Fly Fishing the Texas Coast

The Basics

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. 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. Flyfishers 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 flyfishers 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 flyfisher stops worrying about how hard the wind is blowing and starts concentrating on where to find fish.

Armed with good casting skills, flyfishers will find the Texas flats open and accommodating. On most parts of the coast, all a flyfisher needs for hours of adventure on the flats is a road map of the area; an old pair of tennis shoes or wading boots; a 7- or 8-weight outfit matched with weight-forward, floating line; and a selection of small poppers, bendbacks, and shrimp or minnow patterns. To reach backcountry sites, a boat might also come in handy.


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