My day started early Saturday morning; a quarter before 4:00am is when I awoke to the clamor of my siren-like alarm. I was up and out of bed like a fire alarm was actually going off. Excited. The plan for the day was to hit the water with a friend I haven’t fished with in a while. Dressed, teeth brushed, truck loaded, and on the road as quick as my drowsy mind allowed me to operate.
It’s late spring on the Upper Texas Coast and the marshes have just started to come alive. We had a unseasonably warm winter. By all accounts, the fishing should be on fire, but that hasn’t been the case. The marshes took a little longer to come alive than I thought, but I’m not one to complain. I’ve learned to appreciate and welcome the futile task of predicting seasonal patterns.
Chris and I decided to leave our kayaks at home and opted to fish out of my canoe. After tweaking my canoe for the last few months I finally made enough modifications to satisfy my fishing preferences. This was going to be my first trip with another angler on board. I wasn’t sure how it was going to perform loaded with two grown men and gear, but curiousity convinced me it was worth a shot. And in case you’re wondering the canoe handled two people just fine.
We made a far run to our first destination. There was very little activity at the first stop, so we moved a little deep to a connecting backlake. Poling down the shoreline I started telling Chris about how this lake almost always holds a school of redfish. Like clockwork off in the distance we saw a couple gulls hovering over nervous water and then a few triangle-shaped objects protruded through the water’s surface. No mistaking what we saw even for Chris, a rusty angler who hasn’t spent much time on the water as of late.
Chris decided to try to get one to eat a fly first. The school was on the move. I poled him into position or the best position I could considering the circumstances. He missed the first few shots. The school was closing the distance between us fast, too fast. Before we knew it we were left staring at a cloud of mud and wakes darting off in every direction including the side of the canoe. No worries. It happens. We let the dust settle hoping they would regroup. They rarely do, but we held on to hope as long as we could stand. We pushed on.
I was optimistic. We were in a hugh marsh and the day was still young. Chris wasn’t as enthused. We ran to most productive part of the marsh. Nothing happening except a few liars birds dive-bombing off in the distance. With no signs of our spot-tailed quarry we kept moving. We decided to head to another part of the marsh that I had only fished once. It was the shallowest part of the entire estuary. The last time I was fished this area it was loaded with fish. I decided it was worth a shot before we gave up on this marsh all together.
As soon as we shut down and we spotted movement underneath a lone tern. It didn’t take long for them to reveal themselves. They were in a tight group milling towards the middle of the lake. We changed our route to intercept them. We got within casting distance, and Chris fired off a shot with a crankbait. He decided he wanted to land a fish first before he tried again with the fly rod after our first debacle. The lure came right through the middle of the school and his rod bowed over simultaneously. FISH ON.
After several hard runs we caught our first glimpse of the fish. We both knew it was a good fish. Better than the size of the tails led us to believe. Much better. After a several minutes it finally started to tire and Chris got it boatside. He strained to get his streched hands around it’s shoulders. It took two hands, but he got it in the boat. A few photos later, and no worse for the wear, we watched the toad swim off full of vigor. Awesome eat. Awesome fight. Awesome fish.
After Chris released that fish we took a break and savored the moment, like all fishermen tend to do when the land a grand fish. We sat there with a smile on our faces and pondered the complexities of our seemingly simple pastime. We talked about work, life and the absurd thought of turning a hobby into work. We both came to the same conclusion. As sexy as fishing for a living sounds when you turn fishing into work it becomes well, work. Once that happens it’s no longer something you do to pass time; it’s something you’re forced to do to survive. It’s hard to retain that same passion for something onced you’re forced to do it. You then develop new means to keep yourself entertained.
I’ll keep fishing’s place in my life exactly where it’s at. When reeling in slimy creatures no longer satisfies my appetite for adventure and it starts to feel like work I’ll put my rods away and look elsewhere for entertainment. I hope that day never comes.
Chris and I closed out our day at a familiar spot not far from where we launched. With the sun overhead we threw topwaters over scattered oyster shell hoping to end the dang with a bang. Nothing much more exciting than watching a redfish clobber a surface plug. It didn’t take long before anticipation turned to thrill. In a couple hours we had a handful of blowups each and we landed several slot reds. Smiling and content we called it quits.