Fly Fishing Port O’Connor Texas – Chano’s Adventure Concludes

| September 26, 2014

flyfishingintexas port o’connor texas fly fishing #flyfishing texas saltwater

black drum on fly - courtesy photo

The black drum took a gold Kingfisher Spoon on the drop, and immediately took up all the stripped line, and went to the reel, and took drag for another thirty good feet of his fly line. As good as any redfish for sure he thought, and once it finally came close, he marveled at the distinct jailbird black-and-white stripes. All the colorful boldness of youth. I used to have a “Williware” suit like that he thought. How embarrassing was that fact?

Not much more was in the offing that day, a few more drum, a tannin redfish and a sheepshead, his first on fly, were all that came. He shifted his senses from his eyes to his feet, “Yeah, I think the water’s warm, too warm right now,” he half hollered over to his wading partner. And it was finally slack. Done.

About all they could do is start hopping, looking for the right habitat to hold reds. One stop on the long rides landed them on a flat opposite the inside mouth  of one of the passes. It was an iffy location to the eye, but he knew he had to play it out. After all his days were two less than theirs. Two stayed in the boat, and he and the captain fanned out to comb the flat. It was grassy, sandy and had some mud bordered by a distinct line of crab traps in pretty cloudy water. Their floats went along a line as far as the eye could see.

He saw two nice deep reds on the sweep out, and they walked close together to talk about the habitat on the way back. They seemed suspended near the top of the water column, as if overheated. Off about ten yards sitting in a prop scar, and about a foot of water, was something that looked like .. a rusty fresh piece of steel. “If it’s not a fish, it should be a crime to have something out here that looks like that!” he said. It fit the scar perfectly, and they walked up on it, up to it, and looked down. The huge dorsal fluttered.  A redfish, close to 36-inches, a bull red, was laying low in the hole, barely moving as if already caught and released. Finally, it saw them and swam away slowly. They were finally speechless. It didn’t last long. “Did you see that? It was so big I didn’t think it could be a redfish!” “Let’s sweep it again,” they agreed.

He went for the deeper water, blind casting in front of his path. Casting the gold spoon he felt a deep take and the line zip off the water. This was a fish. Waist deep he couldn’t imagine a hard hook setting, and at just that moment the captain shouted, “Did you see a second one following?” Now, he laughed deep and hard at that because it just struck him funny. And in that same moment the fly came right back at his head. He kept on laughing because he knew an internal debate would follow immediately. Whenever he had someone with him, who just hooked a fish, all his fishing stopped while he relished the other’s fight as if it were his, and he always offered help. Now, he worked his mind through the event. There’s nothing wrong with asking after another fish. And there’s nothing wrong with asking if a fly fisher needs help (or lets the camera roll) either. Both answers could be right. He guessed he was just a little beat down.

FRIDAY

Friday was his last day on the water. And it was calm. They beat their way to the jetties, out and around the north side, to extreme calm. He decided not to rig the X1-3 until he saw that it would be necessary. Now, it was necessary. As the boat bucked on the calmest side, a couple of boats anchored near the tip of the jetties.

The current, wind and waves combined to barely move the boat. It was, as FOGHAT sang, a “Slow Ride.” The anchored boats were dropping on bull reds in a hole, and it wasn’t very long before the shouts came along. It didn’t mean anything to him because that point was a cauldron of current, not nearly a fly fisher’s drop.

He looked at his knots, a perfection loop to a bait pattern on straight 30-pound fluorocarbon and no wire. He wanted to sacrifice a fly before tying on wire. He looked up against the jetties barely 40-feet away, and three baby tarpon rolled. “Tarpon,” he called out calmly, perhaps too calmly, because they didn’t believe him. “Yes, over there,” and up they came on cue.

As he backhanded off the back of the boat, a habit he picked up on Lake Kiowa, he realized the first problem. The line needed tending – right away. It was sinking so fast, and the water so shallow that he was filing hook points on granite. He never imagined needing a floating line here, but that’s exactly what was needed, and left back at the dock.

Strips hard and fast. Nothing. A fantastic drift and more casts. Nothing. More tarpon sighted. Nothing. They didn’t see much hard and fast bait action either. No bird brigades. Conditions were good. The fishing, their fishing, wasn’t. Changes in fly patterns, and line depth (a 450 grain sinks like a rock), and nothing. All things being equal, and if he were more than one-in-four, he thought he probably would want to stay and see what unfolds. This didn’t match their past success, so the captain was ready to move. All things are almost never equal on boats, and that was just fine too he thought.

They moved to the inside of the jetties pass, slowly looking to see what action was happening. Nobody was doing what they were doing, what they wanted to do. So they had to blaze their own trail. The droppers were hitting on the bull reds, and shouting all about it.

Like it or not, and what did it matter, they were in move mode. At least they weren’t leaving fish to find fish, he repeated to himself. Some people fish hard and move less, some move a lot and fish less. The truth is when the fish aren’t showing themselves, you have to move, and hope it’s not a trend.

The boat ended up on that same flat they started on the day before, but after the tide was slack. The water was hot, and dead. He teamed up with his wading partner from the day before. They split the flat, and the two pairs traded directions from the day before. He knew their shot would be somewhat better because the other pair did well the day before (at the end of this run).

The other pair gave up, quit and walked back to the boat after a few minutes. Such are the differences in need for gratification he thought. Meanwhile, he and his wading partner were a long way from the end of their run, the most productive end, he thought to himself.

“Let’s go! There’s nothing here!” the captain said. “Have we hit the spot where you caught fish yesterday?” he replied. “No!” “How about we get the chance to finish this run?” “There’s no fish!” It seemed to him like this was not fair play. “Let us finish this run, and we’ll go,” and they kept going. It was a beautiful flat, with all the habitat necessary. The walk alone was worth the time and energy. He didn’t know until later that this would be the last time out on this flat with this captain, but that possibility was slowly creeping in to his sun-beat mind.

They finished the wade and only spotted a few more reds, again suspended-looking, just kind of swimming around close to the top of three feet of water. Strange. Too hot he thought.

They picked up and ran a few more times, seeing parts he and the captain had never seen before, but wanted to register in the memory banks, and on the GPS. The Port O. system is a huge one. A boat is a must, and as the day wound down, attitudes wound up, and then he knew he was done with this ride for awhile, maybe forever. The cost for a good ride-along like this one wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t terribly expensive by local standards either. The price, on the other hand, he thought, was the highest emotional price he had ever paid for anything anywhere. And he was never going to pay it again.

He knew his final tally for Friday, and it had nothing to do with anybody but the fish. Zero, not even a bite for the entire day. This had become an expensive lesson in relationships. He never divided cash among fish. Never.

He was ready to load up and go home as soon as they hit the dock, but he worked through the logistics knowing he would fall asleep and have a wreck on the seven hour drive back. Old fly fishers just think that way he thought … damn slow, and damn conservative in this case.

The next morning running up 1289 just outside Port Lavaca, he saw a long shooting star, just before the rising sun would have made it invisible. To him, that said it all. It was time to put this one away for awhile.

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