Monday Morning Sand Walk

| March 20, 2023

Even the talking weather-heads are scratching their bald spots in the Rio Grande Valley. The weather that should be retooling itself into a spring shape, is still blowing and going – to the tune of five days of closeout rain, cold and … of course wind. Not to be too cosmic, but this is officially the FIRST DAY OF SPRING somewhere on this planet.

Rather than a mass exodus of Spring Breakers 2023 clogging up the scenery and streets and doing general buying? We had a whimper sound as they started the slow trickle home last Thursday, and by Saturday night it was just another South Padre Island Saturday night, with restaurants stacking their chairs early, parking lots empty and a whole lot of nothing going on.


The only upside of having indoor time in this tiny fish camp is – there is time to plan the fly fishing month to come. To do it right, to fit it all in and get it done in one month – between shite weather? That is the trick. But you know me, the good-bad-and-ugly will all be filleted right here in front of you for your consumption.

While the Lower Laguna Madre sits right outside my door, it is also the most subject to weather – of all the options down here. So we search for shelter, much like any windy gale force day on a North Texas lake.

Thankfully, shelter abounds, although it takes some effort – driving and/or on water – to get to it. We have return engagements with the Brownsville Ship Channel. And the last 24-hours have been dedicated to the breaking down of the Arroyo Colorado into bite-sized information for those who fly fish piers, kayaks and from boats. But while winds remain sustained at 25-40mph, the water everywhere – is obviously churned.

Along with the typical coverage of the more typical spots you think of in the Lower Laguna Madre, I have a few more “wild” cards to throw out … and one or two have seemingly never been done (publicly) before. Yeah, okay we know, “it’s all been done before.” But I just can’t find anything about these few, less than a handful, of spots which, maybe for good reason, have no place in the online searches I have been doing.

The most radical thing I have to dive into is nighttime fly fishing. Maybe it’s all the Andy Mill Podcasts about the “bridges,” and “bridges at night,” but I actually have night fishing in my childhood – and that is a story unto itself. The biggest thing I remember from 47-years-ago is netting ballyhoo, off the Dargel “Shannon R” under an awesome spotlight (yeah, 500 candles of raw halogen hot bulb), under the old bridge on the Port Isabel side. You know the spot? Not too far from the “tarpon hole” off to the south. Those ballyhoo snouts with the red tip did the trick, and speckled trout longer than your forearm to fingertip were victims of perfect circumstances – for the fisherman. And it haunts me … could that same thing happen now? Yes, it was certainly July when this memory occurred, but give me a moving tide, a strong anchor and a ballyhoo fly? Fish are fish, right? 

There is even more to this night fly fishing thing. But it’s not for the faint at heart. Along with balancing all the marbles, you have to imagine not having a good visual on your fly line, backcast or anything for that matter! Luckily, I have received a large shipment of NEBO Brand lights from one of the company executives – thanks cousin, and I have to confess … night fishing, and now night fly fishing? that is real Roots for me.

I look out off the west-facing bulkheads every single night. Just a short drone’s-flight away is the long and strong Queen Isabella Causeway. And it makes me wonder … what if? Sure, the Florida bridges are lit underneath, but what if I bring my own light, like way back 47-years-ago? I mean, Texas since that year, has put a ton of fish into the habitat – saltwater stockers – if you really take the time to think. So, why wouldn’t it be even better … with a little current, a little night heat, a few bugs, and a few 1600 candle power green lights?

Add nocturnal snook to the mix? My mind scratches its remaining hair follicles from the inside out, when I see absolutely NO one looking at the bridges, running electronics around the bridges,  or setting up at night on BOTH bridges with lights. This is one of those things … I have to prove it doesn’t work before I can close out my time here on the Island at the end of April. Unfortunately, I have to balance this calendar against that 47-year-old July calendar … and truthfully there is no balance between the two. Heat brings fish up – from down low – to here.

Night fly fishing on the Lower Laguna Madre is just the tip of this sandbar of curiosity. I see things … not dead people, but … things. There are these currents coming through the bridge, and they are extreme, and extremely visible from a vehicle crossing over the bridge. Yet no one is ever fishing these currents, these ripples far away from the bridge. 

No night lights under the bridge(s). Why is that? I don’t have the time, literally, to append all the good things we know about the Lower Laguna Madre, but maybe the unknown is more interesting than the known. After all; if we don’t know what we don’t know? Or, even worse, what if we actually forgot what some of us once knew? What a huge tragedy that would be, right?

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Category: Adventure, Life Observed, Saltwater Fly Fishing Texas, South Texas, TECHNICAL, Technique, Texas Gulf Coast

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.

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