Tag: gulf coast fly fishing

How to Catch Flounder on Fly Rod – Part 2

| November 28, 2012 | 2 Comments

One of my guests Leslie Kregel with her flounder caught in Galveston, TX
My special guest this Black Friday was Leslie, and she persisted to catch this nice flounder in Galveston, Texas.

If you missed part one on catching flounder with a fly rod, then you may want to look back at the post “In The Woodlands …” which started with the fly selection for Galveston and Texas Gulf Coast area flounder fishing with a fly rod.

As you recall, we are taking the route from the end of the line – your fly selection – all the way up the line, through the rod, into that grey matter between your ears – to enhance your opportunities at catching the seasonally adjusted abundant southern flounder in late fall and early winter. This article on flounder on fly is unusual because I have the good fortune of hindsight, having just spent two days last week and weekend fly fishing for flounder around Galveston, Texas.

LEADERS
When it comes to leaders, I simply tie a two piece fluorocarbon leader with a 20 or 25 pound butt section (at 4′) followed by a 5′ length of matching brand 8 or 10 pound fluorocarbon tippet section. My constant companion is a series of spools of Seaguar Invis-X contained in one of those big box store plastic snap containers that holds and distributes about five spools. Use painter’s tape to secure the end of the line to the container to keep the line from retracting back into the container. You can also use a Sharpee marker to write the weigth above each eye distributing your lines. If you don’t secure the line outside the hole, the vibration of driving hundreds of miles seems to magically retract them back into the container, and you are faced with rethreading them all through the box.

On a typical outing, a single leader and two or three flies suffice for the entire day. That said, I carry three leaders and dozens of flies. I typically supply all my guests with these successful ingredients.

Why fluorocarbon? Fluorocarbon sinks, and it withstands abrasion better than mono. Although the flounder is a toothy fish, I have yet to need a bite tippet to thwart frayed line. That seems to be because of the way the Clousers I tie ALWAYS hook flounder properly, and we aren’t throwing big fat plastics that have to be swallowed (a 10 second pause on a take is what they recommend for GULPs) to be set. – More on the retrieve in How to Catch Flounder on Fly Rod Part 3 –

FLY LINES
All my fly lines are set up for loop-to-loop connections, a connection that may not be the most docile for trout presentations, but is highly functional for the rough-and-tumble saltwater species of Texas. For flounder, you are looking at water depths of three inches (no kidding) to five feet. Obviously a sinking line is completely unnecessary, and I believe it to actually reduce your catching ability for a number of reasons (ask for details if you like).

I don’t consider myself to be a “conesseur” of fly lines. I use fast rods, so my bellies tend to be big – redfish line, general saltwater or bass lines are my choice. Remember you can be throwing Clousers that weigh a bit more than a #20 Royal Wulff.

FLY ROD
We encounter two distinctly different flounder when fishing this time of year. One type are the younger smaller males who are most abundant. The other … mammasans that can be as big as a galvanized trash can lid. The males outnumber the largest females roughly 40-to-1. Because of the large females, you need to think in terms of an elephant gun, but know there will be a lot of mice caught as well.

So you are looking at a fast six weight as a minimum caliber, and don’t think twice about going to eight weight. Flounder have a funny way of fighting which we will talk more about in Part 3. Saltwater series rods make perfect sense. Heavier “Bass” fly rods make sense as well, although their shorter length can be a problem.

FLY REEL
Large arbor saltwater fly reels are your most efficient reels for these conditions. And make no mistake, the conditions are harsh, very harsh.

Catch a Falling Knife – Before the Point Breaks on the Monday Morning Sidewalk

| November 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

A weekend that passed for not much fly fishing around North Texas as the wind took us to and fro before finally allowing a cool front to pass gingerly through the DFW area of North Texas. The front appeared to pick up steam as it headed into East Texas, so I guess the talking heads are already standing in front of piles of rubble, looking for the most distraught person they can find to cry on camera – after the two minute break. We’ve had such a cool snap here that I find myself considering the rainbows at the Blue River in Oklahoma before phase two …

Fly tying is fast and furious in the shop as I get ready for the Black Friday fly fishing this year on the Gulf Coast. I talked to Salas (aka. Salsa) yesterday, and between bursts of information, flowing both ways, we essentially have a “Plan A,” and “Plan B,” just in case our flounder aren’t where we think they are. And I thanked him for his service to our country (82nd. Airborne), as I thank all of you who serve and served so that, as a Nation, we can continue to do whacky stuff – like we did last Tuesday.

If you haven’t been reading along, all this time, I will begin to freshen up the information on fall fishing as those trips happen. I will start with the most exciting fall facet – flounder on fly rod – and certainly get to synthetic stocker rainbow trout as well. All this information has appeared in past years (we’re starting six years as of now), but I probably don’t do a good enough job of telling you where to look. IN THE RIGHT HAND COLUMN there’s a box under “SEARCH TFC,” and you just key in what you are looking for there. It will start with the most recent and if you scroll down, it will say “Older Posts.” If you hit the “Older Posts” button, it will continue back into older archives of Texas Fly Caster. This is what you are looking for –

Search Texas Fly Caster Archives

Keep a sharp eye on the site, as that box will be moving around in an effort to make this site more user friendly. If you have suggestions for the new look of Texas Fly Caster, yes change is in the air, speak now, or forever hold your peace. By January, we are going to have a fresh, new look that is still the same great information you’ve come to expect from Texas Fly Caster. Whoops, I left out the word “free” information … change is in the air around here – since none is coming in D.C.

And that brings me to another point, you can always donate to the cause (free flowing information) to keep it free. That “Donate to TFC Content” button is also on the right hand side column, and looks like this –

Donate to TFC Screen Shot

Those of you guides and fly shop workers, who glean information from Texas Fly Caster, are also welcome to “Contact” me and we can talk about advertising rates.

Have a great week, as you arrive for one more, and we put last week further behind us. As always, feel free to comment, make suggestions or contribute.

Stepping off at San Luis Pass

| June 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

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.

Matagorda – Fishing the Marshes

| June 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

matagorda texas redfish
Matagorda redfish just under twenty inches in length, and fat.

The most attractive part of fly fishing around Matagorda, Texas, is the easy access and extensive area of marsh-like waters. These waters look a lot like the channeled marshes of Louisiana, and have that same narrow single wide width, with twists turns leading to wider bays and more channels.

Hint: If you think you are even slightly lacking in the area of navigation, GPS units are mandatory. These channels can all start to look the same, and some are dead ends. If you are beat, and headed for home, taking a wrong turn can be that much more tiring.

However, Matagorda is definitely not Louisiana. Lacking at Matagorda are the lush submerged grasses and vegetation that filters and keeps Louisiana (See the story on Biloxi Marsh) waters so clear. Other Matagorda locations are more clear and vegetated, but all it takes is some wind to muddy things up. Polarized glasses are a must for seeing under water and eye protection.

One of the marshes fished is fed by the tidal movements of the intracoastal waterway, and has a significant constriction at the launch spot shown on the map. There will be no doubt about your tidal action when you see it. This spot amounts to a micro marsh – isolated and smaller with only one apparent way in and one way out.

EQUIPMENT

Kayak – If you have a choice, by owning more than one kayak, or when you go to rent one – choose a kayak that’s what I call “long and straight.” For example, my long and straight kayak is the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140. It’s not much to stand on, and you won’t be turning on a dime, but imagine doing ten miles a day … it’s fast and doesn’t really need a rudder.

Fly Rod – Sevens and nines seem to be the rods that I am gravitating to to reach up or reach down and do the job. A seven or eight weight this time of year is practical, while the possibility of bulls in colder months could drive you to the nines. Regardless, you are going to have to cut the wind.
Fly Line – Redfish line. Depths are no greater than three feet. It’s time to go to straight fluorocarbon leaders – I like a standard (9′) length of Seaguar Invis-X at 20 pounds. This will give you a shot at surviving abrasions, and presentations are not something that will be fluttering to the glassy pool anytime soon.
Flies – For the marshes, you can think just like fishing the sand at South Padre Island, Texas, or most other inshore Gulf Coast fisheries. Gold spoons, shrimp patterns, bait patterns, all are potentially viable meals for redfish here. Personally, I have confidence in all things gold, and that goes especially for gold spoons.

The Search and The Find

I was equipped with two rods for the outing with Immanuel Salas – a ultralight spinning rod, and my short-ish Ross FlyStik-8. My intent was to search with the spinning rod, and once we were on the reds, switch to fly.

We lanuched at a small road bridge that goes over the channel that leads directly from the intracoastal to this specific marsh. Looking out over the marsh and at the channel, two things were apparent; this looked like fantastic habitat, and second – the tide was coming in apace.

For some reason, I was launched way ahead of Salas, and never the one to wait on anyone (sorry, a bad habit), I rounded the first turn. Fifty yards in and there before my eyes is a tail! And right next to the fluttering red tail, a big dark “presence.” I had no choice but to toss my spinning rod, flip it really, about ten feet, and flip the bail fast before the gold Tony Acetta 5H grabbed bottom.

The tail stayed as did the shadow. I tossed again, and the shadow (what must’ve been a black drum) took, and ran. Less than five minutes, and I am onto a fish that has me badly outmatched (six pound test on a 6’6″ TFO spinning rod), and is running at will. He turned the boat, and ripped some drag off. Current and size – all were his.

Somewhere in the melee Salas finally catches up, and supposedly has the video of this whacky fight. You will have to see it to believe it. I fought this fish (remember this boat doesn’t have the Hobie Amas out-rigged yet) seated, and in full circle. The rod spent significant time curved behind my head facing the opposite direction, as it did in every other direction. This wasn’t how I wanted, or intended to start out. The fish did manage to snag some of the sparse oyster clumps along the way, but the line came free, and the tow kept on.

After about twenty minutes, and figuring the odds weren’t going to be turning for another twenty, I grabbed the line with my hand and it was over. Salas questions the decision, but I was confident it wasn’t a red, and twenty more minutes could very easily have ended the same way anyway. There’s nothing wrong with black drum, mind you, but I had visions of reds in my head.

As we threaded our way through the maze of canal-like marsh channels, we were still on the lookout for alligators (we never saw one the entire time), and were seeing a lot of bait and tiny trout and redfish working the channels.

The wind was rouging us up a bit, but we did find our way into some nice wide open spaces – lakes, ponds or lagoons – hard to classify. Once in the open, our main opponent had its way with us. The wind was a double edged sword – clouding the water and pushing us across the open water at breakneck speeds. If it pushed us along the edge, that would be one thing, but across the middle was where we were headed.

Salas and I strategized, and took opposite tacks – him clockwise and me counter. This is a location he knows well, and said that he’s limited out in a few hours, and fished all day for less than a hand full of redfish. We hugged the shorelines, and did get out and stand whenever the bottom would allow.

You’ll have to watch out for all kinds of bad stuff if you decide to walk on the bottom or shoreline. We saw plenty of stingray and another fly fisher claims to have seen the largest swimming rattlesnake he’s ever seen – at Matagorda. And there are those clumps of oysters that can trip you instantly. If you are in a stumble-fest of oysters, and should you happen to head down, Salas advises avoiding putting your hands down to brake the fall. Just go down – your body could absorb the flush hit of the water, slow your fall, and keep you off the bottom. Your hand shoots straight to the bottom and hits razor sharp oysters – end of trip.

To make a long story short, we had a day that didn’t produce as advertised. I did catch a redfish and a nice flounder that I sighted, but for whatever reason, we didn’t have all the ingredients – fish, tide, moon, who knows what else – to give us more chances at fish. If I had to go with a symptom, it would be that the water clarity was way off because the winds really had muddied the water.

WRAP IT UP – My perception of Matagorda is of a place that is about to “happen.” It has that small coastal town charm, right now, that people will reminisce about in a few years. It is just too close to Houston to survive as it now is. However, along with the primitive nature of the town, comes a stripping away of all those things taken for granted – restaurants, hotels, stores, fly shops, bait shops and just about everything we take for granted elsewhere along the Texas Gulf Coast.

As for the location and fishing, Matagorda is a place that won’t be high on my return list. The bottom of the bays is predominately that grey primordial mud that sinks you to your knees, and smells horrible. Wade fishing is hardly widespread. Public areas, like the jetties, are overrun – LITERALLY – with pickups doing donuts on the beach, drunks blaring loud music all night from their open truck doors, mosquitoes by the zillions, and tons of flotsam and jetsam. That said the park trailer sites are new and in great shape. They also buffer the trailer camper from all the aforementioned, have two lighted piers within walking range, and afford families the chance to fish for very nice speckled trout at night. There’s not much trouble, in general, for the 8-18-year-old to get into here, and MTV won’t be broadcasting spring break from Matagorda anytime soon. Put Matagorda, Texas, on your list – just not at the top.

matagorda redfish
Same fish as above, but a better angle on that belly.


View Matagorda Fly Fishing Map in a larger map

General Fly Fishing Report for April and May

| April 25, 2012 | 1 Comment

Work Gets In The Way … Thank Goodness

The month is crawling to a close, and it has been an interesting month from the confines of working out on the Shale, all night just about every night, and then hauling it back into town to work intensely for my photography clientele days. Sleep gets sandwiched in here and there – in four to six hour slices. The thing about working out on the Shale is that it’s the kind of work “you gotta’ get while the gettin’ is good,” and I am squeezing all the hours out of it to have a cushion for heading to the salt in May, and other climes the rest of the prime season.

April flowers from the shores of Lake Nocona Texas
From the shoreline of Lake Nocona, Texas, in April.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

As April winds down, it seems to have been one of the best spring weather months in memory. Rain, cool temperatures and patterns reminiscent of long ago, seem to give hope that the drought of 2010-2011 is ancient history for North Texas. There are pockets of severe damage and loss, and that’s a big deal, but an April without tornado outbreaks would be virtually unprecedented. IF there are any readers who suffered damage, comment, and we will see what we can do to help rebuilding (I do know people who can help as well). Now, if the rest of Texas finally gets a taste of our good rain fortunes …

Reading about Fishing and Fly Fishing

In order to bring readers of Texas Fly Caster a well rounded variety of informative articles, I do read plenty of supplemental publications on fly fishing and fishing in Texas. Of course there’s also the Texas Fly Reports website as a source of information as well as a behemoth of a busy site Texas Fishing Forum (TFF) that boasts traffic that reaches the level of profitable (a very hard thing to do). When it comes to the TFF, you will find more helpful people with better participation and better attitudes – OUTSIDE the fly fishing board categories.

One magazine that I have read for a very long time is “Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine,” and in the last six months, that publication has gone through an amazing redesign – nearly from the ground up. Other fly fishers I have turned onto this magazine do regularly complain about vague content and amateur writing, but at least now it doesn’t look like a series of self serving fishing reports from guides up and down the Texas Gulf Coast. The further we get away from the Texas Gulf Coast, the more difficult this one is to find.

Another magazine that I recently swapped from paper to iPad versions is Fly Fishing in Salt Waters” – a magazine that is mostly Florida and east coast oriented and absolutely beautiful to read digitally. The great thing is that as long as I have my reader, I have all copies of the magazine with me. It sure beats the heck out of figuring out where to store old issues. The latest issue details megalops atlanticus, a fish that haunts and taunts every saltwater fly fisher who hasn’t had a shot at one, as well as those that have.

Lastly, just as a rule you’ll want to look at “Saltwater Sportsman” magazine, another I have converted to digital subscription. This one is predominately conventional tackle and also has offshore action, but just like reading the non-fly fishing discussion boards, it provides just as much (sometimes more) information as a fly oriented saltwater magazine.

CURRENT CONDITIONS

The weather has taken another unexpected turn in Texas, with record high temperatures out west – in the triple digits – and warm weather spreading very early to the rest of the State. Exceptionally strong south winds are feeding moisture from the coast all the way into the interior of the US, making for another volatile mix, and pushing fly fishing lakes to the limits. If int’s not windy, the water stays cloudy for days after (between blows), and even serves to push more water over the edges of the lake flats shorelines and into thick vegetation. Look for some amazing carp spawning action in the next few days. They may not eat, but I have caught them by hand this time of year – just to introduce myself.

I am hearing reports of healthy post-spawn largemouth bass action inland, and still some volatile weather along the coast. Looking ahead to next month in the Texas salt, we have a very good outlook for fishing just past the middle of the month – May 18-21.

North Central Texas lakes and reservoirs are still full and letting off some surplus here and there. The last I heard Denison Dam is still bringing down Lake Texoma, Ray Roberts has toned down their release and Lewisville Lake is still filled to the brim.

The Central Texas lakes that lead to the rivers that lead to the Texas Gulf Coast bay system may not be faring as well, but I haven’t checked the data on that. Fresh water in the bays would probably be a good (normal) thing this time of year – under normal conditions.

The Texas Gulf Coast continues to generate glowing “chamber of commerce” reports on quality and quantity of redfish and speckled trout being caught there. Plans are to report directly from the coast once a month for the next few months, yes, even with gas prices where they are nowadays. We have another episode of Kayak Fishing Journal scheduled for the coast in May, and this will bring the total episode count to two in the past thirteen months (not exactly blazing trails, but fun nonetheless). God willing, I will live long enough to see the Kayak Fishing Journal succeed. That clock is ticking.

In South Texas, I guess the late nights watching bass pros run around Amistad and Falcon have warped my brain into thinking I need to fly fish those legendary lakes. Every time I mention doing the Devil’s River and put the feelers out – I get more negative than positive information coming back in. That trip, like most, goes better with an open wallet.

If the opportunity arises I will also be headed to the Houston area during this prime time of year – to take a look at Conroe again, and see if I can get into some ponds, or some trouble in Galveston.

LOCAL ADVENTURES

This weekend is the Denton Arts & Jazz festival in Denton, Texas. There will be lots of art vendors, food, dance troops and music, lots and lots of music. If you haven’t heard of Los Lonely Boys (what’s wrong with you), they are the headline act Saturday night on the main stage. The event is jazz oriented, so Lee Rittenour headlines Friday night, and traditional closer Brave Combo closes things out Sunday night. The entire venue has been upgraded, expanded and rearranged. Get there early so you can reorient yourself to the new layout.

This weekend is the Muenster Fest in Muenster, Texas, and it’s an event I have heard a lot about but never attended. Suffice it to say, there will be German food, beer and vendors of all kinds there as well. It’s a small town along highway 82 west of Gainesville, and is very conducive to motorcycle riding attendees. Don’t drink and drive.

I am sure that there are many more festivals all over Texas at this time of year, but my horrible internet connection does not allow me to do much searching these nights. If you subscribe to my twitter feed @texasflycaster, I will tweet other opportunities and always fishing hotspots of course – via twitter.

CINCO de FLY-O

I will be having a fly tying party at the Fly Bar on May 5, so put that one on your calendar. These events are notoriously unsuccessful for some unknown reason (must be my sweet disposition), so if anyone is interested in current information on this event, check out the thread on www.texasflyreports.com. BYOB and BYOFTM (bring your own fly tying materials).

TPWD is having a fishing booth at the Mayfest event in Fort Worth’s Trinity River Park (I believe that’s correct), and TPWD Master Angler volunteers are needed for that event. It runs the 5th. and 6th. of May, and I have already volunteered for that Sunday slot. They may already have all the volunteers they need, but I won’t know before this goes into digital print. I visited this event last year, and it’s very small and definitely not a place to find a wide assortment of original art booths.

No matter what, you can find something to do if the wind or weather does not allow for the usual fly fishing adventures. With the great number of readers, I would hope a few nearby fly tiers can make the Cinco de Fly-O, but understand the economy and gas costs these days make peripheral fun an extreme luxury.

NOTE – Time is getting away this week, so look for a report on Lake Nocona fly fishing, and Spanish Fort, Texas, this weekend or the beginning of next week as internet connections allow.