Sunday, July 22, 2012

Long Days on the Water

I just got home from the McAllen Boat Show, where I helped Tim and Leslie Clancey respond to the public's interest in NewWater boats. Fellow guides Rick Hartman, Jaime Lopez, Roel Villanueva, and consummate fly fishing guru Bud Rowland completed a very robust and committed team of angler/guides. Over 15,000 people attended the show, and I would say that more people showed serious interest in NW boats than I've ever seen at an outdoor show.

Before the show, I guided seven out of the previous nine days. After a few days off the water, Rick Hartman and I will join Eric Glass in guiding six guys over seven days. It was be intense!

So how's the fishing, Capt. Scott, you might ask? Until a few days ago, fishin' was tough indeed. Everyone I have spoken to has said the same thing: The spring was great, but the summer has been characterized by small reds and low concentrations of fish on both the west side and the east side of the Lower Laguna.

I worked with Rick in guiding a four-man group of Phd's that has been down here before. Led by Rusty Pool from San Antonio, the group of in-vitro fertilization experts hailed from several different states. 

I had guided three of the guys before, but one of them -- Dennis from Virginia -- was totally new to sight casting to redfish with a fly rod. Having never caught a red on a fly, Dennis was both eager and apprehensive on the first morning out. I headed for one of my west-side spots, and was soon spotting redfish tailing and cruising with their backs showing. On the first morning of any multi-day charter, however, gear adjustments often take up a great deal of time. Indeed, I found myself rebuilding leaders that were too delicate, and retying flies that were appropriate to the context, over the course of the first 20 minutes on the water. Meanwhile, big reds were showing the whole time.

It wasn't easy fishing, but within a few minutes, Ted had landed the first red of the day from the boat on a Kingfisher spoon. Since the conditions were so sensitive, and the fish difficult to approach, I decided to put both guys out of the boat. The bottom was firm, so they stood a very good chance of stalking the visible fish without attracting a lot of attention. I left the guys wading further into the lagoon in order to return to the boat and float it down to where they were. About the time I stepped onto the Stilt, I hear Dennis yell with pleasure. He had just hooked up on his first redfish, and was ecstatic. Ted quickly waded to his side, and Dennis landed and photographed the fish with his help.

We were off the a great start. But as the day wore on, it got more difficult to find fish and to catch them. But that wasn't the greatest impediment: A storm arose to the west, and soon full of lightning. We ran south along the edge of the rain, and took refuge on one of the houses along the Intracoastal. In a few minutes, however, we determined that the storm was playing out to the north, so we went to spot west of Three Islands where reds are sometimes feeding just inside of a pass between spoil islands. Sure enough, we found them tailing and cruising there, and landed three before it was time to go in.

On the second day, I guided Gary and Dennis, and experienced difficulty finding visible fish. By the early afternoon, we'd caught only a couple. Fishing close to Rick Hartman on the sand, I decided to take one of his anglers onto my boat because Rick had to go in early. Ted joined us, and we repositioned on the sand for what turned out to be a pretty exciting wade. Dennis waded so far downwind that we could barely see him at the end of the day; but Gary and Ted stayed close to me, and did what I did. First I headed west toward the grass to see if the fish were coming onto the sand, as they often do in the afternoon. Ted and Gary were unfailing in their efforts to accept the challenges that nature posed, specifically electing to fish upwind with me in 18 mph wind in order to see under the high-glare conditions. Ted stalked a 30-inch red for 15 minutes upwind, but wasn't able to get a shot. We landed a couple of reds on Clousers there before it was time to go in. While it was very tough day, the guys were quite happy with the high-vis stalking action on the sand.

On the third day, I guided Rusty and Dennis.We found a little of everything, but not much opportunity overall. The guys only caught one redfish apiece, but as it turned out, it was as good as any of the other guys did. Rusty had an encounter with a large trout on the sand, and I spotted three together just as I was fighting a little red: big trout always do that to me! Being real sportsmen, the group was quite happy with the results. Except for Dennis, they knew that it could be much better, and were satisfied that they'd done well, given the below-average conditions. They are already talking about the next trip.

More later, with photos! We get into tailing pods and larger fish! Check back tomorrow to find out what happened during the next four days. It got much better.

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