Fly Fishing the Texas Flats

Angler's Log
Holly Beach, Lower Laguna Madre
July 1989

As I walked along the sandbar, there she was with another big sow trout. The two fish were swimming behind a school of finger mullet.

I made my cast to intersect them. This time the fly laid down where I wanted, just on the other side of the mullet. As the trout came into sight of the fly, I stripped once and it inhaled the fly. With a big crash, she was on and running.

I knew I had her, but for how long? My heart was beating faster with each run she made. As she made her runs I would run toward her to keep as little line out as possible. She would crash through schools of mullet. They were flying everywhere.

After twenty minutes, I knew the two-pound tippet couldn't take too much more. She finally started toward me, and I remembered all I had for a net was my left hand. I started shaking all over again.

As she rolled on her side, I pinned her behind the gills to the bottom. I left all the other trout and rushed to the weighmaster, and there it was—8 pounds, 11 ounces.

— Chuck Scates, Rockport (on catching the spotted seatrout that set the IGFA two-pound tippet class record)


What follows is an excerpt from "Fly Fishing the Texas Coast," a survey of the skills, strategies, tackle, and gear you'll need to fish the flats—as well as the different fish that prowl the Lone Star State's shoreline. GORP will be featuring this book in its entirety in the coming months, so be sure to come back as authors Chuck Scates and Phil Shook reveal all the best spots along the entire 360-mile-long Texas coast.

—GORP Editors

You stand vigilant, fly rod at the ready, on the bow of a flats boat being poled by a guide along the shoreline of a dead calm Aransas Bay. The guide suddenly announces in a guarded tone that there are three cruising redfish at eleven o'clock, fifty yards.Straining to pick out the shadows moving across the light sand bottom, you spot the three fish moving toward you and occasionally pausing to mill about. They are feeding and will probably jump on any fly that comes close. When they move into range, you deliver a tight, well-formed loop that lands the little shrimp pattern softly, just ahead and within the view of the lead fish.

You impart a devilish little hop to the fly and watch as a fish surges over and pounces. You have the presence of mind to wait for the fish to turn and run. Then, with your line hand gripping the fly line, you set the hook once, twice, three times with firm, smooth, sideways motions of the rod.

This is the way events are supposed to play out on the flats. But often there are devilish puzzles to solve just as the fish show up. You might have to wait for the sun to shine through a bank of clouds. Floating grass might require you to forsake your favorite fly pattern. Or you might do everything right, only to have a loop of fly line wrap around the back of your reel just as that big red accelerates across the flat.

Saltwater Savvy

When the adrenaline is flowing, there isn't an angler's guide, a casting clinic, or a fly-fishing seminar that can come to the rescue. Fly fishers have to gain flats-savvy and confidence on their own, on the water in conditions that are both ideal and miserable.

Perhaps the biggest initial adjustment for fly fishers making the move from freshwater stream environments to the saltwater flats is in equipment and casting skills. Making accurate casts to moving fish, sometimes from a moving boat in windy conditions, requires skill in casting with rods matched to heavier lines—most often, in the 7- to 9-weight range.

A sound casting technique is critical in producing the tight, well-formed loops and necessary line speed that enable the flats angler to make a 30-foot cast into 18-mph winds at moving targets, or 70-foot casts to the waving tails of redfish on a dead calm morning.

But once the flats angler develops these casting skills, the game becomes a lot more fun. This is when the fly fisher stops worrying about how hard the wind is blowing and starts concentrating on where to find fish.

© Article copyright Pruett Publishing.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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