RSS Feed

Search...

 

p9210052_2I can’t believe i was lucky enough to head down to the bay so soon after the previous trip. On the first trip down i felt completely caught off guard and unprepared because it was so new. For this trip i felt much more mentally and physically prepared.

Ben, Andy, Adam, Wayne and Germain (dog) all met at the Labay Bay House late Friday where Ben and Andy’s dad Ed gave us the lowdown of the current conditions. The conditions were pretty much, “Mosquitos, muddy water…and mosquitos, with a 99% chance of mosquitos.” Later that night Andy presented Ed with a photo journal he had compiled and had printed. The book  was of the Bay House and the importance it had/has played in their family. Although i just recently met Ed it was nice to see that such a rock of a man could be moved by images and memories that were obviously important to him. After the photo book we all called it an early night in preparation of waking up at 5AM or so.

The next morning brought lots of Kolaches and fog which made our departure rather difficult since even on a clear day it takes a good hour to make it across Matagorda. p9200028The up side was that the last time i was here the waves were easily 3-5 feet high and were now only 1-3’. So we couldn’t see where we were going but the ride was quite a bit smoother this time. It was hard to believe i was the first one to land a fish, a small 12” Sea Trout that i managed to get on my line in the first 30 minutes that we were in the water. Unfortunately that was my only fish for the whole trip and none of us really landed much of anything because of bad water conditions. After an hour or so of not getting any bites we all made our way to the dunes so that we could crawl over and check out the beach. 

It’s really hard to do the scene justice since words are not my forte. As i came down on the beach my jaw dropped, as far as i could see up and down the beach there was a massive 30 foot wide line of debris. p92000081Ladders, buckets, televisions, porches, furniture, DVD’s, etc. All of it literally the fallout of Galveston’s run in with Hurricane Ike the week before.We all kind of just set off on our own rummaging through the chaos each surely thinking our own various thoughts. Mine pretty much revolved around Nature and her spiteful feelings about what we are doing to her and her eagerness to throw our waste back in our face as if to say “You deal with it for once.” Anyway, it was quite a site and something i hope never to see again.

Later that Saturday we headed back to the Bay House to grab all our equipment and head out to an island to set up camp in an area that we thought would be good for fish. Unfortunately it was bad for fish but good for the adventurous spirit.p9200040We set up camp on a small gravel peninsula jutting out from the tiny island and proceeded to pull out what little food, beer, wine and fireworks we had thrown in our bags. This was the point where the plan had been to have fish tacos but the bay apparently decided it should be health bars instead, luckily we’re all low maintenance so we pretty much just devoured the beer and wine around a raging bonfire made from debris courtesy of the hurricane mentioned above. As i grew tired and headed for bed i thought through my decision to camp a couple inches below everyone else only a few feet away on a bank of fine sand, the tide was at it’s peak and I’d be fine i thought as i drifted off to sleep. Of course i woke sleeping on what felt like a waterbed. The wind had shifted and pushed the tide up and now my tent was sitting two inches deep in the bay. But as a testament to the amazing engineering of Mountain Hardware tents, already my favorite, i have to say that there was not a drop…seriously…not a drop, of water in my tent. Thirty seconds later i was on higher ground and free from the bays sneaky ways. But i couldn’t sleep after that for fear of ending up at the bottom of the sea. How many people can’t sleep because of that? It’s spelled A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E…I LOVE IT!

p8100016

 1)  Shuffle your feet so you don’t step on top of an unsuspecting ray and have it’s barbed tail pierce your foot or most of the way, (if not all) through your calf.

  2)  Watch out for the small jellyfish that can cause a slow intense burn.

  3)  Watch out for the LARGE jellyfish because their sting is intense and prolonged.

Of course Ben forgot to mention number four as he shuffled off in to the distance leaving me practically quaking in my tennies. p81000121It’s probably better that he didn’t include it, because instead of spending a LONG 10 minutes sitting there on the boat before scooting in the water i most likely would have stayed in the boat all day. Had he included it, it probably would have come out as so “Four…there are sharks in the water.” 

Once past the initial fear of all things swimming around my lower regions i was able to make slow progress from the boat to one of the grassy shorelines a 100 yards from the boat. It was extra tough fishing with a fly rod that day. The wind was howling from the south and all i had was an 8 weight which would barely be enough for a calm day in the bay. My casting options were pretty much limited to a 30 degree area that was downwind. The few upwind casts that i attempted pretty much ended up in my face or skin as the wind rejected them. 

After wasting about three hours on the wrong fish in the wrong place i ended up running into Ben. He wanted to show me the way to read the water and the fish, i couldn’t have been happier. Up until this point i had felt lost and useless out there in that water.p81000132Ben showed me how to read the subtle variations in the water and what to look for. After chasing red fish for a good hour Ben ended up with a Sea Trout tugging at his line. It circled him time and time again before finding a way to work itself free of it’s barbed nemesis. Suddenly i saw Ben jab his rod into the water repeatedly not 30 feet from me. Before i could blurt out “What the hell are you doing….” Ben was shouting “SSHHHAAARRRKKK!” and tracing the B-line that the shark was making for me with his animated, outstretched hand. Now i’m not one for overreaction, but as someone who spent time on the Oregon coast surfing and having had the odd run in with a Great White, when i hear the word “SHARK” i pretty much soil my shorts and then run, paddle, haul ass for safety. And there was no reason that this day should be any different. I found myself running towards Ben, safety in numbers i guess. Then the thought of Sting Rays piercing my skin rushed into my head, it was then that i broke into a sort of run/shuffle for survival while questioning what sort of mess i had gotten myself into.

I didn’t catch anything the rest of the day. i was just to unprepared for the wilds and the wind. But i learned what coastal fishing was that day, and i learned that it held a special place in my heart. p81000171On a river/creek you pretty much know you WILL NOT catch anything over 20”. But here in this untamed land it could be anything, from a 1lb fish to a 40lb fish, easy! That and all the odd dangers lurking under foot seemed to magnify the thrill of every cast. Maybe, just maybe this cast will end up in a monster that will wreak havoc on my psyche and cause me to spin among the various dangers and poisons. Life unsure and unsafe for sure, but life that is truly living. 

I will return soon, and all gifts for the foreseeable future should be 10WT.

p7310007_2

It’s hard to overstate how badly central Texas needs rain. It’s one of the driest and hottest summers on record. There hasn’t been any significant rain fall since sometime back at the beginning of the year, and so far it’s been something close to 45 days over 100 degrees. As much as i love spending time on nearby creeks and rivers, it’s almost depressing to go out to them now. Most creeks and rivers have completely dried up or aren’t far from it. The few rivers that have continuous flow, most notably the San Marcos, Comal and Guadalupe, are full of Texas Tubers floating the only flowing waterways left nearby. Between the two i’ll take the solitude offered at the shallow holes such as the Pedernales.

p7310005_22

That’s precisely where i headed after leaving work yesterday. I’ve developed some sort of relationship with the Pedernales that i can’t really explain.Sufficed to say that i have spent a great deal of time there over the last month and have really become familiar with its twists and turns. The 10 mile stretch that i’ve come to call home is located in the Pedernales State Park. Other than two small sections near the falls and the beach (a large sandy portion of the river) i have never seen any other people which, of course, is exactly how i prefer it. I can walk for miles along the banks and only stumble on wild goats, heron, vultures and more. As for the fish, there are Smallmouth, Largemouth, Guadalupe, and Spotted Bass.  There are probably about 6-8 different Sunfish swimming in the shallows. Rio Grand Cichlid that will test the finest rod’s endurance. Carp that are bigger and longer than my leg. Catfish of equal size, and finally…gar.

p7310009_2

Of all the fish listed above Carp are the most difficult to catch. They smell you approaching, have multiple senses of hearing you and signal to each other when trouble is near. Out of the many Carp i’ve seen, not a single one has even pretended to feign interest in any one of the 20 or so flies i’ve lobbed into their proximity. They are large for a reason, they know better. But while the Carp exists because of their wits, Gar exist because they are elusive . If you’ve never seen one, and most people haven’t, they look like an eight inch trout grabbed by the playful hands of the Creator and stretched out to 24” inches or more. Imagine eight ornine bratwurst glued together with fins attached at random spots, that’s a Gar.

p73100111

While fishing a deep hole at sundown i caught sight of a Spotted Gar out of the corner of my eye. I’d seen them here before but not so close to the top of the water. I cast a Wooly Bugger with flash in it’s direction more out of curiosity than anything.There are a few ways to catch Gar, but in most fly fishers’ minds they would be considered unethical and immoral; a feeling that i also share. I’ve never heard of Gar taking anything close to a fly, try Googling it and see what i mean. So imagine my astonishment when this three foot Gar turned it’s head around to check out my fly! As it swam closer to the fly i actually wondered whether or not i should try to catch it. It was so interesting on a spooky sort of dinosaur level yet so very scary for the exact reason. As i decided to go for it so did the fish. It lunged and i set the hook deep in it’s jaw. Suddenly the water exploded as it jumped a good three feet out of the water twisting and turning it’s unnaturally shaped body into numerous contorted shapes. It zigged and i zagged, it ran and i gave it slack. After about three minutes of this wild display of dives and leaps i worked the Gar in and on to the rock next to me. I had brought it in quick so as not to tire and kill it, and as it lay there on the rock i felt confident of my work…until i went to…take…the…hook…out…….then…………….SNAP………….SNAP!

The fish easily leaped a good two feet off the rock at my face, i dropped everything and jumped back a good two feet to separate myself from the many teeth that were rightfully angry with me. Then all of a sudden the Gar bolted to the depths…MY ROD! I grabbed the rod right before the Gar took it with him into the deep abyss…okay in all honesty it was only nine feet of water but still. My reaction when i touched the cork of the rod was to yank the rod to safety and then with a simple snap of the tippet he was gone.

The closest i’ve ever come to this rush was catching a King Salmon on a 5 weight in Alaska by accident. Alaska was great and no disrespect to that Salmon, but this was practically my back yard.And though Salmon are beautiful in that streamlined efficient way, here was something from another time, something that existed against all probable odds. Something few people could even imagine and even fewer could catch without succumbing to low brow tricks of the trade.

It was strange to catch something so strange and different. It took me to a different place…and i can’t wait to go back.

p7310013_2