Smack into Springtime…

Spring is green water, and the first week of sunny days without a cold front to bust the pattern. Spring is  out once again on the warm granite of the jetty, remembering the times before, anticipating the times ahead. Spring is a lightning slash through schools of tiny baitfish; a flicker of black forked tail re-entering the water in the afternoon sun, as terns dip and wheel, crying the raucous song of their people. Spring, for me, really truly starts when the Spanish mackerel arrive at the jetty.

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Breakfast is served… on the rocks.

They’re not the biggest, or the fastest, but they’re big enough and fast enough to make your reel sing, your heart rate elevate. They’ve got a face full of razors and they mean business; they’ll slice you good if you’re careless while de-hooking. Follow the birds and you’ll often find the Spanish, ripping up the surface as they slap-chop baitfish. In the picture above, they had corralled schools of bait against the rocks of the jetty and were systematically shredding them. They can often be found right off the rocks; for this reason, they’re a great introduction fish for jetty fly neophytes. In my next post, I’ll talk more about that.

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My buddy Zach with his first saltwater fish on fly, a hard-pulling Spanish Mackerel.

Size 2 clousers in your favorite color combo, heavy on the flash, retrieved as fast as you possibly can. No wire needed, just 50lb bite tippet if you start getting bitten off. Simple, and at times very fast-paced. Spring has smacked, and soon… very soon… the summer will kick off for real. I can’t wait.

The Salt396 Guide to 2013

This year was one for my personal recordbooks. I had many things happen that I had planned on, such as the successful one year anniversary of my blog. I had things happen that I had hoped for, such as a succession of calm, flat days offshore that were ripe for chasing big pelagic fish. And then of course I had the things that I never dreamt of, such as my stunner of a lake trout experience. Grab your preferred adult beverage, and let’s think back… waaaay back…

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Early in 2013, I had the chance to go try and find some redfish and/or speckled trout with a good buddy of mine. We didn’t expect much, knowing that cold waters would have the fish lethargic and deep water blind casting would be the name of the game. Boring, yes, but better than not trying at all. So we chunked fuzz in the deepwater pockets and drifted promising edges, but we might as well have stayed home it seemed. Then, on impulse, we scouted some new water over the figurative and literal hill, and hit red-gold. Boom, said the tailing redfish.  In January? I know, it was a great surprise.

Then came February, and the Fly Carpin’ Fly Swap. I unveiled the Rojo Bug to the world with, admittedly, a little trepidation. Fortunately, it hasn’t seem to have caught on to the extent that , say, the Hybrid has, so I can just keep on fishing my pattern knowing no other fish is likely to have seen one. I am really looking forward to participating in the 2014 swap, assuming they let a saltwater fin chaser like me back in the proceedings.

March and April were more of a time for experimenting with writing styles for me – a poem even appeared for the first time in Salt396 history.

Ah, but May is where the goodness really began – here we begin to really get into the meat of the year, and laid flat days become something attainable. We buzzed out in a zodiac and sought our fortunes, and a cobia was landed amidst joyous, sunburnt exhaustion. I also competed in my first ever writing competition, not finding first place but learning a lot in the process. It was a thrilling experience to be among the top several entries.

Oh June, you fickle beauty. Water temperatures have stabilized around “Tarpon” degrees, and for me June is always when I jump my first of the year. Just because the water temps are stable, however, doesn’t mean that the wind and water visibility are going to cooperate. I’ve had more glum, blown out days in June than any other month with warm water temps. This contributed to me writing about combating adversity, and prompted an intro to the jetty post, which I will try to expound further upon.

July, when the real heat has started throughout the Midwest and beyond. My family decided to outsmart the warming trend and head north on a vacation, looping through South Dakota and Wyoming. Somewhere in that familial shuffle, I found time to get away for a few evenings of fishing. It was there, using the same fly that jumped my first tarpon of the year, that I caught my first lake trout in the unlikely circumstances of a quick evening jaunt. I will never forget that fish.

Then came August – another great fishing month, especially if the wind dies and we get multiple windows for running offshore. This year we saw a lot of offshore time, and even got shots at species not caught on fly most of the time. Red snapper on fly was a bucketlist accomplishment for me – another fish I’ll never forget.

Septoctbevmber passed as a blur, but even while attending classes I managed to get out  – Some of those stories I haven’t even had time to tell you about yet, you lucky devil you. Some of the highlights – travel trips, one West to fish Colorado’s hidden places with a good friend, and the other headed down to fish Louisiana and find bulls by the dozen. Just you wait, Reader. 2014 is going to be even better.

  • First on Fly list –
  • Cobia
  • Red Snapper
  • Grass Carp
  • Lake Trout
  • Warmouth
  • Yellow perch
  • White crappie
  • King Mackerel
  •  Personal Bests (including all of the above) -
  • Redfish
  • Sheepshead
  • Common Carp
  • Black Drum

So long 2013, and thanks for all the fish!

 

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Flats Leaders

When rigging for the flats, it’s more a question of knowing how to deal with the current situation than anything else. For many flats fly fishers, the prepackaged tapered leaders made by many manufacturers are their go-to, and that often works just fine. They’re hard to beat for convenience.

Personally I like to make my own leaders, mostly because I think I can do it just as well for less cost. Like most guys that roll their own leaders, I like to start with a heavy butt section. This allows for efficient transfer of energy from the flyline to the leader. I generally go with a 30-20-12 progression in pound test if I am expecting to be casting to tailing or cruising fish (reds, drum, trout) on the flat.

The typical leader I will use on the flats is around 9-10′, but I have gone up to 14-15′ in super clear water. Longer leaders/tippets become necessary on highly spooky/pressured fish, or when hunting the big sow speckled trout that will prowl the shallows from time to time. Windy conditions call for shorter, stouter leaders; something like an 8-9′ leader of 50-30-20 or 40-20. When facing windy conditions, the heavier tippet turns over bulky, air-resistant flies a little better and can withstand the occasional windknot. This same configuration is what I will use when I am searching for fish with topwaters or sliders – the more casts you make, the more likely that you will eventually put a windknot in the line.The last thing you want to do is come tight on a good red after a crashing eat and have that tippet pop – ping! Don’ ask me how I know this.

When I’m actually walking the flats, I will generally carry a small roll of 12-14lb tippet material, in case I need to refresh my tippet or I have some sort of catastrophic failure happen to my leader. Being unprepared for that when you’re several hundred yards from the boat or truck is not something that you want to do to yourself. Don’t ask me how I know. Just trust me when I say:

Fortune favors the prepared.

 

Gettin’ lined up

Most high-end flylines these days come with a loop already formed at the terminal ends of the line. There are people who believe that you should fashion your own loops – if you’re one of those people then you probably already have a favorite method.

For those that either have no experience with the procedure or come across an older line with no welded loops, here is the technique that I use most often. Thanks to the guys at InTheRiffle.com for posting that up for all of us. In a slight but important difference, I’ll use Dacron for the wraps, which forms a flatter knot Continue reading

The secrets of barefoot wading…

When was the last time you went barefoot outdoors for an extended time? Maybe it was for a bit of grilling on the back deck, or strolling the beach. Good for you, I’d say. We spend so much time with our feet cooped up in shoes that any time spent barefoot is time well spent.

People who know me well will tell you that I spend plenty of time barefoot, even walking on the egg-cooking concrete of my local Texas sidewalks during summer. I sincerely enjoy the feeling of being barefoot, and I am willing to endure a few sand burrs for the pleasure.

With all that said, you won’t be surprised to learn I also love to wade barefoot. In fact, I have previously mentioned it in this blog post, in case you missed out.

Barefootin' in a carp river.

Barefootin’ in a carp river.

I really love the feel of the sediments under my feet and between my toes. It’s very different than the normal wading experience, and it can make you far more stealthy than wading with footgear..

Great, you might say, Continue reading

Oh, Snap! …per.

We launched that morning under a patchwork of golden sunbeams stitched into the quilt of low grey clouds.

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After wallowing a bit in the subdued surf as I coaxed the Evinrude to wakefulness, we buzz off towards the horizon.
My plan was to use the remainder of the morning to blind cast for kingfish around the rigs, or peel off and check any substantial floating debris for mahi or tripletail.

After searching the skies for birds and the immediate vicinity for debris, we ended up drifting near the barnacle encrusted legs of a rig. Dredging with a heavy clouser failed to bring any strikes, so we motored around and headed for the next rig on the horizon.
Arriving there, we immediately noticed the presence of baitfish. Continue reading

The Portal – Jetty Intro, cont.

One thing you need to understand about the jetty is that it is a gateway, a portal between the endless openness of the Gulf and the more familiar inshore flats and waterways. Some jetties frame vast shipping thoroughfares, such as the Corpus Christi Ship Channel or the Houston Ship Channel. These channels are roughly 60 feet and 45 feet deep, respectively. To give you an idea of scale, this makes them deeper than the natural depth of the water over 10 miles offshore Continue reading

Dead Day – Jetty Intro, cont.

As I jot this story note on my smart phone, the water at the end of the jetty is a roiled, sandy mess. Wind is kicking up past 20mph, and the wind-generated swell is sloshing over the windward rocks with more than enough force to render line management a nightmare. There is so much sediment in the water that even the foam on the waves is tan.

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The leeward side is a little better – patchy blue, much more calm – but I’ve been here 45 minutes and haven’t even wet a line. Haven’t seen a reason to. No bait flipping around, no swirls, no rolls, no greyhounding mackerel… just nothing. Might as well be sitting at a stoplight in town for all the fish activity I am seeing.

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That’s the jetty though; feast or famine, with little margin between.

Yet, still I come back. Even now I’m glancing up every couple sentences, deliberating my next words while scanning for a glimpse that things around about to change. Because they do change out here – that’s the only thing predictable, the change. I’ve seen a dead day like today go from zero to a million miles an hour in less than thirty minutes. Tide change, pockets of green water, a raft of mullet moving in from down the beach or offshore, and suddenly there are chunks of mullet flying around as jacks harass and kings destroy. A school of tarpon could pop up, or a log could float in with a ling or tripletail hanging under it.

I have seen all these things happen before, and they could all happen today. But they probably won’t, so I’m about to stand and stretch some life back into my legs, get off this tall rock, and head in.

Win some, but lose more – those are the rules of the jetty.

Lucky Strike

By the time the family was fed and settled in for the evening, it was getting on towards full dark.  As many of you know, fishing while on vacation with much-less-serious-about-fishing family or friends can be something of a battle of patience. Trying to balance the needs of everyone is tricky, but after years of dealing with my fishing addiction, my family is fairly used to my need to wet a line.

Fast forward to arrival, lakeside. Rod limbered, the lake-cooled breeze whispers around me as I walk down from the parking lot to the lake Continue reading

Jumper

I had been on the end of the jetty since before sunrise, but I still felt like I was late to the party.

Good morning sun

Good morning sun

When Jeremy (who blogs at Casting Tales) joined me, he found me sitting glumly on my fly box, staring out over the water, waiting for a sign. I had seen one ‘maybe’ tarpon roll, just a flash of movement that could have been a turtle grabbing a breath.

Now it was starting to get hot, Continue reading