Fly Fishing the Texas Flats
On most parts of the coast, all a fly fisher needs for hours of adventure on the flats is a road map of the area; an old pair of tennis shoes or wading boots; a 7- or 8-weight outfit matched with weight-forward, floating line; and a selection of small poppers, bendbacks, and shrimp or minnow patterns.
To reach backcountry sites, a boat might also come in handy. Shallow-draft boats perform best on the flats. A flat-bottomed john boat with a 15-horsepower (hp) motor will deliver fly fishers to most productive shorelines with ease. These boats are quiet and will drift in very shallow water. Once you get to where the fish are, you can get out and wade instead of having someone pole you around the flat.Sea kayaks also are becoming popular for flats fishing along the Texas coast. With a sea kayak, you don't have to get in line at a crowded launch ramp. You only need a beachfront or roadside creek access to a bay system where you can pull off, park your car, and be on the water in minutes.
The sea kayak can also be transported in center console fishing boats when it is necessary to traverse long stretches of open water to get to prime flats. And if the fish are stacked up in the corner of a lagoon where the bottom is too soft for wading, the kayak will get you to the fish.
Sea kayaks come in many designs that work well on the Texas flats. A good model for backcountry fishing is an open-cockpit, self-bailing, "no roll" model like the 14-foot Aquaterra Prism, made by Perception. This design has proven ideal for exploring backcountry tidal creeks, marshlands, and open flats.
With a holder for a fly, spin, or bait-casting rod; a stick-on ruler for measuring fish; and storage space under two hatches for a soft cooler, camera equipment, and foul-weather gear, it is the perfect platform for the itinerant flats angler. The tough-skinned Prism is made of a thermoplastic linear polyethylene, weighs only 51 pounds, and has proven extremely seaworthy in a variety of conditions.
Portable and Maneuverable
It travels well on top of a vehicle and is light enough to be launched single-handedly in minutes from a roadside access point. The craft responds to a light paddle stroke and easily cuts through the chop at the end of the day.
The self-bailing design and airtight compartments provide buoyancy and stability, and the open cockpit allows easy entry and exit at the launch point or out on the water.
Another excellent craft for fishing the Texas flats, ideal for anglers who want to be able to stand up or use a trolling motor when on the water, is the Albion, a catamaran-style paddlecraft made by Mendocino Kayaks. It draws about 3 inches of water, is 11 feet long, 35 inches wide, and weighs 65 pounds.
Flats boats used for fly fishing should be as free as possible of obstructions such as cleats, ice chests, and other objects that fly line can wrap around. A towel soaked in water and thrown over a cleat or exposed fitting will solve this problem temporarily.
Poling platforms fixed to the stern of shallow-draft boats are a valuable asset on the Texas coast. Guides standing on these platforms normally will spot fish before the caster on the bow because they have the higher vantage point.
The towers can spook fish, but only in slick, calm conditions or when fish are cruising an open flat and looking up for baitfish. Redfish will not be spooked by towers in the early morning light or midday light or when they are in a head-down feeding mode.
Tower platforms on the bow, with basket netting in front, enable fly fishers to sight cast from a drifting boat during windy conditions. The basket is designed so that as the fly line is stripped in, it will lie at the caster's feet. With the wind, fly line usually will be pushed out in front of the boat.
It is important that the caster strip all the line into the basket so that the line doesn't drag under the boat as it drifts along the flats. Smaller stripping baskets strapped around the waist are similarly useful in wade fishing, especially where there is floating grass and an irregular bottom with scattered shell.
© Article copyright Pruett Publishing.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication