Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Phenomenal Weekend of Tailing Action

Wow, what a great weekend of flyfishing! I had the privilege of guiding my old client Howard MIller of Dallas, who came down with his daughter Becky for two days on the water. It had been a couple of years since Howard had been down, and he hadn't flyfished since. He had rescheduled twice due to the tropical systems that had brought a deluge of rain and high tides. But when we headed out on Friday morning, the Arroyo was no longer draining, and the bay was as beautiful as I've ever seen it. The tides were high, but they always are from Labor Day until early December. The reds push farther back into remote westside venues, and once they get established, they tail in pods day after day, feeding on white shrimp and crabs. The larger reds will also cruise the shorelines of the far westside lagoons blowing up on finger mullet. It's the best time of the year.

I elected not to go into my oft-favorite lagoon in favor of heading farther south in hopes of finding pods of tailing reds. I regretted my decision on the way, sure that I'd effed up and would have to backtrack later. But we shut down in an expanse of glassy foot-deep water without another boat in sight, and it was hard to fault the decision to be there. Indeed, as we poled further and further west, we began encountering small pods of reds tailing almost imperceptibly in the glassy water. We crossed a threshold that normally stops most skiffs, but the Stilt kept floating. We entered a place that rarely sees a boat. It became clear that the reds had taken refuge there, because the dark tips of their tails began appearing in the early morning light, until we were literally surrounded by pods of tailing fish. A single skiff appeared a half a mile to the east. We had it to ourselves. For about two hours, we poled from one pod to the next. The day proved to be an "adjustment" day for Howard, and only a few fish were landed.

The next day, however, we left the dock earlier in order to take advantage of the tailing action. It was twilight when we arrived at the shallow lagoon. Immediately, tails popped up all around us. For the next three hours, we enjoyed some of the best action I've seen in years. Howard landed eight reds on a light chartreuse and white Clouser, all between 24 and 26 inches.  The wind came up mid-morning, so we ran around looking for visible fish, finally returning to my favorite early morning venue. Usually, the reds leave this area by late morning, but in the fall, the water depth is sufficient enough that even during an outgoing tide, enough water remains to support feeding fish.

It was critically shallow, and I am sure we poled through water that only a Stilt could negotiate. Wow, it was full of reds feeding singly and in small roaming pods that were exploding on whatever got in their way. We poled about three hundred yards, and had about 15 good shots. Then we looped back upwind, and poled through the same area, only to have at least as many shots at big reds. Howard was really happy that he'd chosen to wait for good weather.  As we said goodbye, I urged him to return soon. He's 83, and I'm 62. I said, "come soon, because I don't know how long I will be guiding." He laughed and said, "You and I will hire a guide, then."

It's a strange feeling when I say goodbye to some of my older clients, with whom I have had such good  experiences over the past 15 years. We really don't know each other, except on the deck of a skiff. But somehow we learn most of the important things you can know about a person---how they deal with challenges, disappointments, and what role patience plays in their lives. It's a soulful exchange, much more about life than just catching fish. As Sparse Gray Hackle once said, "Sometimes I think the least important thing about fishing is catching fish."

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