Monday, April 23, 2012

Beat the Drum

Gator bait.

That's what I figured would become of me the first time I planted by butt in a flat-water kayak. This was a few years back, and I was on the marsh near Grand Isle, La., where gators tend to be prolific and where a large man in a slow kayak amounts to lazily retrieved popper meant to entice a 10-footer to dinner.

I was reassured at the time that I was perfectly safe, and I'm sure I was, but fears are fears for a reason--sometimes alligators make meals out of people. It's rare, but I have that kind of luck.

Kayaks courtesy of Diablo Paddle Sports
Everything turned out all right, and I immediately became of fan of kayaks for flat-water fishing--they traverse skinny water with ease, they're easier than you might think to get in and out of, and, in a pinch, you can even cast a fly rod from them.

That's why, when we pulled up to the cabin we were inhabiting on upper Laguna Madre last week and noticed a flotilla of ocean-ready kayaks on the bank, I was more than excited. These particular boats, manufactured by Austin, Texas-based Diablo Paddle Sports, are likely the most advanced flat-water kayaks on the market. In addition to coming ready to fish, these models were outfitted with an elevated seat that Diablo's Thomas Flemons refers to as the "Larry chair." I can only assume that it's meant to hold the hindquarters of a the average couch potato or maybe your run-of-the-mill cable guy, and, frankly, that put me at ease.

And, once I pushed off from the bank into the murky water of the bay, I was more than thrilled with the kayak's feel. I never once felt apprehensive on the boat (well, I take that back... I was a little nervous when I stood up in the kayak for the first time), and it took me well over a mile to a series of little salty lakes that gave a handful of redfish anglers access into the King Ranch backcountry right along the windward coast of south Texas.

The reds weren't home, but I was plenty satisfied with the means of transportation. Turns out, the boat would more than assist with the first catch of the trip.

Black drum
First red of the trip
Austin Orr, an up-and-coming fish bum from (you guessed it) Austin, found a pod of tailing black drum on a flat a short paddle away from the cabin. Mike Sepelak and I eagerly hopped into the Diablo boats and skittered across the Intercoastal Waterway to the flat, where, sure enough, dozens of big black drum were milling about in the dark water. Occasionally, a big tail would break the surface.

Once we found a good spot with a generally firm bottom, it was easy to tie the kayaks off to an anchor pole, drive the pole into the sand and then wander about the flat on foot, pursuing the drum that were surprisingly finicky. Austin saved the day with some fly pattern suggestions--he gave me a small black bucktail fly that the first drum I presented it to inhaled. Austin also caught the trip's first red fish, a cruiser milling in and out of the black drum that had stirred up the flat.

I managed to bring  a few of these interesting fish to hand--a first for me. As I told Austin later that day, "It's always a good day when you can add another fish to the list of conquests."

Speaking of conquests ... it is officially "spritzer season." We bid adieu to a cheap bottle of Gilbey's gin over the course of a couple of days. Black drum and spritzers ... I'll take that combination any day.


  1. Looks like an awesome time. Very jealous.


  2. Next time we put one of these together, you need to be there. Plans are already in the works!

  3. I had a great time Chris. I love your writing style and reading your perspective! Can't wait for next time... I left enchanted for sure. :)

    1. It was great to spend some time with you Jen... we'll fish together again, I'm sure. Good times, for sure... thanks for all your help setting it up! I think it ought to be an annual thing!