Fly Fishing the Texas Coast
Standing alone in a silvery-gray dawn, casting to the rolling swells at the end of Port Aransas's north jetty, is a feast for the senses. The surf roars and vibrates through angular openings in the rocks. Warm sea water and foam wash across your ankles. Gulls cry out overhead in perpetual anticipation. As you stand on a block of pink granite at the water's edge, your first casts are almost reflexive—loop after loop of fly line thrown into the frothy troughs between rolling combers. That's usually when the first strike comes. There's a jolt, your rod bows up, and you stand wide-eyed as the fish makes a searing run. Your first thought is that this one is out of control, unmanageable, possibly unstoppable. But the second run is shorter, and you begin to take charge, steering the flashy shape toward the nearest flat rock. As the wave washes the fish onto its side, you see the gold spots on silver and blue and the angry eye and toothy jaw of a Spanish mackerel.
Within a 30-foot cast from seven pairs of major jetties and a host of breakwaters and groins along the Texas coast is some of the most accessible and underutilized saltwater fly fishing in the country. On some days, fly fishing from the jetties can be as simple as casting for sunfish on a tranquil farm pond. When the voracious little bluefish fill the surf, when wild-eyed ladyfish are crashing baitfish and Spanish mackerel are cruising close to the rocks, the fly fishing action can be fast and easy. On other occasions, stiff winds, ferocious currents, and blowing surf test the skills and tackle of the most experienced flycaster.
Although the primary purpose of these rocky appendages is to direct the flows of tidal currents and keep the passes open to navigation, Texas jetties have been a popular and readily accessible angling destination for a century. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the oldest jetties at a major Texas pass are those at Galveston Harbor, which were completed in 1897. Few places on the coast provide as accessible a place to fish for such a wide variety of saltwater species as do jetties. The rocks concentrate forage fish that draw every variety of predator. From sharks to sheepshead, virtually every inshore Gulf species as well as bluewater residents like king mackerel and cobia, has been caught from the jetty rocks at one time or another. The shallow surf at the base of the jetties is a productive area for red drum and seatrout, and the supporting structures on the channel side of some jetties attract larger predators. The major jetties range in length from 2,300 feet at Port Mansfield to 35,603 feet at Bolivar Roads in Galveston Bay.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication