TEXAS FLAT RAT

Kayaks, Rods & Redfish

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Project Healing Waters San Marcos

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Last weekend I got an invite from a good friend to head into San Marcos and hang out with the guys from Project Healing Waters. For any who doesn’t know what Project Healing Waters is, here is a quote from their mission statement. . .

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.

I met up with Mike Schlimgen and his team just outside of Martindale, Texas at a small cabin that has been graciously donated specifically for this program. The cabin has a porch with grills for cooking breakfast. There is an inside area large enough for mass fly tying. On one side of the cabin is a stocked pond perfect for the beginning fly fisherman and on the other side the San Marcos River. The day began with food and coffee, as should any day, followed by a quick prayer and then we were off to the races. There were three stations available for the veterans.

There was a beginners fly casting group complete with coaches and hula hoop targets.

Inside the cabin there were six fly tying vises where you could sit down and learn how to tie a Wooly Bugger (I participated in this one and tied my first fly).

          

From there it was time to head to the pond with your new creation and see if you could hook into a fish.

            

There were many fish stories told, and who I am to say that they weren’t all true. Regardless of their accuracy everyone seemed to be actively involved and enjoying their time spent together. The San Marcos group meets every Friday, 12 months out of the year at 6:45 am. If you are in the San Marcos area and you are either a veteran who would like to participate or an experienced fly angler that would like to offer your expertise, please contact me and I will get you in touch with the right people.

After the event ended Mike and I decided to take the kayaks out and doing a little fishing on our own.

Brief Back Story: Mike taught me how to fly fish almost 2 years ago. We didn’t have great river access where we were and so he promised to take me out in San Marcos and teach me how to read the water. It took me this long to cash in on my invitation, but I can assure you it was well worth the wait. The fly rod I am using was also a gift from him which just makes this trip all the more meaningful.

We were on the water by about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and Mike said he had a few things he wanted to show me. We wouldn’t start fishing until we got up river far enough to turn around and let the current take us back. This particular stretch of the San Marcos is surrounded by private property for miles with little to no public access. Everything is virtually untouched by human hands and the peacefulness was unbelievable. We stopped several times during our paddle to enjoy some snacks and a few invigorating swims in the cool spring fed waters.

When we reached our turn around point Mike pointed out a unique looking shelf along the bank of the river. That shelf is pictured behind me in the photo below.

The shelf is full of fossilized ocean crustaceans and local geologist believe that is was actually part of the ocean floor millions of years ago. I would say this is a pretty cool find on a river yaking adventure. Just across the river from this shelf is also a large bald eagle nest.

Fun Fact: In 2010 there were 52 mating pairs of bald eagles in Texas. Today that number has tripled.

This is where the fishing began. Well, kind of. I was hoping that my muscle memory would kick in and that my fly cast would at least be back to the level it was the last time Mike and I had been fishing. What I hadn’t planned for was the moving current, paddle management, and an immense amount of overhanging vegetation. It took quite some time for me to get everything situated and I may or may not have caught a few large trees in the early goings. However, persistence paid off and it wasn’t too long before I had my first fish on. No, he wasn’t a huge fish, but the feeling of accomplishment that comes from fooling a fish with a fly rod weighs much heavier than anything I could ever catch. Not to mention even small fish feel big on a 4 weight.

We continued our drift down the river and every time we would reach a new obstacle Mike would stop and explain to me the best strategy for working each little nook and cranny and then probably laugh to himself as he watched me awkwardly try to figure it out. The highlight of my day came when we approached a steep rock wall in the bend of the river. Mike said that I would need to break down my paddle so that I could scull with one hand keeping my kayak close to the wall and then cast with the other so that I could bring my fly right down the edge. Please note that I have a hard enough time casting with two hands, let alone controlling the boat at the same time. Somehow after a few casts I found myself in a rhythm and a large Guadalupe Bass came out from under the overhang and inhaled my popper. I got him landed and he measured out to 13.5″. TPWD considers 14″ to be a trophy so I was pretty pumped. Oh, and Mike landed one as well.

 

                     

This was the exclamation point to an already incredible day and we decided to head to the truck. I finished the day with 10 fish and 5 species. I did trick a gorgeous spotted gar into taking the fly on our last  little bit of paddle, but he came unbuttoned before I could do the grip and grin.  I would like to say a huge thank you to Mike and the Project Healing Waters team for having me out and I hope to attend more events in the future. Thanks for reading and remember. . .

Tight Lines, Tall Tales, and Full Stringers

Epic Land Cut Adventure

It seems as if this parenting thing has not only taken time away from my writing, but to be honest it has taken a little desire away as well. Not that I enjoy the writing and photography any less, it just seems that when everyone else is in bed and the house is quiet I would rather sleep than blog. However, my most recent adventure was so epic that I had to blow the dust of the keyboard and be sure to get this chronicled for everyone to enjoy. So here it goes. . . 

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited on another trip to the Laguna Madre. Now normally my yak would be mother-shipped to the cabin (an hour long boat ride) and the fishing would commence from there. On this particular weekend things were a little out of the ordinary. I was informed that there would be plenty of room at the cabin for me to sleep, but no room on the boat for me and my kayak. Although this sounds like an impossible problem to overcome there was ONE solution. 

You see, the cabin is an hour long boat ride from Bird Island Basin, but only a 5 mile paddle from Yarborough Pass. For those of you that don’t know anything about Yarborough Pass let me give you a little history lesson.

Entrance to Yarborough Pass

 Yarborough Pass was dredged in 1941 at a spot then known as Murdock’s Landing. It was named for W.O. Yarborough, a former member of the Texas Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission in recognition of his work. 

Millions of fish had died in the Laguna in the summer of 1938 and it was believed that the Laguna’s high salinity was the culprit. Therefore a pass was proposed to allow the less salty Gulf waters to dilute those of the Laguna. 

The issue was contentious, but many people advocated the dredging because they wanted to see fishing restored to the Laguna, Baffin Bay, Corpus Christi Bay, and other waters in the area, which they saw as being effected. Burton Dunn, who had inherited the Dunn Ranch from his father, Patrick Dunn, allowed the Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission (forerunner of Texas Parks and Wildlife) to dredge the channel, even though he stood a chance of not being compensated in any way and the channel would make operations on his ranch costlier and more difficult. 

The pass was dredged, but unfortunately over the next several years sand filled it up again and again forcing the Pass to be dredged again and again. Eventually the State gave up on dredging the Pass and let nature reclaim it. By 1950 the pass had filled and the beach was once again unbroken.” 

Source: The Handbook of Texas Online 

So the trip consisted of a 15 mile drive down the beach at the Padre Island National Seashore, a 75 yard “get down and get on it” through the soft sand at the entrance of the pass, a mile drive down, what used to be, a caliche rock road that is now filled with more than a few thigh deep potholes and then a five mile paddle with a loaded down kayak. Some might shy away from this daunting task, but I just needed one more adventure on my list of “What the H#!! Was I Thinking?” 

Not wanting me to be the only person digging my truck out of the sand miles away from civilization and cell phone service, my buddy Joey convinced (conned) another guy to use my extra kayak and take the trip with me. Hunter and I met for the first time Friday morning when he showed up at my house to embark on the journey to Yarborough Pass. We loaded a few things up in the truck and hit 59 South bound for Corpus Christi, Texas. 

Hunter’s First Kayak Redfish

To be honest the trip to the pass was relatively uneventful. The beach was in good shape, the sand was fairly packed, and the entrance to Yarborough was a breeze when you hit it at 30 mph in 4 Hi. The massive potholes were even manageable if you took your time and picked out the high spots. But then came the tough part. After unloading the kayaks and getting things set to go we were greeted with 2 things that made the paddle a “less than pleasurable” experience. The East wind from the night before had the water levels extremely low and the 20 mph sustained SE wind was going to be right in our face for most of the trip. Needless to say it took us a little longer than originally expected to the get to the cabin, but we did make it. Hunter also managed to land his first ever kayak fish on the paddle in. After dinner and a few cold adult beverages, I turned it in to get some rest for a full day of fishing. 

Wonder If I Can Get A Few Bocks?

The next day’s weather ended up being similar to the day before. Overcast with more seemingly endless brutal wind. I realized early on that my best technique was going to be drifting the shallow grass flats while standing up and looking for reds. I started out on a relatively large flat that I am nicknaming the “Shiner Flats”. It only seems fitting since I paddled right by the city limit sign on my way in. And as luck would have it, this is where I stayed most of the day. I would paddle to the channel, throw out my drift sock and begin searching for fish. The water was extremely clear, but the overcast skies and chop on the water made sight casting extremely challenging. There were fish all over, but more often than not I would be right on top of them before I even realized they were there. Nonetheless I still managed a few solid redfish and when things started to slow down I made my way back in for a late lunch. 

That evening everyone took to the boats for some speckled trout action. My group drifted an area where the fishing had been good in previous days and that afternoon was no different. We fished for the next few hours chasing schools and catching multiple trout in the 16″ – 22″ range. No real monsters, but sometimes you just need a little bend in your rod. We boxed a few and left them biting just before dark so we could make it back to camp in time for a pork chop dinner.

You guys catching anything?

On the last morning most everyone went out for a quick trip and I elected to hang back with a cup of coffee and my camera. I did end up seeing a few tailing reds on the shoreline outside of the cabin, but with crystal clear water and a relatively subdued wind they were difficult to sneak up on. I made a few casts before retiring back to the front porch to enjoy the rest of my coffee and a beautiful sunrise in God’s country.

Rather than paddle back in, Joey was kind enough to load the kayaks up on his boat and cart us back to Yarborough so that we could get things strapped in and get back home at a decent hour. On the drive back to the park I managed a quick pic of a coyote working his way through the dunes after indulging in a morning meal provided by a mullet that had washed ashore. Hunter and I made a quick stop at Whataburger to eat some lunch, wash our hands and admire the collection of South Texas Snow and then we were on our way back to Houston.

All in all we had a great trip, not that I would expect any less. There was enough good food, tall tales and tight lines to hold me over until next time that is for sure. Below is a photo of the weekends bounty. Before anyone starts counting fish this is nowhere near the entire group, but most definitely my favorite subpopulation. Everyone in this picture is a graduate of the finest university in all the land. . .WHOOP!

The Serenity of the Laguna Madre

Last Thursday started out as a normal day with plans of a relatively uneventful weekend until I received a last minute invitation to a fishing cabin in the Laguna Madre. And of course, when that kind of opportunity arises, you just have to figure out how to make it work. I am blessed with an amazing wife who also agreed that I couldn’t pass this up, even though we have a 7 month old at home. So after work on Friday I packed up a few things and made my way to Bird Island Basin looking forward to a cell phone-free weekend filled with good food, great company, and plenty of fish.

We arrived at the ramp a little later than origingetting-thereally planned due to a pretty good storm system in Houston that slowed traffic to a crawl. However, when you have already switched the flip to island time the clock becomes pretty irrelevant. After loading up our bags and getting the kayak strapped down we started the hour long boat ride to paradise. Now, I understand that a fishing cabin in the middle of nowhere isn’t paradise to everyone, but to me, it’s heaven on earth. We made our arrival just after sunset and wouldn’t you know, just in time for dinner. Waiting on the table were piping hot pork chops straight off the grill with all the fixins.

After dinner and clean up it was time for a quick flounder gigging trip on a nearby grass flat. Counting 5 in total we loaded up the lights, batteries, and gigs to make the short boat ride. Immediately after unloading I spooked up the first flounder that was laying just steps from the boat. Although not ideal, it was definitely a promising sign. We waded the shoreline for about an hour before taking a tally: 4 flounder and 4 black drum. The wind was picking up and clouding up the water so we decided to call it a night. Upon our return it was time to break out the speck rigs and do a little dock fishing under the lights.

As is typical for a trip like this we were in bed late and up early to go chase a few fish. The other guys headed out at sunup in the PB’s to a favorite wading spot while I elected to venture out in my kayak and see what I could find. I have fished the area before, but never from a kayak. The spot I had picked was a nice mud flat with some deep holes and a few barrier islands. The water was slick as glass and there were wakes everywhere. I spooked what appeared to be a pretty good fish, as determined by the size of the wake, and immediately hooked up on a short cast. The fish made a hard run peeling off nearly half of my spool and then “SNAP”.  Seeing more wakes in the area I reeled in retied and made another cast. My bait was picked up immediately and the fight was on. After a few minutes I had my first fish of the morning a black drum. I was kind of surprised that he had picked up my Down South Lure. Usually black drum don’t show much interest in artificial bait unless it is a Gulp or a Buggs.

A few paddle strokes later I made a cast to another cruising black drum and to my surprise he too picked up the bait and took off. So at this point I am about 10 casts in and I already have to fish on the stringer. After standing up on the ATAK to get a better look I could see that most of the fish in the area were black drum and since I was on the hunt for redfish I decided to continue my paddle.

It wasn’t until later in the day that I finally located a few reds while I was making a slow drift across a grass flat. All of the fish that I located were seemingly in a hurry to get somewhere and were very disinterested in any of my offerings. Just before I headed in for lunch I located another cruiser and this time I decided to take a chance and see if I could get a reaction strike. I made a cast that thumped him right on the top of the head and my risk paid off, FISH ON! He was no monster by any stretch of the imagination, but he made the slot and was on the stringer.

After lunch and a quick nap I started looking at the map trying to decide where I might go for the evening fish. I picked a spot that would be about a 10 mile round trip paddle. On a full day this would be no big deal, but it was already 5:30 and there was just no way to make this paddle before nightfall. My buddy offered to tow my yak out to the farthest point which would cut my trip in half and make it much more feasible. I agreed with the idea, tied up the yak, and off we went.

I started my paddle at around six and began working my way back to the cabin across a pretty strong SE wind. It took two stops to pattern the fish. They were holding up on the angled shoreline of the barrier islands right where the current was being pinched. The one-knocker spook in pink and chrome was my bait of choice and apparently the redfish liked it too. I landed six fish, strung two to finish off my one-day-limit and left them biting. Darkness was quickly approaching and I was still about three miles from the cabin in unfamiliar waters.

We were in bed early after another wonderful home cooked meal so that we could get an early start on a day that would be filled with bag packing, floor sweeping, and fish cleaning. I was home by 3 on Sunday and in bed early. I would like to say a HUGE thank you to the Dodds Family for their hospitality and for the incredible accommodations. I had a great time and I hope to return again soon. I would like to get back out there and find those hungry reds I left.

The Journey to Redfish Resort

This past weekend I convinced Todd Hart to do a little marsh exploring with me. There has been a particular area that I have been wanting to check out, but just hadn’t made the paddle yet. After looking at it on Google Earth a few times I knew it was a little over 4 miles one way just to get there and to be completely honest I wasn’t looking forward to it. My initial plan was to make a non-stop trip at daylight to ensure that there was plenty of time to fish. However, after a poling skiff buzzed the entire trail right i front of us, we decided to pull off and fish a smaller marsh pond for a few minutes.

That first stop took a little bit of searching, but eventually I was able to spot a few fish. Redfish were traveling in small pods of 8 to 10 and were moving deep into DCIM106GOPROthe flooded grass lines. Most of the pods I found early were on the protected shoreline and actively feeding. My first fish was sight casted and then after the pods broke up I switched to a popping cork to pull them out of the grass. I was able to boat three smaller reds before reverting back to my initial float plan.

Upon arrival at the final destination Todd and I split up taking opposite sides of a large back lake. On my side there were several islands that had some descent current pushing between them and so I staked out hoping the moving water would hold a few fish. After a few minutes I noticed a couple of birds hopping down the shore and pecking randomly into the water. I wasn’t sure immediately if this activity was caused by redfish, but they were moving right towards me so I just held my spot. Within a few minutes another smaller pod of redfish, similar to the morning groups, made the turn from the backside of the island. I made a quick cast with a tail and immediately hooked up. Somehow even though that pod had a few pretty large tails I ended up with a pretty skinny 22 incher.

22-red

Before I could even get the first fish back in the water I could see another school working the same island, but this time coming from the opposite direction. I took this opportunity to try to snap a few pictures. I didn’t get any great shots of actual “Tailers”, but I did get this one of the birds hopping over each other while one fish from the pod blows up on some surface bait.shoreline-school-birds

At this point in the day the fish moved from the protected shorelines to the windblown shorelines. Todd and I finished out the day throwing the Texas Two-Step (name courtesy of Dave Roberts) to a few more cruisers on the windward side of the lake. This produced a few more fish and more than a few missed opportunities.

th-redfish-splashimg_2826

I am not sure if any of you have seen the YouTube video “The Tunnel to Redfish Heaven”, but if you have then you will understand why Todd and I always say that we are going to find the “Tunnel”.  We didn’t find it on this trip, but we still found a pretty good place to fish that we are nicknaming “Redfish Resort”. No tunnels were involved, but it was definitely an interesting paddle.

Wind Tide Weather Baro Depth Bottom Lures
10-12 MPH Incoming w/Avg Differential Sunny Steady 1-3 ft Mixed Mud & Shell SS Jr                     Gulp & PC           DSL

Finding Reds in Flood Tide Conditions

RainbowMaskI have been on kind of a fishing hiatus for the last 3 weeks due to previously scheduled events that just seemed to jumble up all together. The last weekend in May was a holiday weekend, which I try to avoid the water at all costs. Way too many crazies out there for me. The first weekend in June I was in a wedding in San Antonio and then the second weekend in June was our family vacation. After being so busy I definitely needed a day on the water alone to try and balance myself again. I had intended on getting out Tuesday (6/21), but after watching the weather I decided against it. Of course it ended up being a beautiful day. I spent the day in the recliner with my little man and together we lived vicariously through everyone else’s Instagram and Facebook posts.

My new target day became Wednesday (6/22) and even though the weatherman was again predicting scattered thunderstorms I decided to call his bluff and head out anyway. I was launched and on the water just as the sun was coming up, around 6 am, and even though the water near the launch was teeming with bait I had a particular spot in mind and I was on a mission to get there.

When I got to my spot there were flounder jumping everywhere. Not exactly the species that I was after, but at least there were game fish in the area. My key structure for the day was small coves that were protected from the south wind and had a flooded grass shoreline. The last time I was out I remembered the early morning top water bite was good, but as I mentioned earlier, that was 3 weeks ago. Nonetheless, I tied one on and went to work.

Let’s talk for a minute about how to select the appropriate top water. Now there are several theories about how and why fish react to a certain bait, but below you will find a chart I created that shows how I evaluate the appropriate bait for the current conditions. Maybe you use a different method, but this is what seems to work for me.

Topwater Lure Slection Chart

I started things out with a One-Knocker Spook in pink and chrome. This has been my go to bait recently. I almost immediately hooked up with an 18 ½” trout. TroutAs I continued to work the first cove I could see definite signs of redfish in the area, but they seemed very uninterested. There was not very much surface chop in these protected coves so I decided to change over to a Super Spook Jr. in order to quiet things down a bit and hopefully not spook any available fish. This turned out to be a good decision. As I worked my way down the grass lin22.5 Rede and into the next cove something crushed my top water. It feels kind of small but then I realize he’s swimming right at the yak. Once he gets close he figures out what is happening and takes off. After a few short runs I get him landed and measure him up, 22 ½” and 4.5 lbs.

Since I was able to get staked out while fighting the previous fish I did not disturb the entire cove and there still appeared to be a few fish in the area. Rather than pull anchor I decided to stay staked out and blind cast the cove for a few minutes. This tactic led to my third fish of the morning. This fish was considerably larger reaching 26” on the Hawg Trough and tipping the scale at 6 lbs. 12 oz.

26 Red

The reds stayed in the area until about 10:00 am, but to be honest I got sidetracked trying to pick up a flounder and complete the slam. I started working points slow and methodically with a YUM Mud Minnow on a 1/8th oz. jig head. The last point in the lineup rewarded me with the ever familiar “thump-thump” I was looking for. This was a textbook flounder strike. He started swimming right towards me and I could see the slack in my line piling up on the surface of the water. After letting him chew on it for while I reeled in the slack and set the hook. The flounder Koozieimmediately goes airborne and I can tell he is going to be a legal fish. I get him to the boat with the net ready and as I said this is a textbook flounder case. I can tell he is hooked well because I see the point of the hook protruding from the corner of his mouth, but as I go to net him he goes airborne one last time and shakes the hook. I mulled over every point and drain on the paddle back to the truck, but was never able to hook up again. I did however manage to catch a very muddy koozie on a Buggs Curl Tail. . .those baits will catch anything!

The high tides this year have been a blessing in disguise because they have forced me to try different lures and techniques in order to catch fish. Being a guy who primarily likes to sight cast I would always pick my days based on my favorite conditions, but it seems like this year those days are never going to come. So I can either not fish, yeah right, or figure out how to find them in alternative conditions. There has definitely been an adjustment period, but it seems like I am figuring things out. Hopefully I have given you some advice that will improve your haul on those high tide days.

Wind Tide Weather Baro Depth Bottom Lures
S @ 10 Outgoing w/Small Differential P Cloudy Rising 1-2 ft Mud  SS Jr                        Yum MM

Good Friday is Right!

WARNING: This Report is a LITTLE late!

As a teacher, Easter weekend usually means a three day weekend, so I took advantage of the extra day off and decided to try Matagorda again for the 3rd time in 14 days. For this trip I was joined by fellow TKFer Scott Story. We met at Stanley’s around 6:30 for a few bottles of GF Highlightswater and a breakfast taco and then proceeded to our launch.

We started our paddle at around 7:00, just as the sun was starting to peek over the marsh grass, and were greeted with deathly calm conditions. Despite the forecasted 15mph North wind the water was as smooth as glass. Almost immediately we could see fish crashing bait along the deeper shoreline. Scott selected a popping cork and I went straight for my Buggs.

Despite the fact that many of the reds in the area were crashing bait on the surface they were completely uninterested in the popping cork. Most of the fish were doing what I call the “Crash & Dash”. This is where the only sign of fish you see is a crash on the shore line and then a large v-wake headed back into deeper water. This is a game that is fairly difficult to play with a bait primarily used for sight casting. But nevertheless I started flipping my Buggs at swirls and after just a few casts I was rewarded with the sound of drag being peeled off. This first fish was only slightly over 21”.

GF Report Fish 2I continued making my way slowly down the canal casting at swirls hoping that a pattern might become evident. Less than 15 minutes after landing my first fish I was hooked up again. This fish was a little bit larger just barely reaching the 23” mark. By the time I got this second fish on the stringer the predicted wind began to show up and things got a little tricky.

Scott and I continued along our pre-determined float plan as we wound our way back deep into the marsh. Around seemingly every corner we stumbled across either a back or a blowout. The biggest problem was that the change in wind had apparently caused a pretty bad case of lock-jaw. At one point I presented my Buggs 5 separate times to a very uninterested crawling red. It wasn’t until I landed my curl tail right on the end of his nose that he disappeared in a boil of mud with a trail of jumping shrimp indicating his path out of the marsh.

After seeing this scene play itself out several more times I decided to try a new approach. Less than 24 hours prior to this trip I had received my package of Flats Buggs from Heath. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this product they are a smaller version (3/16 oz) of the curl tail series. They have a smaller profile in the water and can be cast at even the pickiest of fish. I presented this smaller bait to my very next target and FISH ON! This fish measured 24″.

GF Muddy Stringer

We ended the day with a quick lunch at the Waterfront Restaurant and I was back home by three that afternoon. I must admit that so far this has been a fun spring. If you haven’t been yet you should really get out on the water and get hooked up!

TIP TIME:

GF Buggs Comparison

Curl Tail Bugg vs Flats Bugg

I sent the fish home with Scott and after cleaning them he discovered they were all full of very small crabs about the size of a dime. It would seem that this case of lock-jaw was solved by a simple tactic . . . MATCH THE HATCH. The next time you’re out there and it seems as if the fish are completely uninterested don’t give up. Tie on something different and try them again. It was amazing to see how just a subtle change in size turned the bite right back on.

Wind Tide Weather Baro Depth Bottom Lures
NE @ 15 Outgoing w/Small Differential Sunny Steady 1-2 ft Mud Curl Tail Bugg  Flats Bugg

Spring Break in Matagorda

Over spring break my loving wife gave me a little time away from the house and I decided to do what any self-respecting outdoorsman would do. . .I got outdoors. I spent the first weekend of my break taking a few buddies fishing on an overnight trip to Matagorda and then somehow managed another quick trip mid-week before the Houston Fishing Show got kicked off. The remainder of my break was spent with the good folks over at FTU talking about fishing and trying to help a few guys make the best decision of their fishing life and paddle a Wilderness Systems kayak!

3 Wildy Yaks (mod)
DCIM101GOPRO
DCIM101GOPRO
5 O’Clock Somehwere (mod)

I took off a little early from work on the first Friday of the break, loaded up of my gear, which on this particular trip consisted of three kayaks, and headed down to East Matty. I arrived around 3 in the afternoon, checked in at the Fisherman’s Motel, and headed out for a short evening trip. By the time I got everyone rigged up and ready to go it was about 4:30 and the sun was fading fast. We made the short paddle to a spot I had picked out and quickly got our lines in the water. We didn’t get to fish long, but we still managed a few Reds on the Queen Cocahoe bouncing it over some shell beds in around 3 feet of water. When the sun was gone we checked in for the night.

The next morning we headed out again and were unfortunately greeted with a 20+ mph south wind. The tide was high and the water was chocolate brown in the bay. We fished hard all day and blew out numerous fish, but with the chop and the water clarity the signs were nearly impossible to read. We settled for working some known structure with a gulp under a popping cork. This yielded some rat reds, but nothing much to write home about. Exhausted from fighting the breeze all day we packed up around 5 and headed into town for a quick bite to eat before making the trek back home.

On the following Wednesday I returned to Matagorda for a solo trip, hoping the fish would still be around and praying that the conditions would be more favorable. Man, did that decision pay off big time. I was on the water by 7 am and spent the next five hours casting at crawlers in a huge chain of shallow back lakes. The fish were very picky and pretty spooky. I ended up blowing out way more fish than I put in the boat, but I managed a nice limit. I tried a number of tactics to get more hookups, but as is normally the case with picky Reds, all they wanted was a Buggs Curl Tail.

All of my fish were found on protected shore lines working in and out of the grass feeding on shrimp. If they weren’t completely exposed they would always
give themselves away by making a huge wake and leaving a trail of jumping shrimp behind them.

I called it a day around 2 pm in order to get back home and finish up a few “honey-do’s” before attending the Houston Fishing Show for the rest of the week. I had a great break in Matagorda and was very thankful for the opportunity to get outside and enjoy God’s creation!

Wind Tide Weather Baro Depth Bottom Lures
SE @ 10 Incoming w/Avg Differential Overcast Steady <1 ft Mud Buggs Curl Tail

Rookie Mistakes. . .

DCIM100GOPRO

IS THIS THING ON???

Every year when basketball season rolls around I tell myself I am going to fish more. That I will find time on a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday morning during the season and I will just make it work. Well. . .that NEVER happens. Then add to the equation all of the excitement of my son being born and you have a really busy 4 months that do not include a lot of time on the water.

Yesterday morning I finally ended the hiatus and struck out to try a new body of water that has been on the list for a while. I set the alarm for 4am, snoozed to 4:07, snoozed to 4:14, snoozed to 4:21. For some reason I didn’t get any sleep the night before, I can’t imagine why?!? (If you have kids then you understand) By the time I reached my spot the wind speed was already twice the prediction and so I elected to throw out the drift sock and go to work with my topwater.

As I was drifting I began to see random mud boils floating to the surface, but other than that I could find no signs of the school. Just as I was about to pull my drift sock and paddle back to try my drift one more time I heard that distinctive CHUG sound and my Badonk-A-Donk disappeared. I could tell right away this was a big fish and so I immediately got staked out.

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HOOKED UP!

Teaching point: Any time I hook up with a fish I try to get staked out and I do that for two reasons. Reason number 1, I want to be able to stay in the same spot where I picked up my last fish. There may be some structure nearby that is holding fish and I do not want to lose my place. Reason number 2, if I can keep the school together by not drifting over the top of them I may have a shot at taking another fish from that very same school.

After about 5 minutes and multiple runs I see my fish go belly up about 10 feet from the boat. When I reach back to grab my net he decides to spring to life for one more run and it’s this last ditch effort that frees him from my grasp as my lure comes shooting back at the boat.

I quickly get my lure back in the water and after two cranks on the reel I was hooked up again. This fish surfaces almost immediately and is another bull red. He makes one solid run toward some exposed shell and when I tried to horse him away from it my line snapped. Before I could get retied two other kayakers who had been spectating from behind me immediately cut off my drift and I watched helplessly as the school erupted and fish scattered everywhere. I paddled around for a while hoping they would regroup, but was never able to relocate them.

Despite the frustration of losing two really good fish I had a great day on the water, found a new spot that appears to be holding some pretty large fish, and after all was said and done I got to come home to this guy. . .

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Fish were located on the wind blown shore in about two foot of water and were hungry for the Bomber Lures Badonk-A-Donk HP in black, gold, & orange.

Wind Tide Weather Baro Depth Bottom Lures
SE @ 15 Outgoing w/Avg Differential Sunny Rising 1-3 ft Mixed Mud & Shell Badonkadonk Popping Cork

4th Annual Castaway Cup

Last weekend I had the opportunity to fish in the 4th Annual Castaway Cup. When I originally signed up for the event it looked as if the weather was going to be perfect. However, as the castawaycupweek progressed it was becoming evident that a northern was going to settle right smack dab in the middle of this event. Despite wind and wave it was still a great day to be on the water.

When I first started preparing for the tournament I had picked a launch point that I thought would give me access to multiple species of fish. The Castaway Cup is a three species tournament (red, trout, & flounder) with hourly weigh in prizes and so I wanted as many opportunities as possible. The only problem with this launch is that it required me to paddle all the way across a relatively large bay directly into the forecasted 31mph NE wind. I began to reevaluate my decision and eventually decided to launch on the north side of the aforementioned bay. This choice allowed access to a protected shoreline, which doesn’t always produce more fish, but it gave me a better opportunity to find them.

Official launch time was at 6:30, but I had a few morning setbacks that put me on the water around 7:00. I started my morning off chasing large groups of birds actively feeding on the surface, but was only able to manage a few undersized trout. After about an hour I started to understand the trend. I was doing a lot of work with very little payoff. At this point I made my way back to the protected shoreline, my original plan, and went on the search for wakes and swirls.

It didn’t take long before I spotted my first swirl about 5 feet off the grass line and right over a relatively large shell reef. I pitched my H&H Curl Tail right into the center of the swirl and was rewarded with an immediate hook up. After a short fight I had a pretty solid red on the stringer that measured right at 25”.

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I continued my pattern hoping it would pay off with an upgrade, but it was to no avail. At this point I made my way to a deep cut that I had seen on google earth the day before. My plan now was to work the drop off at both ends and hopefully pick up a nice flattie. After arriving at the location I staked out and went to work. Three casts in I get a thump, but it’s not the right one. I buzz in a 16” trout and put her on the stringer. I debated on whether or not to keep this one, but with the conditions the way they were I hated to throw back a legal fish.

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I worked the cut for about an hour and continued to catch trout right around 15”. They were just stacked on top of each other in that deeper water and were seemingly pretty hungry.  At this point it was getting close to weigh in time and I had a pretty lengthy trip back to the truck. A few minutes into my paddle back the wind shifted from NE to SE and allowed me to drift all the way back to my launch. I fished the entire way, but didn’t pick up a single fish.

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Got the truck loaded, got my fish safely secured in my live well. And started my hour long drive to Harborwalk for the weigh in. ***Side note*** I have been extremely pleased with my homemade live well. I have yet to lose a fish since I started using it and have had as many as 3 reds in it with no problems. I hope to get some photos of it up soon!

The weigh in closed at 3pm and I made my grand entrance at 2:15. After weighing in my fish I was greeted with some unfortunate news. I misunderstood the rules and there would be no hourly winner awarded between the 2 and 3 o’clock hour. If they had awarded money for that hour my fish would have banked me a $200 check. I guess I should have attended the captains meeting, because as things stood, I didn’t stand a chance in the overall with my two very average fish. So all that was left to do was buy a few raffle ticket, grab a plate and a cold beverage, and enjoy the live music.

I also made a trip over to the Castaway van to pick up my free gift. Every angler received a free Castaway rod and a $50 gift card to the HoustoCastawaylogon Gold Exchange. I assumed that we would just get whatever overrun rod that Castaway had in stock, but after talking to the reps I was pleasantly surprised. They actually had several models with multiple speeds and actions. Every angler had the opportunity to handle each sample and pick the one that best suited their needs.

floyds on the water harbors

The buffet dinner was provided by “Floyd’s on the Water” and the entertainment for the afternoon was “Harbors Over Highways.” Both the food and the music were outstanding and I expect to see them at more events in the future. The local CCA partnered with Castaway to host a great family friendly event with lots of cash and prizes. I can’t wait to try my luck again next year and you should too! If you are interested in fishing this event you can find more information at castawaycup.com

Wind Tide Weather Baro Depth Bottom Lures
30 MPH Incoming w/Small Differential Sunny Rising 1-3 ft Mixed Mud & Shell Skitterwalk   H&H Curl Gulp Curl

FTU Demo Day in Sugarland

FTU logo

This last weekend I volunteered at the Fishing Tackle Unlimited Kayak Demo Day in Sugarland. We set up Saturday morning at The Club at Riverstone and started preparing for what was sure to be an eventful day. By 9:30 the plastic navy was lined up on the waters edge and ready for deployment. There was a huge stack of life jackets laid out on the ground (which would later prove to not be big enough) and the EZ-Up’s were waiting for the first potential customer of the day.

Things started out slow, but once word had spread the bank of that pond looked like front row seats at a rock concert. We had a DJ blasting tunes, the weather was perfect, and there were plenty of people willing to try their hand at paddle sports. At one point the crowd got so large that we realized our life jacket supply was not sufficient enough and so a special trip was made to the I-10 store for more.

At the end of the day we broke down camp and started re-loading the trailers. With paddles stored and kayaks stacked and strapped everyone began discussing the days events. I am unsure of the official headcount, but based on the number of wristbands left there were well over 300 people registered to paddle.  That makes the inaugural Sugarland Demo Day a potential record setter.

At this point everyone was exhausted and ready to make it home for the last half of college football, a cold beverage, and a comfy recliner. Thanks to everyone who came out and made this event a huge success. If you missed out on this one, but would still like to paddle a kayak, join us at the next event in Cross Creek Ranch on October 10th.

CC Ranch Demo Day

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