Fly Fishing For Redfish in Galveston – Salt Just Rocks

| December 7, 2012

Danny Casting in the Galveston Marshes Thanksgiving weekend 2012
A kayak will, and a boat won’t – deep in the Galveston marshes.

Just about the time you though you had washed all the salt out of your system (see the three part series on flounder on fly 1, 2 and 3), you hit the weekly double with a short, sweet salt story from day three of our three day assault on Galveston, Texas, with a fly rod.

Salas followed me back to The Woodlands Friday night, an insane 80 mile drive from Saturday in Galveston, but rewarding in that my family offered shelter from the cooler weather that had rolled in on Saturday. If I weren’t already feeling the effects of a strong cold, and been brave enough to bring my camping gear (left in The Woodlands), we would have found ourselves at Galveston Island State Park.

It was a turn-and-burn, because we were to meet Danny in Galveston to kayak out and look for redfish the next morning at 6-am. I had made contact with Danny by selling him a fly rod which he promptly took out and beat a bunch of redfish and specks over the head with, and then he sent me photos for proof. Days are short, so I started to squirm about a dark start – especially on a holiday weekend from a crowded spot.

After a couple of passes, we hit the correct road and turned it around into the long drive to the ramp at Louis’s Bait Camp Bar & Grill. It smelled fishy from the get-go. I was trading texts with Danny and even though I asked him to leave 30-minutes on the plus side, we were still early (take note you guys).

Guides and their sexy flats boats were matched in number by the “Sports” with too much money and their boats identical to the guide’s machines – except the “Sport’s” boats were pristine. Color me green – with envy.

Danny pulled up with his girlfriend and offloaded. Apparently he had used her fly quota up yesterday, so she was dropping off and going back to sleep.

The paddle out took us under a bridge, past some houses, under another bridge and out into the marshes. The vegetation looked a lot like the Louisiana marshes, with channels, wide open “lagoons,” and a series of these manmade-looking rectangular areas surrounded on all sides, perfectly shaped, with openings on at least two and most often all four corners. Those openings allow for the tidal flows to … ebb and flow. (If anyone knows what these were originally created for, I would be interested in their history.) Long levies would extend as some sort of containment for all these rectangles and formed the longer shorelines that seemed to be there to protect the rectangular areas from the big lagoons. It’s a maze. For us, not the fish.

We hoped for the best, and scanned the horizon for birds, but none were to be found. Pods and nervous water did not hang huge neon arrows saying, “FISH HERE!” This was going to be a good old fashion search. My guess is that the new colder weather had changed those patterns for the time being.

As we turned a corner and threaded our way into a big open area via a narrow channel marked with PVC pipe, I realized that although we may have gone a half mile, we were now on a tack taking us straight back toward where we came from. I was relieved that this wasn’t going to be a long run because I knew the family duties were waiting (cutting the day in half), and as I heated up from the workout, I was either snorting, spitting or coughing between almost every paddle stroke. If it weren’t for the rush of the habitat, the obvious potential, I might have cut my half day in half.

We split up as we made our way into the increasingly shallow lagoon. Three kayaks going three different directions – eleven, noon and one – increased our separation as we covered more distance.

I took the one-o’clock and it was a short time before I was paralleling the right side of the lagoon. With the slight breeze starting, and blowing into the back of the lagoon, that seemed like a good bet. As we chatted on the way out, we all pretty much agreed that we were all feeling like casting on sight only, even if that meant no casting at all.

It wasn’t long before we were casting at nothing, I’d say “warming up” if I were under oath. As the sun rose, I could see we were in extreme shallows the entire time we were crossing the lagoon. Shallow as in less than a foot of water, and at times aground on the sticky mud.

The tide was outbound, and a couple of things started to occur to me. First, this was such a short distance, the Diablo would absolutely be a killer boat in this situation. Second, if a guy got in here in a boat on high tide, heaven help them if they didn’t get out before the tide dropped. Third, boats were not going to get in here now – no way, no how. That meant we and a couple of other kayak fishers would have the entire place to ourselves.

I picked up and reeled in to move a little further along my goal – the back of the lagoon. I intentionally kept a single false cast from the shore, and kept my eye on the shore as I paddled. Besides, any closer to shore would also ground me in mud. At the grass the water was just less than six inches deep and still dropping.

I had seen reds, and seen movement – shrimp skittering for their lives, mullet on the move – but they had not set themselves up by tailing, in pods, or anything we like to see that lets us know they’re vulnerable.

The shallows were still pretty glassy, and finally ahead and off to the right, I saw a fin cutting a slow squiggle along the shore. We were going opposite directions, and I knew if I didn’t get turned the cast was going to be the stuff of nightmares – in the WS T140 turning isn’t a strong suit, and standing impossible. Nevertheless, I twisted at a 90-degree angle to the boat and threw. Short, and probably a good thing as the fish continued coming my way. One paddle stroke to starboard and I was straight on and moving backwards still sitting. Feeding line on the backcast for quicker distance on the forward, and let it drop – six inches off the grass.

The fin disappeared, and I began to strip thinking of another shot, but then swirls appeared behind the fly. The redfish had made a 90-degree turn and was headed straight toward my fly. It was obviously trying to suck the fly while I was stripping, as I stopped it stopped. I set hard, and we were both shocked at about the same time. “Yeah!” The sleigh ride was on. Rather than overly tire the fish, and feeling the need to successfully land the fish – into the kayak, I bailed out and sunk into about twelve inches of water and twelve inches of goo. It felt good.
Texas Gulf Coast Redfish on fly rod
A healthy six pound redfish will make you forget freshwater, and maybe even your own name!

At a healthy twenty-six inches and six pounds, I was glad not to be fly fishing alone for many reasons. Salas and Danny pulled up to watch the fight and take pictures, and all three of us were smiling. The pressure (self inflicted as it was) was off Danny, and Salas knows what a good redfish feels like.

StuntmanSalas and first redfish on fly
Salas and his first redfish caught on fly rod.

“Looks like it may be singles today,” as we paddled on. We made our way into the maze, and began to run aground, so we had to back out a bit, but both Danny and Salas were able to stick their own slot redfish (Okay, I had the big fish of the day if you must ask), and we each caught a rat on the way out for good measure. All three fish of the day were caught on ReyRam flies that I handed out like halloween candy after Salas and Danny saw my catch. (Great fly Rey Ramirez!)

Danny and his redfish on fly
I would like to thank Danny, above, for taking us to the fish! If he doesn’t look excited it’s because he’s used to catching reds on fly.

We landed back at Louis’s, muddy but with the sweet smell of fish on us. Louis’s is a great place to launch and park. Add the great food on the deck when you get back, and you have a complete experience. I think if we were out during the week, we could have done some good with speckled trout as well, but the boat traffic was … Houston size and style.

In retrospect, if the tides were more in line with the time of day, I think we could have done much better. It seems nothing is really working like it should inland or on the coast. The warm winter and lack of fresh water in the inland salt waters could be part of the equation. One fish though, when it’s a nice redfish like those we caught that day, can do the soul a world of good.

Description – Fly fishing for red drum in the shallow marshes near Galveston using kayaks right after a cool front.
Launch – Louis’s Bait Camp 3510 Texas 6 / Hitchcock, TX 77563 / (409) 935-9050
Conditions – 55-degrees. Outgoing tide – moving. Not concerned with solunar charts.
Location – Galveston marshes near Louis’s
Fly Rod – Sage XI2 Seven Weight
Reel/Line/Leader – Lamson Guru / Orvis Redfish 7 weight / 2 piece 20#-10#
FLY – ReyRam Fly

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Category: Equipment, Fishing Reports, Fly Fishing for Redfish, Gulf Coast Report, Reader Contribution, TECHNICAL, Technique, Texas Gulf Coast, TIPS

About the Author () 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.

Comments (3)

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  1. goneflyfishing says:

    Haha I don’t care who caught the biggest. All I really know is we all caught some healthy reds with some thick shoulders and it was a blast!

  2. shannon says:

    Maybe you did get the biggest! I forgot who called the weight on my fish, but I think it was Salas, and he owes me.

  3. goneflyfishing says:

    I’m glad everyone caught fish wish we could of caught more. They just weren’t that thick in there. That spot has ok days and everynow and again great days. Which I still had an awesome time catching one is a success to me. There nothing like sight fishing reds! Oh and I thought I caught the biggest! Haha

    Next time you come out for some salt I’ll show you a new spot.

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