Fly Fishing the Texas Coast
It is around 3 a.m., and the lighted pier near the Rockport Harbor is deserted. A flyfisher walks out carefully onto the dark pier, knowing that one heavy-footed step can shake the rickety boards and pilings all the way to the end, sending out vibrations that will spook any big trout in the neighborhood.
Shielded by the darkness, the flyfisher freezes when he sees, just ahead in the clear water under a bank of lights, the long shadow of a trout in the 30-inch class. In the early morning stillness, this big female had moved out of the safety of the nearby channel to look for an easy meal under the lights. Knowing that he will probably get only one cast at this fish, the angler lays the little Deceiver down softly in the darkness, just beyond the lighted circle on the water. The fly glides untouched through the ring of light, and the outline of the trout fades into the darkness. The flyfisher feels disappointment but also a measure of satisfaction. After all, every time an angler gets the chance to go one-on-one with a monster trout, a valuable lesson is learned—and the next meeting might have a better ending.
Getting a shot with a fly and hooking a big trout haloed under the bright lights of a bayside pier doesn't happen very often. But anglers up and down the Texas coast are finding that a fly fished at night from lighted boat docks, piers, and jetties is one of the surest ways ever invented to catch school trout as well as ladyfish, redfish, snook, and flounder. A light focused on the water draws and concentrates swarms of baitfish and shrimp, and it doesn't take long for trout and other gamefish to take notice. The cafeteria-style offering is hard to resist.
On the Texas coast, you will know immediately if lighted water is productive by the "popping" sounds that trout make when they attack shrimp and minnows on the surface. When the action heats up, the night-feeding performance will include the flashes and boils of bigger fish, as well as iridescent white shrimp doing a life-and-death water ballet.
Frequently flies will "match the hatch" of small minnows in the water, often drawing more strikes than larger artificial lures and even live shrimp in these nighttime environments. The neutral density and slow sink rate of small glass minnow and shrimp patterns often give a fly a more natural look in the current, a big advantage under the lights.
Fly fishing at night from one of the many low-lying piers along the Texas coast offers a pleasant change from the physical and mental demands and advanced angling skills sometimes required for success in stalking redfish under a blistering sun or along a windswept shoreline. A lighted pier is a good place to introduce beginning flyfishers and young anglers to saltwater fly fishing. The odds of a successful outing are good, and a long, accurate cast is not necessary since the fish often are concentrated within a few feet of the pier. Having a pier all to yourself is the most desirable night-fishing option; but flyfishers can easily share space on the boards with the baitcasting and popping cork set. Look for a corner that allows room for an unobstructed backcast, or practice a compact roll cast.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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