Stepping off at San Luis Pass

| June 22, 2012

The sun was trying to rise as I parked at the broken down white gazebo just off the San Luis Pass bridge. I was the first one there, and no one else was in sight. Huge cumulus clouds with immature mushroom shapes were hiding the sun, and rain was reaching down below some to the Gulf of Mexico. Typical fare for June in some years.


Old photograph of the Land Cruiser and landscape and around the San Luis Pass area.

There were a lot of things I didn’t bother to do before driving out to the SLP. I didn’t bother to check the solunar charts, the tides, the weather, the wind or the barometric pressure. In short, all the things I truly believe are factors in saltwater fishing, all were thrown to the wind … and, yes, we had wind.

The SLP looked just like I remembered. Low dunes didn’t obscure the view of the pass or the bay. I could not help but think fish would feed around the bend no matter what the fish gods stated scientifically. And that’s the play that I deduced made most sense: Go for the place that could, should, bar none, have enough tidal action to move bait even in slack tides.

The SLP itself is a churn and burn kind of place, with the kinds of currents and wave actions that can strike fear in just about anyone. Add the onshore wind at twenty sustained, and gusts approaching thirty, and the SLP was non-negotiable – not a single boat, wader or fisher to be seen at daybreak.

I walked to the back edge well around and behind the curving open channel of the SLP, and hung onto a long look in both directions. While the wind was keeping mosquitoes at bay, my pant legs were flapping like red flags, but the undulating gold grass along the edge of the bay side afforded ten to twenty feet of wind break to the high water’s edge.

The water was in the grass, so the concept of vast walkable flats flew away on the wind. The vision of red tails, nervous water, and edge-wise action, all gave way to a calm reality of baitfish and nothing chasing or churning. I was all alone again, and I typically take that to mean something’s wrong.

It would be nearly a mile from here to the bend around at the SLP where currents sweep people away to their untimely deaths with unconditional regularity. There’s no mistaking the ten weight in my hand for anything less … this is a cast on sight day, where anything more results in a serious case of fatigue. Feeling the optimist, I also go with a straight twenty pound leader of fluorocarbon that ends with a loop-knotted shallow Clouser in a tested and true palette.

The setup is absolutely textbook – undulating curves of grass to the edge of the bay water, black sticky bottom and some sand spotted with oysters throughout. And this reaches for as far as it can go in one direction, and as far as I can see in the other.

I step off. As I begin to sink into the grey muck that is part of what makes Galveston what it is, I realize this is going to be, for lack of a better word – work. Each step I make toward the goal is heavy by my wet boots, and heavy by the extra gravitational forces that seem to inhabit this grey shmuck (a new word that combines sh*@ and muck). I feel the heat coming to my leg muscles, and remind myself to shuffle slowly over the easy running sand. One stingray, and all these nasty things, the water, the shmuck, will have free admission to my bloodstream.

There comes a time when holding onto a fly, waiting for sight ops, gives way to, “I better warm up my cast, and my arm just in case.” So the ten weight does the job cutting the wind, and the leader certainly turns the fly good enough for a presentation … if one ever comes. Still, it seems kind of like hunting sparrows with a ten gauge. The backcast holds up in the wind, and the forward reaches fifty and then some. Into the wind shortens things a bit, but is within reason.

Once I have warmed up, I think like most fly fishers; well, I may as well cast a few. A few reasonable casts and a few changes of flies just to cover all the bases, with the old adage of a fly in the water versus a fly in the boat keeping me pointlessly going.

I trek all the way around to the SLP, and back past where I stepped off and keep going. I try to think about how it could look any better, and the only thing that could improve things would be fish signs of which there are none. I keep on going, and in behind me come the late risers, and family guys with PFD’d kids in tow. It seems we all don’t know the same thing this day.

My legs are getting heavy, and a distinct sting runs my left calf muscle where oysters ran up my leg as my leg sank into some shmuck – knee deep into schmuck as the scratch will attest. The oysters first lifted my pant leg, then proceeded to take a layer of my epidermis most certainly to form a perfect pearl later on.

I continue for another mile, and my solitude breaks with the sound of the phone in my pocket. Rescued by family, the perfect excuse to turn and do the death march back and out. I am all too willing to make the turn because although miles of the same lie ahead, they look just like the previous nothingness.

I retreat to the car, not a nick, nudge, bite or take to report on this tiny window of time out at the San Luis Pass. Rescued from myself by familial demands, I still am not rid of the stink that doesn’t smell like fish. The next time you are driving across Texas and smell a squished skunk, think “coffee,” and see if you can’t trick your brain. My brain’s all out of sensory tricks. I just need to catch some fish.

Next Time – A few more photographs of Galveston from Ike and now.

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Category: Culture on the Skids, Destination Fly Fishing, Fishing Reports, Texas Gulf Coast

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

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