David Slew the Giant

| July 15, 2008

padre island jetties fly fishing with David

I hurried out to the Jetties after fulfilling my family photo obligations and as the sun was falling fast across the Laguna Madre. I knew the Tarpon were there, and no illusion, because I had seen them a couple of days before – the day before I had finally talked to David McDonald of Harlingen, Texas, about coming out and doing some fishing.

David would not have much to do with the thought of anything but hitting the Jetties and taking blind shots at Summer Tarpon at the tip of Texas. So, I rushed to get done and caught a ride to the Jetties, got dropped off, and hustled out onto the granite boulders, focusing on each well thought step and the speediest route to the end of the line. The Jetties alone present a challenge to unaccustomed feet; just days before I had seen a young (probably military person on leave) fall flat on his back. He was far enough away that by the time I heard his body slap the granite he was already shaking it off and telling buddies he was ok. (So, wear your spikes, don’t go alone, and watch every step if you decide to hit the jetties and go long for a smorgasbord offering of fish.)

I looked through the crowds on the near end of the Jetties and tried to see if anyone on the far end was fly fishing. All I could tell was there were a few people toward the end and a big gap where the 20/80 rule* kicked into effect. I finally hit the half-way mark and stopped to pull out my binoculars, focused and spotted David about 40 feet from the end of the Jetties. I had been to the end a few times before, and there is no place on the Jetties where your senses are more heightened, where you feel almost at sea, but still bound to land. It’s a place where risk becomes palpable, where once when I was young we were a large group, on a weekend retreat, walking near the end when a rogue wave came along and almost washed the smallest in the group away. We grabbed small Shay just as the wave soaked us to our knees at the top of the Jetties, and kept her from being thrown over and churned.

I picked up the pace to a dangerous level of rock-hopping my way to finally meet a fellow fly fisher from South Texas, and maybe get a pointer or ten on how to go at those silver giants. Once I arrived, David was visibly high … from seeing two Tarpon roll within 20 feet of the Jetties. We quickly shook hands and he was right back to it. We agreed that the information given to us separately was the same – Larry at The Fly Shop in Port Isabel had said that they may roll out in the channel, but they strike for him way in close. He didn’t claim to know if they were following in or what, but that many times, just as he is about to lift his line, they hit and it’s on.

So we casted on the spot, and watched large bait fish reflect their way through the rocks at the last fading of daylight, casting against the wind and keeping the fly wet as long as possible while fighting the wave’s tendency to wash line into the barnacled cracks of the Jetties granite. My gear was working fine and is still better than I may ever be at this sport. Flies were large and whistling through the air as darkness finally made our best intentions invisible.

On the way back we finally talked about the methods for (some future) success with Tarpon on the Jetties. David, it seems, derives plenty of joy just from the chance at a Tarpon and continues to come out and cast at them even though he’s never caught or hooked one – yet. The stories of people he knows who have caught them off the Jetties are what keeps him coming back – it has been done and it will be done again – in that exact place and at just about that time of day.

We made our plans for fishing the Lower Laguna Madre in August or September, and exchanged more information, the life blood of fly fishing, as we slowly found our way back along the dark crevices of the Jetties and onto hard sand.

Later, I was trying to think of a way to make sense of the rivalry between fishermen, like David, and these giant silver fish. “Then David put his hand in his bag and pulled out a stone: and he slung it …” – I Samuel 17:49 .

* John Gierach (paraphrasing) – If you go twenty percent further than everyone else on the water, you get away from eighty percent of the people.

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Category: Fish Podcasting, Fishing Reports, Life Observed, On The Road, Technique, Texas Gulf Coast, Texas Gulf Coast

About the Author ()

https://www.shannondrawe.com is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

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