For weeks we have been dealing with weather conditions that have made sight casting/fly fishing almost impossible. Poling miles of shallow flats and edges staring into infinite glare while praying to see a tail...it has been frustrating and discouraging to say the least. I'm a fly fisherman. I want to see the fish before I make a cast. If I start spraying blind casts all over the place, I risk spooking that rare sight cast opportunity. And putting the fly rod away for the spin rod? Not me!
My stubbornness has always been my downfall in fly fishing. I'll throw a dry fly all day- skunk be damned- knowing good and well that I could be catching a mess of trout on a nymph rig. While there is room to be stubborn as an angler, it's important to be flexible as a guide. The fact is: fishing is fishing!
Yesterday was cloudy, foggy, and that calm wind forecast never played out. As I poled one of my favorite edges, I noticed that there were zero fish up on the shallow flat. I kept poling right over all of the fish, spooking them from underneath the boat in three feet of muddy water. The redfish know it's still winter and they are staying deep. We put the fly rod away and began casting the spin rod along this depth/clarity change. Within 10 minutes, we had a 30 inch redfish to the boat. We continued to have a fantastic day fishing to likely holding areas and catching a few more fish. Way more than we could have caught if we had stayed with the fly rod.
Whether you're fly fishing, spin fishing, tossing bait, or hand-lining, IT'S ALL FISHING! And it should all be fun.
The Coastal Bend of Texas is a fast expanse of marsh, prairie, swamp, beach, and flats. From Matagorda Bay all the way down the the Upper Laguna Madre, choosing a home base can be daunting as each area offers a lifetime of redfish habitat to explore. Whether it's Rockport, Port Aransas, Port O'Connor or Seadrift, the options are literally endless.
After two months straight of covering most of Aransas Bay from Mustang Island to San Jose Island and west to Copano and St. Charles, I drove north- just one hour- to fish with a friend in Port O'Connor.
It was about 40 degrees that morning. Cold for Texas standards. The wind was blowing a bit, straight out of the north, making it feel even colder. The sky, however, was clear and we knew the sun would eventually do its job and warm the shallow flats. One thing I noticed is how much protection the islands and shorelines of Port O'Connor offer with a north wind which can be a struggle around the Rockport area. We stayed tight to the mangroves while the sun was low, focussing on the calm water near the edges for sight casting. The fish were there, but really spooky. Most retreated to deep water with a mere lift of the rod tip. We each had shots, even some eats, but we needed conditions to improve...along with our angling abilities.
We moved around a lot and eventually found a shallow flat adjacent to a long mangrove edge. With the sun behind us and the wind laying down, we were finally on fish...a lot of fish...big fish. Every redfish we brought to the boat was an upper-slot fish, with a couple in the 30 inch range. My fishing partner and I went fish for fish all afternoon, targeting singles and small groups in the clearest water imaginable. We kept saying, "OK, one more shot and then we'll head back to the dock." Each time, we would see another group of redfish that we absolutely had to cast to. Our last few shots were to tailing schools. These wolfpacks of fish were 20-30 strong and crawling over one another feeding in the soft mud and grass. What a sight!
I'm excited to get back up to Port O'Connor. With all of the north wind we get during the winter months, I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities.
Fly fishing on the Texas coast can be tricky in the middle of winter. Low tides, cold water, and strong winds make sight fishing and navigating pretty tough. But nobody ever said it would be easy. After all, isn't that why we choose to fly fish? Because it's a challenge?
Making the most of good weather windows is the name of the game. Over the past few days, I've been able to poke around some of my favorite flats- scouting areas where I generally find redfish willing to eat a well presented fly. Certain areas have high concentrations of fish, while other flats seem lifeless and stale. Water temperatures are key in the winter. Areas with thick grass and soft mud tend to retain heat from the sun, while hard sand and shell stay cold. Lately, the redfish have been feeding in those soft mud areas.
We should see these fish spread out as February approaches and warmer weather from the south becomes the norm. Fly fishing around Rockport really kicks into gear in the spring. I still have some dates (both weekdays and weekends) in February and March, but they won't last long.
Lodging in Rockport
If you're searching for lodging in the Rockport/Fulton area, there are a couple of new options that have come available. Blue Lagoon Lodge offers an all-inclusive fly fishing lodge experience as well as your standard vacation rental option. Give their site a visit! https://bluelagoonrockport.com
The Lighthouse Inn at Aransas Bay is also back after rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. This is a beautiful waterfront hotel right next to some of the best restaurants on the Texas coast. http://www.lighthousetexas.com
These cold fronts are becoming more frequent. The calm, warm, sunny days in between seem less predictable and more fleeting as Christmas approaches. That being said, fishing has been outstanding. Despite the north wind, the tide filled some flats up to the edges, providing great protection from the wind and lots of food for hungry redfish. Finding these lee edges has been priority number one for sight fishing since the sun seems to be hiding behind the clouds most days. The calm water near the grass makes for decent visibility on the dark days.
Our fishing days have been pretty easy going. The best light right now is between 10am and 2pm and the fish seem to stay dormant in deeper water until later in the morning when the shallow water warms up. Timing that warm up with an incoming tide made for the best fishing of the week on Thursday when the dinner bell rang at about 11:30am.
We've been fishing north, south, and everywhere in between over the last couple of weeks. Guests from Montana and Dallas have all experienced a variety of fishing- each day finding new challenges and great opportunities to catch happy redfish.Our flies have gotten lighter with the colder water. Fish seem to like the slow presentation and a heavier fly gets snagged in the grass if you're not stripping fast enough. On the cold days, black and purple has worked well. We've been throwing a lot of natural colors on bright days, and on occasion when they won't eat well...spoon flies are what's for dinner!
I'm booked through the holidays, but January and February are pretty open. Those of you that live nearby have a great opportunity to take advantage of your proximity to the coast and a good forecast!