It is safe to say that, because this publication’s masthead reads Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine, I should be writing about fly-fishing in saltwater. Well, I am going to take a little detour this month. Just this past year I have discovered a newfound appreciation for freshwater fly-fishing. As I write this, Capt. Chris Phillips is probably turning over in his grave. His favorite saying was, “Freshwater is for drinking and saltwater is for fishing!” Sorry Chris!
Anyway, over the last year I have spent a great deal of time in central Texas at the deer lease which, much to my pleasure, has some pretty fine bass fishing opportunities in the large tanks. In addition, the location of the lease has also put me within a pretty reasonable drive from numerous Hill Country rivers that offer even more opportunity and experience. In fact, the last time I stepped off into the Guadalupe River to fish was during the winter of ’01-’02 right before the 2002 July floods. But I’m not writing this to tell you a fish story or two, although I might. I really began this piece with the intention of explaining the benefits that Texas freshwater has to offer Texas saltwater fly fishermen.
When I started fly fishing way back in the 80s, my first outfit was this yellow Eagle Claw rod and Pflueger reel that I purchased at, I believe, Oshman’s Sporting Goods in Lake Jackson’s Brazos Mall. With that rig and a few small popping bugs I would go down to the lake or any one of a number of small ponds and teach myself to cast. While doing so I caught numerous bluegills and bass. To me, this is one of the biggest benefits that a saltwater fly-fisherman can take from the freshwater experience – It is a great place to learn and hone skills.
I have always said that the best way to develop skill is to practice, however, I also recognize the need for success because it fuels the desire to get better. There is no finer place to practice and expect some reasonable success than in a pond or lake that is stocked with bass and sunfish.
Bass fishing is also another great way to perfect an angler’s strip-set. Because, most saltwater fishing and bass fishing is done with streamer flies, the strip-set is the appropriate hook-set. Another great advantage to learning on the pond is that a lot of strikes will be visual near the surface, which will make an angler want to rear back on the rod (trout set). Because of the potential for more “eats,” this provides the learning angler the chance to break this bad habit before it costs the fish of a lifetime.
Another great advantage to heading out for a freshwater excursion is a change of scenery. I recently had the chance to spend a day on the Guadalupe with some friends for a short trip. Now in all reality, I am one of the worse trout fishermen that you will ever meet. Seriously, I can make the casts, mend the line, see the fish, etc. However, a strip set on an 18- to 20-inch fish with 5-pound tippet…let’s just say I am a little heavy-handed. Incidentally, I was the only one who did not catch a fish, although I did have the chance to lose a couple.
Also, as I found out recently, without my reading glasses, I had to have someone tie my leaders and flies for me. Sad commentary when a fly guide gets old. Fortunately, my distance vision is still good enough to see cruising redfish and laid-up tarpon, and to soak in and appreciate the beauty of the scenery of the Hill Country. But the stunning scenery of the Guadalupe is not all that can be found in Texas. Some of our East and West Texas rivers offer a beauty all their own as well as their own unique fly-fishing experiences. Whether you are talking stripers on the Sabine River or smallmouths on the Devil’s River, opportunities abound for the fly-fisherman. Hey, while we’re at it, let’s not forget about all of the reservoirs and lakes that offer even more opportunities for both largemouth and smallmouth bass, stripers, hybrid and white bass.All in, the fact is, Texas has so much more to offer the Texas fly angler than just the redfish and trout of the Gulf Coast. In fact, I would say it may have more opportunities than any other state. From kingfish and ling on the gulf rigs all the way to rainbow and brown trout of our tailwaters, we have some pretty cool stuff going on in Texas. Oh, and did I mention the giant alligator gar of some of our East Texas bayous? I guess we’ll save that for another time.