Fly Fishing the Texas Coast

Fly Fishing the Surf: Introduction
  |  Gorp.com

Every fall, along the 367 miles of Texas beaches, flyfishers join other light tackle anglers taking part in a"sunrise celebration." That is what Corpus Christi guide and "land captain" Billy Sandifer calls the early morning feeding frenzy that erupts at dawn along the Gulf. The focal point for these fireworks are the migrations of menhaden, finger mullet, anchovies, and other forage fish that fill the nearshore surf, drawing reds, trout, ladyfish, and Spanish mackerel.

From McFadden Beach near Sabine Lake to the mouth of the Rio Grande below Brownsville, the Texas beachfront offers some of the most exciting, uncrowded fishing on the coast. Prolonged periods of light southeasterly winds that push clear water, or "green tides," all the way to the beach are the most favorable for fly fishing in the surf. On days like this, 35-inch-long "bull reds" will run the bars, and big speckled trout will be holding in ridges and pockets waiting to ambush finger mullet.

Billy Sandifer, a Padre Island beach guide who takes anglers on "down island" safaris in his Suburban, says he spends a lot of time inspecting the big schools of ladyfish that fill the surf in the fall. There are dozens of places with birds and surface activity to check out along the beachfront, Sandifer says. "I have gone out there and looked and in 4 feet of water seen tarpon and jackfish right in with the ladyfish."

Sandifer, who sports a tiger shark tattoo on his arm and a hammerhead on the back of his hand, has advice for flycasters on how to read the surf to find the prime places to throw Deceivers or Clousers. He suggests a drive down the beach, looking for pockets and dead-end guts-the carved-out ridges and holes that offer ambush points for larger predators. "What you do is watch the steady line of the surf breaking on the sandbar, and then all at once it won't be breaking, or all at once it will just run dead into the beach," he says. "You look up ahead of you 1/4 mile and you can see where it dead-ends right into the beach," Sandifer says. "When you find that, that is the old box canyon scenario, and the reds and the trout and everything else is in there." Subject to changing wind, tide, and current, these fish-attracting features require some beachfront savvy and a sharp eye to locate because they are constantly disappearing and reappearing along the 60 miles of undeveloped beach open to vehicle travel. Sandifer says he looks for periods when there is good water movement in the surf but he warns that the last two hours of an incoming or outgoing tide are virtually worthless for fishing.


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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