Learning from Tough Days

I was on the water a few times over the last week and the fishing was pretty slow overall. Not a whole lot of fish landed or spotted. You know the fishing has been bleak when some of the most respected guides in the area are having a tough time finding fish and are even cancelling trips because of the conditions.

If you asked me to describe my three least favorite fishing conditions I would tell you high winds, high water levels, and a lack of tidal movement. Last weekend we had a combination of all three. Adding thunderstorms to the mix would be about the only thing that could have made the conditions worse.

I can deal with high winds because, unlike the other two conditions, it only affects anglers. It’s a nuisance but you can almost always use it to your advantage to predict and locate fish. Spring on the Texas Coast is known high winds, so all the talk about how this has been the worst spring on record isn’t anything new. It’s regurgitated every year during spring. How easily do people forget?

Spring is my least favorite season and not just because of the wind. The conditions, more than any other time of year, are sporadic and unpredictable. Give me summer, fall, and winter. Well, until the summer heat arrives then I’ll be looking forward to fall and winter.

Now, I’ll share with some of my very limited successes from last week. On Friday, Jerron from ACK, Raymond, and I fished the marsh. Jerron wanted to fly fish as he just got his first saltwater fly fishing combo and it needed its first coat of slime. I picked an area I hadn’t been to in over a month but I figured the fish were still there given the recent conditions. We launched at sunrise and other than one blowup and missed fish fishing was tortoise slow early. We kept covering water. I felt if we moved around enough we were going to run into some fish given how many had been in the area previously.

As we paddled through the marsh maze we began spooking fish every so often. The fish were scattered in deeper connecting drains but never gave us any signs that they were in the area until we were on top of them. I don’t think I saw a fish feeding all weekend but with the lack of tidal movement I wasn’t surprised.

We split up and I somehow wandered my way into a marsh lake that looked good. I stood up in my kayak near the entrance of the small lake and waited for signs of life. Several minutes later I saw some uneasy bait on a far shoreline and then near the commotion the back of a big redfish made its way above the surface explaining the reason for the disturbance. I stripped off some fly line and prepared, both physically and mentally, for what was about to take place.

I had a redchaser whistler that I got in a fly swap a few months back tied on. I ease into position and made the perfect cast and the fish ate my fly without hesitation. Fish on! At the same time my two counterparts had just caught up. They saw me come tight to the fish from over the spartina just before they entered the lake. It was over no sooner than it started and they didn’t even have a chance to make it into the lake before my rod went limp.

A clean break in my monofilament leader was the only evidence I had to explain what I went wrong. I must have set the hook to hard or the leader caught one of the fishes gill plates because despite how fast it happened I saw the whole thing take place. The fish made a few head shakes and was gone. No underwater obstacles in the proximity to assist in the escape.

The three of us finally stumbled upon a pattern. The fish were holding in lakes that were fed by deep bayous. We continued on to other areas with similar topography and we were able to find more fish. Later, I landed a mid slot red on a white grass shrimp that was backing on a lake shoreline. Almost as soon I landed that fish Jerron spotted a red headed right for his kayak. He made a good cast with a gold spoon fly and the fish ate. I heard Jerron excitement before I looked up to see his fly rod bowed over and heard his reel’s drag screaming. A minute into the fight the fish pulled loose and his excitement turned to disappointment after he lost his first redfish on fly.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. We spotted a few more fish and I chased a few monster marsh donkeys around with no luck. It seems like the fish’s instincts kicked in and they were more interested in finding a way out of the almost dry lake than eating.

On Saturday, I made a trip with Mark and Steve on Mark’s new Transport boat. We decided to explore some new areas and see if we could find some redfish. We arrived at the ramp and noticed the water looked a little high. After checking out a few areas that Mark fished the weekend prior we had a better understanding of just how high the water was. We were easily running in areas where he had problems getting into before. The tide was at least 1.5’ above normal. High water makes fishing tough because it scatters fish over a larger area and makes them hard to spot.

We ran a bunch all day long and we couldn’t put anything together. We, more like Steve, caught a few reds scatted here and there but we never established a pattern. Most of the fish we caught were on the edges of deep bayous. There was small fry hanging on the edges of the grass and we saw bait everywhere but again we never saw anything feeding. No matter how slow the fishing is you can always learn something on the water even if it’s only exploring a new area you’ve never seen before.

About the author

Jeremy Chavez is a full-time fly and light tackle fishing guide who hails from the Bayou City (Houston, Texas for those of you not in the know). He eats, sleeps and breathes fish. He left (he was laid-off but who's keeping tabs) his career as a bean counter (he has a master's degree in accounting) to chase his dream of becoming a nomadic fish bum.

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