the trout shot out of Jim's hands just as I was pushing the shutter
release. Oh well, imagine a sizeable trout and a smiling angler.
guided Jim so many times that he knows what to do just as soon as we
find the fish; so he often urges me
to join him with my rod. After he released his trout, I got my five
weight out, tied on a Mother's Day Fly, and moseyed around near the
boat. We started seeing some big redfish tails popping up, but mostly
all we saw were subtle waking fish, showing a tip of a tail, or a
on the surface. I casted to one such disturbance,
and pow...a 25-inch red took it. I did get a photo of the fish in the
water. You can see how beautiful the water and grass is on the east
headed east onto the sand, and spent the rest of the day out there. By
the end of the day, we'd caught about 8 ladyfish on the sand in the 2
lb. range, and casted to quite a few reds, too.
I had the pleasure of taking out a great group of local guys -- Jim
Burkholder, Steve Shepard, and Jerry Whitson. Again, it was hard to find
the fish in the usual spots early, but by midmorning, we found a passel
of small reds and fished for them for about two hours. I don't know how
many reds they landed, but it must have been a dozen or more, along
with a few ladyfish. Here's Jim with his first red on his own-tied fly.
that action subsided, we went to another west-side venue known for its
big reds, and waded downwind in a grassy, clear lagoon. Everyone had
multiple shots at cruising reds, but they were tough. Three reds
one trout were landed,
though. Then we headed east, where we spent the rest of the day casting
to sparse reds, a couple of trout and plenty of ladyfish. Two trout in
the 20+ inch range were caught, along with a couple of reds and a bunch
I have been gravely remiss in not keeping you up to date
on our fishing. We had a bunch of great guys here last weekend, led by
Cam Kronenberg from Austin, and Bret Burford from Ft. Worth. Kathy and I
co-guided that group over three days. My only excuse in not updating
this report sooner is that I've been working on articles this past week
for Fly Fisherman and Tide Magazine. That work is done,
now, so maybe I can keep up with the fishing report a little better.
and I didn't have any charters this weekend -- even though the lodge
was full! -- so we fished for fun together yesterday, and I took out two old
clients and friends, Henry Bone and Jason Gusoskey from Austin. Jason had brought his boat down, but
I invited him and Henry to join me today on the Curlew. Jason
wanted to catch some trout, so we blind casted poppers near the
Intracoastal and caught a couple of nice trout on VIPs before heading
west onto a flat where he and Henry did real well yesterday. It
was already blowing about 12-15 mph at daybreak, but we casted to
tailing and waking reds and trout (yes, tailing trout!) for about two
hours before the action subsided. We had almost constant action, even
though the reds ran small. We probably landed somewhere in neighborhood
of 15 fish, including a couple of reds around 24 inches, and a couple
of 17-19 inch trout. Jason, who had the hot rod, lost a big trout, too.
Sorry, no pictures of our catches: I was having too much fun fishing!
headed for the sand about 9:30 to fish for world record ladyfish. Henry
and Jason knew of Kathy's and my IGFA ladyfish records, and hoped to
get one themselves. Three tippet classes were easily beatable (8, 16
and 20), so we all rigged up with eight-pound tippet with the agreement
that whoever caught the biggest ladyfish would weigh in a new world
record -- as long as it beat the current one of about 2 lbs. While we
all caught several ladyfish, Henry caught the largest on the 8 lb.
tippet. -- a 2 3/8 lb. fish. Then we all switched to 16 lb. tippet, and
he caught the largest again. So, Henry has a record -- or two -- as
long as no one has weighed in larger fish since the IGFA records were
last updated. The fish in this photo may not look impressive (nor does
"Genghis" Bone, for that matter: Joe MacKay thinks that Henry should
sue me for this terrible picture), but
consider that I was using a 5 wt with about 75 yards of backing. I was
nearly spooled three times on fish that were smaller. Ladyfish are
greatly underestimated, and I hope that Kathy's upcoming article in Saltwater Fly Fishing, titled by
us "A Much Maligned Lady," will
help to elevate the reputation of this amazing fish.
quite a few reds on the sand over the course of four hours of wading.
My best shot at another record ladyfish was interrupted when the only
redfish that was traveling with the pack of ladies took my Mother's Day
fly. It just wasn't my day!
Kathy and I went out about 10 a.m., principally to fish the white sand
for whatever was out there. We had full sun, and were eager to wade the
breathtakingly beautiful clear water. However, as we reached the mouth
of the Arroyo, I suggested we fish a spot that was nearby for redfish.
I'd caught a 30+ inch red there
last week (see 6/2/04 below), and thought we might catch a few reds
there before heading onto the sand.
enough, the fish were in there. We landed five reds in about an hour.
Nothing big, but they were all in about 10 inches of water, affording
us classic sight casting to tailing and cruising fish. Henry and Jason
fished north and west of us, and caught about 15 reds between them.
and Jason headed for the sand about the same time we did, and fished a
couple of miles to the south of us. We all caught ladyfish on the sand,
but the reds were extremely tough to please (just as they were today)!
Henry finally caught a couple of reds using a Clouser with lead eyes.
The tide was pretty high, and consequently it was hard to get the flies
down to where the fish were, and they just weren't going out of their
way to chase flies, like they sometimes do.
Last weekend, Cam and his group came in from four different cities and two states -- Colorado and Texas. The occasion was Cam's birthday, and he invited several friends to join him at Kingfisher. He and Bret were experienced coastal fly fishers, but the other three guys were brand new to it. The group had some pretty good fishing, and two of them -- Kevin Perry and Cole Harmonson -- caught their first saltwater species on a fly rod. Kevin caught two fine trout on VIPs, and Cole caught a ladyfish and his first red. (I took some photos of Cam and Bret with reds they caught on Saturday, too, but my computer ate them.)
The conditions were pretty tough for beginning fly fishers. We started
each day with windy conditions, and by the time it was noon, the wind
was about 20 mph. Although we found quite a few fish, it was virtually
impossible to fish from the boat, so we all waded -- both in westside
venues, and on the sand. If I could describe this group in two words,
it would be: Tenacious and optimistic. They never quit, and they
believed. When you have both qualities, you can succeed the first time
on the Lower Laguna. Without them, you need less wind and more luck. It
was a real pleasure guiding this group, and we hope to see them again
Each month, I spend the night on the bay during the full moon.
It gives me a chance to appreciate the beauty of the Lower Laguna, and
to do some fishing the following day. Last night, I anchored behind
Rattlesnake Island, where I
spent the night during a tournament in 1999, and fished for big trout
with poppers under the full moon. I didn't catch any trout then, nor
did I catch any last night either, but it's a special experience,
I got up, I ran over to Horsehead Island, and took a hike up the bluff
that I've seen hundreds of times, but never climbed. What a view of the
bay from there! As you can see, there's a pole up there -- It's made of
concrete and looks ancient. I'm not sure what purpose it once served,
but I intend to find out.
walked back to the boat -- there yonder along the shoreline, and fished
for a while near the boat. Casting
blindly (the sun was still a bit low
for sight casting) with a white VIP, I missed two reds, caught a red,
and then caught two trout -- the first one being about 24 inches long.
I dragged her back to the bank where I laid her against my TFO TICRx
five-weight and took this photo before I released her. A beautiful fish!
wasn't enough to make my day, the redfish I caught 30 minutes later
would have been. I headed north to scout some areas where I hadn't been
fishing much. Poling along a bank, I began to spook one redfish
after another, so I got out and waded. There were big reds all over the
place. But they were as spooky as I've ever seen them. It wasn't
surprising, since last night was a cloudless night, and the full moon
shone brightly from dusk til dawn. The fish probably fed all night long.
I'm not one to give up. After having one large red ignore my spoon fly,
and two more spook from the noise of my VIP, I switched to a Mother's
Day Fly, which
is comparatively unobtrusive. A few moments later (literally!), this
big 30 1/4" red swam up. I cast to him twice, and he seemed oblivious
to the fly. But then I dropped the fly on his head, and let it sink.
One twitch later, and he ate it. It was quite a fight on the
five-weight, but I eventually dragged him onto the bank and
photographed him. Then I weighed him on my boga grip before releasing
him -- 10 lbs. on the nose! My rod looks like like a kid's toy
alongside the fish, doesn't it?
could see other redfish downwind of me -- big ones -- but I went
back to the boat and poled out of the area, so they wouldn't be
disturbed. I hope to take come clients there in the next few days.
if that wasn't enough to make my day, I went out on the sand and saw a
lot of ladyfish. So I rigged up 2-lb. tippet to go after a tippet-class
world record. I have the 4-lb and the 12-lb already, and Kathy has the
16-lb women's record.
were all over -- big ones, too. It was tedious rigging up 2-lb.
tippet in 20 mph wind, but I finally managed to do it. I tied a Mylar
Fly onto my 12 lb shock tippet, and headed downwind.
broke off on the first three ladyfish. All of them were over 2 lbs..
After losing the Mylar Fly, a Boone Spoone (ouch! -- $5.99), and
a Mother's Day Fly, I tied on one of my homemade spoons. Of course,
every time I broke off, I had to re-rig the 2-lb. class tippet and a
shock tippet. It took a full 15 minutes each time. No Bimini twists,
mind you, just loop-to-loop connections.
I hooked a ladyfish that I was able to land after a 25 minute fight.
He/she was a "mere" 1 lb. 2 oz. I landed a second one about the
same size, and released it. The current world record on the 2 lb.
tippet is 3.1 lbs., which was an incredible catch. It would be next to
impossible to land such a fish in shallow conditions like we face on
the LLM. The fish run horizontally, and then jump, pulling against the
line, and pow...it's over. Landing such a fish in deeper water might be
possible, but I am not optimistic given our shallow conditions. But
I'll keep trying, just for fun.
I walked back to the Curlew, redfish and trout began showing up on the
sand. I could tell that by mid-afternoon, it would really be "hot." But
I'd been away from home since the previous night, and it was time to
celebrate the end of a great day of fly fishing.
summary, I found fish everywhere I went. The tides are still low, so
we're getting into the summer pattern of low tides and clear
water. With full sun, we should be sight casting west-side venues
that have been too deep and murky, and fishing the edge of the sand for
everything that swims. We have a great month ahead of us.
The bay is suddenly awash with small redfish. This often happens in the
spring, when a new cohort of redfish reaches a certain length where it
can survive on the flats. The larger reds are out there, too, but the
falling tides are causing the pods to break up and to
redistribute. Our classic June through August action --
widespread individual tailing reds -- will soon commence.
and I double guided on our two Curlews yesterday. She had the
pleasure of guiding Mike and Lisa Allen from Austin, and I had a great
Stuart Pielop from Austin, and Jonathan Feifs from Durham.
planned to caravan to the same spot, but on second thought, I felt it
better to try different venues and then to compare
notes via our
VHF radios. We cover
a lot of water this way, and double our chances of being "on the
went directly to a blindcasting area, where we often
do well (see 5/23/04 report below), while I went south and explored
some areas where we'd been finding tailing pods and schools early in
tides have fallen significantly in the past week, so the dynamics of
bay system is shifting to the summer pattern, where the fish are
congregated more to the central part of the bay, and ranging west and
east as the tides support movement into the shallower lagoons. It's
still not as low as it will be in late June through August, but it's heading that
the way to my first spot, we ran into a large school of big reds in
18 inches of water that were loosely surrounded by several other pods,
as well. We've fished this school many times over the last month or so,
and they run from 24-28 inches. Because it was already windy, I knew
that it would be
difficult to keep track of the school, given the depth of the
water. Still, we eventually committed to a downwind wade. Nothing came
of that, except one missed strike on a VIP. Kathy meanwile called me
and said that Lisa had caught her first redfish on a fly! Tempted to go
back, but unsure that one redfish was a "trend" that we could trust, I
continued with my original plan, and stopped in a lagoon that has been
holding a school of reds for the first couple hours of every day. Sure
enough, it was there, but the wind made it impossible to follow the
school in its sweeping course over several acres. I encouraged the guys
to blindcast poppers, while waiting for the school to show up.
Jonathan finally got his fly into the edge of some visible reds,
and missed the strike on the VIP.
that time, Kathy raised me on the VHF, and said that Lisa had caught
her fourth red! She added that that the fish were small, but plentiful.
So we headed for the
area where Kathy was anchored. We waded into the shoreline, just
Mike hooked up on his second red. They were using Motaher's Day Flies
a spoon fly to start off, Jonathan
had the hot rod, but bad tippet material defeated him. He broke off
twice before we
realized that the tippet material would not hold a knot. Then he missed
two strikes on a MDF. Meanwhile Stuart was making frustrated sounds,
having the best
cast of all four persons, but oddly enough, remaining strikeless.
Jonathan finally landed his first red on a fly about the time the small
redfish action subsided.
and I headed east onto the sand, where
we all spent a couple of hours wading the crystal clear water. The fish
weren't plentiful, but we had some opportunities. Kathy
had to head in with her clients -- being on a half day -- while I
headed north with my
guys. I was eager to fish north for the first time in a couple of
weeks. With the water levels falling, and the wind at only 15 mph, I
knew it would be clear enough and shallow enough to do some sight
casting up that way.
found reds tailing upwind in glassy, 12-inch water. It was windy,
however, and floating grass made line management nearly impossible.
Still, both guys stalked several fish, and Stuart finally broke the ice
with a nice trout that was feeding alongside a redfish. Later he caught
a 22" red that was cruising a shallow bank.
was a great day -- Four clients caught their first reds, and were eager
to do it again.
Kathy and I took our neighbor, Rex White, fishing with us this
afternoon about 3:30. We'd been writing all day, and the impulse to
the white sand hit us about the same time. Even though it was blowing
well over 20 mph, we headed east all the way to the Padre Island
shoreline. There weren't many fish to be seen, so we gritted our teeth
and turned upwind for about 8 miles to a place where I thought there
might be some fish along the Island shoreline. We put Rex right up
against the shelf, and Kathy and hopscotched downwind, taking
turns bringing the boat down.
casted to four reds that were heading upwind, and caught two on his own
spoon fly tie. Meanwhile, I waded out from the Island shelf, and didn't see any fish
for quite a while. Kathy and I took turns giving Lily (our
chance to romp up and down the Island. We weren't concerned about
catching fish, just enjoying a beautiful afternoon in a place that
looks like the Bahamas, and giving Rex a chance to spot some reds along
the Island's edge.
before we decided to leave, I had two shots at some 24-25 inch reds.
The first hit my Mother's Day Fly, and just wasn't there when I strip
struck. I switched to a tiny size 6 orange Boone Spoon, and within a
few minutes saw another red "crabbing" upwind, head down. I made a poor
cast, and the fly landed beyond the fish, but I lifted my rod and
dragged the spoon back in front of the red. He rose like a bass and hit
it near the surface. I was lucky that he didn't thumb his nose at me!
and Lily came over to take a picture. Here's Lily and me before we let
the redfish go. I'm surprised that we got Lily to stand still long
enough to pose.
brother and I went out scouting this morning (Sunday) for only
about three hours. There were hardly any boats out at all, and I'm not
sure why. Our
objective was to blindcast one area that is often full of reds. While I
encourage my clients to blindcast only as a last resort, and will
travel 80-100 miles in a day looking for
visible targets, it's good to know
places where blindcasting can be an
effective fallback option.
at the designated spot about 6:45 a.m., I waded about 50 feet from the
boat and began
casting a VIP popper. Although I missed a strike, I decided to
a spoon fly, because of the wind was effectively drowning out the noise
of the popper. I
had just received some complimentary "Boone Spoons," a new series of
by Earth Kind, so I opted for a tiny, ultralightweight gold
spoon. Even though it was light and easy to cast, it stayed below the
surface sufficiently to work magic.
we headed in before 9:00, I'd caught six reds, two
trout (one 24 inches long), and a ladyfish that would have been a
tippet class world record if I'd kept it. But because I'd fogotten my
boga grip (we were on Chip's boat), I couldn't do a catch and release
weigh-in of the ladyfish, so I let her go. Meanwhile, Chip caught eight
reds on his spin
rod -- 17 fish between us
than three hours! We both lost several more.
kept the trout on the stringer so I could get a photo. When we got back
to the boat, she was still very alive and ready for release, so I laid
out the cameras, and slipped her off the stringer. Chip took one shot
with the 35mm, and then I said, "I think we need the flash." So I
reached for the camera, to activate the pop-up flash, and...I let go of
is the fish?" Chip exclaimed.
looked back, expected her to stilll be there. "Darn,
I forgot she was off the stringer," I answered. "Well, at least she's
free," I added, even though I'd hoped to detain her for another minute
"You're worse than I am!" Chip said, referring to any number of screwups that we have committed unilaterally or collaboratively while fishing. I had nothing smart to say this time, but he'd better watch out! I'll be giving him hell the next time he leaves the plugs out, takes off with the anchor in the water, or forgets his tackle box for the upteenth time. In fact, as I seem to recall...
are many locales on the LLM which have sufficient
concentrations of fish to support blind casting with a fly rod. But
except for casting along the edge of the ICW -- a great strategy for
trout during the spring and summer -- you normally need a fairly long
cast in order to cover enough water -- that is, a consistent cast over
60 feet. Once you can cast that far, a whole new world opens up.
I've been guiding almost continuously for over a week. Kathy has, too,
on our second Curlew. So we've got a lot to share.
Friday, I had the pleasure of guiding Dr. Kent Hamilton and his son
Rhodes, from Dallas. Kent came down a year ago with
another son, David, and found the action challenging, even though David
caught his first redfish at that time. This time, he and Rhodes did
quite well on their first day on the water, landing four reds between
them. Here's a shot of Kent with his first redfish on a fly, and Rhodes
with his first red on a fly. (We give certificates now, by the way, so
it's something to look forward to, if you fish with us.)
Kent and Rhodes had a double hookup right at
dawn, casting into a large pod with gulls overhead. It was one of
those magical starts. A while later, we headed to another west-side
venue, where a single gull was working over redfish. Rhodes slipped
into the water, and headed for the area. A redfish appeared briefly,
but it was windy, and difficult to keep the location of fish in view.
But Rhodes waited, and then casted to a boil, and wham! A red took the
chartreuse VIP. It was the way things are supposed to happen.
tides have been risen again, making sight casting difficult in our
"standard" fishing spots, so we have had to venture into areas that are
normally too shallow to hold fish, much less boats.
guided Ben Jorden and Tommy Hanna from Beaumont on Saturday and Sunday,
and they saw some superb podding action in a west-side venue
where small to middlin' reds were podding. I took my clients
there, too -- Doug Loescher and Henry Street from Alburquerque -- where
they had the opportunity to cast to several tailing pods on Saturday
afternoon and Sunday morning. Ben came down with one goal in mind -- to
catch his first red on a fly. An active CCA member in the Beaumont
area, he reaped the fruits of all of CCA's fine work by catching and
releasing his first red on Saturday.
(Wednesday) and yesterday, I guided Tom Biddle and his partner Dexter
from Houston. Tuesday dawned cloudy and windy, so I wasn't too
optimistic about our chances of finding fish early. However, on our way
north, I noticed some birds working over a spoil bank, so I pulled over, and floated down to
the melee. Redfish tails were sprouting under the birds, so Tom and
Dexter slipped overboard and waded into the area. Dexter hooked up, and
was suprised to see that he'd snagged a very large flounder -- another
first on a fly. I estimated that the fish weighed around three pounds.
Here's a shot of Dexter holding the flounder the only way you can to
keep them from flopping -- by lifting them from underneath. They will
stop struggling whenever you do this.
and Dexter are seasoned Texas coastal fly fishers, so they didn't need
much help from me. This morning, I took them to an inlet that has been
holding a school of reds early in the morning for the last month, and
sure enough, about 200 redfish were sweeping around the area. It was
windy, and hard to follow the location of the school, but every once in
a while, they would surge and show themselves. Dexter caught a
fish, and released it. The guys went on to catch a few more reds later
in the day. We found reds everywhere -- from westside venues where few
boats have ever been, to the white sand right up against the
action seems to be falling off somewhat. The good news is that the fish
will soon be breaking up, and feeding solitary style on the east side
over grass, providing more shots at single fish. We've been seeing reds
and ladyfish following sting rays on the sand, which should provide
some exciting sight casting in the next two months.
large trout have been caught in the last week -- a 29" by my brother
Chip using spin tackle, and a 29" trout by John Kautsch on his
fly rod. Both fish were released, and no photos taken. But those guys
will feel good for a long time, having caught and released such