Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Fishy Wind Must Blow...

Capt. Skipper Ray, Master of the Wind.
I'll give this much to Capt. Skipper Ray. If he can handle a constant, blow-your-hat-off-your-head wind, and my hopelessly flawed, backcountry trout fly cast on the same day, this guy can handle anything.

I hear the Republicans are looking for a presidential candidate more folks can get behind. I hereby submit Skipper as a very real possibility. Patience, a good eye for redfish in a choppy, shallow bay, and he gave me a beer at the end of the day to salve my ego.

Wind 1, Chris 0.

Well, sort of. I did land a nice redfish, and I had my 20-pound bite tippet chewed to bits by a discourteous lady fish. So maybe it's more like a draw. Yeah. A draw.

Seriously, though, this place is lousy with redfish, and while I landed one, Skipper, who works out of Island Outfitters on South Padre Island, brought a couple to hand in truly tough conditions, especially if you're a guy whose longest cast is just long enough to reach the browns that linger mid-channel in the Henry's Fork. The wind on South Padre ... blows. Go figure.

Hooked up.
Where to Stay: The Palms Resort, (956) 761-2703 
Get a Guide: Island Outfitters, (956) 433-9935

But, I can honestly say that this day, despite the slow fishing (and I was relieved to hear that it was slow for everybody today, not just me) was well-spent. Gliding over the almost-clear water on the leeward side of South Padre Island was an experience I won't soon forget. Lower Laguna Madre thrives with life, from baitfish and mullet to the more interesting critters, like sheepshead, and lady fish (also known as skipjack). The fabled redfish that finally made its appearance about halfway into the day is probably the all-star around here, but others swear by the speckled trout that, at least today, were not to be found.

As with any new experience, a good angler can learn something from days like today. I've decided that I'm going to blow up my fly cast and start all over. My bad habits are simply too deeply seeded. I need a casting instructor. And maybe a psychologist. Throw in an old priest and a young priest, and I might have this thing beat by summer's end.

But I also learned a lot about the bay and its unique marine environment. Lower Laguna Madre is a "hyper-saline" bay that actually depends on the wind (albeit not this fierce blast the area is getting this week) to bring in new doses of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico and turn the water over now and then.

"Without the wind," said Gary Tate, a longtime local fly fisherman who lives here on South Padre, "this bay would be stagnant. Lifeless."

OK, so the wind has its benefits. I guess.

I'm off to the bar to enjoy a drink with an umbrella in it. From the bar, I can see the beach, and feel the breeze. I'll let you know if any other benefits blow in from the Gulf.


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