Sight Fishing to Tails, Backs, and Schools

I haven’t spent much time in the marsh this year because I haven’t heard very many reliable reports, but with the warm weather lately I figured it was about as good a time as any to start exploring my preferred domain. I spent three days in the marsh at three different locations. The fishing ranged from slow to sensational after the late season cold front pushed through Friday afternoon.

On Friday, Greg and I had a short window to fish before the cold front moved in. The nagging SE wind the day before forced a bunch of water in the bay and push the tides a little higher than we expected when we arrived that morning. The tide was predicted to fall out all day and with the NW winds that accompanied the front there was bound to be significant tide swing from high to low. We started off deep trying to pick up some trout but we only scratched out a few bites and a lonesome 18″ trout on a paddle tail.

We didn’t stay deep long before we moved into the marsh. We split up and started covering water looking for signs of fish. I spooked a few reds here and there, but with the high water I didn’t see the fish until I was on top of them. As the tide fell out more I spotted a few backs but the fish were scattered.

I hadn’t caught a redfish on the fly rod all year and I was determined to catch my first of the year, so I decided to stick with the fly rod all day. I only got two shots at fish, but I only made a good cast at the first one before the winds were blowing. The fish ate a peach rain spoonfly.

When I met back up with Greg he already caught a limit of reds and one trout sitting in one spot. He was fishing an area where three drains meet, an ideal spot when the tide is going out. He used a super spook jr because he said the fish didn’t want a large topwater. We fished a little longer before the front started blowing in, but again the fish were scattered. We kept running over them because the water still hadn’t dropped much. I paddled over 8 miles and Greg paddled substantially less but still caught more fish fishing a choke area. Even though I know it’s pays off sometimes it’s hard for me to sit still.

On Saturday, Jason brought along Chase, his cousin’s husband, a first time yaker. I brought Raymond with me. I had never met Jason’s cousin, Chase, so I thought. Coincidently, Chase and I went to school together and had some of the same classes while in the Macy Program at Texas State University. Jason and I had plans to go explore something new. He and I both love finding untapped water, but the area he wanted to fish was a long paddle even for an experienced paddler. I asked him if he warned Chase what he was getting himself into and Jason assure me, “he knew what he was getting into when he married into the family…we’re all a little crazy.”

After closely watching the tides Friday night and Saturday morning we knew there might be a chance this new area would be completely blown out. The north winds from the night before pushed a lot of water out bay. When we arrived at the launch I had a change of heart. Instead of exploring something new I convinced Jason to try a familiar spot because I knew if the reds had pushed in this particular marsh the fishing was going to be on fire plus the paddle, I thought, would be more in line with Raymond and Chase’s experience level.

Nothing makes my mouth water quite like the thought of low tide marsh redfishing. Low water levels make fishing easy, especially with a kayak at your disposal. Those super skinny flats and marshes are virtually impossible to fish sans kayak.

Jason was hesitant when he saw how the low the water as we made our way in the marsh but I reassured him that I had seen this particular marsh lower and it still held fish. As we started paddling along we spotted some birds working over one particular area, but there was almost no way to paddle in because of the low water. Jason was still uncertain but I persuaded him to go check it out. We had to drag our kayaks at least 30 yds in the mud just to get into the area we were fishing. By this point I’m sure Chase was starting to consider what he got himself into. Jason stayed back and decided to keep moving and check out an area a little deeper in the marsh.

As Chase, Raymond and I made our way to the birds to check things we began to see redfish everywhere. There were backs, schools, and tails popping up all around us. My supposition proved correct. The reds were having a feast as far as the eye could see. We all started chunking topwaters but we only received a few half-hearted blowups. I broke out the fly rod and started looking for aggressive schools while Chase and Raymond stayed back and continued to blind cast with topwaters. By the time Chase and Raymond met back up with me I had already caught a few fish with a peach rain spoonfly and both of them were empty handed. I had a few good schools swimming around so I told Chase and Raymond to pick a school while I went after another. Chase caught a couple of nice slot reds and he and I even had a double at one point. Raymond on the other hand continued to struggle.

The bite died off shortly thereafter so we decided to meet back up with Jason. Jason had already caught about dozen redfish himself sight casting to singles with a paddle tail. When we made it to where Jason was at he was nowhere to be found. He had already moved even further into the marsh. Chase, Raymond, and I worked the area Jason was fishing with no luck until we spotted a few birds working north of us. Raymond and I paddled to the birds while Chase stayed back. Raymond caught his first and only fish of the day on topwater and I was able to catch a few more fish with the fly rod.

We all met back up and covered a bunch more water but by then the bite had died off almost completed. Jason and I managed to catch a few more fish sight fishing but that was it. At the end of the day we caught over 20 reds to about 27″ between the four of us and cover a little over 10 miles on the day. Jason was throwing paddle tails; Raymond and Chase were throwing topwaters, and threw a spoonfly the whole day. I’m glad we went where we did because we would have paddled a lot more if we went to the other spot and probably saw a lot less fish.

On Sunday, Jason, Chris, and I went to the area we didn’t go to the day before. The tide was lower than we thought and we had a tough time getting in the area but once we found deep enough water we started spooking fish. I was determined to catch my fish on the fly again but I only got two shots at fish and both times I had tangle problems with my fly line. Not an easy fix when you’re sitting in the kayak. Chris was also fly fish and he only had a few shots before the winds blew. He didn’t get anything to eat. Jason on the other hand made the most of his few opportunities and land two nice upper slot reds on a paddle tail. After about 10:00am the wind blew out of the SE at around 20mph with gusts much higher.

We moved locations to look for a little more protected water. After paddling a few miles we didn’t see much, so I turned around and started making my way back in. Jason and Chris on the other hand kept going. They stayed out for several more hours and paddled at least four more miles before heading in with nothing to show for it. Chris and Jason never fished together and I warned Chris that Jason was probably the only guy I know that consistently makes longer paddles than me. After following Jason to the dead end of this marsh and then turning around and duplicating that paddle Chris described Jason as a “machine.” He can’t say I didn’t warn him.

We did plenty of exploring last week. My average trip was about 8 miles but well worth every paddle stroke, especially in the company with good friends. We always have a good time and plenty of laughs even when we’re fishing or paddling rather than catching.

A raw unedited teaser for an upcoming project I have in the works…

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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