Learning To Crawl on This Monday Morning Sidewalk

| January 18, 2016

texas fly fishing south padre island #flyfishing

AT THE TIP-O-TEXAS

Fly Fishing on the Texas Gulf CoastIt’s a Monday morning in winter on South Padre Island, Texas, and it’s looking like we’re going to have a few 70-degree days this week to try and find my bearings on this strange and foreign land and water. I’ll toss out the predicted 80-degree day in the interest of keeping the Country’s economic wheels turning by keeping you at work, not calling in sick, and heading for the coast.

The drive down was casual, but accented by a couple of hours of rain from Harwood to just south of Victoria. As much as I wish it were a cleansing rain, it ended up leaving a road film in just about every crevice of the boat and everything inside it. I took little solace in the fact we weren’t turned into a lighting rod along the way. READ MORE!

Stopping at the Academy Sports in Victoria has become somewhat a “right of passage” to the Gulf Coast I love, be it Port O’connor, Port Aransas or Rockport. Honestly, I take this cue from none other than Lefty Kreh, and carry token spinning gear so as not to get shut down if the weather stomps on my fly intents. And it just so happens that Academy is smart enough to tailor their inventory for the local needs, and that means MirroLure and entire store rows labelled “saltwater” full of plastics and other conventional saltwater tackle. I never intend to slide any further down the conventional slippery slope than the only two things I carry (mostly for prospecting or blowouts) – gold spoons and “hard baits,” which for me translates to MirroLure, and only MirroLure. I am partial to both of these because they were the first artificials I ever caught fish with more than forty years ago.

Speaking of “finding bearings” …

We were walking down the street we’re staying on yesterday morning, and taking our dog Abby to her first beach (we’re staying about a block off), and a guy who’s in his driveway walks out to the street to intercept us – to actually admire Abby. He’s kneeling down at thirty yards, and saying, “What a lovely dog!” and I’m looking hard at him … “Shane. Shane. Shane. Shane!” Finally, he recognizes me (the folks with me think I’m crazy calling our dog Abby “Shane”) “Shannon? Oh my God!” It’s Shane Wilson, founder of Fishing’s Future, who actually lives a few doors down from the place we rented – a completely random event on a sizable Texas island.

It was a fisherman’s reunion after who knows how many years and how many miles, and so much recent tribulation. We talked, and my cohorts settled down once they realized I hadn’t lost my mind calling my dog Shane. He hollered up to his wife on the balcony, “Hey Honey, look it’s Shannon and Leslie!” We exchanged hollered greetings. Shane said he’d been following my medical plight on Facebook, which is something I am beginning to forget I’ve talked about in detail – especially as I put more distance between me and that stretch of living, of life.

We made some loose plans, and continued toward the beach and Abby’s first encounter with sand and sea. As we walked along the beach, I tried to triangulate our location to my family’s old beach house. Nothing made sense. Gone was the round house. Long gone was the pink house (ZZ Top’s hideout). And there is this hideous huge steel pipe laying partially covered on the beach, running parallel to the surf and basically cutting the sandy part of the beach down to a sliver (more on that pipe later).

Once we were done with the walk, I decided to walk down (south) from our street toward where I believed the old house is located. I walked several blocks, and as it turns out, right past the house at 3401 Gulf Boulevard. On the way back, it clicked. The neighbor’s house had a roofline that hadn’t changed – which is about the only thing that hadn’t changed in the entire area. Gone were the tennis courts on the tall condo parking lots across the street, gone was the original front of the house … so many things gone now, but I found it. The original wood bones were behind the new front that doubled the size of the old beach house founded on creosote telephone poles. I recognized it though. Like so many things when we retrace our taproot of roots, a bittersweet feeling swept over me. It was there, but it wasn’t really there anymore. Memories and photographs will be the last conservation now.

NOW IT BEGINS

Once I realized I was actually a stranger in a strange land, I knew there was going to be a lot more to learn about the “lay of the land” since the land laid so differently after thirty-five years gone. It isn’t going to be so simple as driving over to Jim’s Pier and renting a slip for two weeks, parking the trailer there, and just driving over (or getting someone to drive me over), hopping in the boat and heading off into the bay as I did when I was the “family captain” at, maybe, fourteen-years-old.

Looking at the satellite (talk about modern times), I can see where I want to go – north to the edge of the sand and grass beyond the Convention Center, and southwest toward (what was called) tarpon hole and the old Queen Isabella Causeway. I also have to see the Brownsville Ship Channel*, and see if there’s a shot at winter snook (*the snook capital of Texas).

FOR STARTERS

With the weather and tides being what they are, it seems easy enough to start with just a couple of basic strategies based on reports.

First – As the trout and redfish move deeper for more consistent temperatures, and according to TPWD reports, drop-offs like the edge of the intracoastal and the drainage guts should be good places to try sinking lines with bait patterns.

Second – I could probably do this for two straight weeks, but drifting the potholes and the edges between sand and grass have also been productive according to reports. And that kind of fly fishing habitat exists here – for miles, and miles and miles.

Variables

The winds Saturday basically churned the bay, and the Gulf was a red flag on Sunday. Waves were breaking over the jetties (from both sides) at Andy Bowie Park, and the surf was cranking hard all along SPI Sunday. Of course, I heard that it was glass calm for a few days before our arrival, but then what else is new?

I believe the temperatures could get so warm (possibly 80-degrees by midweek) for so many days that fish could actually be enticed into moving back on to the hard sand in a matter of a few days, but only for parts of the day and they will probably be very skittish if I find them. The premium is on the edges (grass/sand).

The tides look to have just enough variation between highs and lows that they are favorable for fishing, but navigationally challenging. Timing of the tides looks good as well.

Of Course the other variable is the skiff. I decided not to rush out onto the water to give everything a chance to dry out after a two hour road drenching, but my expectations are very high for a consistent level of performance. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot to think about when it comes to the skiff – a little bit of rigging on the water, and some navigational challenges.

Stay tuned, and keep an eye on Instagram for any signs of “luck” out there! Always remember to do what you have to do to”KNOW BEFORE YOU GO.”

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Category: Adventure, Complimentary Reading, Culture on the Skids, Destination Fly Fishing, Fishing Reports, Fly Fishing for Redfish, Life Observed, On The Road, Saltwater Fly Fishing Texas, TECHNICAL, Technique, Texas Gulf Coast

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

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