The weather here on the Gulf Coast of Texas is still dark and wet, with thunderstorms the last two mornings and visibility of perhaps a mile. Watching the ten day forecast on WeatherUnderground , there are two partly sunny days out of a chain of cloudy, stormy, gray predictions ahead.
Last Sunday, the sun did indeed come out and I spent the afternoon chucking flies at the slack low tide. I’ve fished this inlet to Old Town Lake next to Magnolia Beach several times over the last two weeks, searching for signs that the redfish have moved into the lake to feed on the bounty of crabs, shrimp, mullet, and minnows that are increasing as Spring nears.
The last sunny afternoon a few days ago, with the tide at a similar near low and a small outgoing current, I found a pod of feeding fish… They were in perhaps a foot and a half of water, but it was stained brown and visibility was nil. I could not tell what species was making the swirls, wakes and splashes in front of me. I’d caught flounder and small reds there already, and I’ve seen mullet a foot long in folks’ bait buckets being netted from the bridge. I started casting towards every swirl followed by the same jerk-jerk-pause strip that has caught fish so far. No takers on any of the four or five flies that have worked in this same spot so far… argh.
Finally one of the fish rolled close enough that I could see through the brown and it was indeed a good size red drum! Dang it, they aren’t supposed to be picky like trout, I don’t want to match the hatch! After some time, the feeding signs dissipated and the fish disappeared. I went back to the RV and pondered what it was that they were eating in that shallow muddy water over a sparse oyster bed. I figured it had to be some small baitfish or shrimp, realizing I know nothing about the life cycle of marsh food groups.
Well, I’d read that the spoonfly is a killer on reds, especially in dirty water. So much so that some think of it as a cheater fly… like certain people abstain from the pink worm for rainbow trout… not this angler. I spent a windy day inside cutting up Coke bottles and shaping spoons, tying them to hooks and dressing them up with gold and silver glitter. I also tied some small Norm’s Schminnows on size 6 hooks, with the hope of matching unseen little baitfish.
So this Sunday, the oyster flat had the same look to it, and the fish were eating. I started with the gold spoon and got… nothing. I tried the Schminnow… nothing. I tried a couple different shrimp patterns I’d added to the box… nothing. New crab patterns… zippo.
Digging through the fly box, I saw a small bug I’d tied to represent sand fleas when I was casting into the surf for pompano on Padre Island several weeks ago, copied from an image somewhere on the web. It’s on a Gamakatsu SC15 size 2, which is a smaller hook than the size 6 Mustad I’d used for my Schminnows… (I don’t get these sizing differences). The sand flea is just some estaz behind a lead eye, with some flash and a tan craft fur wing. A true guide fly, super cheap and fast to tie.
I tied that sucker on and bam! First cast I got a small red. Followed by more small reds, then one bigger grab that was a decent sized fish, still not enough to test the drag on my reel… but the best red I’ve got so far in Texas. It managed to escape while I was fumbling the camera, of course.
While trying to snap a shot of that fish, my fly line wrapped itself around the oysters at my feet. They are sharp, let me tell you, and I managed a few nasty nicks in the line getting it free. As I gathered up the line for another cast, there was already a weight at the end, which turned out to be a flounder. Sneaky bastard.
I caught a few more rat reds before they seemed to head off, so I moved up the creek and next caught a speckled trout. Whatever it is that this fly mimics, the fish in this inlet sure seem to like it.
On the next cast I snagged a blue crab, the second time I’ve ended up with bait on my fly recently. As the action had slowed down and my leader was getting a bit frayed, it seemed like a good time to clip off that fly for posterity and try something else. On the next cast, I got a tug that followed by the line zipping across the water in front of me in a way that I hadn’t seen yet. I’d foul hooked a largish mullet, the fourth fish species to hand that day. Shaped sorta like a bonefish, I imagine they’d be fun if you could persuade one to eat a fly.
That ended the action on that section of water, so I trudged through the muddy marsh to where the creek opened up into Old Town lake. I’d gotten some advice that three was a hole there where the reds sometime stack up. And as I got closer, I did indeed spook a group of fish that splashed as they turned tail and split! Muddy water with no visibility, the sun low, and me thirty feet away on the bank… it looks like I’ve got a lot to learn about how to stalk redfish in skinny water.