Sunday, June 28, 2015

Late evening memories

I often go out onto the bay in the late evening, on the day before I guide. It's a private moment in an otherwise pretty public life. So Rosie and I headed out on Thursday before three days of guiding, just to enjoy our home waters. I went to one place only, and noticed birds working in very shallow water, so I pulled over and watched them. Wow, suddenly, redfish were ripping through the shallow
water, throwing water and bait in the air. I took my rod and walked a few yards from the boat, and stood upwind of the melee. I didn't really have any ambitions, but when some wakes started heading my way, I thought, Why not? The first red that came upwind took my fly like a hungry bass, with an audible suck. It was "only" 24 inches long, and after a pretty good fight, I released it and looked downwind. A larger wake approached, so I tried to put the Clouser ahead of it. It was windy, though, and the fly flopped 18" to the side of the moving wake. There was an explosion, and the fish literally came out of the water. I thought that I'd spooked it, but apparently, it had felt the fly on its lateral line, even in the wind-churned, murky water. Suddenly, I was hooked up to a living freight train. A few minutes later, I landed a redfish that was 28+ inches long. I went back to the boat, and enjoyed watching the redfish feeding. They are hammered so much by boats running back and forth over most of the bay. It's nice to see them relatively untroubled in a back lagoon where few anglers every think of going because only a very few boats will take you there, and back home again.

Extreme Flyfishing

Wow, what an amazing two days with my old client and friend, Henry Bone, from Austin. We went way north yesterday (80 mile round trip!), and then way beyond the usual limits of angling to the east this morning, and we enjoyed phenomenal fly fishing. Words fail me. We lost count of how many fish we landed. 

It's hard to believe how shallow the reds were feeding this morning. The nearest boat was over a mile away, and we had to walk 200 yards into shallower water than even the Stilt would go. That's shallow! I got lots of video, and I will be editing it into a finished video in the next day or two. Rosie starred as the second mate. She's bone tired after all of the wading, though. Let's have a hand for great dogs and faithful lovers.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Intense angling, and intense weather

I spent four days last week on the water, and was supposed to spend four more days this week. But my clients opted to reschedule to do a combination of weather and inexperience. I always prefer to reschedule novice flyfishers if it looks like the forecast is iffy. An experienced flyfisher can deal with strong wind, and has learned to see fish in challenging conditions; but to put a novice on the water in such weather is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. The money does not compensate for the sick feeling of watching someone struggle unnecessarily.

That being said, the bay has settled down somewhat, in spite of the unstable weather of this past week. I guided my old clients Bob Buchman and Rich Bemm for four days last week. While we didn't land many fish, we saw a ton of reds and large trout in a variety of locales. Bob and Rich had some pretty challenging wind conditions to deal with. Fortunately, or not, they have had stellar results in previous years. Indeed, one of my favorite YouTube videos was one that I did of their last trip. I just discovered, in fact, that I haven't posted it on the Kingfisher site. I will remedy that now, but here's the video in case you haven't seen it:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Very Challenging May

I am not one of those anglers who says, “It’s not the way it used to be.” I tend to see the changes on the bay as natural rhythms that a master angler needs to adjust to, rather than complaining that the bay has deteriorated just because the old tactics no longer work. With that in mind, let me say that this May was the most difficult May I’ve ever seen on the LLM. Not because the fish aren’t there, or because the estuary is degraded, but because the weather was so extreme that sight casting was exceedingly difficult. Indeed, except for the earliest part of the month, when we had low winds and full sun, May was characterized by cloudy, unstable weather, with winds in excess of 30 mph by afternoon on most days. 

To add insult to injury, “birding” was almost nonexistent, as far as I could tell. True, I tended to fish south of the mouth of the Arroyo, simply because water clarity was better down there, but I was able to compare notes with guides fishing north, and there was a general consensus that birding never “arrived.” 

This is not to say there weren’t memorable windows of opportunity. My days with Ted Ruffler from Florida were superb examples of what can happen when low winds, cloudless skies, and expert casting come together. We had two consecutive afternoons of finding fish in the shallowest water on the east side, where single large reds could be seen 100 yards away. Since Ted had an 80+ foot cast, he could get the fly out in front of the fish, even after they’d turned from the sight of the Stilt. It was amazing action.

When a new client, Amir, came down from Maryland a couple of days later, he faced a completely changed situation. I had seen the forecast in time to warn him not to come, but his travel plans were locked in, so he had no choice. Anyway, he was a seasoned saltwater angler who knew that weather was king, but an experienced angler could still prevail under poor conditions. I was not optimistic when we left the dock on our first morning out. The US flag in the RV park was at attention in 25 mph wind, and the condition worsened through the day. I headed for the only place on the bay where I thought we might conceivably see tailing reds, and after a 30 minute ride, we came off plane, pleased to see that the water was still clear. In less than a minute, Amir had stepped onto the bow and hooked up on his first redfish. I breathed a sigh of relief, but knew that we couldn’t count on miracles. Amir got off the boat and began stalking tailing pods that were barely discernible on the windswept surface, and managed to catch two more reds before the podding evaporated. I thought to myself, secretly, “We could probably go home now, and count our blessings.” But, of course, we spent the next seven hours visiting a variety of locales, struggling to see fish beneath the low tumbling clouds in murky water.

On our second day out, I went right back to our starting point, hoping for a repeat of day one. The fish were there, but not as many as the day before. Amir caught only two before we headed north and east, finding nothing for hours. Finally, I realized that his only hope was to do something we rarely do with our clients—have them blind cast. Since Amir was an excellent caster, and could drive the fly 70-80 feet under windy conditions, I suggested that he wade through an area where we’d seen a lot of reds, but could not cast quickly enough to them in the low-light conditions. Amir gladly got off the boat, and waded for about an hour downwind, casting a Kingfisher spoon as he went. Sitting on the boat, and bringing it slowly down behind Amir, I felt pretty useless, knowing that it was all up to chance—not my eyesight, or poling skill—but the sheer luck that most fly fishers loathe to depend on. I was relieved when I saw Amir suddenly hook up on what was clearly a sizable fish. It ran without turning, and finally threw the fly. I was disappointed, of course, but Amir waded back to the boat with a smile on his face. It had made his day.

Most people show you their true colors when they face difficult days on the water. As for Amir, he showed Julie and me the “stuff he was made of” when he had dinner with us on the first night. I was concerned that he’d seen the bay at its worst, and I wanted to show him how good it could be. I took out my laptop, and opened up a video clip I’d taken of Ted just a couple of days earlier. The scene was a golden dawn, with redfish tails waving against a dead calm surface. Ted casted again and again into the tails until the feeding reds spotted his spoon fly and fought over it. I thought Amir would express some envy at Ted’s good fortune, but he only smiled and said, “But that would be too easy.” I laughed and put the laptop away, knowing that there was nothing more he needed to know.

Guiding so much that there's been no time to do fishing reports

Hi friends, I apologize for not updating this report! I have been on the water 15 days during May, and unable to do much else than fish and counsel (my other job when I'm not teaching, too) but I will getting around to the fishing report later today. For now, suffice to say that May has been pretty tough due to the unstable weather north of us. It's been more like March than a typical May. But there have been some good days amidst the unstable conditions, and June is looking much better (lower winds and more stable weather). Look for a lengthy summary of May later today!