Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Red April

The ultimate flats boat.

From the kayak, floating in the green-tinged desert that is the Lower Laguna Madre, the skyscraping resort hotels of South Padre Island are but a distant landmark visible through the humid haze of the sticky, south Texas morning. Here, with a stiff breeze out of the south, and the shallow bay good and stirred up after days of relentless wind, you can only cast blindly, hoping your fly finds its mark.

An hour into my day, my Clouser did just that.

After a false alarm that turned out to be a wind-aided snag on a weed bed, I was certain the elements had worked against me this day. A breeze that didn't seem too bad an hour earlier was kicking whitecaps over the side of my kayak, soaking both my shorts and my spirit. Redfish? In this soupy mess?

A minute later, I heard myself mutter, "Now that's a fish," as I responded to a hard take with a quick strip-strike. The "snag" pulled back, much to my relief, and I found myself going to the mat with a burly five-pound red that somehow found the red-and-yellow Clouser amidst the muck and the gunk of the wind-shaken bay. I watched as pale, yellow fly line retreated from my reel as the big fish fled into the murk, determined to put the 8-weight rod and the angler weilding it to the test.

A five-pound redfish falls for the oldest trick in the book.
A Clouser. Thanks, Bob...
My fishing partner for the day, Efren Salazar, let out an audible sigh of relief–it wouldn't do to have the visiting fly fisherman from Idaho come all the way to South Padre and the northern-most reaches of the tropics only to have the wind blow away any chance of getting into fish. And, as of that moment, I was into fish.

Combine the sheer power of the redfish with a straight and steady 20-mile-per-hour wind and the confines of the kayak, and I was making up for a slow morning of tough angling.

Before the brawny red could retreat north to Port Mansfield, I put the hammer down on the drag and, in a few more minutes, I was able to bring the beautiful creature to hand and dislodge the Clouser from the corner of its mouth. A quick photo later, and the fish was back in the salt and likely sulking at having fallen victim to a salwater fly tied at a small bench in land-locked Idaho's trout country.

Speckled trout. Clouser. Enough said.
And speaking of trout, they have them here, too. Just not the brand those of us who live in the Frozen North chase day in and day out. These fish aren't related in the least to the coldwater denizens of the Rockies. Speckled trout are actually a drum, and they're related to the bigger, huskier redfish. They're abundant in the salty Laguna Madre, and not too long after the first red of the day, I managed to convince a small trout to take a Clouser.

Without the heft of a redfish behind it, the trout came to hand quickly. Nevertheless, I was thrilled–it was my first fly rod speckled trout (one more to cross off the list), and I spent quite a bit of time admiring the fish that got it's name for obvious reasons. With it's heavily spotted tail and its silver sides, it does, indeed, resemble a lake-swimming salmonid. But it's big mouth is a dead give-away–it may bear the name, but this trout angler knows better.

Where to Stay: The Palms Resort, (800) 466-1316
Where to Get Your Kayak: SPI Kayak,  (956) 525-0100
Efren Salazar, owner of SPI Kayak. 
We spent half a day cruising the flats of the bay in search of fish, and Efren managed to get on the board with a much larger speckled trout. He also had a couple of dramatic takes on a top-water offering, but both times he came up empty.

Given the wind and the foggy water, I marked the day down as a success, knowing that tomorrow is but a day away, and more of south Texas' finest saltwater denizens await. Now, maybe for a walk on the beach, or a cold beer to fend off the warm breeze.

And maybe something fishy for dinner...


  1. The Clouser strikes again! You're making me too jealous. Spring is springing around here...but not like that.

  2. Dude... if I could get the wind to go away, I think I could put up a 20-fish day. This place just reeks of big reds... Cross your fingers for tomorrow...

  3. Having no experience with Reds, I'd say it a successful day.