Monday, April 23, 2012

April fly fishing

It's always hard to summarize what's happening when I have let so much time pass. I have just finished 7 days out of nine on the water. Before that, I vaguely recall one of the most incredible days of personal fishing I've had in a long while. My brother Chip and I went out on a Sunday just for a few hours, first to fish the west side, and then to check out the sand. We had a stellar early morning with reds tailing and "backing" along shallow shorelines, and then went east in time to catch the last of the "glass" before the wind came up above 15 mph. But until then, we waded in 8 inches of water with reds spread out over the sheen, tailing ever so slightly in the mirrored sky. How many did I catch? Six on the west side from 26-29 inches, casting with one arm and videoing the hookups with the other--and then four more on the east side from 24-26 inches apiece.

A week ago, Julie and I headed to the Arroyo to stay in the Casita at the Arroyo City RV Park, our little trailer camper on the water. The next day, I guided an old client and guide from Alaska, Capt. Kirk, who faced two difficult, high-wind days on the lower Laguna. I warned him before he came, in order to give him the option to cancel. But he needed to fish more than he needed to catch them, so we did it. I didn't expect much, but on the first morning out, I opted to vary from my usual routine and fish south early. Wow, did we find the fish! They were tailing under birds in a very shallow lagoon with a firm bottom, which made it easy for Kirk to wade downwind and target the ever-moving pods. It was already 20+ knots, and the water looked like chocolate milk, but Kirk had great action for a couple of hours. Then, thinking that it was probably all over, I went in search of clear water, and found some south and east. We waded a beautiful area--one of my favorite venues--and he caught a couple of more reds before we headed in.  We had a second day almost as good as the first, even though the conditions were simply terrible. Having to fish on bad days will make you a better angler, and a better person, as well. You learn that poor conditions can be seen as a challenge rather than a curse. Most people give up and move on, but the people I respect--like Kirk--like to see what they can do once the crowd has gone home.

Then I guided my old client and friend Richard Thompson from Amarillo. Dick came down with his wife Lynn, who fished both days with us. We had fair days, with some good opportunities, but not enough for the couple to really get in the groove. Still, they enjoyed the time on the water, and promised to return again before long.

This past weekend, Rick Hartman and I joined forces to guide Tony Woodward and his buddies. Tony is from Colorado Springs, and has fished many times on the Lower Laguna. One of my favorite videos was made with Tony and his buddy Scott two seasons ago, and is available on YouTube. Tony's group scheduled three days on the water -- a good practice, since it gives you the best opportunity to have good fly fishing conditions, given the changing conditions in saltwater venues.

Our first day was a pretty decent day--strong SE winds with sun in the afternoon. We caught fish in several venues. It wasn't easy fly fishing by any means. One interesting highlight was finding reds sweeping up a shoreline under one or two birds. It was chaotic and difficult fishing, with the big reds plowing through off-color water, driving shrimp ahead of them. It's always hard to get the fish to see the fly under such conditions, but Tony finally landed one after his friend Chris had broken off and lost a couple. The high point of my first day was Chris's 28 inch redfish in a west-side lagoon just before we headed in. Rick's party also landed a 28 inch red, which is always memorable.

On the second day I fished with Scott (whom I'd guided before) and Jim.  We faced strong north winds following a stormy frontal passage the night before. We weren't looking forward to a great fishing day, but we left the dock and did the usual for April--looking for reds under birds. I opted to go south since the tides were so high, and found a large group of reds working under 25 gulls in a location that never, never has birding. It was just one of those gifts that befalls those who are willing to show up on an otherwise bad day. We went on to surprise ourselves by catching a number of reds on the sand in the afternoon. Indeed, after we all lit up cigars (thanks to Scott) for good luck, we had a triple hookup on redfish.

Tony fished the last day with me, along with Jim. It was the best day weatherwise, but it started off rather slow. No podding under birds, and the reds we found were in off-colored water. While they were feeding aggressively under birds, they were broken up and hard to track. So we gave up on that action, and headed to other venues, which proved to be even less productive. Finally, we headed east onto the sand. Under a cloudless sky, we fished in low-wind conditions to reds that were spread out along the edge of Padre Island. It was very tough fishing. Indeed, the guys compared it to spring creek fishing. After Tony landed a beautiful 26-27 inch red, we headed further west to fish closer to the grass line. There we found a mixture of trout and reds, and sight casted to them for about three hours until the afternoon glare sent us packing. Tony waded off alone as he's prone to do, and returned to boat with a big smile and stories of catching a big trout and several more reds. Jim scored a nice red just before we headed in. It was a great three days, even though the weather was marginal for the first two.

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