At first glance the muddy flats of the Upper Texas Coast aren’t exactly enticing to a sight fisherman. Let’s not kid ourselves these aren’t the pristine flats of Andros, Belize, The Keys, or even the Lower Coast. Our marshes are unwadeable. That is, unless you enjoy trekking through waist-deep mud. Water clarity is often limited to a few inches of visibility. Many flats are covered in razor blades, i.e. oyster reefs, waiting to slice anything at contact including your leader. But what these mucky flats do afford you is concealment in stalking your prey and a plethora of quarry to target.
When the conditions are right the marshes on the Upper Coast can be one of the ripest fisheries around with hordes of hungry redfish feeding on anything in their path. Landing a lure, any lure, in their course is rarely turned down when they’re in the right mood.
Sounds easy, right? What’s the challenge?
Redfish as a sport fish are an exciting species to target. Clues of their whereabouts are often visually stimulating. Wakes. Backs. Tails…all signs that redfish are on the move and feeding. But as easy as the game sounds when you introduce a fly rod to the equation you add an element of challenge. That challenge multiplied by the elements and terrain and things become increasingly difficult.
As often as you come across fish actively feeding there’s still times that will leave you scratching your head. Redfish can be picky eaters when they’re keyed in on a specific food source. Many times they turn their noses to anything that doesn’t look, smell, and act like their preferred prey.
Redfish are masters of disguise when they want to be. They only need a few inches of water to conceal them completely. Shots seem to appear out of thin air. Redfish frequently show themselves within a rod’s length or two away, which is a difficult shot with a fly rod when only have one shot and a few seconds to make your presentation.
One of the most overlooked aspects of finding fish are the audible cues. I often hear fish before I ever see them. It’s easy to get caught up in the visual aspects of fishing, e.g., watching you lure fly through the air, the movement of your rod, the sway of the grass from the wind, etc. Listening for fish requires patience and silence. I’ve trained myself to periodically sit motionless and listen to the sounds of the marsh. I’ve been rewarded on many occasions by this display of discipline.
Consistently sight fishing to redfish in dirty water is no walk in the park regardless of how good you think you’ve become. The fish and elements will always throw curveballs your way. But when the stars align for a magical day on the water the end result, or the reward, is an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction. Visually, mentally, and audibly.
Brandon, Mickey and I spent three days on the water last week. The fishing was nothing short of spectacular. Lots of fish sighted, heard, and landed. At one point we came across a shoreline where there were hundreds of feeding fish. Brandon compared the sound of the feeding frenzy to sound of popcorn popping.
As I sit here and reminisce of the weekend that was I can’t help but think of the sound of the kernels turning to popcorn; a sweet sound that compliments an awesome spectacle.