Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Backwater and sand action

The past two weekends have offered some extraordinary flyfishing, but in very different conditions. The weekend before last, I guided my old clients and friends Doug and Connie Gauntt who figure prominently in several of my Youtube videos. They are top-class flyfishers, who fish Alaska (for Steelhead), Argentina and Chile each year, as well as fish with me at least once during the summer. As we were heading out a week ago Saturday, I was reflecting on the exotic flyfishing that they do, and said, "This must me a lot less interesting than that." Doug said, "Oh no, we look forward to this trip as much as any of the others."

The Gauntts have a feel for the Laguna Madre that has developed over a decade of regular flyfishing. They appreciate the bay in whatever state it's in, and they never, never complain about the wind or weather. Consequently, they are able and willing to adapt to the conditions that we encounter. On the first occasion of guiding Connie, she had never caught a red on her fly rod. It happened to be a terribly windy day and my fellow guide, who was guiding another party of two, got off the water around 11 and took his clients to Mexico as a consolation for such a bad day. However, we persisted, and by 10 Connie had caught her first red, and by 1 pm, she'd caught her next five reds. She stuck with it, and was rewarded; and that's the name of the game for the Gauntts.

When I looked out of the trailer on Saturday morning, I could see that my neighbor's US flag was standing at attention in 15 mph wind. I used to groan at the sight, but I just shrugged and said, It will be interesting. Knowing that the wind was supposed to climb to 25 mph by midday and not let off for the next three days, I figured that I'd better stop complaining and start thinking. 

When it's that windy at daybreak, it's important to focus on water less than 10 inches deep, so that the fish will be visible even in the wind. I went into an area that has provided superb redfish action for the past couple of months, whenever the water levels are high enough to support the fish. Sure enough, it was just deep enough to host feeding pods of reds in an expansive area that is off limits to almost all boats. We pushed pods going into the area, and as soon as we came off plane and let the water settle, redfish backs started appearing to the west of us, glowing in the low-angled sunlight. Within a few minutes, Doug was hooked up on the first of six reds that he caught in that spot, while Connie managed to land a fine 25" red before we headed elsewhere. By midday, we were on the sand, where the action was consistently good, resulting in a total catch for our first day of 18 reds. Not bad for a windy day! Indeed, I know a lot of locals who would have stayed home. Perhaps some will read this and learn from a couple of seasoned Dallas flyfishers.

The next day was more difficult. When the wind comes directly out of the south, the water clarity is degraded, because there's nothing to break the wind. When it's from the southeast, the wind comes over Padre Island, and will stay clear all day, even when the wind is over 20 knots.

We started in the same place, and found the reds feeding there again in fewer numbers in higher wind. But they both landed a couple of reds before the reds dispersed. Then we traveled far to north of the mouth of the Arroyo, where we found a few reds feeding on the sand. By the end of the day, the Gauntts managed to landed "only" 11 reds. I said to them, "I am quite certain that you did better than any flyfishers on the bay." Having seen very few boats out in the fierce wind, I was pretty confident that what I'd said was true.

The next day was nearly impossible. No reds in the first locale, and 25+ winds from 9 am onward. Still, they caught a few reds. Overall, it was a great weekend for two master anglers--over 30 reds on days that would have sent most flyfishers packing for an early flight home.

A report from this past weekend to follow!

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