Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Catching Fish when Everyone's Home

The other day, Julie, Rosie (our dog) and I headed out late in the afternoon. The wind was at 22+ mph, and straight out of the south, which is not ordinarily a "good" wind, because it blows straight down the Lower Laguna, without anything to break it. Normally, the wind is from the southeast, which makes all of the difference in the world on a windy day, when just a few degrees to the east means that the wind blows across Padre Island, leaving the easternmost areas of the LLM clear, even in 20+ mph afternoon wind.

We'd brought the kayak strapped to the foredeck of the Stilt, but we left it on the deck, because it was simply too windy and shallow for Julie to take off to the north. I might have been unable to get the boat up on plane without her weight in the front of the boat, so she contented herself with the single bottle of bear that she'd brought along.

The sun was low--it was about 4:30--but there were no clouds, so I could tell that there was no clear water on the east side. The way you can tell is to scan the horizon with your polaroids on. If you can see a dark line just where the water meets the sky, then you know that there's clear water ahead. This time, there was no dark line, so I leaned over and shouted to Julie, "There won't be clear water unless it's in the last couple of hundred yards."

Two boats drift-fished nearby, but I passed them both heading for shallower water. Watching my prop wash for that alarming gray-black color that meant I'd gone too far shallow, I finally shut down in about 9 inches of water. I could barely see the bottom, but I knew that clearer water awaited me to the east, and that the reds would probably be visible, even in these conditions, because they would be in 6-7 inches of water, just west of the "shelf" where the water goes from 6 inches to 2.

Rosie took up her customary position just behind me, and licked my calf from time to time as I waded further east, leaving Julie sitting on the Stilt in the late afternoon, golden light.

No one I know flyfishes under these conditions. By 3 or 4:00, the guides are in, and what's more, everyone laments the strength and the direction of the wind on a day like this one. But the fish were there in a classic setting, and visible from 60 yards away, heading unwind singly, swimming quickly and darting from one side to the other. Doing what, you might say? Feeding on mullet or anything else they could flush by swimming fast through almost terminally shallow water.

I only stayed about 30 minutes, since Julie was with me. But in that time, I had three shots at incoming redfish. They appeared clearly visible over 50 yards away, as pinkish-dark forms against a uniformly brown bottom, but they also showed themselves as wave forms that interfered with the down-wind waves. I blew the casts at the first two fish,which is easy to do under these conditions. Not only is the water so shallow that the reds are on high alert from anything out of the ordinary, but they are constantly moving, making yesterday's good cast fall on the wrong side of today. The third red--the big one--rushed the Clouser, and and mouthed it; but the tiny hooked failed to connect when I stripped hard. It was then that I turned around and began my hike back to the Stilt, which was a tiny dark sillouette against the bright western sky.

If you can put this kind of flyfishing into your repertoire, you will have covered the "third base" of the angling day on the Lower Laguna, and you can slide into home knowing that you've done something that most people never dream of.

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