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When we got to the house, it was quiet. It didn’t look much like a house – three stories of brick and windows, buttressing right up to the water’s edge. We headed inside to meet the guys that had arrived while we were out on the water.

The first face I saw was Jeremy, the creator and organizer of the event. After shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries like ‘I was hoping you weren’t stupid enough to get caught out in that storm…’ we headed inside. And MAN! What a place.

You know when you were younger and walked into your grandmother’s house or maybe another older relative, and were warned to not touch or break or breathe hard on anything? This house was way too nice for a bunch of ribald fishermen, and that was before I went upstairs to see the massive showers. I kid you not dear reader, the bedroom in which I currently sit tapping away at the keys is the same size – perhaps a bit smaller – than the bathroom I used on the second floor. It had two showers. And the floor above that was a game room with a high balcony that served as a great observation deck…

Anyway. You get the point. All I needed was a dry, non-sandy spot to sleep on, and Jeremy gets us the Taj Mahal. For a great price, I might add. Kudos to you, sir.
So we walk out on the back deck and shake some more hands with guys I hadn’t had the pleasure to meet yet, and stand around talking about the fishing trips the days before and how pretty the water was. Pretty soon I get the itch to cast a line and I figure no one would mind if I walked away from the conversation to grab my 8wt to do a little snook prospecting under the dock connected to the house. I decided to slink a black tarpon bunny back in between the pilings as the sun goes down.

Not a bad view...

Tap… Thud! Suddenly, I’ve got an audience. Conversation stops and all eyes turn towards me, and for the moment, all my brain can yell is “Snook!” What a start this is, catching a snook right off the bat, and as the fish surges to the surface as snook will to head shake I can see that it’s…
A trout. A nice, solid speckled trout of around 18”, but no snook. Damn.
Hard to be disappointed with a nice fish like that… but I didn’t come down here to catch specks. Still, a fish like that seems to be a good omen, and the more skeptical non-fly rodders seem to gain a little respect for the fly method. This might turn out to be a great weekend after all, storms or no storms…

 

Thunderhead brooding...

After we made it off the rocks and slumped, dripping, in the relative warmth of Don's truck, we had to laugh. Something about experiencing the rawness of nature and emerging safely always brings a smile to my face, a reminder of the unpredictability of my chosen passion. Take it each day at a time and live thoroughly.

We took some time to clean up and dry out, grabbed some food and made the decision to head over to The Salty Fly Shop in Port Isabel, owned by Larry Haines. Larry is famous for developing one of the most realistic shrimp flies around - the Haine's Supreme Hair Shrimp.

My take on the Haine's Shrimp

 

After stopping in and chatting a while, Larry gave us some very good tips on understanding snook behavior and suggested a few places we might like to try. It seemed that a moving tide was the key - without moving water the fish were lethargic and nearly impossible to catch.

The tide charts indicated we should be fishing and not standing around talking about it, so we thanked Larry and headed out.

First stop - South Bay. This was our first time fishing the fabled bay, and we were raring to go. After making our way there via kayak, we got down to the business of finding fish. When looking over a new patch of water for the first time, it can be intimidating. Gathering as much info as you can prior to your trip can be really helpful - we had a rough idea of where to go and what to look for. We slowly paddled along, eyes wide and ears open for the sights and sounds of feeding fish.

The squall we had gotten caught in that morning had roiled up the water so that sight fishing was difficult. Don decided to post up in a likely location and fan cast while I crept down a shoreline, sitting sideways in the kayak and crabwalking. The wind was blowing around 15 which made it hard for me to stand and pole, so I used it to my advantage to keep the boat close to the mangroves and other shoreline cover.

Using a topwater as a search fly, I covered every bit of structure I could see, hitting potholes, oyster piles, mangrove tangles, dropoffs and drains.

Nothing. Not even a piggy perch rise.

And then the tails started popping up - first, way down the shoreline. Then suddenly, all around me. Silvery grey like black drum, but not shaped right. I eased close to one, and found myself looking at the vertical black-and-white bars of a sheepshead. I'm telling all you sheepie hunters out there - you want a shot at a sheepshead on the fly, South Bay is the place to go find them. I saw hundreds of fish.

I could have stopped and fished for them but sometimes one has to make the decision to ignore fish to find fish. I continued my way down the shoreline, trying not to bump my boat into oyster patches and casting as I went. After a half mile of this I decided to post up on a grassy point and wait to see if I could find any activity. Resting in the grass, I watched dozens of sheepshead and mullet swim by in the green tea colored water.

I had been watching a wall of clouds far to our south, so I decided to pull out the phone and check the radar to get an idea of what was coming.

Oh... Snap.

 

Yeah. It was time to go. We battled our way back across the increasingly windswept bay to the launch, and arrived mere minutes in front of the approaching squall.

 

Just ahead of the rain..

Time to go meet the boys at the house and see the cast of characters we'd be fishing with for the next few days.

 

Watching it approach...

The rain STUNG.

Out on the unprotected jetty, the wind-driven downpour was merciless.

Dropping straight out of the ominous squall that spawned them, millions of raindrops hurtled towards the green, white-capping waves of the Brownsville ship channel. The wind whipping the water into a froth caught the dripping drops and accelerated them. Laughing maniacally, the raindrops aimed directly for the most improbable target they could find – the inside of my left ear.

A shrimp boat tows another one in during the developing squall.

Ever been given a wet willy by a storm? It’s not fun.

I quickly learned to hold up my left hand over that side of my face to cover my ear and eye. I had already slid my Buff off my face down onto my neck – when soaking wet they can suffocate you, and I had no interest in being water-boarded by a storm.

As we made our perilous way down the rock, I couldn't help but think that the New England jetty guys would be laughing at us - they probably fish in those conditions all the time. Stepping across a crevasse between granite blocks, my peripherals caught motion. Glancing over as I kept walking, I saw a blurred, upturned face with water streaming down it. A fellow jetty-goer, trying to shelter from the storm. The only problem was that there was no shelter to be had. The waves were slamming over the jetty by this point, giving us alternate soakings in salt and fresh water.

The short walk down the jetty had turned into hours, miles of jagged slick rocks and pounding surf. It was easy to compare to a huge, storm-born beast; slavering granite jaws, buffeting gusts of cold, stinging breath. Any misstep meant broken gear and blood, at the least.

The Long Walk

The rocks are always hungry.

 

Smack in the Storm

 

Look at that smile.

 

 

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