Fly Fishing the Texas Coast

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge: Matagorda Island (Southwest End)

Separated from the condominiums and beach traffic of neighboring Mustang and Padre islands by two channels and a barrier island, the shorelines, creeks, and tidal lakes of Matagorda Island offer a variety of excellent fly-fishing sites. The southwest end of this 38-mile-long barrier island, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a unit of the Aransas Refuge, is not officially open to the public, but overnight camping on the beach near Cedar Bayou is permitted.

Once used by the French pirate Jean Lafitte as a hideout, Cedar Bayou is an excellent place to wadefish for reds and trout. In addition to the productive flats and channels inside this bayou, flyfishers also can try the surf side of the barrier islands. Casting Deceivers and Clouser Deep Minnows in the first or second guts on moving tides can produce reds, trout, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, and jackfish. During the prized periods of favorable currents and light winds, waders in the surf often can see"bull" reds, in the 30-inch class, moving through the clear water, popping baitfish as they cruise the shallow troughs. For times like these it's handy to have a 9- or 10-weight outfit to throw 3- and 4-inch Deceivers, finger mullet flies, or Clouser Deep Minnows with bead chain eyes, tied on 1/0 and 2/0 hooks with a shooting head. The wreckage of several shrimp boats along the beachfront also makes for explosive fishing when the wind is light and the tide is moving. The aerial show alone is often worth a trip in the fall, says Neal Lillard, former manager of the Wynne Ranch on Matagorda Island, a onetime working cattle ranch. "When the huge schools of fry are pushed to the surface by the reds and trout, the avocets, cormorants, and white and brown pelicans go into a feeding frenzy," he says. "The water is alive with activity."

This end of Matagorda Island near Cedar Bayou is a popular area for anglers, who charter guides or make the trip in private boats from the Goose Island State Park public launch ramp near Rockport. Timing is everything at the bayou, says veteran fly-fishing guide Brad Smythe. Ideally, an angler must be on the scene a few days to see how conditions are developing. Among the favorable factors are light winds, incoming and outgoing tides, and green water close to the beach.


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