Friday, November 1, 2019

It's all about conditions

Two weekends ago, I guided Ted Thomas and Dennis Matt from Virginia, two of my favorite repeat clients. They usually do quite well during their three days on the water. A couple of weeks before they arrived, Ted asked me if water depth would be a problem. Having just fished with my son, Ryan, and seen the usual fall high tides, I said, "no," unless there's a tropical storm in the Gulf. Whenever there's a tropical storm or hurricane anywhere in the Gulf, the western Gulf shoreline experiences extremely high tides. So, no problem, right? At least I thought so. I check the weather forecast every day, so I can warn off anyone who might be traveling from far away, and bearing the expense of plane flights and time off of work. There was nothing on the Weather Underground tropical update.

Ted emailed me two days before their arrival, and asked me about the tropical disturbance in the Gulf. I said, "What tropical disturbance?" As it turned out, Weather Underground had not reported a tropical low that had sprung up only 100 miles southwest of Brownsville. When I went to another weather service, there it was. I thought, "Oh shit." Sure enough, the tides spiked an extra foot right before Ted and Dennis arrived!

It's very hard to sight cast in that much water, especially since the normal places have two feet of water instead of one foot, and the shallower water tends to be in areas that are relatively sterile, i.e. devoid of shrimp and crabs.

We found plenty of fish, but had to cast from the boat in order to see them, and the shots were lower quality than usual, given that the fish would appear at the last minute, and turn away before the guys could get the fly to them. I was happy when they landed two reds the first day. After that, it became even more difficult due to clouds and wind. On the second day, however, we were on the sand in the full sun, and suddenly a group of reds swam by and crossed our path. For the next five minutes, I poled as fast as I could to keep up with them, hoping that Ted could make an 80+' cast. Casting a few feet short each time, we finally got within 75 '. I said, "Let the rod do the work," and his cast was perfect. The red ate the fly, and we all screamed.

Fast forward one week. Ryan and I decided to go out on Saturday morning after a rather chilly night. We slept at the trailer, got up about 7:30, and hit the water much later than we usually do. We were lucky it was dead calm, and the temperature was rising fast. And the water depth? In only six days, the bay water level had fallen a foot! For those of you familiar with the Lower Laguna, that is a huge difference.

We headed for a west side lagoon first, with plans to fish the sand under the cloudless sky by late morning. Ryan had forgotten his booties, but he didn't let that stop him from wading. We stopped along a shoreline, and prepared to pole it before wading, just to make sure it was worth committing. But before we'd even unfurled one of the rods, I looked about 300 yards down the shoreline, and could see a few gulls sitting on the water. They would take off, and sit back down a few feet away every few seconds. That means redfish! So we cranked up and ran another 250 yards before shutting down. On the way, we started moving big reds away from the shoreline, so we knew that we were into the fish.

For the next hour and a half, we stalked big reds that were feeding aggressively along the shoreline--individually, and in pairs or small groups. I lost as many as I landed, probably because I have been using flies with very small, size 8 hooks. Here's a photo of the fly I've been favoring for the past several months. It is a streamlined Mother's Day Fly (no legs or weed guard). It is very simple, easy to tie, and equally effective in grass and over sand. Since they sink slowly and have a very small hook gap, they don't foul as quickly as a Clouser, or even a light spoon. And the fish love them! Indeed, I caught a 32" red on one of these in May, and have landed countless reds since.

For his part, Ryan was using a Closer (size 6 hook), and landed the largest red of the morning. Here's the first red we landed--a 27" red.

After landing 5 reds from 24-27", we took off for the sand, where we spent another two hours or so. We landed four more reds, and lost three more that we stung or briefly hooked. We could have stayed out and caught fish for several more hours, but it was Sunday, and we both had things to do at home. Needless to say, it was a splendid morning!

1 comment:

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