Kayak Fly Fishing Tournaments – Count Me Out & Color Me Gone

| July 22, 2013

One part of knowing you’ve suffered a beat down is just knowing that’s what happened. Another part of knowing you’ve just had a beat down is flashbacks to the beat down. The Lydia Ann Fly Masters Tournament last weekend provided both the knowing and the flashbacks.

For those of you who’ve read along with this site over the years, you know I am not prone to “fish stories.” In my opinion, wild and over the top just don’t come easy for me. I even hate to tell the truth on occasion … because sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

The simple truth is that by noon Saturday I pretty much figured I was out of the running for the kayak category of the Lydia Ann, so I went from hugging the shore at the Brown & Root Flats to attaching the Hobie Amas, and standing up to sail across Brown & Root to the outer edges. I would drift a few hundred yards, pull up and cast, and repeat the process until I reached the outer edges of Brown & Root.

Now the first few times I did this, on the first pull up (maybe 500 yards offshore), I immediately began getting hammered by ladyfish, or the “Poor Man’s Tarpon,” as we call them here. They are also called skipjacks, but the first is typically the common name nowadays. Regardless, they hammered me more than I hammered them. Their sandpaper teeth shredded leaders, flies and my patience after awhile. They’re fun, but only until they aren’t. The goal was redfish, and the only ones I saw were cruising along, spooky, spooked and at a distinct advantage in the high slack tide that lasted the entire day of the tournament.

The story really begins when I pulled up on the outermost edges I would try, an area where the water was even deeper, but clear, and the edges of the potholes were aquarium aqua – sand, rocks and other formations surrounded by wavy grass. I did the only thing left to do, and that was blind cast to the potholes from as far away as possible and hope for an ambush hit.

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When this phantom hit, it was one of those kinds of takes … everything slows down and the pull was deep and mean – not a peck, but a PULL. I saw the red’s head twitch against the sun when he felt the hook. Giving and holding line as I headed to my reel, I missed the hard set and all that would have done is turn the kayak anyway. I’m down to my last remaining feet of line before I’m able to let go and go to the reel. I look down at the deck and it’s wrapped around the rod holder on the deck. The moment I had to go to my knees to reach the line, I gave a little slack … he gave some slack and shook his head like a snot-nosed brahma … and the gold spoon fly came flying back at me like a shot.

I would rather not be telling this story, and would rather have been blanked given the outcome, because now I am cursed with the vision of that massive head glinting gold, a probable tournament winner, like a NASCAR wreck in slow motion replay that I am actually in … again, and again. Rationalizing tells me I may not have even had a shot at landing the fish, and would have had to dragged us all back to shallow water to photograph and measure – all more negative variables that could have allowed for the same outcome.

So this is the ultimate reason I am done with kayak fly fishing tournaments. Tournaments are a whacky thing anyway. This one was based on the single biggest fish to determine a winner. That’s a format that is akin to predicting where lightning is going to strike. However, formats aside, fly fishing from a kayak competitively or otherwise, is like trying to balance multiple marbles on top of each other. What are the odds?

Before I throw in the towel, I thought I would come up with a short list of suggestions to event organizers, just in case they’re reading.

HOW TO PUT ON A KAYAK FLY FISHING TOURNAMENT

– I like the non-profit idea. No cash prizes means no riffraff.
– Don’t have tournaments when the fish aren’t even biting. That means don’t have bass tournaments in February (winter) in North Texas! March is probably out as well. Schedule bass tournaments for months when bass are biting.
– Schedule coastal tournaments by the moon and tides primarily. I know it may not be convenient for the organizers, but fly fishing (intending to sight cast) during all hours of the tournament on a high slack tide?
– Think creatively about randomizing teams of kayakers (in pairs). It’s safer, and prevents cheating. Also flip a coin to see who decides where to fish. Or, let the person who will pay the most decide where to go! If I were paired with a local, you bet I would go wherever they said to go!
– All things being equal, I like *total inches of fish versus a single big fish. Just have a *minimum length to start with, or a *fish count … anything that avoids the lightning strike win/lose scenario.

POST SCRIPT

Yup, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the odds for a non-local trying to catch one fish last weekend were long to say the least, and I will be honest; I had good intelligence going into Saturday’s contest.

Friday, I was told that I could walk in at Brown & Root for an evening fish, and when I did – fish were there. I got into some tailing black drum that were beautiful specimens, and red tails were waving here-and-there until just before sunset – spooky, but they were there. However, that was on the outbound (moving) tide (6-8:30-pm) and long after (in retrospect) the tournament would be over on Saturday.

I had looked at Rockport earlier in the day, and the wind was beating it to a pulp. The only place I saw from Goose Island State Park that was protected was where I had that famous discovery of … alligators. No thanks. I did the math back at the motel that night, and decided Brown & Root showed me what I needed to see.

I hope readers aren’t too let down by my telling of this event, but I think my Mom said it best when I was talking to her on the 400-mile drive back to Denton, “You had fun didn’t you?” I replied, “Yes, Mom, I keep telling myself I had fun.” And I’ll probably look back at it as fun, when I am firm atop the deck of a boat … someday.

Be sure to ask questions about Aransas Pass, and Port Aransas! If I don’t have the answer, I have family there that may just be able to help.

KEY TO SUCCESS – The key to success in fly fishing the Texas Gulf Coast is simple, expensive, and “separates the boys from the men” (sorry ladies). THE KEY IS A BOAT! You can fish Aransas Pass on foot, and catch fish. It’s a slodgy-sludgy-muddy-stingray-slog. The mud stinks, and you will stink and sink, but you can catch fish without a boat or kayak there. The problem is that all the wading take and kayaking takes time, and once you commit to a location, that’s it for the day. You’re committed, and if you’re older, you’re burned to a crisp!

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Category: Adventure, Equipment, Events, Fishing Reports, Fly Fishing for Redfish, Fly Lines, Kayak, Texas Gulf Coast, TIPS, Tournaments and Contests

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I write. I photograph. I fish, and I live.

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  1. Chris says:

    Totally agree as I came to this conclusion after the Texas Flycaster’s Redfish rodeo some years back. Kayaks and fly line just don’t get along. We bought a Maverick HPxT shortly thereafter.